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Chapter 36. Household Tales — Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm. Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm . The Grimms were born in the 1780s in Germany. The Grimms saw fairy tales as a genre closely related to the epic poetry of the Middle Ages and earlier.

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chapter 36

Chapter 36

Household Tales—Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm

wilhelm and jakob grimm
Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm
  • The Grimms were born in the 1780s in Germany.
  • The Grimms saw fairy tales as a genre closely related to the epic poetry of the Middle Ages and earlier.
  • The Grimm brothers wished to provide their readership with models of the moral values of society.
  • They were very much influenced by the ideals of Romanticism. The philosophy of this movement looked back to what people considered a less complicated life, highlighted by more basic – or natural – human qualities.
  • The brothers collected all sorts of stories, including magical fairy tales, horror stories, tall tales, and comical accounts.
violence in fairy tales
Violence in Fairy Tales
  • The Grimm brothers’ tales were originally told by and for adults.
  • Current American versions of the Grimms’ tales have been revised to minimize or eliminate the violence and bloodshed they contained in their 19th-century versions.
  • Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim argues in The Uses of Enchantment that these elements of fairy tales provide an outlet for feelings that are an important component of a child’s upbringing.
introduction to the goose girl
Introduction to “The Goose Girl”
  • This can be viewed as a tale about growing up and the trials involved in the process.
  • Victor Turner has suggested that tales like this one are comparable to the initiation ceremony that marks the child’s transition from a subordinate state to the full rights and powers of adulthood.
  • In such rites of passage, the candidates for adulthood are sequestered from the community and undergo a series of trials or ritual abuse in what is called the “liminal” or transitional point of the ceremony, when they are no longer children but before they are admitted to their new status in society.
  • Similarly, in this tale, the Goose Girl leaves her home and family and undergoes a period of humiliation when she becomes a servant tending geese, and her own servant takes her place as the master.
the goose girl
“The Goose Girl”

This story contains elements of the family romance as defined by Otto Rank:

  • The child is separated from her natural mother.
  • The mother tries to provide surrogate protection.
  • A substitute mother mistreats the child.
  • The child journeys far from home.
  • The child undergoes trials of separation. – She is betrayed and loses her identity.
  • The child is subjected to trials of her fortitude and virtue. – She must work as a peasant despite her noble status, and she is pursued by her companion.
  • The child stands the test. – In this case, she is helped by nature: the wind blows Conrad’s hat away and he must chase it.
  • The child’s true identity is discovered.
  • She assumes her rightful place in society.
pre proppian analysis the goose girl
Pre-Proppian Analysis: “The Goose Girl”

Dramatis personae:

    • Hero: the Goose Girl
    • Villain: waiting woman (preparatory part)
    • False Hero: waiting woman

Lack or harm: loss of the Goose Girl’s status and identity (1 move)


  • Some students want to see the Queen as a donor, but this aspect of the story seems underdeveloped in the Proppian sense. The Queen does give Falada the talking horse to her daughter. Indirectly the horse keeps the girl’s spirits up, but it does not directly help the girl accomplish her task of caring for the geese.
  • Some suggest that, in the main part of the story, Conrad is a villain whom the Goose Girl must defeat. However, the opposition he provides can satisfactorily be explained as part of the task of caring for the geese. Also, no special branding occurs as a result of the girl’s interaction with Conrad.
proppian analysis the goose girl
Proppian Analysis: “The Goose Girl”

abgde (reconnaissance of servant girl)hql

a (loss of status) o L

MN (with the help of Falada and wind)

Q T Ex U W

notes for further analysis the goose girl
Notes for Further Analysis: “The Goose Girl”
  • Jungian analysis highlights the various shadows and animuses of the Goose Girl.
  • The nature – culture opposition is important in this story.
    • The girl moves on the scale from nature (incest) to culture (exogamy).
    • Her sojourn as a goose girl represents a middle point in her journey to adulthood.
    • The oven, a cultural object, helps her to make her transition to a culturally more demanding role.
introduction to the raven
Introduction to “The Raven”
  • Fairy tales emphasize plot over character development, and often represent events without providing motivations for the characters who perform them.
  • Thus, this fairy tale begins with a queen’s wish that her child be transformed into a raven. There is no explanation for why her thoughtless words result in the transformation of her child. Nor is there any suggestion that she regrets the effect of her comment.
pre proppian analysis the raven
Pre-Proppian Analysis: “The Raven”

Dramatis personae:

  • Victim: the Raven
  • Hero: the unnamed man
  • Donors: the witch, the giant, the robbers

Lack or harm: The first harm occurs when the little girl is turned into a raven. Because the hero fails in his encounters with the witch–donor, he experiences a new lack as the raven goes farther away and he must set out again. (2 moves)

proppian analysis the raven
Proppian Analysis: “The Raven”

agq (she becomes a raven)

ABC­DDD a (new lack)

aBC­DEF G (giant transports)


notes for further analysis the raven
Notes for Further Analysis: “The Raven”
  • A Jungian analysis of this story would work.
  • A Levi-Straussian analysis would show:
    • The hero must rescue the princess, who is trapped by culture (the glass mountain) in an exaggeratedly natural form (the raven).
    • He must learn to use the cultural objects in the story: the map, the horse, and so forth.
    • Originally, he can’t control his need for food.
    • He acquires more control in the second half of the story and becomes able to use the cultural objects to rescue the princess.
  • See Chapter 38 for more discussion of this fairy tale.
introduction to faithful john
Introduction to “Faithful John”
  • This story seems to incorporate sections of several different stories into a single tale. The parts are not well blended, however, and the overall effect is somewhat confusing.
  • The prince’s killing of his children to save John seems problematic to many readers. The logic of the tale de-emphasizes the inhumane aspects of the infanticide. In fact, the story seems to regard this act as a positive step, as it serves as a solution to the problem of John’s being turned to stone.
  • It assimilates the ancient Greek, the Germanic, and the Christian traditions.
pre proppian analysis faithful john
Pre-Proppian Analysis: “Faithful John”

Dramatis personae:

Lacks or harms:The prince is overwhelmed by love of the golden princess and seeks her as his wife (an extended initial situation that seems related only to the first move). John overhears the dire predictions of the three witches. John is being turned to stone. (3 moves)

proppian analysis faithful john
Proppian Analysis: “Faithful John”

abg (don't look at picture)dq

a (lack of princess) BC­GK W

A (the curses) MN MN MN K

A (John a statue) MN (saving John) K Q W

notes for further analysis faithful john
Notes for Further Analysis: “Faithful John”
  • This tale lends itself to the Levi-Straussian (or structuralist) contrast between nature and culture.
    • The golden objects show that the prince has fallen under the spell of culture, and he creates a wonderful but artificial world of golden images.
    • The king’s marriage is to culture and the children are abstract representations of his excessive devotion to a force that tears him away from his friend John.
    • Thus, the death of these “children of culture” returns the newly married king to a balance of interests between his wife and his best friend.
  • The Jungian perspective also yields interesting results. Faithful John is the prince’s shadow and the Queen is his negative anima, as are the witches he acquires when he marries her.
  • The story shows a shift in the last part from John as hero to the prince as hero.