NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of 31 reviews of scary short stories and novels. As part of All Hallow’s Read, I will be sharing all the scary stories that I think you should consider giving to someone for Halloween. Because this is a tradition intended for people of all ages, some of these titles will be for children and young adults, while others are meant strictly for adults. Happy Reading.
By now it’s common knowledge that Disney lied to us. Fairy tales were not the charming, whimsical stories of love and song. They weren’t designed to make little boys and girls fall in love with an unattainable image of the perfect man or woman. It doesn’t matter what you read into the subtext of any Disney fairy tale, they are nothing compared to the startling stories collected by The Brothers Grimm.
Maybe loads of people know that now, this was not the case as little as ten years ago.
In high school I took video production. One of our projects was to adapt a children’s storybook into a video, similar to the children’s book reviews you’d see on Reading Rainbow. Our teach brought in cardboard box of Little Golden Books. You remember those, right? Adorable little books with gold spines? Anyway, we had to reach in, grab a book, capture images of the pages, and edit together a video. I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The project was a blast because I also handled the narration. So I’m cutting these images together, getting a story flowing, making up these character voices, just a ball. As I near completion, some classmates start to hang around the editing system to watch me. Having an audience was pretty cool because I was really proud of myself.
There came a moment when I have the witch telling the huntsmen to go and cut out Snow White’s heart so she could eat it.
GASP! from the audience.
Startled, I turned to look at their appalled faces. “What?” I said.
“You can’t have the witch say that?!” someone whispered.
“Say what?” I asked, wondering if I slipped in a curse word or something. Hey, when you sit in front of those editing screens long enough, you miss all kinds of shit. (like that.)
“The witch can’t say she wants to eat Snow White’s heart.”
Intensely confused, I asked this genius to elaborate.
His concern was that we were making these for children and it would be too vicious for them. He was right, the videos were meant to be screened for younger kids. But I was directly quoting a book based on a Disney film that had a little golden spine. This shit was tame compared to what I’d read in other versions.
The others in the group agreed with Dr. Phil here and said I’d gone too far. Snow White was supposed to be a happy story, with singing…where the hell was the singing!?
I tried calmly to explain to them that fairy tales are not what they think. They were designed to trouble children in order to prepare them for all the cruelty of the world. Sometimes a jealous witch might get pissed off and try to eat your heart. Kids have got to be ready for that! I asked them if they’d ever read Godfather Death, The Juniper Tree, or any of the dozens of stories containing deals with evil things, child abuse, suicide, or cannibalism. No, they hadn’t, and I’m not so sure they believed any of them existed.
In truth, I don’t remember what happened after that. Yes, I finished my video and turned it in. Unfortunately, the way the children reacted to the video has faded from me. There may be an image of me playing the tape in front of the class stuck in my brain, but I won’t bother digging it out, as it’s likely back there for a good reason. Probably covering something that needs to stay that way.
Many of Grimm’s Fairy Tales take place during the colder months, making them a perfect read for October. Characters are traipsing alone through the woods, encountering demons and other monsters, sleeping in castles, murdering each other, all the stuff that is often associated with the horror related media of Halloween.
Not to mention, a whole lot of them are shockingly violent. They’re gory. They’re perverted. They are often times very, very scary.
That’s not all they are. Many contain beautiful imagery, hilarious surrealism, and exciting situations. They are pure entertainment on every level. Anything you could want from a story, you’re likely to find somewhere in any of the hundreds of Grimm’s collections. Unless you’re looking for catchy songs.