One day, a scholar arrived,[iii]
with a Grimm determination
to put pen to paper,
a prescription for dark secrets.
and left him a trail of crumbs,
leading from overgrown gardens
to hearth and home—
the best place for stories
Like diamonds and toads,
words fell from ruby lips:
the bone singing treachery,
elves cobbling seven-league boots,
the Frog crowned.
With the wit of Frau Holle,
she spun straw into gold,
wove shirts from stinging nettles,
stitched tattered furs to cover
and dark deeds, committed by
father kings and wicked witches.
Cautionary tales whispered by
wise women warning
With the last word written,
the Wild girl won the Magic Ring,[vi]
the scholar, his Grimm success—
stories refined and tamed
complete with preface
Happily Ever After.[vii]
[i] Henriette Dorothea Wild, more commonly known as Dortchen Wild, lived next door to the Grimm brothers.
[ii] Dortchen Wild lived in the small kingdom of Hessen-Kassel, which was consolidated with several other small countries into the new Kingdom of Westphalia under orders of Napoleon Bonaparte. Today, the town of Kassel can be found in the middle of Germany.
[iii] Over the years, Dortchen Wild developed a romantic relationship with Wilhelm Carl Grimm. Her father was a pharmacist and looked down on any connections with the poverty-stricken Grimm brothers.
[iv] Due to her father’s strict rules, Dortchen was forced to sneak away to share her stories with Wilhelm for the Grimm brothers’ folklore collection.
[v] Dortchen contributed more than a quarter of the tales collected and published by the Grimm brothers in the first edition of “Children’s and Household Tales,” which was published in 1812. Some of the stories she shared include Hansel and Gretel, The Frog King, The Elves and the Shoemaker, Rumplestiltskin, Diamonds and Toads, All Kinds of Fur, The Six Swans, Mother Holle and The Singing Bone.
[vi] After the death of her father, Dortchen finally married Wilhelm in 1825, thirteen years after the first publication of “Children’s and Household Tales.”
[vii] The original publication of Grimm’s collected tales was met with failure, being criticized as too scholarly, unsophisticated and overtly sexual. In the next edition, Wilhelm rewrote the stories, refining the tales for the delicate sensibilities of a middle-class audience. He also added the terms “once upon a time” and “happily ever after” to the stories.
In another life, Carina Bissett wrote travel articles and books about the Southwest. These days, she spends her time crafting twisted fairy tales and cross-pollinated mythic fiction. She is currently at work on the first novel in her five-book Elements series.