Points of Light Halloween Edition: Grimm Fairy Tales
Good evening, slashers and murderesses. As promised, we’re going to end this frightening promo month with some childhood stories to sleep to. So let’s begin with Cinderella selling her soul to go the ball, the cannibal Seven Dwarves, and the deadly kiss of Sleeping Beauty. Oh, not what you expected? I guess I neglected to mention how these stories aren’t from Mother Goose, but rather the world of Grimm Fairy Tales.
Created by David Wohl and published by Zenescope, Grimm Fairy Tales is a horror comic series focusing on classic fairy tales. The tales are contained by an immortal woman named Sela, who leaves her tome at the feet of people in trouble. The stories contained are gruesome, but moralistic tales that reflect the reader’s situation, and show them the possible consequences, forcing them to answer serious moral questions. However, this can often be twisted, as Sela’s adversary, named Belinda, also carries the tales, but uses them to inspire violence and misunderstand the morals.
What Writers Can Learn: Story Roots, Making Morals Work, Effective Twists and Reimagining
Grimm Tales isn’t a truly new concept, though Zenescope has effectively branched it out into similar stories (Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland). In truth, these horror comics are actually much closer to the original stories then people would imagine. While Disney has colored in many classic tales, fairy tales are oral folklore, which the Brothers Grimm collected from the German countryside. Life was hard for these peoples, and the tales were not designed to encourage children to dream of castles, magic, and princes that would save them. They were designed to teach children morality, usually by showing them frightening consequences of failing to do so. For example, in the original Cinderella, the tale ends with blackbirds plucking out the evil stepsisters’ eyes, The Little Mermaid loses her prince to another man and dies, and Beauty and the Beast adds two evil sisters whose jealousy turns them to stone. Grimm Tales returns those consequences with horrifying results, but as proof of what research of a popular story can inspire an author to do.
Even the moralistic tendencies, which might seem hokey in other hands, are given biting reality here. For example, Jack and the Beanstalk is mirrored by the tale of a small time drug dealer, obsessed with getting his family the best, despite the growing risk. The classic Jack is a similar man, constantly climbing the beanstalk for wealth he doesn’t need, until the giant catches him. He managed to chop down the beanstalk, but the descending giant then falls on Jack’s house, killing his wife and child. Sleeping Beauty is another frightening moral- in this tale, a boy with an unrequited crush on a bad girl using him as a mule, sees a humble stable boy awaken Sleeping Beauty with his kiss of true love. But his love goes unanswered, which due to the curse in this version, causes him to die and Sleeping Beauty to return to sleep, with no man daring to ever awaken her again. The ends are effective twists on our perceptions of the story and painfully clear examples of the morals the stories try to convey. While not subtle, the horrifying way in which they are presented, along with the real world mirror story, slam everything home and remain long after the reader has closed the book. And not every story has a happy ending- characters either ignore the moral, or are given Belinda’s darker tales; even the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears ends with the reminder that not every gets to enjoy a second chance, which makes the tales and the morals hit even harder, which any writer should try to imply with their moralistic tales.
Grimm Fairy Tales might not appeal to many beyond horror fans, but it brings many factors that writers shouldn’t ignore. At its core, it manages to take a concept that is centuries old and make it fresh and exciting, by expanding on its roots, which can be essential for a writer telling a familiar story. And while the gore and pinup girl covers help sell the books, they still come with a lesson that registers. Any story that has a moral cannot simply stand on a soapbox and shout it out. Morals need to be presented in a way that is either subtle, or without being preachy. While Grimm Tales might not be subtle, it is never preachy, and delivers each moral with the impact of a knife to the stomach.
Well, that’s the final crypt for Halloween this year. It’s been a fun time but… wait, what’s this? Looks like there might be one more crypt left, kiddies. Can’t say I’m surprised; after all, what’s inside it can look like anything it wants too….
Better get your flamethrowers ready for next week.