Backed by a fog machine, the MYSTERIOUS NARRATOR, wearing a long black coat, comes out. We see peasants coming out, doing peasant things. The light is dark and grey, and things move a little slowly... like it’s a dream... as the music plays...
Once upon a time... Imagine... a different era, a different people... early 1800’s Germany... the people, the peasants, doing their work and living their lives in a little town called called Steinhau... where lived a family named Grimm...
NOW WE SEE THE GRIMMS come out -- mom, dad, and the six kids.
Jacob Ludwig Carl and Wilhelm Carl Grimm, both actually having the middle name Carl...
The Narrator shurgs. The GRIMM boys are there, the two oldest of the children.
... were the oldest in a family of five brothers and one sister. Jacob, a scholarly type, was small and slender with sharply cut features, while Wilhelm was taller, had a softer face, and was sociable and fond of all the arts.
The BROTHERS realize they are completely the wrong physical type. They switch MUSTACHES and change identities (or pull another brother in to be one).
Their father, Philipp Wilhelm, was a lawyer.
Now highlight on dad.
He was town clerk and later justiciary in their little town, where his father and grandfather had been ministers of the Calvinistic Reformed Church. The father's death in 1796...
... left the 23-year-old Jacob with the responsibility of raising his younger brothers and sister.
Jacob looks nervous as the others cuddle around him. But he puts on the best face.
After attending the high school in Kassel, the brothers followed in their father's footsteps and studied law at the University of Marburg with the intention of entering civil service. But fate intervened...
A small figure with his back to the audience is in the light. Music builds.
There was one truly dominant figure of that era, who’s actions overrode everything on the continent Europe. A little Frenchman, born at Ajaccio on the island of Corsica on August 15, 1769, the fourth, and second surviving, child of Carlo Buonaparte, a lawyer, and his wife, Letizia Ramolino, to a family of ancient Tuscan nobility. Napoleon.
Napoleon comes out with swirling music. Then his wife and maid follow.
The little french general, with the odd habit of always fondling his maids’s breasts and telling his wife, Josephine, not to bathe for the month before he came home... because the smell aroused him.
Napoleon takes his smelly wife.
But he’s french.. Considering himself Charlemagne’s hair, his armies ravaged Europe in an attempt to rule it all. His greatest victory was perhaps at the Battle of Austerlitzin, December 2, 1805...
Then his army comes out, then the Russian and Austrian forces.
.. where he defeated the combined Austrian and Russian armies. But that lead ultimately to his greatest mistake and greatest defeat ... his ill fated invasion of Russia in late June, 1812... 453,000 soldiers went in.
The French boldly charge across and then off-stage.
After the onset of winter and the ravages of war... less than 10,000 came out.
One soldier limps back, really cold, shaking his fist and speaking in French gibberish.
Contributing to the ongoing French record of 11 consecutive defeats, no victories, in world conflict. The French tank... the only war machine that goes faster in reverse..
Now back to the Grimms...
And in the chaos, death, change, and war everywhere, the Grimm Brothers, at the University of Marburg, class of ‘06, were studying with Clemens Brentano, who awakened in them a love of folk poetry, and Friedrich Karl von Savigny, co-founder of the historical school of jurisprudence,
The GRIMMS study with Brentano and Savigny, who come out to great them.
... who taught them a method of antiquarian investigation that formed the real basis of all their later work. Inspired by these two, when they graduated, instead of practicing law, the Grimms began to wander the country, collecting folk tales. But not for themselves at first, but for their friends and colleagues, Brentano and a man named Achim von Arnim, who were writing a book.
Arnim joins the crew.
But they later decided to do their own collection... and something caught on about theirs... which is why we’re now doing a show of Grimms fables and not Achim von Arnim.
Arnim sadly leaves.
(to the others)
I heard about this one the other day.
(checking his notes)
(he introduces a play)
The Narrator and then peasants come out. The Grimms arrive and take down stories...
The Grimms went ceaselessly to churches, beer halls, homes, and villages, and collected more and more folk tales from friends, strangers, and lovers. And there was something different about what they did. People had collected folk stories before and even published them. But the Grimms recorded the tales of the simple people as they really told them. Not in high German, but in their language of the people. They didn’t change them or clean them up. They got the irregularities, the boorishness, the simplicities, the beauty of the common people’s folk tale.
(in German accent)
So tell us again about zis Cinderella person...
(in German accent)
Yes, the scullery maid who talks to mice and birds... Yah... tell us.
Of course, they spoke in real German, not in Hogan’s Heroes accents...
Look sheepishly down...
They mutter in pseudo German. Unsuccessfully.
But they found their richest source in an old German grandmother, wife of a tailor, mother of five named Frau Katherina Viehmann.
Light up on the plump old woman as she sits on a bale of hay and cuts potatoes as the Grimm’s record her stories.
(She introduces a story)
Also, real German, no Hogan’s Heroes accent...
The Grimms listen in rapture to the Frau, as others gather around her on a dark night as she wraps up the story we just saw.
The Grimm’s came back time and time again to her. Wilhelm thanked her profusely in the introduction to the third edition, writing...
Wilhelm steps out.
She retains fast in mind these old sagas -- She recounts her stories thoughtfully, accurately, with uncommon vividness and evident delight.
Wilhelm looks at her with affection.
(a little more sheepish -- he does not want to read this part)
This woman has a strong and pleasant face and a clear, sharp look in her eyes;
The Narrator encourages the last bit.
In her youth she must have been beautiful.
Frau frowns as the lights go down.
The stories were finally published them in 1812, the same year as Napoleon’s retreat, as Kinder - und Hausmarchen. ÒNursery and household talesÓ. Stories mean for children and adults. But there were not the instant classic you might have thought...
As the PEASANTS still silently gather around Frau...
The book, the first edition, frankly, did not sell well.
The Grimms are angry and upset and shove the book back and forth at each other.
Many people had trouble with the coarseness of the stories. One critic wrote that the few good stories were overshadowed by large quantities of Òthe most pathetic and tasteless material imaginable.Ó
(looking to the audience)
I think critics are very smart. Any here tonight?
The Narrator looks around. The cast peeks out. If a critic is fool enough to identify themselves, have people come out and bring them tea and biscuits.
(Narrator states his/ her name and hands the critic a head shot, thanking them) Of course, the Critic who wrote that is now dead. Course, so are the Grimms, Frau...
Light down selectively on them as they ‘die’.
... and all the people who originally told, heard, laughed, cried, enjoyed these stories. But they live on through their tales. If we listen... maybe we can hear them...
FRAU INTRODUCES A STORY -- then the play
Some of these stories, seemingly for children, are violent, but so are some of ours. Bugs Bunny and Willey E. Coyote, Esq., for two.
(the cartoon characters come out)
Their battles with Anvils, explosives, and other stuff from the strange Acme company who makes so many dangerous products and is willing to ship them to the desert.
The Coyote gets hit on the head or exploded.
But the morality of these stories is different... Take Cinderella, when fled the ball and left behind a glass slipper, which sounds very dangerous to wear...
CINDERELLA FLEES and leaves her slipper behind. We see the distraught Prince hand the slipper to the DUKE and his stubby AIDE.
And the Prince sends out his Duke to try the slipper on everyone in the kingdom, because he was too damn lazy to go himself...
The DUKE and AIDE go around and try the shoe on people.
I always wonder, if someone else, anyone else in the whole damn kingdom had the same shoe size, would he have married them?
In their haste to try the shoe on people, they try it on a guy. He smiles. The shove him away...
And they finally went to the house of Cinderella and her wicked in laws...
As the DUKE and the AIDE try on shoes on the wicked stepmother and the evil STEPSISTERS, ANASTASIA and PRUCILLA. But there’s no way Anastasia’s fat ass foot is getting in, but she’s doing her best to fake it.
And there’s just no way that shoe is going to fit on Anastasia a wicked stepsister...
As the dainty shoe hangs off her big toe, we see it doesn’t fit. Mom comes by with a knife.
(whispering to her daughter)
Cut the toe off; when you are Queen you will have no more need to go on foot.
Anastasia reluctantly and secretly cuts off her toes. Now the shoe fits. The AIDE sees she has passed the test, but he’s suspicious. She gets up and limps across. The DUKE stops her. He takes off the shoe and blood pours out. At the same time, the AIDE lifts up the toe. The girl takes her toe back and limps back. Now they try the second sister, PRUCILLA. No go.
(again whispering to her daughter)
Cut a bit off your heel. When you are Queen you will have no more more need to go on foot.
A reluctant Prucilla does.
Prucilla grins and bears it, smiling now the show is on. She limps across. Again, the suspicious Duke stops her. Her white stocking is soaked with blood, and more blood runs out of her shoe. She sullenly gives up the shoe. The Duke pours the blood out, and she hobbles back. The helpful AIDE hands her heel bit back.
And since there is no one else to try it on...
But when Cinderella shows up...
The DUKE and AIDE turn to go. In nice lighting, the lovely and singing Cinderella charges in, the perfect woman. Her mice and bird buddies chirp and swirl around her.
That’s my shoe!
She goes on a brutal killing spree of her step family, blowing them all away, and ends up holding the shoe aloft in triumph. HER ENORMOUS RODENTS HELP AND EAT THE DEAD AND DYING! She puts the shoe on.
(to the terrified Duke and Aide)
Now... Let’s go get that man!
Lights out. The Narrator picks up a toe.
(to the hopefully stunned audience)
Okay, we made the last part up with the killing spree, but the toe bits, so to speak, is how the real deal in Grimm.
FRAU INTRODUCES ANOTHER PLAY
The folk tale is a living, breathing life form. When we write it down, we take a snap shot of what it looks like at that moment... in another time, another place, it can be quite different. Take ÒSleeping BeautyÓ, the charming story of the young man who falls in love with a enchanted, forever sleeping Princess. In a version from 1600’s recorded by Giambattista Basile in Italy...
The scene unfolds...
As we’ve heard the story before, Prince Charming breaks into the castle and sees the lovely, doomed woman sleeping forever there, cursed by a piece of flax stuck in her hand. Falling in love with her, he goes over..
He creeps over and leans in for a kiss.
And rapes her.
And then leaves. She becomes pregnant and gives birth to two children, the Sun and the Moon. All, incidentally, while still asleep.
Light back up on still Sleeping Beauty and her two kids.
She’s a very sound sleeper. But her young son sucks the cursed flax out, and she wakes... just in time to see the Prince, our Prince Charming coming back.
The Prince returns...
And then... they fall in love. And they lived happily ever after. But it’s not that easy. He’s actually already married. And his wife, when she finds about Sleeping Beauty and her husbands two other children, is pretty pissed. But that’s a story for another time. And now for us...
One of the strangest alternative versions is from a Swiss Snow White of the 17th century. The fleeing and desperate Snow White comes across the house of the Seven Dwarves nestled in the hills...
She comes running desperately in. And meets the seven dwarves.
She asks for a place to stay. But they have only have seven beds. So they fight over who is going to take her to theirs.
The Dwarves start pushing and shoving. And they are just about the right height for her. One desperate one hugs her.
Finally, they settle on the oldest. Now, an old peasant woman comes by, also needing shelter, but she’s turned away...
The DWARVES want no part of her.
We only have seven beds.
The peasant woman realizes that there are eight of them there. And what that means is going on?
The Dwarves leer and Snow White. They start to go at it. Horrified, the Peasant Woman leaves.
And she’s horrified. So she goes out and hires two thugs...
The Peasant Woman reenters with the thugs.
And they slaughter all the Dwarves... these stories never end well for Dwarves. I would imagine it was not a good time to be one. I’m a little surprised there are any left.
Dead dwarf massacre ends. PLAY
The first edition came out and was not met with great acclaim. But the Grimms wanted to save their work. So they rewrote and reworked it, adding stories, changing others, working diligently over seven editions in their life. The changes... well... in the later editions of Rapunzel, the one we usually read now, the Evil Witch, Rapunzel’s mother, finds out Rapunzel’s been secretly seeing the Prince, who climbs up her hair, when Rapunzel slips...
The Evil Witch pulls herself up on Rapunzel’s hair.
Tell me, Godmother, why is it that you are so much harder to pull up than the young man?
The WITCH is shocked.
But originally, if you read the very first edition...
The Witch climbs up and sees Rapunzel. She spins and she’s really, really pregnant.
Tell me, Godmother, why my clothes are so tight and why they don’t fit me any longer?
Witch shocked. Lights out on them. The Narrator steps up again.
In the first edition of Snow White, it was the girl’s natural mother who succumbed to murderous jealousy of her daughter. They changed it to her stepmother by the third edition... because I guess step-parents are more trouble and more likely to do it.
The Narrator shrugs.
It wasn’t just a matter of taking the violence out, however. Like in Cinderella, as the happy wedding party made their way to the Church... the two step sisters were not sharing in the joy of the occasion...
The Cinderella procession heads for the wedding. The evil stepsisters look very depressed...
Giant bids flew in and pecked out an eye from each of wicked stepsisters.
THE GIANTS BIDS FLY IN AND DO IT. As the sisters walk side by side, they rip out the outside eye.
But even that was not sufficient for the Grimms rewrite... because after the wedding... the birds were waiting...
The pained sisters come out in the procession after the wedding.
And took out the other one.
The birds charge in again and rip the other eye out. The now blind stepsisters try to run and smash into the wall. They tumble. Cinderella and her Prince come out.
Maybe you could clean the floor while you’re down there? She certainly did.
Light down on them.
Which means that the wicked step sisters sat through the wedding with a plucked out eye and missing parts of their feet. Now that’s a Grimm wedding. But the Grimms were doing almost what we would do today... they added punishment for the wicked and made the heroes more palatable... but not quite as much Walt would later do. And the tales did become more popular and quite the hit... because they did what we do to them today...
And they lived happily every after is how the stories sometimes go. And now did it end for the Grimms? They became renowned as great scholars. In perhaps his highest achievement, Jacob formulated what was later to be called Grimm’s law.
It will be observed that, when other
Indo-European languages, including Latin and Greek, have a voiced unaspirated stop (b,d), Gothic has the corresponding voiceless unaspirated stop (p, t) and that, when other Indo-European languages have a voiceless unaspirated stop, Gothic has a voiceless fricative (f). The generally accepted hypothesis is that the Proto-Indo-European sounds from which the Germanic voiced stops developed were voiced aspirates and that they are preserved in Sanskrit but were changed in the other Indo-European languages by the loss of either voice or aspiration.
Jacob has no idea what that means.
I figured that all out myself.
And what does it mean?
(beat, then sheepish)
I have no idea.
Dark on Jacob. The Narrator takes control again. Now we see both the older Grimms come out.
In 1840 the now highly respected Brothers accepted an invitation from the king of Prussia to go to Berlin to be lecturers at the university. For some 20 years they did highly respected wok there, maintaining friendships with some of the great minds of the day.
The bolder Jacob undertook many journeys for scientific investigations and remained a bachelor.
Jacob checks out a guy.
Wilhelm married Dorothea Wild from Kassel, with whom he had three children: Herman, a literary and art historian, Rudolf, jurist, and Auguste. I couldn’t find out anything about him. The Zeppo of the Grimm family? Wilhelm died Dec. 16, 1859, Jacob 4 years later. They’re buried in the MatthŠikirchhof in Berlin. Respected, admired, and loved. And not forgotten.
The Grimms lie down as people morn. The lights fade on them.
Because they left us with a wonderful gift.
The Narrator holds up a copy of Grimms fairy tales.
The hopes, dreams, thoughts, and fears of a people, that otherwise we would have never known, told in their very voice.
Frau tells a tale around the campfire to the people. Then the peasants in the darkness spookily turn to silently face the audience.
Tales that they laughed at, and cried with, and taught to their children, and their children’s children... that now we give to you... Who were they? These now long dead ghosts? I don’t know, but if you’re quiet... you can hear them... and what they’re saying...