The Willful Child
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Once upon a time there was a child who was willful and did not do what his mother wanted. For this reason God was displeased with him and caused him to become ill, and no doctor could help him, and in a short time he lay on his deathbed.
He was lowered into a grave and covered with earth, but his little arm suddenly came forth and reached up, and it didn’t help when they put it back in and put fresh earth over it, for the little arm always came out again. So the mother herself had to go to the grave and beat the little arm with a switch, and as soon as she had done that, it withdrew, and the child finally came to rest beneath the earth.
This story has always amused me. Its simple and to the point… talk about a morality tale. I’m always a little disappointed that the child finally submitted in death. I guess defiance can only go so far.
I found this translation from a website about various traditional stories like the one recorded by the Grimm brothers: Hand from the Grave by D.L. Ahsliman. He says that, in the original version of the Grimm’s tale, God didn’t get blamed for the child’s illness… just a minor detail. 😉
Once upon a time there was a small girl who was strong willed and forward, and whenever her parents said anything to her, she disobeyed them. How could anything go well with her?
One day she said to her parents: “I have heard so much about Frau Trude. Someday I want to go to her place. People say such amazing things are seen there, and such strange things happen there, that I have become very curious.
Her parents strictly forbade her, saying: “Frau Trude is a wicked woman who commits godless acts. If you go there, you will no longer be our child.
But the girl paid no attention to her parents and went to Frau Trude’s place anyway.
When she arrived there, Frau Trude asked: “Why are you so pale?”
“Oh,” she answered, trembling all over, “I saw something that frightened me.”
“What did you see?”
“I saw a black man on your steps.”
“That was a charcoal burner.”
“Then I saw a green man.”
“That was a huntsman.”
“Then I saw a blood-red man.”
“That was a butcher.”
“Oh, Frau Trude, it frightened me when I looked through your window and could not see you, but instead saw the devil with a head of fire.”
“Aha!” she said. “So you saw the witch properly outfitted. I have been waiting for you and wanting you for a long time. Light the way for me now!”
With that she turned to girl into a block of wood and threw it into the fire. When it was thoroughly aglow she sat down next to it, and warmed herself by it, saying: “It gives such a bright light!”
These tales, from a contemporary standpoint, seem to lack subtlety. But that is why they amuse me. There is something refreshing about the simplicity of a fairytale even when its not the simplicity of a happy ending.
Not surprisingly, these two fairytales aren’t well known. I don’t know of any film adaptations of them and I’m sure Disney wouldn’t touch them with a 10 ft pole. I looked on youtube and coud only find one badly made video about the first story. If they were ever done professionally, I’d imagine them in the style of the stop motion versions of Mark Twain’s stories.