Monday, January 05, 2015

Grimm Fairy Tales

TI really liked this by Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

Tales of Grimm justice

Writer and translator Jack Zipes spoke to Socialist Worker about the enduring popularity of the tales of the Brothers Grimm, and how they appeal to our sense of hope

Once upon a time the Brothers Grimm collected folk tales. The stories and characters are hugely familiar. 
It is well known that the tales are more bawdy and brutal than Disney cartoons. Characters sometimes live “happily to the end of their days” but they never live “ever after”.

But the scale of the difference only now becomes clear for an English language reader.

The Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales first edition, published in German in 1812, has been translated into English for the first time by left wing scholar and translator Jack Zipes.

According to Jack, “The Grimms never intended the tales they collected to be read by children.

“The tales are about children and families, and how they reacted to the difficult conditions under which they lived.”

The stories originated as tales told by “folk”. They were passed down through generations to provide entertainment.

Jack argues that the process of making literature from non-literary traditions can be a sanitation, but not in a simplistic way.

The tales are brusque, blunt, absurd, comical and tragic. How Some Children Played at Slaughtering was cut after the first edition.


It tells the tale of two boys who see their father slaughtering a pig. “They decided to play slaughtering,” explained Jack.

“One brother became the pig, and the other became the slaughterer and he slit the throat of the younger brother.

“The mother saw what happened from a window. She ran downstairs and took the knife out of the boy’s throat and, out of fury, stabbed the older boy in the heart.

Then she realised the baby was upstairs, and in the meantime the baby had died and drowned in the tub.

“She was so remorseful she committed suicide. The father was so dismayed that after two years he wasted away.”

Another tale is called The Children of Famine. A widow is starving with her two children and thinks she might have to eat them.

“The two children, two girls, do their best not to get eaten by their own mother,” said Jack. “The story ends with the children promising to lie down and sleep ‘until judgement day’. The mother departs to ‘nobody knows where’.”

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm lived in a French-occupied Germanic area at the start of the 19th century.

They overcame poverty and their view of folklore reflects their utopian dreams.

“The Grimms wanted to preserve tales they believed emanated naturally from the German people in an oral tradition before they evaporated,” said Jack.

“They were among the first Europeans at the beginning of the nineteenth century, later called folklorists, who took a sincere interest in the culture of the common people.”

For Jack, the Grimms’ “mission” was to conserve German tales, legends, myths and other artifacts.

“In this way, they felt they might contribute to the cultural unification of German people throughout central Europe,” he added.

“We must remember there was no such thing as Germany in the early part of the nineteenth century.”


Jack said there was an overtly political side to their project.

“By collecting and assembling tales that were probably told in dialect or some variant of high German, they wanted to contribute to a cultural and social sense of ‘German-ness’.

“They took the side of revolutionaries in 1848 to support political reforms. 
They published the tales in high German—not to repackage them but to make them accessible to a growing literate class.”

Originally there were 
156 stories, while the seventh edition has 210. The Grimms didn’t simply add stories over the years. They deleted, made many changes, revisions and embellishments. 

The stories morph into the more polished, puritanical, sentimental, Christian and child-friendly refinements of the bestselling later editions.

They develop a more homespun note, a more preachy bourgeois tone with an emphasis on patriarchal and middle class values.

Though even the later versions are far more gritty than subsequent retellings.

Jack said, “There were no religious tales in the first edition. 
Other changes were made to embellish the style, to delete erotic or gruesome elements, to eliminate tales that were too French.”
Artist Andrea Deszo’s new illustration for the tale The Devil in the Green Coat
Artist Andrea Deszo’s new illustration for the tale The Devil in the Green Coat

These included Bluebeard—the story of a man who keeps corpses of women in a locked room—and Puss in Boots.

In many cases certain tales of the first edition were replaced by longer and more elaborate versions.

Sometimes the Grimms change phrasing to make the stories more “proper”.

One example is Rapunzel, in which the young maiden in the tower becomes pregnant.

According to Jack the “essence of the tales is more vivid” in the earliest version where the Grimms made the “greatest effort to respect the voices of the original storytellers or collectors”.

The later morality doesn’t mean a lack of violence.

In Cinderella a girl overcomes impossible odds by virtue of her beauty and goodness.

The Grimms’ version in all their editions is the one where the spirit of the dead mother assists Cinderella, who visits the tree beneath which the mother is buried.

There are two sets of slippers, one silver, one gold.

Cinderella’s sisters, who have beautiful faces but black hearts, chop off their toes hoping to fit into the slipper, but the blood betrays them.

In the 1812 Grimm edition the story ends with Cinderella’s wedding. In the later edition there is an additional scene.

As the sisters approach the church, pigeons peck out their eyes. “And so they were punished for their wickedness and malice with blindness for the rest of their lives.”

It’s Snow White’s mother—not the step parent—who wanted to murder her daughter in the original tale.

“She was only seven years old,” said Jack.

“The mirror declares a seven year old more beautiful than this obviously beautiful queen, and the mother is so enraged that she wants her daughter murdered.

“In Hansel and Gretel, it’s also not a stepmother. It’s a biological mother who wants to abandon her daughter in the woods where they will probably be eaten by beasts.”

Partially this is sanitising, but it is also linked to how people lived at the time.

“Many women died during childbirth,” said Jack.

“The fathers would marry a very young woman who might be close in age to the eldest daughter and of course there would be a rivalry of some kind.”

That tension between the tales’ reflection of social reality and their ability to be retold continues today.

Jack pointed out, “Huge corporations such as the Disney Corporation view the tales as commodities.

“They are a means to make a huge profit in reinventing them because the tales are so popular. The exploitation of the Grimms’ tales occurs on many levels.

“The recent surge of fairy tale films reveals that Corporations will reproduce and exploit fairy tales to make profit and celebrate brand names of corporations.”

But despite the transformations, Jack argued that an underlying reason for the Grimms’ popularity remains.

“The tales engage readers and listeners because they present alternative worlds in which social justice occurs,” he said.


“Sometimes the justice is retributive and cruel, but there is always a sense of social justice.”

Jack said this appeals at a time when justice seems lacking.

He said, “I believe we are living in perverse times, and that we, particularly in the US, have lost a sense of social justice.

“Our politicians and judges are total hypocrites and unjust in their actions, as are the billionaires who control our economy.

“We turn to and need fairy and folk tales not to escape but to maintain a sense of justice and hope that we can bring about more just societies.

“It is the legacy of social justice in the Grimms’ tales that keeps writers wanting to re-create them.

“Fortunately, creative and serious independent filmmakers and writers explore the tales because they might reveal how much inequality and injustice has grown, and how we might imagine alternatives to a deplorable reality.

“Fairy tales, including reinvented ones, seek to foster a sense of social justice.

“It is up to us as readers to realise the dreams and fantasies of these tales.”


The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition

by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Translated and edited by Jack Zipes and illustrated by Andrea Dezso (£16.97) 

Grimm Legacies: The Magic Spell of the Grimms’ Folk and Fairy Tales 
by Jack Zipes (£24.95) 

Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion 
by Jack Zipes (£23.99) 

Available at Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop. Phone 020 7637 1848 or go to

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Monday, January 5, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Kevin Drum tries to rewrite the Iraq War, the State Dept loves it when other countries offer advancement for women (even if the White House won't), and much more.

Let's start with the garbage, Kevin Drum.

The trash that Mother Jones continues to employ wants to pin the blame for the Iraq War starting on Fox News.  (Through click bait -- Limpy never can deliver, he goes flaccid way too quickly.)

In his puzzling piece of nonsense, never are the words "I watched Fox News" written.

Because, let's remember, Kevin Drum was a whore for war, he championed it.

And FAIR can whine all it wants about how the media refuses to shut those types out of the conversation today but until they call out Mother Jones for employing human garbage like Kevin Drum, FAIR's a damn hypocrite.

So what's the little bitch doing today?

Oh, he's pretending Fox News is responsible for starting the illegal war.

That lie let's a lot of people off the hook including himself.

But the reality -- always too hard for Kevin Drum to get honest about -- is that NBC's Meet The Press sold the illegal war, Oprah Winfrey sold the illegal war on her daytime talk show, Judith Miller, Michael Gordon and others at the New York Times sold the illegal war, reporters for the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times sold the illegal war, NBC Nightly News sold the illegal war, ABC's Good Morning America sold the illegal war, Dan Rather sold the illegal war . . .

On and on, it went.

I'm really getting sick of these whores who want to pin it on Fox News.

They want to hope people forgot or never knew what went down.

The Kevin Drums and Juan Coles and all the other pieces of human filth that sold the illegal war now want to pretend otherwise.

I'm no fan of Fox News but I won't take part in the lie that it was Fox News that sold the illegal war.

Fox News couldn't have done it on its own.

It took 'respectable' whores like Kevin Drum and Juan Cole and so many others.

Kevin can lie all he wants but until the day he dies he will be haunted by the Iraqis killed in the illegal war he pimped to America.

Let's move over to the brief mention of Iraq that took place in today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki.

QUESTION: The Kurdish officials are engaged in an effort to gain international recognition for the massacre of the Yezidis by ISIS as genocide. Do you – I mean, I know President Obama used the word genocide in his --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- first address to authorize military action on Mount Sinjar. Does the United States believe that what ISIS ended up doing on that mountain or in Sinjar town, in general*, constitute genocide?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to what the President has already said. I don’t have any new definitions for you.

QUESTION: Is it --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, what happened there was horrific. It was barbaric. We took very quick action to help address the situation. I’m not going to put new labels on it today.

QUESTION: But wouldn’t recognizing the slaughter as genocide, like, boost U.S. efforts to degrade and defeat ISIS, like in this --

MS. PSAKI: I think the actions we took at the time, including military action, coordinating the world’s significant humanitarian action, spoke to our concerns and how strongly we felt about it.

QUESTION: Just one more question, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The KRG also appointed Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, a woman from Sinjar, actually, as its representative in Washington. She arrived here yesterday. What do you – do you have anything to say on that decision by the KRG – a woman from Sinjar to be in Washington?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly support women in prominent positions as a government. I don’t think I have more specifics. Are you asking of their – do you have another specific question?

QUESTION: Do you welcome the decision?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details for you.

Do "we certainly support women in prominent positions as a government"?

First off, it's not even functional, the statement.  But let's pretend Psaki wasn't speaking like a robot.

Does the US support women in prominent positions of government?

You'd never know it to look at the US ambassador to Iraq.

1) Chris Hill

2) James Jeffrey

3) Brett McGurk

4) Robert S. Beecroft

5) Stuart E. Jones

Those are the five men Barack's nominated for the post.

There are no five women he's nominated.

All but Brett McGurk were confirmed by the Senate.

Since Brett couldn't be confirmed, Barack just -- slap in the face to the Senate -- put him in charge of Iraq.

Five nominees, five chances and he gave him all to men.

This isn't about 'oh the women who weren't given a chance!'

That's a serious issue but that's not the issue we're raising now -- or have been raising forever (including to Barack's transition team following the 2008 election prior to Barack being sworn in as president)..

Iraqi women have suffered in the Iraq War.  They've suffered from a US government that didn't just an order an invasion into their country but a US government who put thugs in charge and then looked the other way as these same thugs repeatedly attempted to strip women of their legal rights.

It was Iraqi women, not the US government, who fought these attempts.  It was Iraqi women who took to the streets in protest.

Iraq is a young country.  The CIA puts the median age at 21.5 years.

The Iraq War hits the 12 year mark this March.

The population that can remember when women had equal rights continues to decrease.

Barack, a symbolic president -- after six years, that's the only credit on his resume, should have grasped the importance of symbolism.  A woman in the position would have been a symbolic asset for the Iraqi people.

As for Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, she was actually promoted to this current position back in October.  Today was her first day on the job.

In January of 2013, she attended the International Conference entitled The Untold Story: The Kurdish Genocide in Iraq and noted:

This year sees a convergence of significant anniversaries of events that have had an immense impact on the people of Kurdistan in Iraq. It is not only the 25th anniversary of the poison gas attack on Halabja and the Anfal genocide campaign, it is also the 30th anniversary of the abduction and killing of men and boys from the Barzani tribe and the 10th anniversary of the West's intervention in Iraq, which we Kurds refer to as the liberation. January 17, the day this conference is being held, marks the 22nd year since Operation Desert Storm which triggered a sequence of events that eventually led to the Kurdish Uprising of 1991 and Kurdistan’s first breath of freedom. 
Apart from noting this unusual coming together of memorable dates, we see this as an opportunity to reveal the horrific crimes that the Kurdish people have fallen victim to since the 1960s, to tell the secret story of life under Saddam Hussein's brutal dictatorship, to give the victims and survivors a voice and to have a debate on the issues that surround genocide. How is genocide legally defined ? What are the challenges to legal and political international recognition? What role did the Kurdish diaspora play in raising awareness of the atrocities in their homeland at the time and what is their role today? What can we do to prevent other genocides? How can we ensure that those who helped the perpetrators or profited from those crimes are brought to justice? What lessons can be learnt from experts, NGOs and survivors of other genocides such as in Rwanda and Bosnia ? 
It is with these questions in mind that we decided to host the first international conference in Britain on the Kurdish genocide. As we look around the Middle East, we see much to be concerned about, including the situation in Syria. The slaughter of people, including children, while the international community vacillates as to how to respond, brings back memories of those events in Iraqi Kurdistan not so long ago. Of course it is not easy to intervene in another country's strife but surely the international community has a responsibility to protect people who have no defence against a well armed dictatorship that does not hesitate to use violence to suppress dissent. 
Since we announced this conference, three Kurdish women activists were assassinated in Paris. They strived for Kurdish rights and their murder reminds us that even today, in the heart of Western Europe, Kurds are not safe. Sadly, our history is interspersed with assassinated leaders and activists, yet few Kurds think to give up the struggle for Kurdish rights or to evade the duty to remember and honour those who have been killed.
The subject of this conference show s the dark side of humanity. Yet time and again, listening to the survivors and eyewitnesses to the horrors of poison gas, imprisonment, torture and mass murder, we hear of small gestures of kindness that lifted the spirit of someone who was in utter despair, we hear of the risks people took to save a stranger's life as in the case of the Shia Arab family that rescued Teimour , a young Kurdish boy who had escaped from a pit full of dead bodies. We also see the survivors' desire to forge a better future for their children and to spread the word of peace. We hope that this conference will not only make us listen and search for answers, but also gain inspiration.

That'll give you an overview of the issues that matter to her.  When she was named the KRG's High Representative to the UK, the Kurdish Regional Government noted:

Before her appointment, Ms Abdul Rahman worked as a journalist for 17 years. She began her career on local newspapers in London and won the Observer Newspaper’s Farzad Bazoft Memorial Prize in 1993, which led her to work at The Observer and later at the Financial Times. She worked for the FT in Britain and in Japan, where she was Tokyo Correspondent.
Her late father, Sami Abdul Rahman, was a veteran of the Kurdish movement, joining the Kurdistan Democratic Party in 1963 and playing a critical role in the Kurdish and Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein’s regime. He held the post of Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government and General Secretary of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Sami Abdul Rahman was killed alongside his elder son Salah and 96 others in a twin suicide bombing in 2004. 

While she's been successful in her positions other officials haven't fared so well.

Take thug Nouri al-Maliki.  The man Bully Boy Bush imposed on Iraq, demanded he be prime minister is, was and always will be a thug.  Despite that reality, in 2010, when Nouri lost to Ayad Allawi, Barack Obama demanded Nouri get a second term.

That second term pulled Iraq ever closer to the abyss as Nouri attacked protesters, allowed his goons to rape girls and women in Iraqi jails and prisons, bullied politicians, threatened leaders of neighboring countries and much more.

Nouri's finally out as prime minister (Haider al-Abadi currently holds the title) but Nouri has reportedly told his flunkies that he'll be back in the post of prime minister in a matter of months.  Currently, he spews his crazy from the post of Vice President -- he's one of three -- the other two are Osama al-Nujaifi and, yes, Ayad Allawi.

Former European Union member Struan Stevenson offers:

 Riven with dishonesty and fraud, the Iraqi army mirrors the rampant corruption of the Iraqi government in post-Saddam Iraq.
These circumstances have provided the perfect conditions for the brutal Shiite militias to thrive and take control of the battlefield. There are perhaps hundreds of these militias. They are trained, financed and often led by the terrorist Iranian Quds Force. They are Iranian proxies. So the US air strikes are aiding and abetting Iran in achieving its ultimate objective, which is total control of Iraq.
The current war raging across Iraq was as avoidable as it was predictable. Nouri al-Maliki’s second term as prime minister was a tragedy for the Iraqi people, for the region and for the world. As a puppet of the Iranian mullahs, he encouraged the Iranian-led Shiite militias and used them to enforce his merciless “iron fist” sectarian policy of indiscriminate bombing, shelling, arbitrary arrests, torture and mass execution of innocent Sunni civilians. Maliki utilised the claim of fighting a war against terror to secure his grip on power and the West fell for it. 

Nouri's failures and crimes are well known.  Despite that reality, Nouri attempted to rewrite history on Sunday.   AFP reports:

Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, who was widely criticized for sectarian policies during his time as premier, said Sunday that politicians are to blame for the country’s Sunni-Shiite strife.
“There is no problem between the Sunnis and the Shiites as communities, but rather between us the politicians -- we think as Sunnis and Shiites, and we are driving people toward this doom, for which we will bear responsibility before God,” he said.
Maliki himself pursued policies that marginalized and angered members of Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, especially during his second term as premier.

Richard Engel is a correspondent for NBC News.  Today, he Tweeted.

  • As of now there are 2,140 American soldiers and Marines in Iraq, to grow to around 3k this spring.

  • Staying with the topic of US service members in Iraq, Nikki Henderson (Nexstar Broadcasting) reports that US Col Steve Warren has confirmed that US troops stationed at al-Assad airbase are under regular mortar assault from the Islamic State with Warren terming the assaults "completely ineffective."  (So far, at any rate.) Barbara Starr (CNN) adds the attacks are "raising continuing concern that U.S. forces in Iraq can be kept safe and at least technically out of a combat role, a separate defense official said. The Pentagon would not say whether security measures had changed at the base."

    Earlier today, Abdulrahman al-Rashed noted new efforts at diplomacy between Iraq and Saudi Arabi and wondered, "Will a Saudi embassy in Baghdad end tensions with Iraq?"

    Later, BBC News notes, there was a suicide bomber attacking the border Iraq and Saudi Arabia share.  Angus McDowall (Reuters) counts 3 of the Saudi border employees dead.  Alsumaria notes Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced the attack.

    In other violence, Sputnik notes, "Iraq's security forces have killed at least 26 Islamic State (IS) militants in the country's northern province of Salah al-Din, a military source told the Iraqi News agency on Monday."
    Margaret Griffis ( counts 52 dead across Iraq from violence today.