The “God’s Food” is a short fairy tale written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. It belongs to a range of stories describing typical problems of households. The fairy tale builds around a story of two sisters, one of whom is rich and married, while another is poor and raises five children with no father. The poor sister once comes to the rich one to ask for some bread to feed her children who were starving. However, the older sister did not agree to do this as she had no mercy and her heart was cold. When her husband returned home later and tried to cut the bread, the blood poured out of it, making the wife tell about the visit of her sister earlier that day. The husband went to offer younger sister some food but found her surrounded by her children that were dying one after another. The woman replied that she did not need food anymore since the God answered her prayers and satisfied the hunger of her children. This paper aims to analyze this fairy tale from the perspective of literature language and message.
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The writing style of the “God’s Food” is typical for a fairy tale. It starts with a traditional opening phrase “Once upon a time” (Grimm 885). There are no flashbacks and the narration, and the story is linear. The whole tale is built as a sequence of replicas said by each character, which are the two sisters and the husband. The word choice makes the readers believe that the actions took place a long time ago since not many people nowadays use phrases such as “give me a mouthful of bread” or “for earthy food have we no longer any desire” (Grimm 885). The sequence of words is also not typical for the spoken language of the modern times. For example, authors write that “in her need, therefore, she went to her sister” (Grimm 885). The chosen style helps to understand that the events described in the tale happened centuries ago, which supports the setting that cannot be clearly imagined without this specific language.
The imagery of the fairy tale is not very vivid, which is not typical for this literature genre. There are no descriptions of people or places regarding their appearance. The authors pay more attention to character traits, saying that one sister was “hard as stone” (Grimm 885). Such element, along with picturing another sister as “the poor creature” (Grimm 885) is done to distinguish between good and bad characters. The two vivid scenes are both quite violent. The first one describes blood flowing from a loaf of bread, and the other one shows the death off children and their mother. It is most likely that the authors wanted readers to concentrate on the behavior of characters instead of picturing the world full of magical events, as it often happens in other fairy tales.
While most of other authors have supernatural forces like witches and fairies as an essential part of their narrations, the Grimm brothers often exploit the religious theme. The “God’s Food” is a fairy tale that is based on a Biblical belief that all good people eventually have their souls transferred to Heaven after death. The God is the primary supernatural character that does not show Himself directly in the story, yet his presence can be guessed through the horrible scene that happened in the wealthy household. Besides, the poor sister admits that the death of her children came from above, as “God has already satisfied the hunger” of them (Grimm 885). This fairy tale does not picture the supernatural power balancing the outcomes to have the good people receive benefits from life and the bad ones punished. Thus, the story in a way does not support the idea of magical forces helping those who deserve it.
The “God’s Food” is suitable for contemporary children, as it was for generations before. Some parents may believe that scenes of blood and death are too violent. However, such people forget that a child’s brain functions differently. For instance, adults are able to analyze how much pain the mother suffered when “two little ones drew their last breath” (Grimm 885), but this is just a statement of fact for children. Of course, young readers are subject to compassion, yet they are unaware of the whole range of emotions associated with violent events. Usually, children see death as something distant and theoretical since most of them haven’t evidenced the passing on their own. While the world today is more humanistic than before, contemporary children should be able to read the stories that many generations have read before them, proving that there is no harm to the young psychic from the scenes of death and violence.
The main moral lesson that the “God’s Food” carries is that all good people will have their chance to go to Heaven. Moreover, the God listens to prayers of all people and rewards them accordingly. It may be difficult to see how the death of the whole family is a good thing. However, the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales are not always positive, and their purpose is often to teach a lesson instead of claiming that the good always wins. Besides, the situation where the poor sister “no longer had food enough to satisfy herself and her children” (Grimm 885) was not likely to change. Eventually, the death of the family has to be understood as a solution to the hardships it encountered on Earth. Moreover, there is a second lesson that underlines the importance of doing things on time. If the rich woman helped her sister when she asked for it, the latter would not die from hunger.
While the story is very concise and informative, it clearly lacks imagery that would help readers see the whole sequence of events better. Things like the description of both houses could show the difference between the lives of two sisters. Besides, there is a situation of an open end of the story. Of course, it is evident that the poor family is dead, yet there is no description of emotions that the rich sister and her husband had after the tragedy. Adult readers are able to imagine the consequences themselves. However, children require a finished storyline with all characters receiving their share from life. It may be understood that the rich sister felt the regret for the death of her relatives, yet the authors could add more information to her storyline. On the overall, the story is good since it can be applied to the modern world. It is still easy for young readers to distinguish between rich and poor people and to feel compassionate for the ones who suffer. This fairy tale may not be a good example of justice, yet it provides a base for a further discussion of moral values between children and their parents.
Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm. Translated by Margaret Hunt, The Floating Press, 2011.