Happy new year lovely readers!
It’s that time again; once more we delve into the world of fairy tale and myth for comparative purposes. Game Ogre starts off with one of the most memorable quotes in the modern history of English folklore and fairy tales, in my opinion.
The opening quote is actually recognisable for it’s immediate intimation that something a Bit Not Good has occurred, and brings to mind the unfortunate demise of somebody in the near future.
We become aware all at once that the tale this episode is based on is the English story “Jack and the Beanstalk.” After a little rustling about, and some swearing when I realised that good old Jack wasn’t actually of Grimm Brothers invention, I found the original Jacobs version (c. 1890 approx.) in a new volume I recently purchased called The World Treasury of Fairy Tales & Folklore, which quite brilliantly is organised by time period. The book is stunning as well, so I would definitely recommend it if you want to delve a bit more into the Olde Tales!
Anyway, the original quote as written in Jacobs’ version of the story is but a bit longer than the excerpt used in the show: a mere few lines longer, in fact:
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”
Evidently, not an ogre you’d be keen to meet, unlike Edward from the film version of Hansel & Gretel. It is also mentioned throughout the story that the ogre made frequent meals of young boys, presumably so as to reduce any sympathy for the ogre once is fate becomes clear. It works. No sympathy here.
If you don’t know the story of Jack and the beanstalk, it goes essentially like this: Jack lives with his mother in a state of pretty extreme poverty, dependent entirely upon the money they can make by selling milk from their cow at the market every day. Eventually, the cow stops giving milk and it is decided she must be sold if they want to eat, and Jack’s mother sends him off to the market to sell her. On the way, he runs into an old man who convinces Jack to take five beans in exchange for the cow, as they are magic beans and will grow overnight up to the sky. Jack, being a teenage boy, thinks that is quite grand and the deal is struck. Of course, when Jack gets home is mother is less than impressed and after throwing the beans out the window, sends Jack to bed. Lo and behold, when Jack awakes the next morning there is a giant beanstalk growing so far up that the top disappears into the clouds. Being a young boy, Jack thinks its a fine idea to climb up and see what it’s about. He does this a total of three times, each time stealing something from the ogre’s house after narrowly escaping becoming lunch, at first by the aid of the ogre’s wife and then by just keeping his wits about him. On his first trip, he steals a bag of gold; on his second trip, a hen that lays golden eggs. On his third trip, he steals a golden harp that sings on it’s own, and actually calls the ogre for help once it realises that Jack is stealing it. Jack manages to get down the beanstalk first by virtue of a decent headstart and, I would assume, sheer panic, and takes to the beanstalk with an axe, felling it and killing the ogre in one fell swoop. Thus do Jack and his mother have a hen that lays golden eggs and a harp that sings on his own. Their fortunes are made and Jack eventually marries a princess, living happily ever after.
Clearly, this is not a Grimm Brothers tale. It has a happy ending.
In terms of how well the NBC’s Grimm deals with the tale, the episode actually holds fairly well to the idea of the ogre. The character is enormous, a violent convicted criminal of the homicidal variety, and fixated on revenge upon those who he perceives as having wronged him in some way. The episode centres around this quest to obtain a twisted idea of justice in the form of vengeance, and yes, it is a mite more overtly violent than Jacobs’ version of the tale. It too, has a happy ending but the road to get there has more than a few lumps, bumps, and broken Grimms. NBC did a good job of modernising this tale and tuning it to the detective procedural nature of the show, and I feel like they’re really getting into the swing of it in this episode. I also appreciate how, despite Nick Burkhardt’s supernatural heritage and above-average strength, speed and agility, you do see him getting injured in this show and saved by his girlfriend Juliette, via some excellently-aimed boiling water. It lends the show a realism that you can’t find in shows where the protagonist is seemingly invincible unless a particularly plot line requires him to be injured in some way that befits the story as a whole.
If you’ve seen this episode or read the original tale, or you watch the show or just generally have any questions, let me know in the comments or send me a message through the Contact Me page!
Main image credit and story illustration credit: The World Treasury of Fairy Tales & Folklore (2016) New York: Wellfleet Press, Quarto Publishing Group
Quote image credits: NBC’s Grimm