Herr Wolf Responds to Fairy Tale Scholars

The villain from “Little Red Riding Hood” complains about new hunters in Grimm’s Woods (from the Los Angeles Times)

“Fairy Tales and Children: The Psychology of Children Revealed Through Four of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.” By Carl-Heinz Mallet, translated by Joachim Neugroschel (Shocken: $18.95; 256 pp.)

Diese woods, Grimm’s woods, vas once upon a time a good place to live. Of course, I was junger den. Und I hat many a supper of fraulein, und some grammas too.

Dat vas alle bevor Little Red Riding Hood. So, you know the story. After supper I vas sleeping und der hunter kommt. He cut me open and emptied out das fraulein und das gramma. Den im my stomach he put rocks and sewed it up. He vas a lousy surgeon. Since den gallstones und kidney pebbles, you vould not believe.

Diese woods haf changed, too. Now, a crazy kind of hunter kommt. First it vas der Jungians und Frau Maria von Franz; dey ran through hier mit butterfly nets chasing die Archetypes. Den it vas die Freudians und Herr Doktor Bruno Bettelheim; dey made a mess mit shovels digging vor der Id. Den Feminists kommt saying Grimm’s women vas too passive; die witches und stepmothers vas too busy pushing everyone around to say it vas not so. Last, die Marxists kommt mit megaphones und tried to get volk like die three pigs to mach revolution.

But you know vhat bothers most? No one knows me; und Herr Wolf used to haf quite a reputation in alle woods. But diese new hunters. Ach himmel! Dey mistake me vor der Animus or der Male Principle or der Bourgeoisie, even vor der Papa!

Now hier kommt Carl-Heinz Mallet, Freudian, to talk about four children I used to know, and every one is more than they seemed to me: Hansel–who, mit his sister, Gretel, vas as tasty a child as ever walked diese woods in search of gingerbread–vas a mama’s boy to Herr Mallet. Little Red Riding Hood, too much like Lolita. Der Boy Who Set Out to Study Fear, studied puberty instead. And das Goose Girl, learned fraulein can be assertive.

If you ask me, it comes to dis: Too much understanding und not enough belief.

This essay originally appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times Book Review (July 15, 1984) where, in the contributor note, I was identified in the following fashion: “Griswold (Greiswald, in German, or ‘old man’s woods’) specializes in lupine literature at San Diego State.” The essay sparked kind words, including a letter to the editor printed in the Review’s August 19 issue where one J.E. Hill (from Long Beach) named it “one of the best reviews I have read in a long life of reading book reviews” and went on to elaborate its virtues. On my part, I wish to nominate J.E. Hill’s letter-to-the-editor as among the best I have ever encountered in the Book Review.

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16. November 2016 by
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