Speed Reads

not-so-fairy tales

A new book shows that Grimm's Fairy Tales were even scarier than first thought

It's common knowledge that Grimm's Fairy Tales were very dark, but a new translation shows they were even more macabre than originally thought.

In his new book, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Jack Zipes has translated the first edition of their stories into English, the first person to do so. In this version, Snow White is just 7 years old, and it's actually her mother who is jealous of her beauty and wants her dead. "Some of them are extremely dark and harrowing," Zipes told NPR. "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."

Several stories from the first edition didn't make it into later compilations, like this nightmarish tale: Two brothers watch their father slaughter a pig, and decide to reenact the scene. One says he will be the butcher, and slits the throat of his brother, playing the pig. Their mother is inside giving their baby brother a bath, and watches this unfold from the window. She runs outside and is so angry she stabs the boy, then runs inside and finds the baby dead after drowning. She commits suicide, and the father wastes away into nothing.

"The Grimms did not collect these tales for children, they collected these tales to show what life was like, and they wanted to reveal what they considered the divine truths of their tales," Zipes said. Listen to his interview below. --Catherine Garcia