Our theme for February is actually a challenge: write a piece without using first person pronouns (I, me, we, etc.).
Either the Brothers Grimm had a cunningly nonchalant attitude toward morbidity, or German children simply grew up with stronger stomachs in those days. Raven-pecked eyeballs, cut open bodies, and blithering idiocy are sprinkled as frequently as semicolons in Grimm fairytales. The morals at the end are various and sometimes contradictory: stay loyal, be skeptical of talking animals, don’t be a simpleton, take advantage of simpletons.
That being said, here are three Brothers Grimm tales that Walt Disney wisely turned down:
“The Three Snake Leaves”
Once upon a time there was a king’s daughter who was clearly a psychopath. Marrying her came at a steep price: should she expire first, her suitor must agree to be buried alive with her dead body. For how could love be truer than a man who couldn’t bear to live without her? But she was pretty and rich, so inevitably one peasant-soldier decides to take those odds. As luck would have it, she dies first and he gets buried with her in a small, lightless vault in the royal cemetery.
After a few days of starving and keeping the bugs off his deceased bride’s body, a snake comes along with magical resurrection leaves. Elated, the soldier revives the princess and they are rescued. To celebrate, they take a second honeymoon voyage across the sea, but the luckless soldier gets cuckolded when the princess falls in love with the skipper. Skipper and princess throw soldier overboard; soldier drowns. Thankfully, one loyal servant had the foresight to keep the snake leaves handy, and revives the soldier so that they can rat on the princess. When the king finds out, the cheating couple is put in a barrel with holes in it, and thrown out to sea.
Moral of the story: If you’re gonna make your man jump through hoops for your hand in marriage, you better at least send a thank you card when he brings you back from the dead.
Hans isn’t clever. He’s a smart-aleck. He’s constantly panhandling his neighbor Gretel for handouts—a needle, a knife, a strip of bacon, etc—and bringing them to his mother via illogical methods. When Hans’ mom tells him he should’ve brought the goat to her on a string as opposed to in his pocket (don’t ask me how he managed that), Hans carries his next item home on a string—it happens to be the bacon. And so the story progresses, with Hans’ mom scolding his idiocy and Gretel selflessly doling out donations. In the end, the exasperated mother tells Hans he “should have cast friendly eyes on Gretel” instead of putting her in the cattle stall. So Hans, the clever little rascal, goes into the stable and gouges out all the animals’ eyes and pelts Gretel with them. Needless to say, the two never got married.
Moral of the story: Don’t be a smart-aleck.
Disney is doing a better job lately creating strong, independent, intelligent females, so “Clever Elsie” would probably not make the cut. The story begins when a suitor named Hans—yes, that Hans—comes over for dinner, and Elsie’s dad tells her to go get some beer from the basement. While Elsie’s tapping the keg, she notices a pickaxe hanging up against the wall, and her fecund imagination concocts this crazy vision in which her and Hans’ future son is killed by the falling pickaxe when he has to fetch the beer. The thought is so distractingly morbid that she sits down and sobs uncontrollably.
Meanwhile in the living room, Elsie’s family is wondering what’s taking so long. The maid goes down to check on her. Elsie tells her about what could potentially happen to her potential son with her potential husband in their potential future home. This strikes the maid as a remarkably clever observation; she sits down to have a good cry as well.
The same thing happens when the mother goes to check on her, then the father, and finally Hans himself takes a peek downstairs to see what all the fuss is about. Not one to be wooed by intellect, Hans hears about Elsie’s reflection and decides that “more understanding than that is not needed for my household, as you are such a clever Elsie, I will have you.”
Apparently it never occurs to anyone to take the axe down.
I wish the story ended there, but it doesn’t. After they’re married, Hans gives Elsie the rookie assignment of fetching some corn for dinner, thinking it a simple enough task for his “clever” wife, but she falls asleep. Somehow she loses track of her identity and runs away.
Moral of the story: Marry a strong, independent, intelligent female.
Nick Meekhof (’15) graduated with a major in writing and a minor in geography. A farmer for the first twenty-three years of his life, Nick currently works for the Michigan Department of Agriculture. When he’s not traversing the state conducting orchard inspections, he can be found exploring the rivers, forests, and small towns all throughout the Great Lakes State. His current goals include kayaking one hundred Michigan rivers, swimming in Lake Michigan during every month of the year, and visiting as many Michigan breweries as possible.