A few years ago, I picked up this amazing audiobook collection of Grimm's fairytales at my favorite bookstore ever, The Strand. I could listen to the hypnotic narration all freaking day -- it's all these female British vocal talent artists who make me feel like I am in an episode of Downton Abbey. So, really, the fact that they are saying anything of interest is all bonus.
But what they are reading is of great interest. Those Grimm brothers were totally screwed in the head. This is abundantly apparent in tales like Snow White (we don't even blink when the evil queen says "bring me her heart in a box" but just take a sec and consider how fucked up that is). But if you want to really hear the seriously screwed up shit, you need to get into lesser Grimm. You need to listen to the deep cuts. Like, say: "The Wolf and Seven Young Kids"
Here's how it begins:
"There was once upon a time an old goat who had seven little kids, and loved them with all the love of a mother for her children. One day she wanted to go into the forest and fetch some food. So she called all seven to her and said, “Dear children, I have to go into the forest, be on your guard against the wolf; if he comes in, he will devour you all—skin, hair and all. The wretch often disguises himself, but you will know him at once by his rough voice and his black feet.” The kids said, “Dear mother, we will take good care of ourselves; you may go away without any anxiety.” Then the old one bleated, and went on her way with an easy mind."
OK, so first, I just have to say: the mom goes on her way with an easy mind? Really? A conniving, shapeshifting wolf is on the loose and she totally takes the kids' word for it that they've got this under control? Hmmmm. I'm all for free-range parenting, but dude, come on.
As you have probably predicted, the wolf comes immediately. Like, in the next sentence. Like, I'm surprised the mom didn't run into him on her way out. And he's like, "Little kids, let me come in, I'm your old mom." And they're like, "No way dude! You have that rough voice our mom told us about. And we are street smart kids. So get thee gone Satan." And he's like,"Drat! Back to the drawing board."
But he's a conniving old thing so he goes and swallows a big chunk of chalk, which, as everyone known, makes your rough voice turn silky smooth. And it works, of course. So he comes back and goes, "Little kids, let me come in. I'm your dear old mom." And the kids are like, "Well, she does have that silky smooth mom voice. BUT we're street smart so let's check the paws." And bingo, they're black. So the kids say, "Nuh-uh. Forget it. Get thee gone Satan."
Now THIS part, I love. The wolf knows he needs to cover his black paws in dough because, DUH, what else do you do to trick defenseless young kids that you want to devour? But when he goes to the baker to get the dough necessary for this endeavor, the baker knows better.
"Now hold on one cotton-picking second. I know what you want that dough for and you can forget it," says the baker. And the wolf is like, "Oh yeah? Well, how about I just tear you limb from limb and eat your goddamn entrails?" And the baker is like, "Take all the dough you need there. Mr Wolf. Hope those kids go down easy."
The wolf goes back and this time, the kids let him in. After all, their mom just told them to look out for the rough voice and the black paws and they totally did and he's clear. So they let him in and he eats every one -- well, almost every one. The tiniest, and apparently smartest, kid, hides in the clock and seriously, what a good hiding place. Plus, after feasting on six kids, the wolf is kind of stuffed.
The wolf, who has gorged himself, goes to sleep. Then the mom comes back and she's like, "WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE? I THOUGHT I TOLD THEM ABOUT THE ROUGH VOICE AND THE BLACK PAWS!!!!!" Then her smart little one pops out of the clock (that one is going to need therapy forever) and he tells the mom what happened.
The mom finds the hideous wolf sleeping and she notices his belly is, well, moving. And she realizes its all her six children in there, who are STILL ALIVE, because the wolf, as wolves are wont to do in Grimm fairytales, gobbled them up whole. Hallejuia!
She knows just what to do. Apparently, she's read LIttle Red Riding Hood. Get the knife, slice the wolf open, and let those kids out. He's sleeping so, you know, it's all good. It's not like a little disembowelment will rouse an animal when he's napping.
HERE is where the story gets good (yes, I realize it's the very end but remember, good things come to those who wait). The mom gets all Kill Bill on us. Hell hath no fury like a mom whose six kids have been devoured by a wolf. She says, "Kids! I know you've suffered a terrible trauma but go get the biggest rocks you can find because your old mom has a plan!"
Then she puts the rocks in the wolf's belly in place of her children and -- Grimm brothers are sure to note -- she hustles because she doesn't want the old wolf to wake up, and she super fast sews him up.
The wolf wakes up and he is kind of thirsty so he walks over to the lake to get a drink and all the rocks in his guts knock together and he realizes something is amiss.
"Then cried he,
|What rumbles and tumbles|
|Against my poor bones?|
|I thought ’twas six kids,|
And when he got to the well and stooped over the water and was just about to drink, the heavy stones made him fall in and there was no help, but he had to drown miserably."
HOLY MOTHER OF GOD.
These Grimm brothers don't pull any punches. The rocks in his guts slowly drowned him. Come on. That is some dark shit, even for the Grimms. It makes Snow White seem like a lovely little lullaby.
So, there you go. Sorry if I gave you hideous nightmares. but at least you didn't play that story on tape for your young children.