A postcard from the 1800s shows the seven dwarfs finding Snow White asleep in their bedroom. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm, Jack Zipes and Andrea Dezso
It’s well-known that our favorite fairy tales started out darker than the ones Disney animators brought to life. But you might be surprised by how much darker the originals were.
For the first time, a new translation of the Brothers Grimm’s tales reveals exactly how unsanitized and murderous the bedtime stories really were.
Jack Zipes, author of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, is the only person who has ever translated the first edition of their tales into English.
“Some of them are extremely dark and harrowing,” Zipes tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “Many are somewhat erotic and deal with incest. Most of them are not what we call fairy tales; they tend to be animal tales or warning tales.”
Take, for example, Snow White. In the modern version of the tale, the Evil Queen is Snow White’s stepmother.
But in the first edition, Snow White is only 7 years old, and it’s her biological mother who wants to murder her for her beauty.
The stories are hardly appropriate for children by today’s standards, and at the outset, they weren’t intended to be.
The Grimms “collected these tales to show what life was like,” says Zipes. “And they wanted to reveal what they considered the divine truths of the tales.”
And the tales endure. Zipes says that’s because they resonate in every era. “I think they speak to the human condition. …
They also provide hope. For the most part, there is social justice in these tales and … we need that. We need the hope that these tales provide.”
The book, published by Feral House, explores an art historical hero not well known to the masses.
So here’s a primer: Mortensen began as a Hollywood artist; a contemporary of Cecil B. DeMille who worked in everything from set decoration to costumery.
He was a photographer too, and as the jack-of-all-trades grew more popular in the film industry, he was able to photograph the likes of Jean Harlow and Peter Lorre, the resulting images ending up in glamorous magazines and bestselling books.
Except Mortensen was no typical portrait artist.
Influenced by the burgeoning genre of horror film growing inside studios like Universal in the 1920s and ’30s, he produced portraits that were more nightmare than reality.
Manipulating his images with printmaking techniques and rather primitive collage-like practices, his artworks looked like paintings rather than photographs.
Given the subject matter — monster primates, transfixing nudes and anything occult — it was just easier to assume the former.
His non-celebrity imagery had no limits, as he obsessed over torture, death and unbridled sexuality.
“In Mortensen’s mind, the grotesque had essential value for ‘the escape it provides from cramping realism,’” Moynihan writes in the first few pages of American Grotesque.
Split into five parts, the book outlines not only the biography of one of American art’s most complex and mystifying characters, but also the evolution and perception of Mortensen’s “ends-justify-the-means” way of photographing people and places.
(“He was willing to use any and all techniques of photographic manipulation to obtain the picture he desired.”)
From the intellectual ferment of the Anthropological Society’s inaugural year grew an even more exclusive and overtly seditious conclave of high-society rebels: a gentlemen’s dining group called the Cannibal Club.
Sir Richard Burton, who possessed a Byronic love for shocking people, was to be the mastermind behind the new hush-hush fraternity.
Sir Richard Burton, Scoundrel, Spy, Sexual Deviant and one of the Hounds of Hell of the Cannibal Club.
An experienced geographer and explorer, a writer and translator who spoke 29 languages, a decorated captain in the army of the East India Company and renowned cartographer, Richard Francis Burton was also considered by some to be a rogue, a murderer, an impostor and betrayer, a sexual deviant, and a heroic boozer and brawler.
He was six feet tall with a barrel chest and an imposing scar on his left cheek.
He was famous for infiltrating Mecca in 1853, disguised as an Arab merchant and for translating the raw, unexpurgated texts of erotic Eastern literature such as the Kama Sutra and the Arabian Nights.
He was presented to the Queen and he dined with the Prime Minister.
When asked by a young vicar if he’d ever killed a man, Burton replied cooly, “Sir, I’m proud to say that I have committed every sin in the Decalogue.”
Burton was one of Hell’s original hounds and the Cannibal Club was his sanctuary.
In 1830, William Patrick and William Whayley, labourers of Farcet were charged with bodysnatching from Yaxley churchyard.
Together they stole the recently interred body of Jane Mason.
Abraham Rist, labourer of Yaxley told the court of Patrick’s attempts to get him to enter a body-snatching partnership.
Patrick assured him that the watchmen turned a blind eye when he carried the sacks from the churchyard if he tipped with a few pieces of silver. Patrick also said that a certain ‘Grimmer’ repeatedly offered him money for the dead bodies.
A common purpose of body snatching, especially in the 19th century, was to sell the corpses for dissection or anatomy lectures in medical schools. Those who practised body snatching were often called “resurrectionists” or “resurrection-men”.
Before the Anatomy Act of 1832, the only legal supply of corpses for anatomical purposes in the UK were those condemned to death and dissection by the courts.
Those who were sentenced to dissection by the courts were often guilty of comparatively harsher crimes. Such sentences did not provide enough subjects for the medical schools and private anatomical schools (which did not require a licence before 1832).
While during the 18th century hundreds had been executed for trivial crimes, by the 19th century only about 55 people were being sentenced to capital punishment each year.
However, with the expansion of the medical schools, as many as 500 cadavers were needed.