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Profs & Pints Metro Detroit: Grimm and Grisly
June 5 @ 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM EDT$12 – $15
Profs and Pints Metro Detroit presents: “Grimm and Grisly,” a night of scary fairy tales and frightening folklore, with Julie Koehler, assistant professor of humanities at Michigan State University and scholar of the German fairy tales of the nineteenth century.
Move over Quentin Tarantino and Wes Craven. When it comes to telling tales of shocking violence, no one delivers better than the Brothers Grimm.
Yes, those Brothers Grimm—the ones whose works can be found in the children’s sections of bookstores and inspired Disney movies that parents happily show their wee ones.
How is this possible? Come learn the fascinating story of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and of their works’ evolution from edgy adult literature to standard kinder fare, with the help of Julie Koehler, a professor of German who researches folklore and fairy tales and teaches courses about them.
She’ll talk about how the Brothers Grimm initially weren’t writing for a child audience, but an academic one. Their preferred genre, the fairy tale, has a long history of being adult-oriented and of grappling with difficult subjects such as poverty and taboo ones such as domestic abuse, child abandonment, and rape. As a result, tales like “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Red Riding Hood,” as originally written, used child characters to explore themes darker than any deep forest.
Violence factored into their tales as a tool of magical transformation, as a means of sacrificing someone for a larger societal purpose, or as a punishment for misdeeds. Originally, the princess did not turn the frog into a prince by kissing him, but by throwing him against a wall. One of Cinderella’s sisters cut the heel off her foot to fit in the tale’s famed shoe. Snow White’s wedding featured the evil queen dancing herself to death in red-hot iron shoes.
Once the Grimms began directing their collection of works towards a child audience, they removed sex from the tales the tales they told. At the same time, however, they added more extreme violent punishments for the wrongdoers, emphasizing a morality that wasn’t always present in the tales they originally collected. For instance, Rumpelstiltskin went from a silly trickster flying out the window on a wooden spoon to an angry villain who literally tore his own body in half out of anger.
Her talk will give you a much richer view of both our culture, and might change what you prepare yourself for when you hear the phrase “Once upon a time.” (Advance tickets: $12. Doors: $15, or $13 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later. Please allow yourself time to place any orders and get seated and settled in.)
Image: Gretel pushes the witch into the oven in an illustration of “Hansel and Gretel” by German artist Otto Kubel.