Since last week's story The Old Grave-Stone sounded like a Halloween tale but was actually quite sweet and sentimental, I think the opposite can be said of The Brother's Grimm story The Juniper Tree. Click on the title to read the story in its entirety, but be warned, this isn't a story for a safe little bed time. In fact, it's probably not a story to enjoy near meal time either. To give you a small preview, the tale follows a young child "red as blood and white as snow" whose mother dies with delight at his birth. In case that's not your limit for a bad beginning, his stepmother decapitates him and shamefully blames it on his younger sister. Had enough? I didn't yet get to explaining how he is then cooked into a meal which is eaten by his father, his bones are carried off by his younger sister and buried under a juniper tree, only to have a bird carry his story throughout the land. The bird's song goes:
"My mother she killed me,
My father he ate me,
My sister, little Marlinchen,
Gathered together all my bones,
Tied them in a silken handkerchief,
Laid them beneath the juniper-tree,
Kywitt, kywitt, what a beautiful bird am I!"
I suppose you could argue that The Brother's Grimm should have borrowed from Lemony Snicket a more appropriate title for this tale and called it A Series of Unfortunate Events! If you haven't yet lost your lunch, you'll be pleased to know that the rest of the story is slightly more pleasant and the evil stepmother does get her comeuppance in the end. I'm still worried about why people would listen to a song about being killed by a mother and eaten by a father and have little other comment than "nice song" and "play it again, birdie". Even reading the tune, I was more than a little grossed out by it and had little desire to have it repeated.
I'm not sure how fitting this fairy tale is as a bedtime story but the gruesome and macabre fable does seem perfect for a spooky campfire tale this time of year. I think I even remember a scary story from my childhood about a decapitated girl with a kerchief around her neck holding her head on that probably has it's roots in the opening portion of The Juniper Tree. Regardless of whether you find the stories of the Grimm Brothers to be delightful or demented, there's no denying the far reaches of their influences.
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