Grimm Tales vs. Television: Danse Macabre

Here we are at episode 5, season 1 of NBC’s Grimm! This episode is titled “Danse Macabre” (Dance of Death), which gives you a pretty decent creep factor right from the get-go.

The opening quote of this episode, for me personally, is one of the creepiest so far. I hate rats. Despise them. Also, they freak me the f*** out, I honestly think it’s the tails. Yegh.

On the plus side, it is patently obvious exactly which fairy tale (hah!) this episode is going to be based on. I think it is safe to say that most people who have grown up in Western countries have at the very least heard of the Pied Piper. Now, you may not know the tale itself or where the reference actually comes from, but I bet you recognize what the phrase ‘Pied Piper’ means when you hear it used.

The Grimm Brothers put out two versions on this particular tale, depending on which source you go to. Neither appear in my illustrated edition, because it apparently was considered to be based on a true story and thus had no place in the fairy tales of the Grimm brothers. Who knew? There have been many variations, translations, interpretations and versions of the tale of the Pied Piper, and the Grimm Brothers’ tales are called The Children of Hameln or The Ratcatcher (thank you, University of Pittsburgh!).

Long ago (and far away….), in the town of Hameln in Germany, the villagers were suffering from a plague of rats which were ruining food, clothing, and just generally making a bloody nuisance of themselves. Also, I’m thinking that they didn’t really have health departments back then but can we TALK ABOUT HOW MISERABLY DISGUSTING that would have been. Anyway, so the village is suffering a plague of rats. One day, a man came to the village and made a deal with the townsfolk; if they made it worth his while, he would soon rid the village of every rodent therein. The man was clothed in a brightly-coloured patchwork jacket, and so was called the Pied Piper (pied meaning to have two or more colours). After the villagers agreed to pay the Piper for getting rid of the rats, he proceeded to do so; playing a particular tune on his pipes (sources vary on whether it was a pan pipe or bagpipes), rats converged on his location and followed him into the river where the drowned.

However, on his return to the village to collect his reward, the villagers refused to pay him the agreed-upon sum. Angry, he warned the villagers that their heirs would pay if they would not. They still refused him, and so he left.

That night (or the next day; again, sources vary) the Piper returned, though dressed as a hunter. When the adults were all at Church, he began to play again a tune on his pipes; this time, instead of rodents it was children that flocked toward and followed him. When the parents returned from Church, there were but three children remaining in all the village; one was blind and could not follow. One was injured and could not keep up. The last, in his excitement, had hurt himself and could not follow the other children into the cave in the mountainside before it closed up behind the Piper and the other children. Panicked and furious, the villagers made haste to the mountain but could find no trace of the cave, nor of the children lost. In total, one hundred and thirty children had been abducted, and were never again seen by their families.

Of course, the episode of NBC’s Grimm is a little different to the original legend, though it does draw heavily upon the narrative. Interestingly, this tale utilizes both actual rats (this was so uncomfortable to watch oh my god rats make my skin crawl) and a rat Wesen; a Reinegen. In addition, rather than any sort of pipes, the instrument (weapon?) in question is a violin, which is played quite fantastically by the young protagonist I have to say. Like many of Grimm‘s episodes, the central mystery/crime of the episode is a murder. And really, this one is just gross. This whole episode just gives me the wiggins, it really does. Watch it!

If you watch the show or have read any of the Grimm Brothers’ tales, leave a comment below or send me a message via the Contact Me page!


Main image credit: The Ratcatcher as retold by Charles Marelle, from The Red Fairy Book by Andrew Lang, 1890.

Quote image credits: NBC’s Grimm

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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