Nestled in the hills of Hessen is the tiny village of Bergfreiheit, home to the seven dwarves.  On the day of my trip, the mine was closed. Neither were the famous inhabitants to be found at Snow White’s house. I caught up with the dwarves and Snow White as they were meandering merrily across the meadow.

Hi ho!

From a distance they appear carefree.  Can’t have that, said the wicked witch.  I’ll sort Grumpy out.

Some people have no idea how to travel light!

Having warmed up, it was time to get serious.

No apples today, Snow White. Would you like a peach?

This madness was induced by Karen Duve’s subversive tales in Grrrimm published last year to coincide with the Brothers Grimm bi-centennial.

Ever wonder what  made Grumpy that way?  Or whether Snow White was as pure as the driven snow? Did the wicked stepmother really exist?  Did Snow White and the Prince live happily ever after?  Your expectations will be turned upside down because Grumpy’s narrating and telling it as it really was.

My favourite in this 5-story collection is Der geduldige Prinz (The Patient Prince), Sleeping Beauty retold with a focus on the prince, who loved her but who was fated was to be outside the castle walls at the moment of her encounter with the spindle.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Sababurg
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Sababurg

The only thing he can do is look after himself and wait out the 100 years.  By which time, he must don not one, but two, vests before mounting a donkey to ride off to claim his bride.  Does he, despite his face looking like a Kohlrabi mit Frostschäden (a frost-damaged turnip) succeed in his quest?  Unexpectedly so thanks to many unexpected adventures and character changes.

The 5th story, the longest, is Little Red Riding Hood for the Twilight generation.  The big bad wolf is still on the prowl ….


and he/it/they are werewolves.  Never were the sexual/Freudian undertones in the original so clear.

These stories are clever and more than a little sardonic.  I love the small detail of the two vests mentioned above, tucked effortlessly into a subordinate clause but evoking  an vivid picture of a doddery Don Quixote-like adventurer.  As for the negotiations that took place after Sleeping Beauty’s curse had been pronounced ….negotiations?  Yes, indeed and they are hilarious.

Duve’s previous novels, Rain and This is not a Love Song (reviewed here), have been translated into English.  Someone should translate these stories too.  They may be Grrrimm but they’re grrreat!