Halloween is a time of the year when freaky tales are told, ghosts and ghouls are abundant, and scaring your friends is second nature. We’ve gathered our top Twisted Tales to Tell this Halloween – 3 Stories from The Brothers Grimm, including all their weird (and a bit gross) original details.
1. The Juniper Tree
The horrid tale of a mother possessed by evil, a dinner of death, and a beautiful singing bird.
The Juniper Tree is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in Children’s and Household Tales. The first edition of their collection had critical reviews stating that the stories were unsuitable for children. The reviewers had a point; the early editions of the tales are famously gory. The Juniper Tree is a particularly gruesome tale and even features cannibalism and murder.
This story starts out with a happy couple unable to conceive and then takes various turns that have us shocked at every corner. When the couple eventually has a son the mother is so happy that she dies. She is buried under the Juniper Tree upon her request.
The husband remarries later and has a second child, a daughter. His new wife is extremely jealous of the son’s beauty, becomes possessed by ‘The Evil One’ and so plots his death. She tricks him into opening a chest with the promise of an apple and then brutally chops his head off, using the lid and its heavy lock as he peers in.
The evil woman pushes the murder onto her daughter and then forces her to help prepare and cook the son for the husband’s dinner to hide the crime. The daughter cries so much the stew doesn’t need salt. When the father returns home he enjoys the stew so much he eats it all and throws the bones away under the table. The distraught daughter then gathers her brother’s bones and sets them under the Juniper Tree.
The boy is then bought back to life as a bird with a beautiful song, and after collecting various gifts for his father and sister, and a rather heavy millstone he returns home. He sings his beautiful song over and over to the woman driving her to insanity. When she runs out of the house following her daughter and husband, he drops the millstone on her and kills her leaving only smoke, flames and fire. The son then transforms from a bird back into his human body, and the resurrected son, daughter and father then live happily ever after.
This story was taken from the book: Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Illustrated by Helen Stratton
2. The Robber Bridegroom
A pocket full of peas, the house of death and a severed finger.
This story has all the makings of classic horror – dark woods, a gang of murderers, severed body parts and even cannibalism.
The Robber Bridegroom is one of the Grimm Brothers’ darkest tales. It is the tale of the daughter of a miller who is betrothed to a suitor by her father. She has a bad feeling about him and tries to avoid him. Even thinking about him makes her shudder. When she is finally forced to visit him at home in his creepy house in the darkest depth of the wood, she learns the truth about her future husband and his ‘riotous crew’.
When she arrives at his horrible house in the forest, she comes across a bird in a cage that warns her:
“Turn back, turn back, you young bride.
You are in a murderer’s house.”
The girl looks around the dark creepy house until she finds an old woman in the cellar. The old woman describes her fate if she were to stay and urges her to hide behind a huge cask… “When they have thee in their power, they will kill thee without mercy, cook, and eat thee, for they are eaters of human flesh”. – hardly good manners for a first visit.
When the bridegroom and his gang of friends return home drunk, they drag in another maiden. The girl witnesses several men force the maiden to drink several glasses of wine, which in-turn kills her. They strip her of her clothes, lay her on the table and chop her body into pieces and prepare her for dinner. One of the men chops a finger off to retrieve a gold ring. The finger flies off the table from the savage chop and into the miller’s daughter’s lap.
The old woman puts a sleeping potion into the men’s drink, and while all the men are asleep, the young girl and old woman escape.
On her wedding day, she uses the finger as evidence to reveal her evil suitor’s actions. The bridegroom and his group of murderers are then all executed for their crimes.
This story was taken from: Grimm’s Household Tales – Illustrated by R. Anning Bell
3. Hansel and Gretel
First published in 1812, this version comes from a revised 1852 edition. Written by The Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel is a story about two poor children and their narrow escape from a cannibal witch that lived in a house of sweets – could it get any worse?
Hansel and Gretel are two children of a poor woodcutter and a horrible stepmother. Unable to feed themselves, the stepmother persuades the Father to lead the children into the woods and leave them there. Hansel cleverly leaves a trail of breadcrumbs so that they can find their way home. But when this is eaten by birds, the children end up wandering the woods for days. They eventually come to a house made of sweets and set about eating it as they are starved.
Then a soft voice cried from the parlour:
‘Nibble, nibble, gnaw,
Who is nibbling at my little house?’
The children answered:
‘The wind, the wind,
The heaven-born wind,’
The old lady ‘as old as the hills’ that inhabits the house, lures the children inside with food and comfort. She turns out to be an awful witch, who imprisons them and tries to fatten them up to kill and eat. She locks Hansel in a stable outside and uses Gretel as her maid and helper in the preparation for the cooking of her brother.
After many months, the time comes for her to kill and eat them both, but through cleverness and trickery, Gretel manages to kill the witch by pushing her in the oven meant for the children, and roasting her to death.
The children escape with her riches, make their way back through the forest and eventually return home to their poor father. While they have been gone, their horrid stepmother has since died and so the three live happily ever after.
This story was taken from the book: Hansel & Gretel & Other Tales By The Brothers Grimm – illustrated by Arthur Rackham