The publishing world recently celebrated—or for the most part failed to celebrate—a milestone: the 205th anniversary of the publication of CHILDREN’S AND HOUSEHOLD TALES, first published on December 20, 1812, still in print, but better known today as GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES.
The brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, wrote 86 individual stories, which made up the book and included the original iterations of such classics as “Cinderella,” “Rapunzel,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” and “Snow White,” many of which are now associated with Disney, but which originated with the Grimms.
Their name was prescient: Some of the stories were “grim” indeed—the voracious wolf who ate up Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, the witch who wanted to devour Hansel and Gretel. Some of the modern retellings of these stories are less gruesome, though many still “stick to the script.”
Today’s stories for little kids, unless they are retellings of the Grimms’ stories, are far less gory and grim. Almost any picturebook you pick up (or look at the blurb for online) will reassure you that there are no cannibalistic witches within the pages, and no other grisly scenes either.
As that cigarette ad of a few decades ago proclaimed, “[We’ve] come a long way, baby.”
And I for one am grateful. We may owe a debt of gratitude to the grim Grimm brothers for what they started in the field of children’s publishing, but I’m glad that the picturebooks of today are in a kinder, gentler vein!