First Lines: Grimm’s Fairy Tales

In fairy tales, things happen in threes: the princess you want to marry will give you three tasks. If you have two older brothers, they won’t fulfil their task. However: you, being the third, will. Even if you fail to do your task thrice, you will be forgiven. The old woman will still give you a boon.

In fairy tales, good deeds will be rewarded. Little ants will sort seeds from the grass for you, fishes will fetch sunken rings and ravens will deliver you the Golden Apple from the Tree of Life.

In fairy tales, you’d better be kind. Share what you have, and rewards will come your way.

In fairy tales, when you find a wish-granting fish, you’d better not tell your wife. Before you know it, you’re living in the same old shed again.

In fairy tales, when a huntsman takes you into the woods to kill you, you’ll be spared. He will kill a deer and bring its heart or eyes or tongue as proof of your demise to the evil queen.

In fairy tales, when you work for the devil for seven years, you will be handsomely rewarded. Also, by keeping your mouth shot for several years, you can lift the curse.

In fairy tales, you should not open the final door. They’ll know. In fairy tales, they always do.

In fairy tales, when you trade a your magical meal-providing tablecloth for another magic doohickey that will produce a number of soldiers at your command, you’ll send them back to fetch your tablecloth.

In fairy tales, romance is for pussies. You will marry the handsome princess you’ve just met at the end of the tale.

In fairy tales, you should never be to harsh when asked how you should punish such-and-such crime. Before you know it, you’ll be thrown in a barrel studded with nails and kicked down the hill yourself.

In fairy tales, it’s a little bit like this:

Neil Gaiman & Charles Vess — Instructions

The Brothers Grimm’s Kinder- und Hausmärchen is probably the world’s most influential collection of folk and fairy tales. In my search for a fairly comprehensive volume that is not overly sanitised for the benefit of the young ones, I found a very complete edition translated and edited by Jack Zipes. It’s about as pure Grimm as you can get. While it took me six months of just before bedtime reading, I think it was was worth the effort. Even though it seemed that some tales showed up more than once with just minor alterations, and some tales left me utterly baffled. I mean, there’s the tale of the little boy who died because it would not obey his mother and God punished him for that. Seriously. What the fuck?

The Brothers Grimm — The Complete Fairy Tales (translated, introduced and annotated by Jack Zipes)
First Line
In olden times, when wishing still helped, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which had seen so many things, was always filled with amazement each time it cast its rays upon her face. (from The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich)