Grimm Without All the Cake Icing

Artists worldwide have looked to the word of their people for art. A passing commentary about an old world country, the critical eye on a daughter or son's relationship, a dark suspicion about the neighbor or woods nearby. It's easy to imagine the worst. Icelander have done it for centuries. The Norse sagas contain witches, dwarves, elves, and trolls. Let's not forget werewolves, and six-legged horses either. The larger than life tales are meant to emphasize a characteristic, like the caricature artist does down the road.

If a man is a werewolf, it means he gets burly, irate, and wild. That's hard to imagine outside of a bar, or remote disconnected American town. However, we did not always live with police officers, and mobil devices to check in on us every couple of minutes. There were terrible things, and there are still terrible things.

The fairytales and folklore a people tell gives signs about what a culture or person is concerned with. A story reflects the sympathies, and character of the storyteller as much as the characters talked about. An artist communicates through his brush. So, it's no wonder folklore has been drawn, painted, sculpted and sketched since the dawn of man. Today we even have two-hour long movies to tell the story of Hercules, the hydra, and Hades.

 A postcard from the 1800s shows the seven dwarfs finding Snow White asleep in their bedroom.

A postcard from the 1800s shows the seven dwarfs finding Snow White asleep in their bedroom.

So, you can imagine the excitement surrounding the publication of Grimm's new translation. The National Public Radio contests that the new work leaves out none of the original gruesome German details originally told in the stories. Great. We've been going on the sugar-coated American mindset for over sixty years now. I can't wait to get a hold of the mind of Germans the way Germans told the stories, when they were told. It will be nice to finally get a clearer glimpse at the reality without the candy lens. Artists and historians will now be able to tell what the concerns of the people were at the time, as opposed to the concerns of the translators. However, we have to approach this with caution. The translator can never be disconnected from their work.

Jack Zipes of the new collection says,

"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."

So, I think they'll be worth artists' time. Zipes is coming from a good place. Social justice is a topic educators, artists, and historians are all interested in.