Considered by many to be the godfathers
of modern fairy tale lore, the Grimm brothers collected a wealth of German folklore and published
the stories in an anthology. Many of the stories
were exceedingly dark and violent, but kids read
them anyway. The books retained their popularity
surprisingly well, and in the 20th century, a large
portion of the tales was thought to be too dark
and violent for children. So, when Disney pulled
inspiration and storylines from the Grimm’s tales,
they deliberately chose to overlook the allusions
to sexuality, as well as the descriptions of overt
violence and cruelty that were present in so many
of the fables. This left us with the sanitized, moralistic good-triumphs-over-evil
stories that we know
so well today.
But the kids who once dreamt
of the Disney
versions of fairy tales have grown up now.
Today, they are the story weavers, working on
blockbuster movies and writing the hit television
shows like Once Upon a Time
. And so we are seeing
the retelling of old German folktales in shows like
, a story that features the Grimm brothers as
cops, fighting modern, real-life versions of familiar fairy tale creatures. Hansel and Gretel are now
cunning Witch Hunters
rather than helpless, abandoned children.
So what is it that drives us to modernize these
tales? Many times, we choose to reimagine characters like meek, fragile Snow White or little,
gullible Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk
as characters who are now powerfully in control of their
destinies - presently, they are unlikely heroes at
worst and completely badass action heroes at best.
In some of the new stories the women, who were
formerly relegated to droll, feminine passivity,
to meet their male counterparts
as equals in battle: […] Today, people who grew up
with the same old narrative of prince-meets-princess-and-they-live-happily-ever-after
are creating worlds
where our childhood heroes can be as powerful,
flawed, and as nuanced as we always wanted them
to be. And the whole point of fairy tales is to pass
on these timeless stories to the next generation,
even if it’s in an updated format, isn’t it?
“Happily Ever After?: Modernizing Fairy Tales For a New
Generation”, Heather Ewert, 2010.