The Mythology of Grimm by Nathan Robert Brown is an encyclopedic comparison of Grimm, the TV series, to the classic fairy tales on which it's based (available September 30, 2014).
Full Disclosure: I have a soft spot for fairy tales. Okay, not just a soft spot, but an abiding obsession with all: in their original gruesome Black Forest-ey form, in retellings and re-imaginings ranging from comics to YA novels, to you guessed it, TV.
The popular TV show Grimm is part police procedural, part supernatural monster show. Nick Burkhardt, is the eponymous “Grimm”, a guy who has to profile, hunt and kill monsters straight out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Nathan Robert Brown’s The Mythology of Grimm: The Fairy Tale and Folklore Roots of the Popular TV Show makes clear the connections and associations between the show’s monsters and situations, and the fairy tales and folklore they’re inspired by.
He breaks each chapter down into one or two related fairy tales/folk tales/myths, and then makes connections between the story and specific episodes of the show. Brown manages a deft hand with giving good information, but still keeping the pacing and the tone breezy. Another thing that’s interesting is that instead of quoting the tried-and-true version of each fairy tale, he actually does his own telling of it. His retellings are lively, and he uses very modern language without modernizing the story.
The next morning Little Red-Cap hit the path into the woods. Just as she lost sight of the village, a wolf (or in Grimm terms, a Blutbad) met her on the trail. Apparently, Little Red-Cap had never encountered one before and so was totally ignorant to the danger he posed. She had no knowledge of the wickedness of which such a creature was capable. As a result, she exhibited no fear and, oddly enough, struck up a conversation with him.
“Good day, Red-Cap,” said the wolf.
“Holy crap, a talking wolf! And it knows my name!” replied Red-Cap.
[Okay, not really…I made that part up]
“Thank you, Mr. Wolf,” is what she really said, which is even weirder, in some respects.
In relating the stories to the episodes, he doesn’t manage to do more than make plain what seems obvious by association. But my view may be faulty in this instance, as I confessed before – I may have more knowledge of fairy tales than the average viewer. Regardless, he keeps up the same modern and breezy tone, and frankly making these kinds of things “plain” is often harder than it looks. His use of quotations and summary from the show are specific; he reveals enough information so that the scene is clear, but manages to keep the spoilers to a minimum.
When he spies Monroe peeing his fence (“marking his territory”) later that evening, Nick believes his suspicions are confirmed. However, we soon learn the truth when Monroe gets a little payback by tackling Nick after jumping through his own winder (“And, by the way, you’re paying for that window.”) then inviting him inside for a beer. Some Blutbaden, he explains, have learned to control their wild and often violent natures Monroe refers to this as being a wiederBlutbad. Through a “strict regimen of diet, drugs and Pilates”, Monroe tells Nick that he is “not that big” and “done with the bad thing”.
In addition to the tales and such, the book also makes good use of sidebars, giving the reader some word origins (“Grimm Words”), as well as some Fun Factoids (“Tasty Morsels”). The sidebars give the book a kind of “encyclopedia” feel.
In the original folktale, Rapunzel’s affair is revealed when she asks Frau Gothel why her clothing no longer fits. You see, her clothes were getting tighter because she was pregnant. However, Wilhelm Grimm felt that discussing anything related to sex or pregnancy was inappropriate for children (especially since there was no way Rapunzel and the prince could have been properly married), so he changed this part. While the change may have reflected the moral standards at the time, it causes the rest of the story to become more than a little confusing.
It’s reasonably well researched – both in terms of the folklore and in terms of the show – and while I could have picked a couple of bones with him over some of his folklore interpretation, that’s not really what Brown is getting at here. The book does what it does, and it does it well. It’s just as easy to read it piecemeal, meandering your way through chapters and stories and sidebars – as it is to read it straight through. Best for readers who are already fans of the show (for whom it was clearly written), although newcomers may find something here as well.
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Amy Eller Lewis is a writer and Library Fairy in Southern New England. She works at one of the oldest libraries in the country, www.providenceathenaeum.org which is definitely haunted. Follow her on Twitter @amyellerlewis or on Tumblr: scriptoriana.tumblr.com.