In Germany, fairy tales were a part of day-to-day life and “the Germans have repeatedly used fairy tales to explain the world to themselves” (Zipes 75). In fact, Kinder-und Hausmarchen was indeed in nearly every household in Germany. These fairy tales written by the Grimm Brothers are known for being “German fairy tales. ” So what makes these tales so Germanic and others tales not? How do Grimms’ “German tales” compare to others? Through evaluating two works by the Grimms, The Brave Little Tailor and Aschenputtel, we will answer these questions.
The characteristics that the Grimm fairy tales possess do seem to be quite Germanic. The German people are usually very stubborn, more violent than not, and very sarcastic. In The Brave Little Tailor, the cat carries the characteristics of a typical German. He has gone and collected partridges for the King and returned with gold for his master. He then tells his master that this gold will not make them content, that they will need more to be happy. How stubborn of the cat to be so greedy in nature. This tale begins with the death of the miller and ends with the death of the king.
Although not giving gruesome details of the death, this continues to have a feeling of violence. The last trait is that of sarcasm. The cat is trying to fend for his life against being made into a pair gloves while the narrators, the Grimms, make fun of a cat being able to talk and walk like a human. This seems to be a serious part of the story; however, the Brothers make it light hearted by contributing sarcastic humor. In Aschenputtel, there is not one character that possesses all the Germanic traits. The stepmother demonstrates being stubborn when she continuously finds chores for Cinderella to do.
First she puts only one bowl of lentils in the ashes and the next time she uses two bowls. The sarcasm is very light in this tale but is shown through the repetition of the pecking of the birds. It is also shown when the pigeons sing songs that rhyme. Aschenputtel is a very violent tale. It begins, like The Brave Little Tailor, with the death of Cinderella’s mother. The violence continues throughout the story and ends with the stepsisters cutting off their toes and heels and the pigeons pecking their eyes out making them blind.
To compare the Grimm fairy tales to other fairy tales, it is appropriate to use the same characteristics of what makes a fairy tale German. It is also simpler to see the distinction when using the same author. Charles Perrault has written his own versions of the two Grimm tales discussed above, Puss in Boots and Cinderella: or, The Little Glass Slipper. To compare Puss in Boots to the Brave Little Tailor, one might look at the issue of violence. In the Perrault version, the only violence is slaying the rabbit to deliver to the King.
In the Grimm version, the violence is cast upon two important people, the miller and the King. The miller was a man of hard work and personal honor. One can draw this conclusion from the first sentence, talking about primarily his sons and next his earned possessions. Knowing of his death is tragic. At the end of the story, the most honored man in the court has died. To compare Cinderella to Aschenputtel, one might again look at violence. In the Perrault version, violence is minimal. The Stepmother is not involved at all in the decision for Cinderella to attend the ball.
It is the stepsisters who make a joke of her attendance. At the ball, Cinderella shares with her stepsisters “a thousand civilities. ” Upon the marriage of Cinderella to the Prince, she offers her stepsisters an apartment in the castle and marries them to two great noblemen. In the Grimm version, violence is depicted a great deal. Cinderella’s mother dies in the beginning of the story followed by the description of the stepsisters as having “nasty and wicked hearts. ” At the ball, nothing is mentioned of Cinderella communicating with her wicked stepsisters.
At the end, instead of continuing with kindness, the pigeons, which are friends of Cinderella, swoop down and peck out the eye of the stepsisters ending the tale in violence. The Grimm Brothers carried a “desire to publish a work which expressed a German cultural spirit. ” The Brothers loved their German background and culture. They took the ordinary tales that they had heard and made a living off of transforming them to become German. The brothers had great success with this task which can be seen in the success of Kinder-und Hausmarchen which “during the past 150 years only the Bible has exceeded in sales” (Zipes 78-79).
Zipes, Jack. The Brothers Grimm. New York: Routledge, 1988.
Zipes, Jack. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition. New York: W. W. Norton ; Company, 2001.