This paper will begin with the forest in today’s fairy tale, trace this usage of the forest back to Grimms’ tales and discuss why the forest might have been important to the Grimms’ in choosing a setting. I will share some thoughts that scholars have had on the forest in the fairy tale. I will then discuss the usage of the forest in Grimms’ fairy tales based on my study of the actual tales and the resulting, preliminary conclusions. I will discuss the implications that this has for us today and end with suggestions for research that can be done to further our understanding of the forest, as well as other natural settings/aspects in fairy tales.
Today, there are so many fairy tales in picture book format that a thorough analysis of the text and illustrations was beyond the scope my work on this subject, not to mention all of the movies, books, and paraphernalia that relate to fairy tales. It is sufficient to realize that one would be hard pressed to find a depiction of a fairy tale that had no forest. To illustrate this point I will give a few examples. Into the Woods is a musical by Stephen Sondheim that creates a town that is a conglomeration of many fairy tale...
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...ed large metaphorically in the minds of the Brothers Grimm. In 1813 they published a journal entitled ‘Old German Forests’ . . . It was as though in “old German forests” the essential truths about German customs, laws, and culture could be found.” These truths would be used to gain a sense of heritage and self (“The Brothers Grimm” 68).
If Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, as German Romanticists, did indeed share a view of the forests as vastly important to themselves and to their German culture and as home to the supernatural, we should be able to see these beliefs reflected in the tales they collected, edited, manipulated, and wrote. In order to see if the forest is in actuality an important part of Grimms’ Fairy Tales I needed to go to the actual texts of the fairy tales. The resource I used was Jack Zipes’ third edition of The Complete Tales of the Brothers Grimm.
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