The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale Guide (and Drinking Game)
One of my most popular posts is my review of The Brothers Grimm movie with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. The original book of stories, Children’s and Household Tales, was published in 1812, and its English translation was read in nurseries during the Victorian period. This is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I have watched it many times with many different people. Across these viewings, a drinking game has emerged according to the references to the Grimm’s fairy tale collection. There a few instances of fairy tale-like phrases and characters that I haven’t been able to find a basis for in the Grimm’s book, so below is a guide both for people who want to play the game or who just want to know what the movie is referencing.
The rules of the game are pretty simple. Every time there is a Grimm’s fairy tale reference, you have to take a swallow of you adult beverage of choice. These references fall into a couple categories:
1. Fairy tale numbers: The numbers 3 (as in 3 wishes), 7 (dwarves) and 12 (dancing princesses) often occur in fairy tales. This film uses 3 and 12 more than once, so each time one of these numbers is mentioned, take a swig.
2. Phrases: Things like “Once upon a time” and “happily ever after” have become synonymous with fairy tales. Other recognizable tropes are “the fairest of them all,” “true love’s kiss,” and “Mirror, Mirror on the wall.” So any time you hear these types of phrases that ring a bell from a childhood tale, swallow away.
3. Direct references: There are tons of verbal and visual references to classic fairy tales throughout the film as well. The writers combine several tales into single characters, so there may be several times to drink stacked on top of each other. These are the ones that I have been able to confirm using a translation of the original text.
- Jack and the Beanstalk- Magic beans are mentioned at least 5 times
- Briar Rose (aka Sleeping Beauty)- one of the first gadgets they use is said to be from Briar Rose’s castle, and later several girls are put into a magically induced sleep after their fingers are pricked.)
- Little Red Riding Hood (cape, “what big eyes you have”, big bad wolf)
- Godfather Death
- Rumpelstilkskin (Jacob mentions an imp whose name they had to guess)
- The Frog Prince (“kiss a frog” mentioned, and kissing a toad in the woods)
- Hansel and Gretel (Hans and Greta)
- Rapunzel (tower with no entrance, long hair used to escape the tower)
- The Juniper Tree (trees that move. You could play that any time you see a tree move you take a drink, or only the first time when Greta is taken)
- Snow White (old crone with an apple, magic mirror)
- Cinderella (Cavaldi calls the brothers this while making them scrub floors, later glass slippers appear on the feet of a kidnapped girl)
- The Goose Girl- the peasants of Marbaden can occasionally be seen herding geese in the film.
Red herrings: There are other fairy tale references that you will recognize, but they were NOT in the original Grimm’s collection. It is up to you if you want to play the game with or without these.
- Bridge Troll (3 Billy Goats Gruff)- This is a Norse tale, first recorded in 1841.
- Horse infected by spiders- There is a terrifying scene where an enchanted horse swallows a little girl with the aid of the spiders who infected it earlier. Though compelling and in the spirit of the dark tales, I couldn’t find any basis for this in Grimm’s collection.
- The Gingerbread Man- in the film, one of the girls is encased in mud and takes the form of a gingerbread man. This story was not published until 1875, so post-dates the Grimm’s collection.
- The Princess and the Pea- In the film, the evil queen is sleeping on a thick stack of mattresses. But, this is a Danish story recorded for the first time by Hans Christian Andersen in 1835.
- “Huff and puff”- Though there are two “big bad wolves” in the Grimm collection, they don’t blow anything down.
- Ravens as minions- There is a tale in the Grimm collection of seven brothers who are turned into ravens, but in the film the evil queen employs them as spies and to carry someone up to the tower window. Ravens were the minions of Odin in Norse mythology, but are not used this way in the German collection of stories.
Did I miss something? Leave a comment below!