Tales from Grimm by Wanda Gag

Wanda Gag: Tales from Grimm, published by Coward-McCann in 1936

This is a very unique edition of Grimm’s fairy tales, done by Wanda Gag. She was of German origin, living in America what made her exposed to a special mixture of cultural influences. On several occasions she said this book is not about the fairy tales by Grimms but more about fairy tales as she remembers they should be.

Here is a list of her personal selection with accompanying illustrations:

Rapunzel

Hansel and Gretel

The Cat and Mouse in Partnership

The Six Servants

Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle

(no image)

Doctor Know-all

Town Musicians of Bremen

Cinderella

Clever Elsa

Fisherman and His Wife

(no image)

Frog King, or Iron Heinrich

Snow-White and Rose-Red

This book, published in 1936, was not the only selection of fairy tales translated, adapted, and illustrated by Wanda Gag. We’ll add more soon.

One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes

This is one of the less known fairy-tales by Brothers Grimm with some well-known motifs and a predictable happy ending. Its main quality is the point of view, from which young readers can find empathy with many discriminated people in their lives they otherwise don’t even notice.

The same story is also titled Little One-Eye, Little-Two-Eyes, and Little Three-Eyes and it’s classified as KHM 130 in the collection.

Short Summary

A mother has three daughters, the eldest has one eye, the second two, the youngest three. They are named accordingly. One-Eye and Three-Eyes mock Two-Eyes because her look is so ordinary and boring. She has to do all the housework and take care of the goat. She could eat only leftovers.

One day when she was crying in the pasture and a fairy appeared in front of her teaching her the magic words. She just had to say: “Little goat, bleat, little table, appear!” and a table full of good food would appear in front of the goat. similarly after: “Little goat, bleat, little table, disappear!” the table would vanish.

So she was not hungry anymore and she stopped eating leftovers. Her sister noticed that and told their mother about Two-Eyes’ changed behavior. She sent One-Eye with her to pasture but Two-Eyes sang a song and the only eye of One-Eye fell asleep. She could’ tell why her sister doesn’t need food anymore.

Then mother sent Three-Eyes with Two-Eyes. The trick with the lullaby didn’t work because only two of her eyes closed and the third saw the magic with the table and the goat. She told her mother what she found out and her mother slaughtered the goat.

Two-Eyes cried again. Good fairy returned and told her to take the goat’s heart and bury it in front of her home. Two-Eyes followed the instructions and a beautiful tree with silver leaves and golden apples grew up.

Mother and girls were astonished but only Two-Eyes could pluck the apples. A handsome knight passed by and asked whose tree is there. He promised to fulfill any wish of somebody who could give him a few apples. One-Eye and Three-Eyes tried to hide her middle sister and take some apples but Knight eventually found the truth.

Her wish was to leave her home and he took her to his castle. They fell in love and became husband and wife. Sometime later One-Eye and Three-Eyes came to the castle as beggars. Two-Eyes recognized them, they regretted their behaviors and she forgave them. They all stayed at the castle.

Simple Analysis

This story is about discrimination. Discrimination by default is caused by a conflict of differences. It’s interesting to note the elder and younger sisters are the ones who are actually different, so Two-Eyes is discrin+minated because she is ‘like everybody else’.

A reader of the story should be aware of the fact everybody, not just ed somebody who is not like ‘others’ or ‘her sisters’ could become a victim of discrimination what gives some true quality (and even some humor) to the otherwise clearly educational message of the fairy tale about One-Eyed, Two-Eyed, and Three-Eyed sister.

It’s also one of the rare examples where the middle sister (or brother) is the main character of the story. Being in the middle often means being average or not standing out. Yet in this case, we learn anybody could be pushed out, if not for other reason, excluded from society, or simply denied food, just for being like others.

This fairy tale by Brothers Grimm offers a nice starting point for more or less in-depth, depending on the abilities of participants, a debate about discrimination.

Fairy tales similar to One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes

  • mother, unable to fairly treat all her daughters, is present in numerous fairy tales, like Mother Hulda and others,
  • helpful fairy godmother who rewards the exploited sister can be found in Cinderella, where we can also find a magic tree (in Grimms’ version) and a nobleman who is willing to give the girl a new, better home;
  • a goat with special powers and a magic table are elements from The Wishing Table;
  • golden apples as a starting point for a life-changing journey are elements from Golden Bird;
  • a tree growing from organs and bearing rewarding products is probably best-known from The Juniper Tree.

All illustrations are done by Hermann Vogel (1854-1921).

Mary’s Child

This fairy tale, classified as KHM 3 in Grimm’s collection, is actually a morality tale with a strong religious note. It bears resemblances with Fitcher’s bird (KHM 46) and more well-known Bluebeard. Its main motif is remorse and punishment over the broken promise about the forbidden doors.

We’ll walk through the story with some help of illustrations signed by Heinrich Lefler and his brother-in-law Joseph Urban.

This picture book was number two in a series of Grimm’s Tales by Joseph Scholz.

There were several reprints and they are all collectible.

Once upon a time, there was a poor family. The woodcutter and his wife were not able to take proper care of their only daughter. when she was three Virgin Mary appeared in front of the father and offered her help.

She took the girl into heaven and she was raised there.

One day Virgin Mary went on a journey and gave the girl thirteen keys. She was allowed to open twelve doors but not the last one.

Of course, the girl couldn’t resist and after finding twelve apostles behind the first twelve doors, she opened the thirteenth as well. There she found Trinity and her finger became golden.

Mary asked her about the forbidden room and the girl lied. She did that three times. Then Mary punished her by transporting her from heaven to the woods.

The girl is forced to live in the forest alone for years.

A king found her there and although she was unable to speak at the time, he took her to the castle.

There they married.

When the young queen got her kid, Mary visited her and asked her about the forbidden room. The girl wasn’t able to speak but is still unwilling to confess her sin. Mary took her son away and the queen was accused of infanticide and cannibalism.

The king protected her and they had another son about one year later. Mary came to her again. The girl still wouldn’t confess. She lost another son.

Her third kid was a baby girl. The queen still can’t and won’t confess.

She was condemned to burn at the stake.

Only when the flames started licking her the queen confessed her sin.

Her kids were returned and Mary forgave her. All ended well.

Apart from the major theme of the forbidden chamber, there are some other classic elements of older fairy tales:

  • Poor parents who were unable to take care of their children, like in Hansel and Gretel.
  • Extremely powerful protector who could change the life of her (or his) protegee in a blink of the eye, like in Cinderella.
  • Some kind of expulsion of the member of society (namely the girl from heaven) to dangerous and chaotic place (namely forest), like in Snow White.
  • Saving of the same member and consequential restoration from deadly wilderness to optimistic civilization by the entrance of high authority, like in Little Red Cap.
  • Degradation of the main character, who didn’t just lose the placement in her old life but literally lost all, including her clothes, like in Star Money.
  • Accusation of ultimately cruel and unacceptable crime, namely infanticide and cannibalism, like in Little Brother and Little Sister.
  • Last minute saving of the main character, who is falsely accused of the crime and can’t protect himself or herself, like in Six Swans.

Albert Weisgerber – Grimms’ Fairy Tales

Children and Household Tales from the collection of the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Albert Weisgerber

This collection was published in 1900 but there were several reprints and we don’t know for sure if this was the first edition. Anyways, we present all pictures and drawings with an occasional decorative capital letter as well.

Just beware – these stories are among the most gruesome in the collection and definitely not meant for the faint-hearted. Albert Weisgerber’s style perfectly captured the feel of horror and occasional repulsion which is almost forgotten in today’s sanitized versions.

Let’s go!

The Owl (KHM 174)

The Seven Ravens (KHM 25)

The Fox and the Geese (KHM 86)

The Devil’s Sooty Brother (KHM 100)

The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was (KHM 4)

The Death of the Little Hen (KHM 80)

The Star Money

Star Money or Star Talers is a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm, classified as KHM 153 in their collection. It was much more popular in the 19th century than it is today, although it still occasionally inspires creators around the world to adapt it as a short story or even a TV movie. As an extreme example of a moral tale, it also served as a thankful source for different parodies.

Summary

Once upon a time, there was a poor orphan girl who had nothing but some clothes on her. She had no room to live in, so she wandered around. Somebody gave her a piece of bread.

But soon she met a poor man who asked her for food. She gave him her bread and continued walking.

Not much later, she met a child who said his head is so cold he is going to freeze. So she gave him her cap.

Then another child came by and begged for her jacket.

The third child asked for her dress and she stayed in her shift only.

When she reached the forest yet another kid popped up and he got nothing on, and, because it was already dark, so she gave him her shift too.

Now she had nothing on but suddenly stars started falling down the sky, landing in front of her. She looked around and she noticed she is dressed in a new shift and the stars on the ground were silver talers.

She gathered them and was never short of money for the rest of her life.

Interpretations

The message of the story is crystal clear. Good deeds are rewarded. Although being very poor she still found a way to help people around her, sacrificing her comfort and being ultimately rewarded by a lot of money. Her sacrifice is emphasized by the fact she literally gave away everything – her food, her dress, even her decency, symbolized by her shift.

A philosopher could interpret the situation as a need to get rid of all earthly possessions before anybody can find a higher truth, symbolically (and in this case literally) reach for the stars.

Here are a few interesting facts about the story:

  • Brothers Grimm included it in their first edition but under the title The Poor Girl (Das arme Madchen) as the story number 83. It got its new title in the second edition (Der Sternthaler) but still got through slight variations thanks to some grammatical changes in the German language.
  • Talers in the story were popular (and valuable) silver coins used all across Europe from the 16th to the 20th century. Several nations used the word for naming their own national currencies. In Slovenia, it was ‘tolar’ (before the adoption of the euro) and in the USA it’s still ‘dollar’.
  • Most of the new variations of the story end in the disappointment of the protagonist. In the modern world, generosity is not rewarded anymore. Even if the protagonist got something valuable in exchange for the sacrifice, there’s still the problem with protecting the possessions and explaining the origin of the money to tax institutions or similar authorities.

Maybe we should mention the artist as well. You can enjoy Paula Ebner’s work in the post about Herr Korbes too.