Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How Some Children Played At Slaughtering: An Omitted Grimm's Tale

In a city named Frannecker, located in West Friesland, some young boys and girls between the ages of five and six happened to be playing with one another. They chose one boy to play a butcher, another boy was to be a cook, and a third boy was to be a pig. Then they chose one girl to be a cook and another girl her assistant. The assistant was to catch the blood of the pig in a little bowl so they could make sausages. As agreed, the butcher now fell upon the little boy playing the pig, threw him to the ground, and slit his throat open with a knife, while the assistant cook caught the blood in her little bowl.

A councilman was walking nearby and saw this wretched act. He immediately took the butcher with him and led him into the house of the mayor, who instantly summoned the entire council. They deliberated about this incident, and they did not know what to do to the boy, for they realized that it had all been part of a children's game. One of the councilmen, an old wise man, advised the chief judge to take a beautiful red apple in one hand and a Rhenish gulden in the other. Then he was to call the boy and stretch out his hands to him. If he took the gulden, he was to be killed. The judge took the wise man's advice, and the boy grabbed the apple with a laugh. Then he was set free without any punishment.

--from The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brother Grimm.

This gruesome little tale deals with the concept of the age of accountability; when is a child able to make rational decisions and therefore be held responsible for its actions? This folkloric answer--if it knows the value of a piece of money over the instant gratification of a treat-- is common in several cultures. By this standard there are quite a few kids walking around who would not be here today.

1 comment:

Eleanor S. said...

I personally find this fairy tale quite disturbing. #scarred4life