Things I Learned from Reading Grimms’ Fairytales to My Five Year Old
Well, I did it.
It’s taken many long, tortuous weeks, but I finally finished reading Max that giant book of Grimms’ fairytales he was given as a baby, but which I wasn’t quite sure when he’d be old enough to read.
Well, NEVER is the answer to that question. NEVER is the age at which a child becomes old enough to read Grimms’ Fairytales. I’m not even sure I’M old enough to read those stories, and I’m REALLY freakin’ old, let me tell you.
But.. that one where the Queen isn’t allowed to speak, because she has to sew shirts for six years (Which, I mean, COME ON, even I could sew faster than that…)? And so her mother-in-law steals her baby while she’s asleep, smears blood all over the Queen’s gown (WHERE DID SHE GET THE BLOOD, THO?), then tells the King she killed it? And the King’s just like, “Well, it’s a shame, but I guess we better burn her to death, then!”?
I found that one quite hard to explain to a 5 year old, to be honest. And for some reason, there were two separate versions of it in The Grimm Book, as I think of it (both of them with the blood-smearing and the burning to death, though), so that was double the fun.
Then there was this teeny-tiny boy (Not Tom Thumb, just another teeny tiny boy) (Who was also called Tom, though, because if you had a boy who was the size of your thumb, what else are you gonna call him?) who was kidnapped by a giant. The giant fed him until Tom also turned into a giant (Which is something Tom’s parents should really have thought of, shouldn’t they?), then he was allowed to return home, where his parents – who don’t really come out of this story well – immediately kicked him back out again, saying they couldn’t afford to feed him now. So Big Tom went to a farmer and offered to work for him, saying he would work for a year without pay, as long as he was allowed to slap both the farmer and his wife at the end of the year.
Yes, that took a turn for the unexpected, didn’t it?
Well, naturally the farmer and his wife didn’t believe him, so they agreed to the deal. But at the end of that year, Tom DID slap the farmer and his wife. He slapped them so damn hard, in fact, that he sent them flying so high into the air that they never came back down. Then Tom stole the farm and lived happily ever after. The End.
(Not so much the farmer and his wife, though. They were still in the sky.)
Now, most of the stories in this book provide your child with the cynical – but not inaccurate – message that if you’re good and beautiful, everyone will love you, but if you’re a bit ugly, really, well, you better hope you’re good at witchcraft, if you catch my drift. This one, on the other hand, seemed to provide the very different message that, actually, sometimes the bad guys win and you just get kicked up into the sky. So, yeah, night-night, kids! Sleep tight!
Related: Over-Thinking Disney Movies – Frozen
(Also, I’m never getting over the version of Snow White in which, instead of treating her to True Love’s Kiss, the Prince just trips and barges into her glass coffin, thus dislodging the piece of apple that had been stuck in her throat for EIGHT FREAKIN MONTHS, and which just made her LOOK dead. It was one of the last stories in the book, and, honestly, I reckon whichever Grimm was responsible for it was just dialing it in at that point. Otherwise imagine being in the writers’ room when one person was all, “Let’s create a hopeful and romantic tale in which true love conquers all!” and everyone else was just like, “Nah, just make the guy trip up and fall on her, we want to get home early tonight.”)
Don’t even get me started on Hansel and Gretel. Just… don’t.
Here are some other things I learned from reading Grimms’ fairtytales to my five year old child…
01. Most things come in threes (pigs, wishes, children of kings…). Except for dwarves, obviously, which come in sevens.
02. The youngest daughter is always the prettiest.
03. The youngest son is the cleverest.
04. Women are either kind of silly and useless, or they are a witch. There is no middle ground.
05. If you’re ugly, you are most likely a witch.
06. If you’re beautiful, on the other hand, you’re most likely good…
07. …unless you are either, a) an evil queen, b) a stepmother, or c) both – in which case you are evil.
08. All stepmothers are evil. There are no exceptions.
09. Kings are mostly stupid, and quite passive, really, preferring to lock their children away in an enchanted castle, say, rather than just divorce the evil stepmother they suspect is planning to kill them.
10. Although girls are fairly useless, daughters can be handy currency if, say, you want a passing prince to do something for you, in which case you can just be all, “And then you can have my daughter for free!”
11. If a passing Prince does come calling, it’s important to set him an impossible challenge to complete. If he fails, he must die.
12. If he does not fail, he gets one of your daughters. (He will pick the youngest, obvs.)
13. If you encounter a strange/ugly/old/poor person in the woods and they ask to share your food, this is a test. The evil/ugly/old/poor person is most likely either, a) a prince who has fallen foul of a powerful enchantment, or, b) a witch. Either way, proceed with cautuion.
14. Ditto animals that can talk. They are ALWAYS enchanted. Surprised this wasn’t obvious to you, tbh.
15. You will almost always encounter some variation of the above if you go into the woods.
16. Honestly, I’d just steer clear of them woods altogether, if I were you.
17. While we’re on the subject, just leave the genie in the damn bottle. LEAVE. IT.
18. If it’s just a grandma who dies, that’s fine, then.
19. Did no one think to just ASK the 12 dancing princesses where they were going every night?
20. Was there really nowhere else Rapunzel’s dad could have gone to get his wife some vegetables, seeing as she was so desperate for them? Did handing over his first-born child REALLY seem easier than just, I don’t know, driving to Aldi or growing his own, even?
21. If someone close to you chokes on a poisoned apple and appears to be dead, maybe double-check that before you go breaking out the glass coffin?
And now I must go and answer the approximately 539 questions my child has about choking, and whether a piece of apple that was stuck in your throat would really take 8 months to kill you, or would you actually just drop down dead? He’d also like to know where he might buy a “spindle”. Next week, we move on to Enid Blyton…