‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales: 64 Dark Original Tales’, by Jacob Grimm – book review

Grimm's Fairy Tales: 64 Dark Original TalesGrimm’s Fairy Tales: 64 Dark Original Tales by Jacob Grimm

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I was a child, Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson’s light tales were more fun than German Brother Grimm’s comparatively dark tales. Now that I have read Grimm’s Fairy Tales: 64 Dark Original Tales as a child in a grown-up body and mind conditioned in the anfractuous tidal waves of life, I now know why the Grimm’s tales are regarded as classic literature, not just for children for also for adults, especially those with defiant spirits of abandoning power to believe the mysterious and magical, all the spellbinding enchantment springing from these fascinating fairy tales the Grimm Brothers provide to readers.

The book contains 64 stories originally published in the Grimm’s The Nursery and Household Tales from 1812 to 1814 as separate volumes. The original intention of the compendium of oral German folk tales is to study German culture and literature that can also be referenced as an academic text. Both Wilhelm and Jacob were philology students, lexicography, history, and Germany’s literature while studying law at university. For this context, during the Third Reich, the Nazis liked to use the book as a token propaganda textbook to promote their racial ideology against Grimm’s volition to preserve the cultural artifacts and heritage in anthropological perspectives. Suppose the Grimm indeed meant to use the tales to prove Aryan superiority. Why would they include the sinister and even immoral contents of some of the collection’s stories without rewriting them to immaculately vivacious and blissfully happy fairy tales suitable for the best race endowed with goodness and beauty?

Some of the tales are shockingly straightforward about lacerating and killing characters, mostly with axes, even though the wickedness is worthy of such cruelty and urges readers to abandon pity. Even a king wants to marry his beautiful daughter in his beloved deceased queen wife’s likeness, who asked him to marry her mirror image. The incestuous labyrinth story is the queen’s stratagem of not letting her husband marry some other woman than her blood and flesh in the daughter’s form. To my dismay, the daughter at the end finds herself in the arms of her father – as a lover. The tale is too spectacular to suspect my cognitive faculty’s malfunction, but the tale’s re-reading confirms the truth of the incredible love story of father and daughter. The Grimm would have decided not to redact it from the collection to invoke such stupendousness of incestuous infatuation blinded by lust and envy nuanced in the simplicity of words. Otherwise, the tale itself remains a point-blank apocalyptic drama that leaves readers in the spinning saucers to the point of no returning of the senses at wonderland.

All the tales from this book are not, however, akin to the tales from the crypt. The Grimm’s tales are the fairy tales where animals talk, and humans listen, fairies and humans can bump into one another on the way home or work, and peasants marry royals with the help of magical instruments, all of which look common and natural. The Grimm’s fairy tales’ characters inhibit somewhere in the gray world of mirrored reality where the wheel of fortune is spined against in our favor because of the blindfolded goddess Fortuna’s whims and caprice in the game of chance. But however unlucky it may seem, time and opportunity happens to all of us at unexpected times and can multiply the delicious fruits with wits and touches of humor, which are the handmaids to a happy life. Grimm’s fairy tales are not pessimistically gloomy enough to attest to the harsh, treacherous reality of life. Instead, the tales are lessons for insatiable greed, insolent hubris, and uncontrollable passion that bring about downfalls, which are also principal narratives of Stephen King of our time.

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Transatlantic review of my book from the UK

One of my blog readers, “Dark Tales,” read my short story and gave shining 5.0 out of 5 stars in Amazon UK! Thank you so much! It’s such a great encouragement and supports out of the blue! I have quoted the delightful description of my book herein:

“A dreamy, engrossing short story well worth the read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 January 2021
Thoroughly enjoyed this short story from an author with a unique and characterful style that lends her prose an almost musical quality. Fans of folklore and mythology, in particular, will enjoy the host of references from a writer with a clear passion for fables and a talent for weaving them into her work.”

Dokkaebi: the gullible goblin

Ireful old woodcutter castigating a not so menacing Dokkaebi

The Dokkaebi is a mischievous, playful fairy-like spirit that is equivalent to the western counterparts of leprechauns in capricious temperament and of goblins in formidable appearance. The legend says it that an old broom made out of dried bush clover with bloodstains on will turn into a Dokkaebi, who will hold a spell over the mind of an unfortunate passer-by at night in the field or on the mountain. Befriending with a Dokkaebi can bring you a fortune at a house that he has lived as your protective spirit, but you must live there for precisely ten years only. Otherwise, the Dokkaebi will leave you with the ruins of your fortune and health. There are still people in Korea who believe this belief tradition by offering the Dokkaebi buckwheat cakes, spirited beverages, and steamed pork when they open businesses and move into new houses. Some people even report seeing them when walking alone in the thoroughfares or any lonely path where lights are dim at night between midnight and 4:00 am.

A Dokkaebi likes to challenge a passer-by with a wrestling match.

The Dokkaebi may seem to possess the caprice and whims natural to fairy-folk. However, it embodies the human characteristics of compassion, selfishness, naivety, shrewdness, durability, and formidableness. The Dokkaebi reflects the pathos of life indelibly embossed in the collective consciousness of the Koreans. They have endured the anfractuous national tragedies and yet maintained their unique language and culture.

Faerie tales often belong to the days of yore before the advents of industrialization, and the fairies are either imaginative creatures or exaggerated figures of fashionably esoteric religions in the west. Still, the Dokkaebi is a living spirit in the minds of the Koreans and has wept and laughed with Koreans.

A tiger is a Korean totemic animal that can mimic human voices.

P.S. This post is my solipsistic response to #FariytaleTuesday, whose theme for today is the Asian fairies/spirits in folklore. The community is inundated with the wondrous tales of Japan and China but scarcely Korea. Koreans, like the Irish, love to talk and laugh with precious human sentiments, which result in the creation of the Dokkaebi. The Korean culture, as evidenced in the language, is closer to the cultures of the Ural-Altai language family, including the Finnish, the Japanese, the Turkish, the Hungarians, and the Mongolians.  Since there seems to be a scarcity of Korean spirits represented in the tweets, I felt responsible for writing about this playful Korean spirit with human characteristics.