"Maid Maleen" by the Brothers Grimm
I have to say that I like Maid Maleen. Maybe I'm just in a good mood today, forgiving of the Grimm's typical love of the beautiful, sweet, obedient young woman, or maybe Maid Maleen is not solely passive. Her story's romantic and touching, but she has to rescue herself in order to get to her happy ending.
Maid Maleen is the daughter of a King and of course very beautiful. A prince from another land asked for her hand in marriage, but her father refuses, the story doesn't tell us why. Maid Maleen and the prince love each other dearly, and Maleen tells her father that she will marry no one else. Her father, furious, locks her and her waiting-woman up in a tower (reminds you of Rapunzel's tower, doesn't it?) for seven years, cutting them off from the rest of the world. When the food and drink dwindles and the two young women realize that...
"Thumbling" by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
The story of Thumbling is an odd little fairy tale. It starts like many others with a couple wishing they had a child. At last their wish is granted, although their son is only as long as a thumb. He's not helpless however, and convinces his father to sell him to two strangers who plan to exhibit him in a town. Thumbling escapes from those two only to decide to hitch a ride with a pair of robbers. He tells them that he will help them steal from a pastor, but when the get to the home, Thumbling disrupts their plan. Not that it does him any good. He ends up getting eaten by a cow and after he screams loud enough the cow is killed because the pastor thinks it is possessed. Unfortunately, before Thumbling can escape from the stomach, the stomach is taken by a wolf who eats it. Thumbling speaks to the...
"The Elves and the Shoemaker"
by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
This is one of three elf stories that follow each other in the Grimm's Household Tales. This one is the funnest to me and it takes place just before Christmas, so it's appropriate to the season.
There a poor shoemaker who has only enough leather to make one more pair of shoes. He cuts the shoes out in the evening and goes to bed. The next morning when he went to start his work, two finished shoes were on the worktable. The quality was superb and the shoemaker was able to sell them for more than the usual price, allowing him to buy leather for two pairs of shoes. Once again, he cut them out the night before and in the morning they are finished. He sells them for more than usual again and buys more leather, and on and on it goes until the shoemaker and his wife are quite wealthy.
"Snow White and Rose Red" by The Brothers Grimm
Although I've heard of this story, I've never actually read it. I am much more familiar with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," a totally different story. This one does involve a dwarf, but he's a nasty little man who gets killed in the end.
Snow White and Rose Red are sisters who live with their mother, a widow. All three live together happily. The sisters are dearest friends and wander the woods without fear, as all the animals are kind to them— the girls/young women are just that perfect.
One day, when the three woman are reading by the fire, they hear a knock at the door. They open it, assuming it's a traveler looking for lodging, and find a bear. The bear speaks, telling them he won't hurt them he just needs some warmth. They welcome him in and he returns every night until summer. the girls tease, flirted and wrestled with...
"The Ear of Corn" by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
This is one of the Grimms' shorter Household Tales. In a time when God still walked on the earth and each stalk of corn produced far more than they do now, a woman tore up a handful of ears of corn to clean mud of her daughter's dress. God was angry and threatened that the corn stalks would produce no more food, but relented when the people cried that even if they were undeserving, the birds would starve.
The Lord, who foresaw their suffering, had pity on them, and granted the request. So the ears were left as they now grow.
We need to be thankful for what we have, for what God's given us, because we can lose it. Definitely a good moral, but not one of my favorite stories.
"The Juniper Tree" by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
This is another one of the Grimms' tales that I hadn't heard before and it's really no wonder, part of it is downright gruesome. The illustration above is by Louis Rhead from Grimm's Fairy Tales, Stories and Tales of Elves, Goblins, and Fairies (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1917).
The story opens with a rich, childless couple who love each other dearly. One winter, while the woman is pairing apples underneath the juniper tree in their courtyard, she cuts herself. When she sees the blood on the snow she wishes for a child "as red as blood and as white as snow," and immediately she feels happy and knows that she will have a child. Months pass and eventually she has a baby boy and then she dies.
Father eventually remarries and, surprise surprise, the new wife turns into an evil stepmother who sees the boy as the only obstacle between her daughter and the...