• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

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

The Local · 20 Dec 2012, 16:56

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.

Story continues below…

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
Merkel party leader admits sexism is a problem
Jenna Behrends complained that a member of CDU's Berlin government had called her a "big sweet mouse" in front of a large group. Photo: Sophia Kembowski/dpa

A leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party admitted Sunday that it has a problem with sexism in its ranks.

Ethiopia's Bekele nears record as wins Berlin marathon
Participants in the Berlin marathon take to the streets on Sunday. Photo:Paul Zinken/dpa

Kenenisa Bekele narrowly missed out on the world record on Sunday as the Ethiopian won the Berlin marathon ahead of former winner Wilson Kipsang.

Europe needs deals to send migrants home: Merkel
Angela Merkal poses with Bulgaria's Prime minister Boyko Borissov (L) and Austrian chancellor Christian Kern (R) in Vienna. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Europe needs to secure more deals to send rejected migrants home, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told counterparts in Vienna.

Germany sees 'turning point' in birth rate decline
Children at a a kindergarten in Swabia. Photo: Nikolaus Lenau/Flickr

Is Germany's three-decade decline in birth rate now over?

Trump protesters rebuild and tear down 'Berlin Wall'
The 'Stop Trump' protest at the Brandenburg Gate. Photo: DPA.

US expats gathered at the Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate on Friday "rebuild" the Berlin Wall and protest US presidential candidate Donald Trump's own proposed wall-building.

Accusation of sexism within Merkel's party creates uproar
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Chancellor Angela Merkel, two leading women in the CDU party. Photo: DPA.

A young politician from the ranks of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has caused a storm by suggesting that the party is institutionally sexist.

EasyJet 'in talks to buy German airline' to duck Brexit
Photo: DPA

EasyJet is in talks to acquire TUIfly, a board member of the German carrier said Friday, as the British no-frills airline looks for ways to keep flying freely within the EU after Britain quits the bloc.

Symbols of migrant plight to go on show in Bonn museum
Photo: DPA

A people smugglers' car, a dinghy and a life jacket are among items related to Europe's migration crisis due to go on display at a German museum.

Brexit
Green party demand 'quick and easy' citizenship for Brits
Photo: DPA

The Green party has called for Brits living in Germany to be offered a painless path to obtaining dual citizenship as to "reassure them over the future".

Berlin the new London? 10m2 flat to rent for €750 a month
Photo: Immonet.de.

This shoebox apartment in the gentrified Bergmann-Kiez neighbourhood may be a sign that the tides are turning for Berlin’s comparatively cheap housing market.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
5,643
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd