It occurred to me this morning that I should clarify something in yesterday’s post. When I described the saga of the Hatfields and McCoys as a Grimm Brothers fairytale, it’s because that was the most apt comparison I could think of off the top of my head for a bloody, violent story about scheming people who get done in by their own devices.
Although many people know only the Disney-fied versions of these stories, my introduction to them came from a book of collected Grimm Brothers tales my grandfather owned. It wasn’t written in German but it must have been a direct translation. Cinderella’s sister cut off part of her foot to make it fit into the glass slipper. I mean these stories were dripping in gore.
Hans Christian Andersen was the same way. In his version of “The Little Mermaid,” as I recall, the poor mermaid was in constant pain when in human form, with her feet feeling like she was walking on knives. One of my favorites, “Big Claus and Little Claus,” involved lots of dead bodies and betrayals, and the ill-tempered, greedy oaf of the story, Big Claus, wound up at the bottom of a river in a sack weighted down with a stone.
Ah, yes: great reading for children.
Of course, these fairytales are nothing compared to Greek mythology. Think of Achilles, dragging Hector’s body behind his chariot around and around the walls of Troy while the slain man’s father helplessly looked on. Or how Odysseus lost his men in horrible ways all along the journey home from the Trojan war.
But that is probably a topic for another day.