15. november 2012

The element of sacrifice in Grimm's fairy tales


Among different perspectives of the tales, this essay will try to focus on one of these, so I would like to point out one: the element of sacrifice. In Grimm’s tales the element of sacrifice is a neutral act in itself, but always bonded to the moral ground of the character who performs the sacrifice. Even the intensity of sacrifice does not change that. It only depends on the person who makes it.

Look at the tales of Aschenputtel, The Almond Tree or Snow-white, where really false intentions drive the antagonists to do horrible things to get what they want. In the Aschenputtel we see how the mother tries to put her daughter into the golden shoe with the order ‘’Cut the toe off…’’ , just to make the foot fit (p.107) and later it don’t pay. Same happens with the stepmother of Snow-white, who has extremely sick desire to be the fairest of us all – decides to sacrifice the Snow-white (in even more absurd cannibalistic manner), but the stepmother fails at the end. And the most evil representation of this emerges in The Almond Tree, where the evil stepmother also fails.

And how sacrifices can help and reward good characters in the end: The Frog Prince couldn't be a human prince if the King’s youngest daughter wouldn't sacrifice herself in the bargain for the lost golden ball; and the father of Hansel and Grethel did make the horrible sacrifice of their children, but at the end it all ends well; also the stories of The Twelve brothers and The Six Swans – the ultimate sacrifice of the sisters, preparing to give their lives for their brothers, was, as the sisters were good intended, rewarding.

As seen here, a sacrifice itself in Grimm’s tales do not guarantee the reward in the end. Goodness in character does.

Post scriptum: esejčič smo na Courseri pisali na podlagi izbora Grimmovih pravljic, ki je bil objavljen leta 1886. Gre za prevod Lucy Crane z ilustracijami Walterja Cranea, nekaj ilustracij iz te izdaje je na voljo na http://topillustrations.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/household-stories-by-grimms-illustrated-by-walter-crane/ Knjiga je prosto dostopna tudi na Project Gutenberg.

(Walter Crane, The Almond tree)
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