The Führer’s Fairytales | Verve Magazine
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July 02, 2014

The Führer’s Fairytales

Text by Nittal Chandarana. Joseph Goebbels' image via Wikimedia Commons and the German Federal Archive.

Princesses, World Wars and the Grimm truth about childhood stories

  • Grimm
    The Grimm Brothers
  • Hitler with Goebbels’ daughter
    Hitler with Goebbels’ daughter. (Via Wikimedia Commons & the German Federal Archive)

We’re in a particularly malicious mood today. We were recently enlightened about the truth behind some of our favourite fairy tales and felt that you, too, must be suitably informed. The Grimm Brothers are German writers (felons, really) responsible for penning down most fables we grew up listening to. Cinderella (Aschenputtel), Snow White (Schneewittchen), Sleeping Beauty (Brier Rose), Little Red Riding Hood (this one’s debatable, first published in France), etc. were all products of their fabrication.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm amassed their stories during childhood and college years while studying at the University of Marlburg. Folklore greatly interested the brothers and they spent their lives writing, publishing and maintaining a record of traditional stories. Many of their most famous works were initially narrated to them by an aunt, a neighbour, peasants, teachers and other such sources. Their stories were originally written for all age groups and were tweaked when they were to be adapted for children. This is probably why we never knew that Rapunzel of ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!’ had a sexual relationship with her prince. Or that Cinderella’s stepsisters were handed a fitting punishment for their cruelty; their fingers and toes were cut off. In Hansel and Gretel, their mother convinces her husband to abandon the kids in the woods due to poverty. She wasn’t even their stepmother! Also, they could have at least issued a statutory warning: No frogs were kissed during the writing of The Frog Prince. But no; of course not. The princess turns the little froggy into a charming suitor after hurling the amphibian into the wall; not kissing him. Disney made millions painting a rosier portrait for us; the Grimm brothers lived in poverty through their lives.

We managed to accept this gracefully but then Hitler made his way into the picture. These German fairytales were used as propaganda for children to support the Nazi dream during World War II. Josef Goebbels, master of propaganda, turned to fairytales to drum the idea of racial superiority into the minds of children. In the Nazi film versions, Puss in Boots morphs into Hitler towards the end and is heiled by a loyal throng of supporters. Little Red Riding Hood skips through the forest with a coat marked with Swastikas. Snow White’s father is a German commander set to invade Poland. And the list goes on…

We leave you to nurse that unappetising aftertaste in your mouth while we run to cast a sanctity spell on our set of classics. Is nothing sacred anymore?

Further reading online:, and The Telegraph

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