Grimm’s Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm
Lest the reader come to the conclusion that only concerned parents, outraged teachers, or offended religious authorities can cause books to be banned, the example of Hansel and Gretel is included here. It was not the only fairy tale to cause concern, in California an edition of Little Red Riding Hood was challenged by the picture on the cover, which included young Miss Hood carrying a basket which contained a bottle of wine for Grandma. Culver City California school board demanded it is removed rather than encourage young students to abet drunkenness.
Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm were brothers who after extensive research into German and Eastern European folklore produced Children’s and Household Tales in seven editions in Germany beginning in 1812. Their stories are the source material to the usually significantly altered versions of several well-known fairy tales today. These include Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Snow White, and many others, including Hansel and Gretel.
The English version is known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and it has been the subject of censorship and outright bans almost since it arrived in North America, despite being published in over 160 languages worldwide. In the 1880s one American educator calling for its complete removal from library shelves and classrooms compared it to the “…medieval worldview and culture with all its stark prejudice, its crudeness and barbarities.” This has led to the stories being censored beyond recognition when compared to the originals.
In The Frog King, today in the United States widely recognized as the tale where the Princess kisses the frog and produces a Prince, the Grimm brothers’ original has a slightly different, more violent ending. The Princess throws the frog against a wall with all of the force she can muster, and when the frog awakens it has become a Prince. The contribution of Disney to the changing of the stories, making them more palatable for parents to expose to their children in order to sell movie tickets, has been applied to the works of Hans Christian Anderson as well (and to the tale of Pocahontas).
Even with the stories sanitized by removing much of the violence and graphic imagery of dark forests and hungry, slavering wolves, the stories are complained about as being prejudicial and bigoted. In 1992 in California complaints against Hansel and Gretel and demands that it be removed from school library shelves arose when two self-avowed practicing witches complained about Hansel and Gretel’s depiction of another member of their religion. In 2016 the State of Washington established regulations which made books which glorify violence in any manner (such as pushing a witch into an oven) inappropriate, with daycare centers failing to comply losing state financial subsidies.