I'm a sucker for mythology, and which is the main reason I like Grimm so much. But I'm very particular about how mythology is presented-- I don't like when people deviate so far from the original story so much that a legend essentially gets rewritten with the original one forgotten (for example, Aaron was portrayed as an antagonist in The Prince of Egypt rather than as Moses's right-hand man).
That said, who better to write a book about Grimm's backstory than a mythologist like Nathan Robert Brown? The portions I've read so far tell me he's even more meticulous than I am with researching myths, and that has me super-impressed already.
Mr. Brown smartly starts off with the not the backstory, but the backstory's backstory. He provides a great insight into the hardships faced by the Grimm brothers to help us better grasp what was going through their minds when they recorded the fairy tales that have been perpetuated to this day-- or rather, severely twisted and then retold by the family-safe culture of the 20th and 21st centuries. (Side note-- did you know that the Grimms didn't actually write the fairy tales? They interviewed stay-at-home moms to find out what stories had been passed down through the generations.)
Brown provides unique retellings of many of the stories that serve as Grimm backstories. They're definitely not the versions you'd expect though, and here's why:
Being the responsible mythologist Brown is, he recognizes that the Grimm producers used the Grimm version of the tale, not the 20th-/21st-century family-friendly version. So the version he tells us is the one where Grandma and Red Riding-Hood both get eaten by the Big Bad Wolf, and the huntsman cuts him open with a pair of scissors to rescue them both. He also includes the Grimm brothers' forgotten sequel in which Red Riding-Hood and Grandma show a second Big Bad Wolf who's boss.
Being mindful his reader-base might include a few nontraditionalists who like things presented in a modern light, he not only uses modern English (thankfully!) but also adds a flavorful commentary that helps us put the story into better perspective.
For example, instead of this (quoted from Jane Yolen's "Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales"):
Red Riding Hood, however, was on her guard, and went straight forward on her way ... she had met the wolf, and ... he had said "good-morning" to her, but with such a wicked look in his eyes, that if they had not been on the public road she was certain he would have eaten her up.
we read this:
However, she was a bit more wary this time. She stuck to the path and ignored the wolf's deceptive words. Like an upper-class couple confronted by a homeless guy at night, she just avoided eye contact and kept on walking.
Often, that perspective is a comical one. Hey, we all need some comic relief once in awhile!
From "English Fairy Tales", collected by Joseph Jacobs in 1890:
...so the little pig ... lived happy ever afterwards.
And they all lived happily ever after... except for the wolf, of course... oh yeah, and the first two pigs that got eaten by him. On second thought, maybe just the third pig lived happily ever after.
With comic relief like this, it's a chore to put this book down!
Brown doesn't just draw from the obvious. He goes much deeper than any of us ever bothered. For example, just how tough is a Siegbarste if you need an elephant gun to even phase him? Could Holly Clark have survived for that long in the woods if she wasn't a Blutbad? What are those other trailer weapons Nick hasn't learned the names for yet? What's the story behind calling a Ziegevolk a "bluebeard"? Are the Coins of Zakynthos based on the Lord of the Rings, or are they both based on something older? And could Monroe's Blutbad aspect completely pass under the radar of a psychiatrist as a mental disorder?
These questions and more are all answered in astounding detail, in....
The mythology of Grimm: The fairy tale and folklore roots of the popular TV show by Nathan Robert Brown (author of The mythology of the supernatural)
Bottom line: If you like mythology, you'll love this.
p.s. Oh, and I forgot to add-- as a die-hard fan of the show and wiki editor, I am amazed at the vast amount of new information I found in these pages. This isn't anything like those publications on the Grimm website or the iTunes Grimm app that just restate what we already know! And what's even better-- it's not fanfic!
These stories are true attributes of human perspective. They show that all good and bad things are connected by ancestral stories and beliefs. The aswang for instance is a belief of the Philippines. The wise ones of the house would tell stories. And, in turn, the grandparents believed too. The human imagination is so vast that they would dream that the beast would climb the trees and click their horrid tongues.
Hi... Nathan Brown here. Sorry that the keys did not make it into the book. They were part of the original outline when I proposed the book to the publisher. When I ended up going WAY over my allowed word count, however, certain things had to be left out. Unfortunately, that included the keys. If I ever have a chance to do a volume 2 for this book, I will include them. Thanks so much for the review and the support, Grimmsters!