Grimm Tales vs. Television: Bears Will Be Bears

Hello hello, and welcome to the second episode of of the Grimm Tales vs. Television series!

First off, let me apologize for me total absence for…yeah, for around five months. All I can say is, I haven’t stopped reading and I haven’t stopped noting down ideas for content but I have had a lot of work piled on and the blog fell by the wayside a bit. I am getting a handle on all of my commitments now though, so hopefully I’ll be a bit more useful in future!

The opening quote of this episode, with a less-creepy background than the pilot episode, is this:

This is actually very close to the original quote (at least according to the version of of the tale that I read), which was written like so:

“She could not have been a good, honest old Woman ; for first she looked in at the window, and then she peeped in at the keyhole ; and seeing nobody in the house, she lifted the latch.”

So, episode 2 of the first season of Grimm is titled “Bears will be bears,” and is, evidently, based on the very well-known tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I feel like the show started with the most well-known of these old tales and fables in order to draw people in with the familiar, before creeping and freaking them out with the unfamiliar. I mean, it worked. So….

However, unlike the pilot episode and many other episodes of the show, this episode is not based on a story that the Grimm Brothers popularized, or even had a version of. The story of Goldilocks that we are all so familiar with is in fact a modified version of a short story written by Robert Southey in the 1830s, under the name “The Story of the Three Bears.” Given that the Grimm Brothers never got their hands on this one, I didn’t have it in my collection (anywhere in my collection in any form, actually, which was both disheartening and disquieting to realize). I found the text of the original story through the digital collection of Southey’s works maintained by The University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries. Like most of the stories of this nature, it was quite short; a mere two and a half pages!

The differences between the popularized Goldilocks version and the original Southey version are almost immediately apparent. For instance, it wasn’t a young girl with hair of gold in the story of Southey’s devising; it was an old woman, and actually described as a vagrant. The general plot remains the same, but it is odd how the feelings change toward the characters when the character of the young girl is actually an old woman. They commit the same wrongs, the same thievery, but it somehow seems so much worse when it is an old woman! Additionally, once discovered the old woman leaps out of the window and…. you never find out what happened to her. Certainly the bears never find out. The story offers several alternative fates: breaking her neck after tumbling out the window; running into the woods and becoming lost forevermore; or being picked up by the local constable and sent to jail for vagrancy.

In the NBC episode, we see the Goldilocks version rather than the old woman version. A young woman named Gilda and her boyfriend Rocky, ascertaining that nobody is home, break into a large house in the woods. The eat the food, drink the wine, try on the clothes, and…test the softness and quality of the mattresses. All in the interests of science, I’m sure. Our little criminals are interrupted in their merry-making by somebody arriving home…three bears in fact, and certainly far less friendly than the original tale had told. I won’t say much more because the show is well worth watching, and I do recommend going and getting season 1 at least.

Grimm does a good job of weaving the themes of the original tales through their episodes, or at least they have so far. There are many similarities: the large house in the woods belonging to three bears, which is broken into and certain liberties taken by the interloper. At one point, Gilda even escapes out of the upstairs window much like the original old Woman of Southey’s tale. And, because of the Wesen element of the whole show, the fact that there are talking bears is actually way more believable than in the original tale, which, you know, had proper, from-the-woods bears having convos in English and living in houses and cooking porridge.

I quite enjoyed researching and reading the original version of another tale we all recognize but do not really know. I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts and findings, and if there is a particular episode you would like me to write a post on, let me know in the comments or sending me a message through the Contact Me page.


Main image credit: NBC’s Grimm

Text image credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries Literature Collection, Robert Southey’s The Doctor (1848), p.328

Quote image credits: Grimm Season 1 Episode 2

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

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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