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The tales of the Grimm brothers hold a very special place in the pantheon of the world’s renowned collections of stories for kids. The folk tales adapted by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm might seem as dark and even morbid to some readers, yet they have warranted the title of folktale classic due to the unique combination of simplicity, moral, and atmosphere.
In this paper, ten fairytales by the Grimm brothers will be analyzed to identify similarities in their themes, styles, characters, plots, settings, and scenes. Namely, the following pieces will be subjected to scrutiny: “Rapunzel,” “Cinderella,” “Clever Hans,” “Little Red-Cap,” “Clever Elsie,” “Gossip Wolf and the Fox,” “Sweet Porridge,” “Snow-White and Rose-Red,” “Strong Hans,” and “The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean.” Although the selected set of fairytales seems to contain completely unrelated stories, a closer analysis of the narratives will show that they are bound by a similar pattern, underlying messages, characters, and the general style.
The stylistic choices made by the Grimm brothers when reworking Medieval folktales are quite homogenous across the ten tales selected for the analysis. The range of stylistic devices that the authors use to reinforce their message is rather short since the Grimm brothers prefer accuracy in creating linguistic shorthand to convey the key ideas. However, the stories in question still have several important stylistic tools that have clearly been used deliberately to emphasize the main message. For example, symbolism is often used in Grimm’s tales, as seen in “Sweet Porridge,” where the porridge represents abundance (Grimm and Grimm “Sweet Porridge”). In addition, some of the tales, such as “Cinderella,” use rhymes to establish an unusual, magical, and out-of-the-ordinary setting: “The good into the pot,/The bad into the crop.” (Grimm and Grimm “Cinderella”). In addition, the style of the Grimm brothers’ tales can be described as simple yet not simplistic, with quite complicated words with which younger children may be unfamiliar, such as “perish” in “The Gossip Wolf and the Fox” and “astonishment” in “Cinderella” (Grimm and Grimm “Cinderella”; Grimm and Grimm “The Gossip Wolf”).
Notably, three main types of characters appear in the Grimm’s’ tales most often. These are the princess, the characters that represent the evil, and the clever lead who works their way out of a trap through their cunning and wit. The latter are the central focus of “Clever Hans” and “Clever Elsie,” whereas the princess character trope is engraved into “Cinderella” and “Rapunzel.” In turn, the characters that are deemed as pure evil can be found in “Cinderella” with its wicked stepmother and in “Little Red-Cap,” where the antagonist is represented as the chaotic evil. The latter is a particularly common trope in the Grimm brothers’ stories since these narratives are supposed to serve mostly as cautionary tales for younger children.
The princess character is a common trope that has been widely discussed in academic papers and media. The Grimm brothers’ image of a princess represents the barest minimum of character and rarely serves as the agent of her own story, which has been pointed out as a major flaw based on the tenets of the Feminist theory. However, since the specified tales are the original source of the specified trope, it is necessary to give them leeway and consider these characters as the representation of a woman’s role as it was seen at the time, as well as the dangers that women faced in the Medieval society.
Being the examples of children’s stories told as the means of teaching kids important life lessons while entertaining them, the ten tales in question have a similar style that can be described as narrative. The Grimm brothers rarely deviate from the traditional three-act structure, although the first act in most stories is typically fairly short. The specified approach helps to introduce the inciting incident of the story and bring the point of attack to the reader’s attention immediately, thus keeping the focus close on the story and ensuring that the audience maintains its attention. For example, a very short first act and a prolonged second one can be observed in “The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean” and “Sweet Porridge.” However, for the stories that require a substantial amount of character development, the first act becomes longer, as seen in “Cinderella” and “Snow-White and Rose-Red.”
The scenes observed in the ten stories above are quite varied and, perhaps, serve as the main point of distinction between the tales. There is very little dialogue in these excerpts, which can be explained by the need to focus on the moral. Since the goal of the tales is to present the audience with an important lesson, character development is pushed out of the limelight. Moreover, the characters are kept rather basic so that children could relate to them easier and learn the lessons represented in the fairytales more effectively. Instead, the scenes that emphasize the message, such as the description of the interactions between Little Red-Cap and the wolf, are described in greater detail than the rest of the story.
Although the stories that the Grimm brothers tell are quite homogenous in their nature, each has a mostly unique setting or, most frequently, several settings in which the main actions unravel. For example, in “Little Red-Cap,” the forest and the grandmother’s house have equally significant functions as set pieces. Despite the different functions that the specified sets serve, they are needed equally strongly in the story. Likewise, in “Cinderella,” Cinderella’s house plays a crucial part in establishing the character and the setup of the story, whereas the palace becomes the place of confrontation of the narrative. Even in shorter stories, such as “Sweet Porridge,” the setting changes as the narrative progresses. Understandably, the forest often becomes the place where the protagonist encounters a magical character that becomes the main force behind the change in the protagonist’s life, as in “Strong Hans.”
The fairytales that the Grimm brothers collected and reinterpreted as a set of folk stories are distinctively unique, yet they are linked by an array of minor similarities in characters, plots, and settings. Moreover, the tone remains homogenous across the stories, which adds to the impression of similarity between them. Moreover, each of the stories incorporates an evident moral and at the same time contains multiple hidden messages that become more obvious when experiencing these tales once again. The similarities between the protagonists, which are represented by three main archetypes in the selected ten stories are also quite evident. Therefore, the tales of the Grimm brothers can be regarded as the unique tapestry of reinterpreted medieval stories that are linked by a common theme and style, with a medium variation of characters representing different moral concepts to their intended audience.
Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales.” CS.CMU.edu, n.d., Web.