The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition is a complete and uncensored edition of Grimms’ fairy tales.
The 2014 collection was translated into English from the original first edition for the very first time by a professor at the University of Minnesota, Jack Zipes, and features all 156 stories unedited and unchanged. The illustrations are presented in a striking and stark papercut style by visual artist Andrea Dezsö.
After the first edition was published in 1812, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm went on to publish seven more editions, each one edited a little more, cleaning them up for the religiously sensitive, and removing mentions of fairies. Speaking to The Guardian, Zipes described the various changes as “immense”, noting that over 40 titles were completely changed, or deleted altogether before the edition many know today was released.
Thanks to Zipes, we can now read the horrific tales of Rapunzel, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and Sleeping Beauty as they were originally written- complete with blood, death, and terrible mothers. The trope we know today of the ‘evil stepmother’ was one of the changes made over the years because, according to Zipes, they had to uphold the view that motherhood was “sacred”. In the original stories it is actually Snow White’s own mother who orders the huntsman to murder her daughter and cut out her liver for her to eat, and Hansel and Gretel’s mother, not father or step mother, who abandons them in the forest.
“The original edition was not published for children or general readers. Nor were these tales told primarily for children. It was only after the Grimms published two editions primarily for adults that they changed their attitude and decided to produce a shorter edition for middle-class families. This led to Wilhelm’s editing and censoring many of the tales.”
It is no wonder a few of the stories were removed as some of them were truly bizarre tales of infanticide and suffering. How The Children Played at Slaughtering is a terrible tale of a child who accidentally kills their brother, only to be murdered by their mother, who neglects her other child in the bath, and they drown. The deaths don’t stop there as the mother hangs herself in despair, and when the father returns home he dies soon after from a broken heart. The Children of Famine is as jolly as the title suggests, and yes pretty much everyone dies.
No happily ever after to be seen!
Speaking to The Guardian, Zipes believes the tragedy and horror make even better fairytales, and ones none of us should shy away from:
“It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the Grimms’ tales for children… The Grimms believed that these tales emanated naturally from the people, and the tales can be enjoyed by both adults and children. If there is anything offensive, readers can decide what to read for themselves. We do not need puritanical censors to tell us what is good or bad for us.”