Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Grimm Fairy Tales

 Isaiah's "2014 Self-Exposure" went up last week and captures the Obama presidency perfectly.

I'm having non-stop problems with blogging tonight.

So instead of trying to recreate my now lost post, I'll note this by Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

Tales of Grimm justice

Writer and translator Jack Zipes spoke to Socialist Worker about the enduring popularity of the tales of the Brothers Grimm, and how they appeal to our sense of hope

Once upon a time the Brothers Grimm collected folk tales. The stories and characters are hugely familiar. 
It is well known that the tales are more bawdy and brutal than Disney cartoons. Characters sometimes live “happily to the end of their days” but they never live “ever after”.

But the scale of the difference only now becomes clear for an English language reader.

The Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales first edition, published in German in 1812, has been translated into English for the first time by left wing scholar and translator Jack Zipes.

According to Jack, “The Grimms never intended the tales they collected to be read by children.

“The tales are about children and families, and how they reacted to the difficult conditions under which they lived.”

The stories originated as tales told by “folk”. They were passed down through generations to provide entertainment.

Jack argues that the process of making literature from non-literary traditions can be a sanitation, but not in a simplistic way.

The tales are brusque, blunt, absurd, comical and tragic. How Some Children Played at Slaughtering was cut after the first edition.


It tells the tale of two boys who see their father slaughtering a pig. “They decided to play slaughtering,” explained Jack.

“One brother became the pig, and the other became the slaughterer and he slit the throat of the younger brother.

“The mother saw what happened from a window. She ran downstairs and took the knife out of the boy’s throat and, out of fury, stabbed the older boy in the heart.

Then she realised the baby was upstairs, and in the meantime the baby had died and drowned in the tub.

“She was so remorseful she committed suicide. The father was so dismayed that after two years he wasted away.”

Another tale is called The Children of Famine. A widow is starving with her two children and thinks she might have to eat them.

“The two children, two girls, do their best not to get eaten by their own mother,” said Jack. “The story ends with the children promising to lie down and sleep ‘until judgement day’. The mother departs to ‘nobody knows where’.”

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm lived in a French-occupied Germanic area at the start of the 19th century.

They overcame poverty and their view of folklore reflects their utopian dreams.

“The Grimms wanted to preserve tales they believed emanated naturally from the German people in an oral tradition before they evaporated,” said Jack.

“They were among the first Europeans at the beginning of the nineteenth century, later called folklorists, who took a sincere interest in the culture of the common people.”

For Jack, the Grimms’ “mission” was to conserve German tales, legends, myths and other artifacts.

“In this way, they felt they might contribute to the cultural unification of German people throughout central Europe,” he added.

“We must remember there was no such thing as Germany in the early part of the nineteenth century.”


Jack said there was an overtly political side to their project.

“By collecting and assembling tales that were probably told in dialect or some variant of high German, they wanted to contribute to a cultural and social sense of ‘German-ness’.

“They took the side of revolutionaries in 1848 to support political reforms. 
They published the tales in high German—not to repackage them but to make them accessible to a growing literate class.”

Originally there were 
156 stories, while the seventh edition has 210. The Grimms didn’t simply add stories over the years. They deleted, made many changes, revisions and embellishments. 

The stories morph into the more polished, puritanical, sentimental, Christian and child-friendly refinements of the bestselling later editions.

They develop a more homespun note, a more preachy bourgeois tone with an emphasis on patriarchal and middle class values.

Though even the later versions are far more gritty than subsequent retellings.

Jack said, “There were no religious tales in the first edition. 
Other changes were made to embellish the style, to delete erotic or gruesome elements, to eliminate tales that were too French.”
Artist Andrea Deszo’s new illustration for the tale The Devil in the Green Coat
Artist Andrea Deszo’s new illustration for the tale The Devil in the Green Coat
These included Bluebeard—the story of a man who keeps corpses of women in a locked room—and Puss in Boots.

In many cases certain tales of the first edition were replaced by longer and more elaborate versions.

Sometimes the Grimms change phrasing to make the stories more “proper”.

One example is Rapunzel, in which the young maiden in the tower becomes pregnant.

According to Jack the “essence of the tales is more vivid” in the earliest version where the Grimms made the “greatest effort to respect the voices of the original storytellers or collectors”.

The later morality doesn’t mean a lack of violence.

In Cinderella a girl overcomes impossible odds by virtue of her beauty and goodness.

The Grimms’ version in all their editions is the one where the spirit of the dead mother assists Cinderella, who visits the tree beneath which the mother is buried.

There are two sets of slippers, one silver, one gold.

Cinderella’s sisters, who have beautiful faces but black hearts, chop off their toes hoping to fit into the slipper, but the blood betrays them.

In the 1812 Grimm edition the story ends with Cinderella’s wedding. In the later edition there is an additional scene.

As the sisters approach the church, pigeons peck out their eyes. “And so they were punished for their wickedness and malice with blindness for the rest of their lives.”

It’s Snow White’s mother—not the step parent—who wanted to murder her daughter in the original tale.

“She was only seven years old,” said Jack.

“The mirror declares a seven year old more beautiful than this obviously beautiful queen, and the mother is so enraged that she wants her daughter murdered.

“In Hansel and Gretel, it’s also not a stepmother. It’s a biological mother who wants to abandon her daughter in the woods where they will probably be eaten by beasts.”

Partially this is sanitising, but it is also linked to how people lived at the time.

“Many women died during childbirth,” said Jack.

“The fathers would marry a very young woman who might be close in age to the eldest daughter and of course there would be a rivalry of some kind.”

That tension between the tales’ reflection of social reality and their ability to be retold continues today.

Jack pointed out, “Huge corporations such as the Disney Corporation view the tales as commodities.

“They are a means to make a huge profit in reinventing them because the tales are so popular. The exploitation of the Grimms’ tales occurs on many levels.

“The recent surge of fairy tale films reveals that Corporations will reproduce and exploit fairy tales to make profit and celebrate brand names of corporations.”

But despite the transformations, Jack argued that an underlying reason for the Grimms’ popularity remains.

“The tales engage readers and listeners because they present alternative worlds in which social justice occurs,” he said.


“Sometimes the justice is retributive and cruel, but there is always a sense of social justice.”

Jack said this appeals at a time when justice seems lacking.

He said, “I believe we are living in perverse times, and that we, particularly in the US, have lost a sense of social justice.

“Our politicians and judges are total hypocrites and unjust in their actions, as are the billionaires who control our economy.

“We turn to and need fairy and folk tales not to escape but to maintain a sense of justice and hope that we can bring about more just societies.

“It is the legacy of social justice in the Grimms’ tales that keeps writers wanting to re-create them.

“Fortunately, creative and serious independent filmmakers and writers explore the tales because they might reveal how much inequality and injustice has grown, and how we might imagine alternatives to a deplorable reality.

“Fairy tales, including reinvented ones, seek to foster a sense of social justice.

“It is up to us as readers to realise the dreams and fantasies of these tales.”


The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition

by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Translated and edited by Jack Zipes and illustrated by Andrea Dezso (£16.97) 

Grimm Legacies: The Magic Spell of the Grimms’ Folk and Fairy Tales 
by Jack Zipes (£24.95) 

Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion 
by Jack Zipes (£23.99) 

Available at Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday: 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, DoD admits that there may have been civilian fatalities in those 'precision' air strikes, this may be used to argue for more US troops on the ground in Iraq, over 400 journalists have been killed in Iraq during the ongoing war, the ethnic cleansing continues in Iraq, and much more.

Starting with today's Defense Dept press briefing at the Pentagon moderated by spokesperson Rear Adm John Kirby.

Q: Admiral, when you said in response to Nancy's question with numbers, that hundreds of -- we know that hundreds of ISIL fighters have been killed, can you be more specific on that number? And also, can you give us any idea of civilians killed in the airstrike campaign?

KIRBY: I cannot give you a more specific number of -- of how many ISIL fighters. We just know it's hundreds: several hundred. It's not --

I'd like to make two points. First of all, we don't have the ability to -- to count every nose that we shwack [sic]. Number two, that's not the goal. That's not the goal. The less of these guys that are out there, certainly that's the better, but the goal is to degrade and destroy their capabilities.

And we're not getting into an issue of body counts. And that's why I don't have that number handy. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't have asked my staff to give me that number before I came out here. It's simply not a relevant figure.

On civilian casualties, what I know is that CENTCOM, Central Command, is investigating several, what they believe to be credible allegations of possible civilian casualties. I don't know all the details of that. I would point you to Central Command. I know that they are actively investigating what they believe to be at least a few incidents of civilian causalities that they think, you know, warrant further investigation, that they have found credible to investigate. On their own, they've done this. But again, I'd point you to Central Command for more detail on that.

And if I could just editorialize a second, I mean, this is something we always take seriously. We are very mindful of trying to mitigate the risk to civilians every time we operate, everywhere we operate. And so when we do believe that we've had occasion to cause collateral damage or hurt, kill civilians, we take it seriously and we look into it. It matters to us.

Of the above remarks, AFP points out, "The comments marked the first time the US military has acknowledged that the air war may have exacted a toll on civilians."  Kate Brannen (Foreign Policy) offers:

Depending on whether any civilian casualties are confirmed -- and where they may have happened -- these new investigations could move the debate around whether U.S. troops need to be moved closer to the battlefield, said Paul Scharre, a former Army Ranger.  He worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2008 to 2013 on intellligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance policies, among other issues, before joining the Center for a New American Security.
Some critics of the Obama administration’s strategy against the Islamic State have called for more air power, describing the current airstrikes as “pinpricks.” But to unleash more bombs on Iraq or Syria without inadvertently killing civilians would most likely require U.S. troops to move closer to the fight.

And that's the thing about selling war -- those who do can always use anything to sell even more of it.  "You say we're killing civilians?  Well the answer is for us to up our involvement!  Ground troops will save civilians!"

Sadly, there are many who will go along with that claim -- despite the fact that the years 2003 through 2011 in Iraq, with massive numbers of US troops on the ground -- did not create a safety zone for civilians.

The point Kirby raised about civilian deaths kind of got smoothed over in press reports.

Probably because this press lives to protect itself.

The issue isn't just that there may have been civilian deaths.

There was another important comment -- one that reflects on the press so they prefer to bury it.

Kirby noted, "First of all, we don't have the ability to -- to count every nose that we shwack [sic]."

The US government -- with all its military might, its Special Ops and CIA in Iraq, et al -- can't "count every nose that we whack."

Yet, day after day, the claims by the US government and/or the Iraqi government as to how many 'militants,' 'Da'ash,' 'terrorists,' what have you are treated as fact and repeated as such.

Not only can they not "count every nose," they can't guarantee that the dead were who they claim they were.

Instead of blindly repeating numbers and blindly calling them 'terrorists' or whatever, the press should be very dubious of the claims being made when a government -- any government -- reports 'kills.'  That lesson was supposed to have been learned during Vietnam when the US government regularly inflated the number of 'kills' to make it appear Vietnam was losing the war.

Let's stay with the press but move to the Iraqi press.  Sunday, Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory noted the year ended with 3 Iraqi journalists kidnapped in Mosul as elements of the Islamic State invaded their homes on December 31st and abducted them.   Meanwhile, Xinhua reports the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate announced today that 14 journalists were killed in Iraq in 2014 and at least 406 since the start of the war. Kitabat adds that the organization noted the "major role" that the press serves in forming public opinion.

Staying with the media, the Washington Post's Erin Cunningham offers some media criticism:

  • Going back to the topic of violence, Alsumaria reports 4 corpses were discovered dumped in Baghdad (all shot to death). Mohammed Tawfeeq, Jason Hanna, Laura Smith-Spark and Jethro Mullen (CNN) add, "ISIS militants attacked the Albu Risha police station in northern Ramadi, killing several police officers and injuring at least two other people, the security officials said."  AFP reports, "The suicide bombers attacked a mosque in the Al-Jubba area of Anbar where anti-militant fighters were resting, killing 10, after which clashes broke out that left a further 13 security personnel dead and 21 wounded." Margaret Griffis ( counts 132 people killed in violence throughout Iraq today with another thirty left injured.

    The violence in Iraq has frequently taken the form of ethnic cleansing.  Reider Visser denies this reality from the comfort of his padded cell and he's supported by the likes of Jane Arraf, Joel Wing and other of Nouri al-Maliki's bow-down-bitches but the facts support ethnic cleansing in the past and currently.

    Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report on the Sunni town of Rawashid where Shi'ite forces pushed out the Islamic State and their leader, Adnan Hassan, states Sunnis will never be allowed to return to their homes, "These are our lands."

    And the bow-down-bitches?

    Silence from them.  Though one of them, Jane, does make a point to Tweet fairy tales.

    A bow-down-bitch can always trumpet fiction that ignores the continued targeting of Sunnis because a bow-down-bitch always ignores the targeting of Sunnis.  Jane Arraf's certainly made that her goal for years now.
    Tuesday was the 94th anniversary of the founding of the Iraqi army. Though Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has participated in various photo-ops, not all feel it's a day worth celebrating.  Communities long victimized by the Iraqi military, such as the Kurds, are not feeling joyful.  It's doubtful that the Shi'ites would be if they weren't now in charge of the killing machine.

    You may remember the White House has been (weakly) pushing a national guard -- one made up of various demographic components in Iraq.  Pushing that since the summer.

    Yesterday, National Iraqi News Agency reported MP Amin Bakr (with the Kurdish Change or Goran bloc) declared he expected the bill to come before the Parliament this month.  However, the Cabinet of Ministers has still yet to vote on it.  You may remember all the promises about a vote in Parliament on the budget being just around the corner.

    Despite hearing that for months, it's still not happened.  And it may not for months.  The budget is now tied to the oil and gas deal between Baghdad and Erbil.  Iraq never got around to passing a 2014 budget and, as 2015 begins, a budget for this year seems doubtful as well.

    Saif Hameed, Ned Parker and Dominic Evans (Reuters) report on the issues with the Iraqi military (which include the issue of corruption which plagues all of Iraq).  Al Mada notes that Prime Minister al-Abadi pledged today to end corruption in the military.

    And that really underscores how the White House is yet again failing in Iraq.

    Oil is dropping.

    The previous drop meant Iraq's proposed budget slashed pretty much everything but defense.

    The Iraqi government wants military weapons, they want military training and the US is supplying it.
    The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran Tweets:

  • U.S. Selling 170 More M-1 Abrams Tanks to Iraq After the Iraqi Army Lost 40 Last Summer to ISIS

  • And AFP Tweets:

  • And this is done for what?
    The White House is getting what for these gifts?

    Where are the demands that Iraq needs to do X to get Y?

    Where's the diplomatic effort?
    They could have stated nothing happened until the national guard bill became law, for example.

    They could have used the Iraqi government's desires as levers to press for needed reforms.

    They didn't.

    And instead of calling out this diplomatic failure, where are we on the left?

    As Mike pointed out, Ray McGovern (retired CIA) notes the State Dept . . . in terms of John Kerry.  In the conspiracy-crazed mind of bow-down-bitch Ray McGovern, the Secretary of State is controlling the President of the United States Barack Obama.

    It's when they get that nutty that bow-down-bitches should just bow out.

    Although we should also question the glorification of CIA Ray McGovern to begin with.

    This is the man who defended the dirty tricks of the US government in Vietnam -- defended it on Pacifica Radio -- and not in ancient times but during the reign of his blessed Barack.  Years, decades, after the bulk of the world -- and the left in the US -- disowns the travesty and crimes of US counterinsurgency efforts  in Vietnam, bow-down-bitch Ray McGovern takes to Pacifica to shine those efforts on.

    The left needs to learn that when you lay down with the likes of Ray McGovern, gonorrhea may be the least of the problems you awake with.

    And it's a mystery why anyone would listen to -- or, heaven forbid, follow -- a bow-down-bitch who, six year into War Hawk Barack's presidency, still makes excuses and peddles fantasies to avoid holding Barack accountable.

    Reminder if you missed them last week, 2014 year-in-review pieces:  Isaiah's "2014 Self-Exposure," Kat's "Kat's Korner: 2014 In Music," Ruth's "Ruth's Radio Report 2014," Martha and Shirley's "2014 in Books (Martha & Shirley)"  Ann and Stan's "2014 in Film (Ann and Stan)" which first went up at their own sites as Ann's "2014 in Films (Ann and Stan)" and Stan's "2014 in film (Ann and Stan)," Third's "2014 Notable Events," Trina's "Detroit" and my "2014: The Year of Self-Exposure."

    This morning, I forgot to include the community updates (and we'll know Jody Watley as well):

  • cnn