In Storytime Issue 34, we feature a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, which, at least in the UK, is one of their lesser-known stories. It was originally called Jorinde and Joringel, but we’ve called it The Magic Flower.It has all the elements you’d expect from a classic Grimm fairy tale:
• An enchanted castle in the woods
• A wicked sorceress with a penchant for turning young women into caged birds
• A young couple in love
• Their love put in jeopardy
• A hero’s quest
• A flower that breaks any dark spell
My favourite character in this Grimm fairy tale is a little old lady with a twinkle in her eye. She gives the hero a bedtime drink, which enables him to dream the location of the magic flower. Is she the real hero of the story? Who is she? I like to think she’s the sorceress’s good-hearted twin sister.
Of course, everybody has heard of Hansel and Gretel, Princess and the Frog, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin and Snow White, and we’ve featured them all in past Storytime issues (you can pick them up from our Back Issue Shop). But there are many more Grimm fairy tales, like Jorinde and Joringel, which don’t get the same exposure as these more famous ones. Some of them are just too old-fashioned, dark or violent for a young readership, but many still make fantastic reads. With that in mind, here are five of our favourite ‘unknown’ Grimm fairy tales, some of which might make it into the pages of Storytime in future.
Great Grimm Fairy Tales You’ve Never Heard Of…
1. The Three Spinners. This tale of a lazy young woman who can’t be bothered to spin, yet unintentionally ends up being the queen’s spinner is one of my all time favourites. Three spinners with striking and unusual features come to her rescue, but only on the proviso that she treats them as her cousins, which she has no qualms about. What I love about this tale is that cheating works in the young woman’s favour and there is no moral lesson. In fact, it all works out rather well for her. Lazy she is, and lazy she stays. It’s a tale for rebels of the idle variety.
2. Mother Holle. Better known in Germany, this tale has a classic theme: the virtuous, industrious sister versus the lazy sister, but with some delightful additions: a secret world at the bottom of a well, an old lady who shakes out her feather bed to create snowflakes and a smart-witted talking crow. The sisters get just what they deserve and the ending is wonderfully visual.
3. Queen Bee. A young ‘simpleton’ brother getting the better of his two older brothers is another recurring theme in the world of fairy tales, but there’s something pleasing about the way this story unfolds and in the simpleton brother’s respect for nature. He ends up forming some unlikely alliances, which help him tackle a series of impossible challenges. And his two brothers get off lightly too. Another great Simpleton-done-good tale is The Poor Miller’s Apprentice and the Cat – if only for the imagery of a castle run entirely by cats and kittens.
4. Clever Gretel. While not suitable for young Storytime readers in its original form, parents might enjoy this funny story about a talented cook who, bored of waiting for her master’s guest to arrive, swigs a little too much wine and ends up eating their dinner. When the guest finally arrives, Gretel uses her considerable wits to explain the disappearance of their meal. You can’t help applauding her ingenuity.
5. Hans My Hedgehog. Though this story needs to be updated for the young and modern reader, it’s worth reading for its sheer madness and creativity. Hans is a human in the guise of a hedgehog who rears pigs, rides on the back of a rooster, and plays bagpipes. The premise is a common theme in fairy tales: “I want to have a child, even if it’s a…” And the ending is 100% fairy tale too – Hans marries the princess. The image of hedgehog Hans riding a rooster is quite irresistible.
Are you familiar with these tales already? Are there any Grimm fairy tales you love that we’ve missed out here – or that you’d like to see in Storytime? Let us know via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. We’d love to hear from you. And if you’re interested in lesser-known fairy tales, read our thoughts on Forgotten Fairy Tales too. We’re intent on bringing them back!
Happy reading all – have a Grimm week!