Grimm's Fairy Tales

The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales - James Stern, Padraic Colum, Margaret Raine Hunt, Josef Scharl, Brothers Grimm, Joseph Campbell, Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

I adore fairy tales. Have I said that before? Because I really do. And it's especially interesting seeing the same basic fairy tales retold by the different classics. For instance, both Perrault and the brothers Grimm included Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Sleeping Beauty, among others, and it was awesome getting to see how the stories changed depending on year and region.


My thing is, people always say how grim Grimm's fairy tales are. How dark and creepy and bloody, you know? But really, I think they're the most cheerful of the lot. Some of Perrault's fairy tales, notably Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty, ended in misery and death....but in Grimm's version, everybody lives happily ever after. I mean, sure, there are some of Grimm's that are pretty dark and gory, but as a whole, they have nothing on Perrault's or even Andersen's.


I love these fairy tales to pieces, but  of course there are always a couple - in this case, Chanticleer and Partlet especially - where I just have to wonder what purpose they serve. There's no quest, no adventure, no moral, no nothing.


Let me explain Chanticleer and Partlet for one second, and because it's three stories I'll put it under a spoiler tag. Hopefully it won't get too long.



Chanticleer and Partlet are a pair of chickens, Chanticleer the husband and Partlet the wife. One day they decide to go out and eat some nuts before the squirrels get them all, but then after they eat they're too lazy to walk home, so they decide to build a little carriage made of nutshells. They argue over who should ride and who should draw, but handily a duck shows up and scolds them for being on her land. Chanticleer beats her in a fight and harnesses her to the carriage, and the duck ends up pulling them both in the carriage.


During their little ride they meet a pin and needle walking together on the road, and agree to give them a ride in the nutshell carriage. Then, at nightfall, they stop at an inn for the night and give the innkeeper an egg that Partlet laid, and promise to give him the duck, too, so he'll let them stay.


At the crack of dawn, Chanticleer and Partlet wake up, peck holes in the egg, eat its contents, and throw the shells in the fire; then they go and pick up the pin and needle, and stick one into the innkeeper's chair and another into his handkerchief. The duck swims around in the nearby brook to keep out of their reach - apparently for good reason.


The innkeeper soon gets up and tries to wipe his face with his handkerchief, but gets stabbed by the pin; then he goes to light his pipe at the fire, but when he stirs up the fire, the eggshells fly into his face. Then, because he's angry about his luck, he tries to sit down in his chair and gets stabbed by the needle. He starts raging about Chanticleer and Partlet because he's sure it's their fault, but they've already escaped.


The end.


Story 2 starts up pretty much the same way, with Chanticleer and Partlet building a carriage and harnessing six mice to it to go for a ride. As they're riding, they meet a cat, a millstone, an egg, a duck, and a pin, and agree to let all of them ride along.


When they arrive at their destination, Mr. Korbes' home, he's not there, so they decide to wait. The mice pull the carriage into the coach-house, Chanticleer and Partlet fly up to sit on the ceiling beams, the cat sits by the fireplace, the duck climbs into the washing cistern, the pin sticks itself into the bed pillow, the millstone sets itself on the ledge above the house door, and the egg rolls itself up in a towel.


When Korbes comes home, he goes to the fireplace to make a fire, but the cat throws ashes in his eyes; so he goes to the kitchen to wash his face, but the duck splashes water all over him. He tries to dry himself with a towel, but crushes the egg in the towel and gets egg in his eyes. So of course Korbes is furious. He skips dinner and goes straight to bed, where he gets stabbed by the pin in his pillow. At this he decides to run outside for some unknown reason, and the millstone falls off the ledge above the door and lands on his head and kills him.


The end. (Wow, that story had so much meaning.)


Story 3 starts out with Chanticleer and Partlet going to eat nuts again (do they ever do anything else?), but Partlet finds a really big nut and chokes on it. While she's choking, she magically manages to tell Chanticleer to run for water to save her. He goes running, but the river won't let him draw water unless he brings a silk string from a bride. He goes to the bride, who won't give him the string unless he brings her the garland that's hanging from a willow in the garden. He fetches the garland, gets the string, gives the string to the river, and brings water back to Partlet, only to find that she'd choked to death while he was gone.


Chanticleer puts her in a hearse and six mice build a hearse for her, then harness themselves to it and let Chanticleer drive them to Partlet's intended gravesite. On the way they meet a lot of animals, all of whom decide to ride on the hearse.


Eventually they come to a stream, and a nearby straw speaks up and offers to make itself into a bridge. It stretches itself over the length of the stream, but when the mice try to cross over it, the straw breaks and all six mice fall in and drown. (Dudes, it's a straw. Cross one at a time, please, if you're going to cross at all.)


Next, a nearby log feels sorry for them, so makes the same offer. It tries to make a bridge of itself, but it's so clumsy that it slips away instantly and gets carried off by the stream.


Then, a nearby rock makes the familiar offer and makes a bridge of itself. Chanticleer and the hearse finally make it safely to the other side, but all the other animals apparently piled up on the rock together, and they were so heavy that the rock slid into the water, so all the animals fell in and drowned.


Chanticleer then buries Partlet and cries over her grave until he dies of grief.


The end.

(show spoiler)



But anyway, basically nothing happens, more nothing happens, more nothing happens, and then everybody dies in the end without any meaning. I just don't get this story. Most fairy tales originated in stories that parents would tell their kids before bed, either to scare them into good behavior or teach them a lesson or encourage them to be good - thus, most fairy tales have an obvious goal. Don't speak to strangers, listen to your elders, don't make hasty decisions, listen to magical foxes when they give you good advice, be generous and share what you have, et cetera.


Chanticleer and Partlet has nothing. It's not even just an adventure story that might've been told purely for entertainment, because it has no plot or goal or main boss or anything that might drive it along....and of course, everyone dies pointlessly in the end. I know that the brothers Grimm were just collecting pretty much all the stories they could find, but this one seems like such a waste of space to me.


But okay, enough on that subject and back to my actual review. Promise.


 It's so refreshing knowing that fairy tales used to be awesome, back before Disney turned them into all sugar and rainbows. And as I already said, I love seeing the differences in the stories from one retelling to another. Cinderella, for instance: in Grimm's version she didn't even have that famous fairy godmother, she had a bird in a tree that brought her gowns and gold slippers to her. She was also called Ashputtel, not Cinderella or Cinderilla. And unlike in Perrault's version, she didn't forgive her horrible step-sisters and give them a home in the castle - she left them behind when she went to marry her prince.


I personally like Grimm's ending better, but that may just be because I'm a horrible, unforgiving person and the step-sisters annoyed me to no end......and also, I want to know what Ashputtel did with the gowns that the bird brought to her. I mean, did she hide them somewhere, or give them back to the bird to be carried away again, or....?


Guess I'll never know. But anyway. My point is, I absolutely adore fairy tales and old folklore, and I've read and re-read all these fairy tales a hundred times since I first learned to read. I never get tired of them. So even despite Chanticleer and Partlet, I have to give this one five stars.