If I’ve learnt one thing while reading Grimm during the past few days, it’s that the twist is often in the tale. While the righteous triumphed in the Musicians of Bremen yesterday, that’s not true as we arrive in the Scottish Storytelling Centre today where the ending of Cat and Mouse in Partnership makes the audience groan.

But that’s Grimm, said the storyteller.

Indeed and the stories that were told at last month’s Grimm storytelling festival by 3 German storytellers demonstrated the point in all its gruesome glory. It also proved that Children’s and Household Tales are perfect for oral storytelling.

Once upon a time courtesy of the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Suse Weisse, Svenja Krüger and Regina Sommer,  pioneers and stalwarts of the German story-telling circuit, treated a packed-out theatre to 2 hours of action-packed fairy tales. Most of it in English, although they did revert to German here and there (possibly to keep the German audience happy). I don’t know if the stories they told were obscure but I hadn’t heard any of them before. They’ve certainly proved memorable – a month on and I could still tell the tales myself.

I’ve already mentioned Cat and Mouse in Partnership, a tale of deception and the ultimate betrayal. The Dog and The Sparrow serves to illustrate that stupid humans don’t stand a chance against quick-thinking birdlife. The Juniper Tree is more comforting, once the initial shocking passages have passed. The wicked stepmother finally gets her just desserts, cruelly it is true but in a manner filled with black humour. In The Three Spinners a maiden is actually rewarded for her laziness while in King Thrushbeard, a haughty princess is taught that true beauty is more than a pretty face.

It’s fitting that my Grimm Readathon brings me back to Scotland in time the inaugural Scottish Book Week. That’s because the first tale they told, The Frog King, and the story which opened all three editions of Children’s and Household Tales is of Scottish origin. It appeared in 1549 as Wearie Well at the Warldis End in The Complaynt of Scotland .

Who would have thought that an ancient Scottish legend had a part to play in putting the Grimms on the path to enduring literary glory?

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