Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 20, 2012

GARY'S WORLD: Tales of Grimm brothers turn 200

By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer

CROSSVILLE — Thursday marked the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

I have to be honest and admit I had absolutely no idea it was the 200th anniversary had it not been for Google. The Google homepage had a cute little doodle on its page and when you clicked on the play button, the picture would scroll to the next one and the complete story of Red Riding Hood was told comic strip style.

It was quite interesting. I have always loved the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. When you read the actual Grimm version of the stories, they are quite strange and in some cases very disturbing and definitely not meant for children.

However, when I was a child my mother read many of the stories to me and I found them quite charming. She usually read the watered down, nicer, more suitable versions that were published.

The first volume was published in 1812.

As I got older, I rediscovered the Grimm’s Fairy Tales in very unsuspecting manner.

As an English major at Purdue University Calumet, I took several writing classes.

One of the classes was titled Modern Discourse Theory, or something similar in nature.

Anyway, it was the most bizarre class one could ever imagine. The class was much like one of the Grimm brother’s tales in the sense that crazy things happened when you least expected.

What we did in that class was read the Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson.

The book was very interesting, funny at times and educational. The book described the experience of identifying the structure of DNA, the molecule of life with Francis Crick and James Watson.

The discovery revolutionized biochemistry and the pair won a Nobel Prize.

Simple enough. I figured we’d read the book, write some type of technical reports and be done with everything. Not quite.

I never could figure out why we were forced to purchase an anthology of Grimm’s Fairy Tales for the class. Nothing was ever really mentioned about the book until after we finished reading the Double Helix.

We read a few of the fairy tales and analyzed them and the inferences that were made in the stories. It was strange to sit in a class and discuss every single detail about Goldilocks for hours at a time.

Our professor then said we were to read at least 10 to 15 fairy tales from the anthology and analyze them on our own and compare them to the Double Helix and the discovery of DNA story. We were to read them, analyze the two by comparing and contrasting, describing the differences between the two and to discover the similarities.

It was an exercise in critical thinking that stands out to me to this day as one of the most unusual, but profound learning experiences I’ve had in education.

The notion of taking fictional, make believe fairy tales and analyzing them in comparison to a Nobel Prize-winning scientific discovery was sheer lunacy. At least it seemed that way to me at the time.

Now when I look back upon the experience, what it did accomplish was get us students to think outside of the box and realize there is a whole world of interesting existence outside of “normal” thinking.

I learned there is more than one approach to accomplishing a task and sometimes the method yields results outside of the norm.

Some of these fairy tales have been adapted by Disney Productions into stories that barely resemble the original tale. Many of those tales are not so innocent and have meanings or references that are far more sinister and troubling than anyone would expect.

I enjoy reading of all sorts. If you enjoy reading, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales sometime. You just might be surprised and entertained.

Sometimes, doing something outside the normal routine can be enlightening and interesting.

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Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com.