Grimm brothers' first edition stories are released in English for the first time

Jack Zipes recently published 'The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition'. Did you know that – when the tale was first told – Snow White's evil stepmother was her biological mother?

Jan Thijs/Universal Pictures/AP
'Mirror Mirror' stars Julia Roberts (l.) as the evil queen of the 'Snow White' story and Lily Collins (r.) as Snow White.

Literary fans have long known that the original versions of fairy tales like “Snow White” by the Grimm brothers were much more gruesome than the versions presented in Disney films or contemporary book retellings.

But it turns out the Grimm versions most of us know were actually toned down a little from the even scarier originals. 

Jack Zipes, a University of Minnesota professor emeritus of German and comparative literature, knew that the Grimm version most of us are familiar with is actually the seventh edition published by the brothers and told the Guardian he was curious why the first edition – which is much more gruesome – was never released in English.

“Though the Grimms kept about a hundred of the tales from the first edition, they changed them a good deal,” Zipes, who recently published “The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition,” said. Zipes’s book is the first time that edition by the Grimm brothers has been released in English.

As for those changes, they include the stepmothers from “Hansel and Gretel” and “Snow White” originally being the children’s biological parents and Rapunzel becoming pregnant by her prince. More gruesome stories involving famine and children killing one another were also included in the first edition. 

“The tales in the first edition are curt, blunt, raw, and dazzling in their naivete – that is, in their frank approach to the fantastic and absurd situations in people's lives,” Zipes said in a question-and-answer session with publisher Princeton University Press.

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