Jack Zipes, professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota, has translated the first edition of Jacob and Wilhelm’s famous fairy tales into English. But unlike past translations, which have watered down the stories, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition (out now from Princeton University Press) retains all of the grisly details.
Now when you tell people about how Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off their feet to fit into the glass slipper, you’ll have easily-accessible evidence! Not to mention how a clueless Rapunzel gets pregnant after a “merry time” with the prince, or—perhaps the most damning—the reveal that it was Snow White’s mother, not stepmother, who wanted her beautiful daughter’s heart cut out.
Speaking with The Guardian, Zipes explains how the early editions of Grimms’ Fairy Tales were intended for adults. However, once the brothers Grimm decided to market to younger readers and middle-class families, they drastically edited about 100 of the 156 original stories. They inserted Christian proverbs and smoothed out details to match sociological patterns of the time—i.e., making the evil mothers into jealous stepmothers.
Zipes has praised the new edition as matching the original oral tradition, calling the stories “stunning narratives precisely because they are so blunt and unpretentious.” He also believes that these are the stories with which parents should be raising their kids:
It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the Grimms’ tales for children… [The Grimms] believed that these tales emanated naturally from the people, and the tales can be enjoyed by both adults and children. If there is anything offensive, readers can decide what to read for themselves. We do not need puritanical censors to tell us what is good or bad for us.
The new, grislier translation is supplemented with appropriately eerie illustrations by Andrea Dezsö:
Illustration: Andrea Dezsö