Decoding the Grimm Brothers
"Once Upon a Time" is a very common introduction to a fairy tale. Many fairy tales are well known by people throughout the globe. People may know these tales but they do not actually know what they mean. The Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales contain much symbolism and unique stylistic trends which have the ability to drastically change the meaning of each story that the brothers wrote. Some of these symbolic aspects include childhood innocence, justice and vengeance. A common stylistic trend would be the authors’ lack of inner character description along with advanced character development. Childhood innocence is something that every one only has once in their lifetime. In many cultures children are depicted as pure and natural beings who are untainted and completely innocent. Young children especially because they have yet to be tainted by society, and have not yet learned the ways of the wicked. This symbolic trend relates to the controversy of "is a child born wicked or does a child learn to be wicked by society?” This is a common theme in the Grimm Brothers’ stories. In a typical Grimm story, such as “The Juniper Tree” a child is considered completely untainted and pure. This is symbolized mainly by shades of color relating to the characters and outward appearances. Different cultures colors have many different meanings. For example: in China red exhibits gladness and celebration but in India it can relate to sadness and mourning. In the story “The Juniper Tree”, the mother of a young boy wishes for a child that is “as red as blood and as white as snow!"(Grimm “Juniper” 16). This example depicts the innocent symbolic aspect of the color white. The color white represents "chastity and purity" (Vanka "Color” 9). This passage describes the innocence and naiveties of the boy because he is pale skinned and very young and pure of wickedness. Shortly after the mother gives birth to her child, she dies, and is buried beneath a juniper tree. This can relate to the color white as well because white also represents “death and burial . . . . for a woman who dies during childbirth" (Vanka "Color” 13). As the story continues, the boy’s father remarries, and has a daughter with his new wife. Throughout the children’s childhood, the stepmother realizes that because the boy is older he will receive all of his father’s inheritance, leaving his sister with nothing. Realizing this predicament, she plans to dispose of the boy by decapitating him and cooking him for dinner. The boy’s younger sister then feels so horrible that she gathers her brother’s bones and buries them beneath the juniper tree (the same that the boy’s mother was buried beneath). The boy's spirit then becomes a bird which continually haunts the stepmother, to the point where she becomes insane. Once the stepmother becomes vulnerable enough, the spirit drops a lime stone upon her head which kills her. He then returns to his normal human form and lives once again with his father and sister. In the story, the boy is also described to be "as red as blood"(Grimm “Juniper” 16). However, the color red, as described by Dr Surya Vanka, “is a male color that also represents livery" (Vanka “Color” 18) can be related to the boy’s youth and the fact that he is male. Besides color, purity can also be depicted by an individual’s relationship with nature. A child's purity is symbolized through a keen relationship with nature. For example, in the story “Little Brother and Little Sister”, two young children in the story are wandering through the forest in search of safety from their abusive, wicked stepmother. The fact that they trust in nature to keep them from harm shows their purity because they are reuniting with nature by using the forest as a safe haven. As the story continues, the two siblings come across a magical stream. The brother drinks from it and is turned into a fawn. This fawn is an example of purity and innocence, because it is a part of...
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