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The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm Summary & Study Guide Description
The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
The Princessappears in Various tales
The princess is a character that appears in many of these fairy tales. Sometimes this girl is a princess by birth and sometimes she becomes one by marriage. Although the princess in a fairy tale is usually associated with a character who has a trouble free and charmed life, these fairy tale princesses generally have to overcome some hurdle in order to claim their throne. For instance, in "Rapunzel" the prince falls in love with Rapunzel but the girl is locked in a tower. In order for her to become a true princess, she must find a way to get out of the tower. In "Cinderella", the girl must outsmart her stepmother in order to attend the ball where she meets her prince. In other stories, such as "The Skillful Huntsman", the princess is forced to marry the man who rescued her even though this man is sometimes undesirable. Everything generally always turns out well for the princess in the end of the story, however. Often it is learned the undesirable person lied about his heroic deeds and is killed while the true handsome hero is uncovered. Sometimes after the princess marries the undesirable person, he is transformed into her prince charming, such as in the story "Hans the Hedgehog". Some princesses, such as the one in "The Cunning Little Tailor", set themselves up for failure. This princess agrees to marry anyone who can answer her riddle. She does not believe the person who will achieve this feat is a small, insignificant tailor. When the tailor does answer the riddle, she is shocked and alarmed she will have to actually marry beneath her status.
The Evil Stepmotherappears in Various tales
Many of these fairy tales contain an evil stepmother who is horribly cruel to her stepchildren. These evil stepmothers often double as witches and use their powers to harm their stepchildren and help their biological children prevail. This is so in the case of "Hansel and Gretel". Their stepmother forces their father to take the children into the woods and leave them so the parents can survive in the time of famine. Also consider "Cinderella", where the stepmother would not let Cinderella go to the festival even after she completed her assigned tasks. When the prince comes to see if the lost slipper fits any of the girls living there, the mother actually instructs her biological children to mutilate their feet so that they will fit in the shoe. Another evil stepmother appears in the story "The True Bride". This stepmother makes her stepdaughter work ceaselessly at tasks that are impossible to accomplish. The stepmother also constantly degrades and punishes the girl. Finally, which is the case with most stepmothers, this evil woman is killed and the girl is set free from her torment.
The Witchappears in Various tales
Another character who appears often in fairy tales is the wicked witch. These witches generally disguise themselves in some less evil form to lure their prey and then reveal their true nature. This occurs in the story "Hansel and Gretel", where the witch pretends to be a kind old woman until she has the children in her grasp. These witches are generally known for their cruel nature; however, other characters seem to find it hard to stay away from these witches. In the story "Rapunzel", the man knows the garden belongs to a witch but still steals from it twice because his pregnant wife desires a salad made with a plant that grows in the garden. Also in the story "The Blue Light", the soldier suspects the witch is up to no good and refuses to hand her the light until he is safely on the ground. The witch becomes angry and drops the man and the light back into the well to die. In other cases, the witch will use another character to implement her evil plans. This occurs in the story "Donkey Cabbages", where the witch forces her daughter to deceive her lover and take away both his bird's heart and his wishing-cloak. Some characters appear to be witches but in reality are not. For example, the old lady in "The Goose-Girl at the Well" is thought at first to be a witch. In reality, she is simply an intelligent old woman.
The Kingappears in Various tales
Although a symbol of nobility and power, the kings in fairy tales are generally always portrayed as weak and compromising characters. Although it might be considered a high honor to be in service for the king, kings are well known for not paying their soldiers well. This lack of adequate pay causes much unhappiness on the behalf of the soldiers. For instance, in the story "The Devil and His Grandmother", three soldiers desert the king's army for lack of pay. Soldiers released from the king's army are often sent away penniless, which causes them to retaliate against the king. This is seen in the story "The Blue Light", where the soldier commands the king be killed for his miserly ways. Kings also don't appear to be able to do anything for themselves. Whether it is locating a match for their daughter or finding the love of their own life, the king is always employing someone else to do the job for him. Often kings promise the one who fulfills these particular tasks a certain reward, and then goes back on this promise. This action is seen especially clearly in cases where the king promises his daughter in marriage to the man who can perform a certain task. When this man who performs the task turns out to be a common working man, the king almost always goes back on his word.
Thumblingappears in Various tales
Thumbling is a tiny character who appears in the story "Thumbling's Travels" as well as in "Thumbling". Thumbling has a habit of being eaten alive by animals and getting out of his troubles by offering the animals who want to have him for dinner food from his parents' home. The difference seen in Thumbling is that in one story he assists robbers in stealing from a king while in another he foils a group of robbers' plans to steal from a preacher. Thumbling also appears in the story "The Young Giant", where he is transformed by a giant from a tiny man to a giant. In this story, Thumbling is unusually cruel as he voices a desire to hit and kick people.
Little Red-Capappears in Little Red-Cap
Little Red-Cap is the nickname given to a girl who wears a red velvet cap given to her by her grandmother. The girl learns her lesson about talking to strangers when her discussion with a wolf leads her into a position that puts both herself and her grandmother into danger. Those familiar with the modern version of this fairy tale might recognize Little Red-Cap as Little Red Riding Hood.
Mercuriusappears in The Spirit in the Bottle
This is the name of the spirit which the boy in "The Spirit in the Bottle" releases from the bottle. Mercurius is the Latin name for the god in Roman mythology who was considered to be a messenger. He was also a god of profit or trade. The use of this particular name for the spirit is appropriate since it is with the rag that Mercurius gives the boy that the boy is able to send himself back to school, become a famous doctor, and support himself and his father.
Little Briar-Roseappears in Little Briar-Rose
Because of her parents' mistake in not inviting one wise woman to a party, Briar-Rose is cursed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall asleep. The child is released from her curse when a prince with good timing shows up just as the curse is coming to an end. In her more modern form, this character is known as Sleeping Beauty.
Hansappears in Various tales
When a male character is actually given a name in these tales, odds are that the name will be Hans. Characters with this name appear in the story "Clever Hans" as well as "Clever Elsie" and "The Thief and His Master". Hans is also the main character in the tale "The Gnome", "Hans the Hedgehog", and "The Giant and the Tailor". In these stories Hans ranges from a king's son who is born with half the body of a hedgehog and half the body of a man to a giant who is afraid of most everything. In some stories Hans is a clever young man while in others he is the village idiot.
Gretelappears in Various tales
Like the name Hans for men, Gretel was a common name for females appearing in fairy tales. Gretel appears in the tale "Hansel and Gretel", where she is a poor young girl who is abused by her stepmother. Although she is taken care of by her older brother, it is Gretel who saves the day at the end of the story when she shuts the witch in the oven. Gretel also appears in the story "Clever Gretel". This character is clever, but only in covering up her own sins. She eats a fowl intended for her master's guest, then covers up her wrongdoing by telling the guest her master plans to cut the guests ears off. Gretel then tells her master the guest ran off with the cooked fowls.
This section contains 1,601 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)