The Brothers Grimm & Clever Deception

As part of Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World I write weekly short essays (270-320 words).  Our first week looked at Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm from 1882 (full text available via Open Library).  For credit on any submitted assignment each student then peer reviews 5 other students' essays on From and Content, each graded on a scale of 1 to 3, with 2 as the expected adequate work grade.

What struck me very early on in this translation and edition of the Grimm's Fairy Tales is that they by-and-large were stories of utterly horrible people.  That seemed as good of a starting point as any for a short essay.
The fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm are not by-and-large morality tales, but instead often tales celebrating clever deception and manipulation.  Often the rewards go not to the virtuous or deserving but to the one who thinks on their feet and is not caught.  For example, Clever Gretel is selfish, The Six Gentlemen take advantage of the situation, the man in The Raven steals the magic items, The Wonderful Musician is cruel, The Gallant Tailor is a remarkable bluffer, and the list goes on.  Lucky Hans is manipulated by a parade of individuals, each of whom profit and he remains happy.  The cat in The Cat and the Mouse simply eats the mouse and the problem disappears. In all of these cases the manipulator triumphs, be it stealing dinner from her employer, hoodwinking the king out of all his gold, or earning a bride. 

Some tales the manipulator is punished.  In The Goose Girl or The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats it can be argued that the "villain" was punished not because of their lies and deceptions, but because they were not clever enough to remain uncaught.  The Three Men Little Men in the Wood mirrors the betrayal and punishment of The Goose Girl.  Similarly in The Frog Prince the princess is caught in her deception and forced to carry through on her promise, though she was ultimately rewarded.  Once again the list goes on.

A handful of the tales even focus on the rewards of loyalty or avoid deception overall, but they make up at most a quarter of the tales in this collection.  Faithful John, The Twelve Brothers, The White Snake, The Fisherman and His Wife largely avoid trickery as key plot vehicles.  Fairy tales and fables, including those collected by the Brothers Grimm, are often touted or presented as tales of morality.  This translation belays that assumption and instead presents tales of clever deception.

Grimm, J., Grimm, W., Crane, L., & Crane, W. (1882). Household stories. London: Macmillan & Co.  Retrieved from
This first essay earned me a 4.  Adequate, and even with feed back of "well done," but with definite room for improvement.  On a fresh read (ie. not a "is this enough to submit?"), I'm surprised at the number of "well done" comments given, I find my tone in this essay a bit pretentious and not all that interesting.  I think the topic has potential for some very interesting literary analysis, but it was not accomplished by me in these 300+ words.  To be self-honest, the entire essay relies far too much on listing relevant stories and does little to connect and develop concepts.

FORM (2)
peer 1 → In my opinion, the writer's form is good. The grammar should be improved and there are also typing errors, I believe. The aspect that the writer does well is the usage of adjectives. However, the overall structure of the essay is not comprehensible.
peer 2 → Very good essay. But please keep a watch on your grammar and proofread. For ex: " the one who thinks on their feet and is not caught. "
peer 3 → mmmmmm! well done. your language structure is good and the sentences are well constructed and i love the way you choose your words too however, you might want to reading through your work before submitting and make sure they void of errors e.g "thinks on their feet and is" in my own part of the world its a wrong English.
peer 4 → I think that in second paragraph there should be ‘In some tales’ instead just 'Some tales'. Everything else is clear to me and I understand it well so I think it is very nicely formed.
peer 1 → The aspect that the writer does well is naming the things the tales have in common. However, the writer should give examples of their conclusions. The essay does not show a deep understanding. Therefore, it should be better elaborated.
peer 2 → Interesting aspect of morality depicted in the essay. May be, the brothers try to depict various human natures in the tales. Loved your writing.
peer 3 → Your argument is so strong that it kept me thinking about other fairy tales that i have read, after comparing them i came to the conclusion that you are right and the examples you mentioned are just perfect to fit into your argument but i think you should try not to repeat your points in each paragraph instead you can boost your essay with other valid points. Welldone
peer 2 → Thank you for the essay. It showed me a new aspect of brothers Grimm tales.
peer 3 → Avoid repetition and you will do better.
peer 4 → I like the insight of this essay into the categories of 'morals' in Grimm's fairy tales. Maybe the format of essay is too short to go more deeply in all of them so maybe I would like to know more about one category of fairy tales, for example, deeper analysis of category of fairytales that are' celebrating clever deception and manipulation'.


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