Grimm Tales vs. Television: Pilot Episode

Ok, first episode! Incredibly originally, as far as I can see the first episode of this show was only ever called the pilot, so…. yeah. Pilot episode.  Now, Grimm started off with what is possibly the most well-known “fairy tale” in the Western world; Little Red Riding Hood.

However, what many people don’t seem to realize is that the original tale, by the Grimm Brothers (and probably a multitude of others, I realize, but now is not the time to be quibbling about a tales’ origins. This is my blog, and I am using the Grimm Brothers version, ok? Ok.) oh so many moons ago (see what I did there? Moons. Wolves. Hah), is actually quite a depressing tale. Like so many of the old tales, and honestly people, Disney took some massive liberties when spinning his versions.

The quote from the beginning of the pilot episode of Grimm with a suitably creepy background is this:

“The wolf thought to himself, what a tender young creature. What a nice plump mouthful…”


I don’t pretend to have memorized all of Grimm’s tales, but even I could figure this one out. However, it did take some Googling to figure out what the name of the Grimm tale actually was, since it isn’t actually Little Red Riding Hood. As it turns out, the name of the original tale is Little Red-Cap. Now, I have the 1989 Chancellor Press hardcover of The Complete Illustrated Stories of The Grimm Brothers, so I’ll be using that version for comparison purposes and also for any pictures I post here of the actual tales. And in my version, which is clearly awesome and the only version anyone really needs (thanks, Maman!), the quote is ever-so-slightly different, and reads like so:

“But the Wolf thought to himself, “She is a nice tender thing, and will taste better than the old woman: I must act craftily, that I may snap them both up.”

Now, the original tale, like most Grimm stories, is short and, well, grim. Rarely (if ever) is there a happy ending in the Grimm Brothers’ stories that I have read so far, though that isn’t as many as it should be! In the original, Little Red-Cap is lured off the path her mother told her to stay on by the Wolf, who managed the task by telling her there were many beautiful flowers she could pick if she but left the path. Thinking of a bouquet for her mother, Little Red-Cap left the path. The Wolf used the time she spent searching for flowers to speed over to the grandmother’s cottage, whereupon he entered and gobbled up the grandmother, donned her nightgown and cap, and waited for Little Red-Cap’s arrival. When she does arrive, flowers in hand, she too is gobbled up by the Wolf after remarking on his eyes and teeth. A hunter happens upon the cottage, and seeing the Wolf there, clearly recently having eaten, shoots him.

That’s it, that’s the story.

Mostly. There is an alternate ending, which says that there are those who say the first story is a load of tosh, and the Little Red-Cap hurries along to her grandmother’s cottage after meeting the Wolf at the edge of the forest, and tells her grandmother all about the encounter. This time, when the Wolf arrives at the grandmother’s cottage they are ready for him, and keep very quiet. When the Wolf jumps up onto the roof to lay in wait for Little Red-Cap, she and her grandmother pour into a trough some water that had been used to cook sausages in the day before. The Wolf, smelling the water and becoming even hungrier, overbalances and falls off the roof, and into the full trough wherein he drowns.

So ends the tale of Little Red-Cap. Fun, isn’t it? Not what you thought is was, was it? Hah. I never felt so betrayed as the day I read Grimm tales for the first time and realized popular culture had out-and-out lied about certain tales. I mean, really. Although, not the sort of thing you really want modern kiddies dwelling upon, I suppose….

Anyway. The American TV programme Grimm is, of course, only loosely based on these tales. There are both similarities and differences. One major difference, as a matter of course, is the time period; the Grimm Brothers tales are from way back in the day, and Grimm is set in the current day. Our unfortunate victims, the television representations of Little Red-Cap, actually wear red sweaters. It is the red sweater that draws the attention of the Wolf, who in this instance is a goddamned creepy… well, I won’t give everything away. You should watch the show.

It is when the second victim of the episode is taken that the echoes of the tale start to shine through. A little girl takes a path home that she knows she isn’t supposed to, that her parents have forbidden her to take, and becomes the newest victim of the Wolf. The episode revolves around the work of the Portland police departments to get her safely back to her parents. It is the introduction of one police detective, Nick Burkhardt, to the weird and wonderful world of the Wesen, the creatures which feature in so many Grimm Brothers’ tales. It is also his introduction to his own family history as a Grimm, a hunter of the Wesen, the bad ones at least.

The Wolf is eventually outwitted, and at least in this episode both endings of the original tale are offered; one Little Red-Cap is eaten;the other is saved, though certainly not by the wits of her grandmother. The Wolf does get shot, but not by the Hunter. Nobody gets any flowers though, which is a bit of a shame, all things considered.

Now, I don’t think you can really ‘enjoy’ reading the Grimm Brothers’ tales, because thus far there isn’t actually much about them that is truly enjoyable. However, Little Red-Cap is an interesting tale if nothing else, and it certainly is eye-opening to find out how much popular culture has changed the general view and understanding of the original work.


Book image credits: The Complete Illustrated Stories of The Grimm Brothers (1989) London: Chancellor Press, Octopus Books Ltd

Quote image credit: Grimm Season 1 Episode 1

Categories: Fairy Tales, Grimm Brothers, Grimm Season 1, Grimm: Tales vs. Television

Tags: , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. And there was me thinking it was just one of those ‘stranger danger’ stories, so were these grimm tales originally seen as life lessons?


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