[CW: Honestly, I think it’s self-explanatory]
This one is bonkers and doesn’t appear to have an Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index tale type. This “story” actually consists of two gratuitously violent anecdotes involving a group of children who are playing at being butchers. It was included in the first edition of the Grimm stories but was left out in later editions.
It’s believed that the Grimm’s decision to leave out this particular selection in later editions may have something to do with changing cultural attitudes about what was appropriate when it came to children’s literature. Ideas about childhood and what that meant were very much in flux in the 19th century and while the Grimm’s may have seen this story as acceptable in 1812, it is easy to believe that they may have had some feedback that led to its removal in the 1819 and later editions.
Since I don’t have much in the way of analysis on this one, I’m going to share both anecdotes in their entirety but honestly, I really do have to warn you to read at your own risk.
In a city named Franecker, 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 to play 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 did not know what they should do to the boy, for they realized 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 the boy took the apple, he was to be set free. 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. Thus he was set free without any punishment.
There once was a father who slaughtered a pig, and his children saw that. In the afternoon, when they began playing, one child said to the other, “you be the little pig, and I’ll be the butcher.” He then took a shiny knife and slit his little brother’s throat.
Their mother was upstairs in a room bathing another child, and when she heard the cries of her son, she immediately ran downstairs. Upon seeing what had happened, she took the knife out of her son’s throat and was so enraged that she stabbed the heart of the other boy, who had been playing the butcher. Then she quickly ran back to the room to tend to her child in the bathtub, but while she was gone, he had drowned in the tub. Now the woman became so frightened and desperate that she did not allow the neighbors to comfort her and finally hung herself. When her husband came back from the fields and saw everything, he became so despondent that he died soon after.
Grimm, Jacob; Grimm, Wilhelm. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition. Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
One thought on “#FairytaleTuesday: How Some Children Played at Slaughtering”