• Germany's news in English
 

'Red Riding Hood and the wolf is an erotic story'

Published: 20 Dec 2012 16:56 GMT+01:00

On December 20, 1812, the first edition of the Grimm brothers' Children's and Household Tales was published. Since that day, Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel and all the other characters have taken over the world - they were translated into 170 languages, and turned into five treacly Disney cartoons. And that original book, housed in the Brothers Grimm Museum in Kassel, Hesse, was declared a World Heritage document in 2005.

But why are these old folk tales about magic frogs and pumpkin coaches so popular? "Fairytales are the old stories of humanity," said Holger Ehrhardt, a professor who specializes in the Brothers Grimm at Kassel University. "Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm tried to collect everything that relates to the old Germanic culture, and these stories reach back to the beginnings of our time. For example, you can find themes in the Grimm fairytales from old first-century Indian fables."

He added that most of the stories point to a deeper meaning. "People have always told their children stories or myths for pedagogic reasons," said Ehrhardt. "And often they offered adults an explanation for natural phenomena like thunder. Someone must have made that."

The Grimm brothers, born in Hanau, Hesse, began their work in 1806 - though they didn't start by roaming the countryside and eavesdropping on peasants' talk. They simply wrote down the stories told by acquaintances. The first edition contains stories from the Wild and Hassenpflug families, while stories told to them by Dorothea Viehmann, a local tailor's wife, were included in the second edition.

"The Grimms then changed these stories, and that's how the Grimm fairytales came about," said Ehrhardt.

But the original book was not a success. Horrific graphic details, combined with pedantic academic footnotes, did not exactly endear the books to younger readers. While Jacob was more interested in linguistic, political, and religious analysis, Wilhelm then re-worked the tales and gave them their characteristic sentimental style. "That was his most significant contribution," said Bernhard Lauer, director of the Grimm museum.

"Evil mothers became evil step-mothers, naked princes were dressed up in fine clothes, and Rapunzel's pregnancy was kept from both the evil witch and the well-disposed reader," the website dedicated to the "Grimm Year" 2013 points out.

Some, like actor Ilja Richter, think the Grimms took too many of the double meanings out of the original folk tales. "Look at Red Riding Hood and the evil wolf," he said. "That is a very erotic story. Or The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats. That's just all exclusively about sex." Also, Germany's Family Minister Kristina Schröder this week dismissed some of the Grimm stories as "often sexist."

Despite this year's anniversary of the original book, 2013 has been dedicated as the "Grimm Year," partly because it includes the 150th anniversaries of the deaths of Jacob (September 20) and the painter brother Ludwig Emil Grimm (April 4), who illustrated the second edition of the fairytales.

But, as Ehrhardt said, the brothers were also major linguists. "Compared to Goethe and Schiller, the Grimms get little attention," he said, arguing that they initiated the study of Germanic culture, and pointing out that they began a German dictionary - even if they only made it to the word Frucht (fruit).

But they will forever be associated with the timeless tales that bear their name - even if only half of them, incidentally, begin with the phrase "Once upon a time..."

The Local/DPA/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

09:53 December 21, 2012 by Englishted
Would they have thought of themselves as Germans? as the country did not unite until later .

No offence intended in this question so please don't take any ,I think they have made a major contribution to childhood and thank them .
Today's headlines
Seven lives claimed by Storm Niklas
Photo: DPA

Seven lives claimed by Storm Niklas

Germany woke up on Wednesday morning to the chaos which hurricane-strength winds brought to the country for much of Tuesday, killing seven people and causing major damage to travel infrastructure. READ  

Kaiser to rule again from Berlin
The Berliner Stadtschloss (city palace) in 1904. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Kaiser to rule again from Berlin

In a shock decision, the German government announced on Wednesday that it had asked civil servants to re-draft the constitution to restore the monarchy. READ  

Post, Amazon face Easter strikes
Photo: DPA

Post, Amazon face Easter strikes

The trade union Verdi has announced strikes for Wednesday at the Deutsche Post (German Post) and Amazon, meaning that Easter cards and packages might not arrive on time. READ  

Arsonists hit pro-refugee art project
The burnt ruins of the art project. Photo: DPA

Arsonists hit pro-refugee art project

An art installation dedicated to refugees was burnt down in Berlin early on Tuesday, with police suspecting it to be an arson attack. READ  

Hurricane Niklas
Storm Niklas kills at least three, stops trains
This train in Lower Saxony had to stop after striking a fallen tree. Photo: DPA

Storm Niklas kills at least three, stops trains

Hurricane “Niklas” has reportedly claimed three victims, while trains have been cancelled across Germany as the storm rages. READ  

Stuttgart worst city for traffic jams
Photo: DPA

Stuttgart worst city for traffic jams

GPS company TomTom released data on Tuesday showing which cities have the worst traffic problems. The conclusion: Stuttgart is Germany's worst city for commuters. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Lufthansa cancels 60th jubilee celebration
Photo: DPA

Lufthansa cancels 60th jubilee celebration

Germany's national airline Lufthansa announced on Tuesday that it would cancel celebrations for the 60th anniversary of its founding in 1955. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Doctors warn against snap crash reaction

Doctors warn against snap crash reaction

The president of Germany's Council of Psychotherapists said on Tuesday that there was no reason why the country should loosen its rules on doctor-patient confidentiality in the wake of the Germanwings crash. READ  

Merkel urges Germans: Give Greece a chance
Chancellor Merkel speaking in Helsinki. Photo: DPA

Merkel urges Germans: Give Greece a chance

On a visit to Helsinki on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel showed a patient side to the German government as the Eurozone continues to wait for a new list of economic reforms from Greece. READ  

Unemployment at new post-unification low
Photo: DPA

Unemployment at new post-unification low

German unemployment fell in March to the lowest level since the country reunited in 1990 as growth in Europe's biggest economy continues to pick up, official data showed on Tuesday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
Get inspired for International Women's Day with German heroes
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Germany
Green party proposes first-ever cannabis legalization plan
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
National
Singapore canes Germans for train graffiti
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Travel
Munich tram fans bicker over new bell
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,999
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd