Thursday, August 25, 2005

They Make Me Proud To Be German

She's back, and this time we didn't have to wait quite as long. Her Royal Blondeness, Mary Beth Ellis, has a new article up at MSNBC taking on the forthcoming Terry Gilliam film about the Brothers Grimm. Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm are best known today as the compilers of perhaps the most comprehensive anthology of fairy tales ever assembled. They were much more than that. The Grimms were German language scholars, and collected the tales from all areas of German-speaking Europe as part of their study of dialects. I own a copy of the German edition, and someone not very well versed in the language may well find themselves dumbfounded going from one story to the next. Regional colloquialisms and alternate spellings make the tales look like they were composed in several different Germanic languages to the casual reader. Lost in subsequent translations has been the original meanings of the stories, as Mary Beth explains:

What the movie does appear to accurately reflect is the fact that the original Grimm fairy tales go to very dark places, darker even than all 121 minutes of Gigli” combined. We are talking chopped-off feet and the death of baby goats and one story. — I cannot wait to read this one at bedtime to my baby nephew entitled Godfather Death.”

Cool! I just hope she tries reading it in German. It always helps to stay true to the original, especially when it reflects your heritage. MB has indicated her Germanness in her blog on several occasions. When the child get a bit older, she can read him the story about the frog who rapes a little human girl (out in the garden she sat on his "Schwanz", which means both tail and something else in German) and forces her to be his wife. I had to read that one twice because of the unfamiliar dialect, just to make sure I was understanding it properly.

Speaking of marriage, MB, being something of an intellectual, looks for ways to apply the lessons of the Brothers Grimm to her own life:

Bear in mind this is all coming from a person who had cake batter for breakfast this morning, but I enjoy planning my future wedding. Much of it is fairy-tale based. My left hand is very bare, but the white dove-drawn crystal coach is already on reserve.

It might please you to know that at Cinderella'’s wedding, pigeons pecked out the stepsisters'’ eyeballs. Awesome. I bet nobody would cross me on the colors of the envelope invitations if I had me a pair of attack pigeons, although this might cut down on shower attendees.

Cake batter for breakfast...I hope it was chocolate. I usually just settle for the icing.

A few years ago, an English translation of some of the original Grimm tales was released. It looked promising, but I passed on it after reading the introduction. The critter who compiled the anthology made clear in her introduction that the book was a poke in the eye at William Bennett's Book of Virtues. Read the rest of Mary Beth Ellis's article for a hilariously politics-free glimpse of the read Grimm...and the underbelly of pre-modern German culture. The culture of my ancestors...and hers, which explains a lot.

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