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Creator / The Brothers Grimm

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"Bring on the Grimm!"note 

"Nearly all my labours have been devoted, either directly or indirectly, to the investigation of our earlier language, poetry and laws. These studies may have appeared to many, and may still appear, useless; to me they have always seemed a noble and earnest task, definitely and inseparably connected with our common fatherland, and calculated to foster the love of it. My principle has always been in these investigations to under-value nothing, but to utilize the small for the illustration of the great, the popular tradition for the elucidation of the written monuments."
Jacob Grimm

Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (4 January 1785 – 20 September 1863) and Wilhelm Carl Grimm (24 February 1786 – 16 December 1859), known collectively as The Brothers Grimm, were German linguists born in the late 18th century, who, in an effort to preserve Germany's heritage and promote cultural unity in a period of political disunity, collected a vast array of folk tales from their fellow Germans (mostly middle- and upper-class friends). The brothers eventually published these stories in the famous collection which they called Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), but which is generally better known among English-speakers as Grimms' Fairy Tales. Germans of a certain generation may know their faces from the last issue (1990-2002) of German banknotes where they appeared on the DM 1000 ,- note.

While the original intent of the collection was to preserve the stories exactly as told, the Grimms gave in more and more in each new edition to the temptation to make various "improving" alterations. The scholarly Jacob sought to establish more Germanic forms of the stories by replacing foreign words such as "Prinz" and Prinzessin with Teutonic terms such "Königssohn" and Königstochter, replacing The Fair Folk with enchantresses and wise women and by supplying missing plot-elements from historic sources; the more creative-minded Wilhelm tried to make the stories more acceptable to a popular audience (presumably including children), by selectively Bowdlerizing the tales published, notably removing evil mothers and replacing them with step-mothers (as in the case of "Snow White"), by removing implications of sex and pregnancy (as in "Rapunzel"), and by re-writing the stories in a more literary style. (Though they notably did not tone down the violence, even for the children.)

Standards of child-friendliness have shifted in the past 200 years; some of the Grimms' stories are now considered shockingly violent—and at least one of them, "The Jew in the Thorns", notoriously ethnically insensitive. (Similar stories appear in the Grimms' other, more adult, story collection, Deutsche Sagen (German Legends).) The... well, grim nature of many of the original stories have made the Grimm Brothers the Trope Namer for Grimmification. It should be noted, however, that some of the tales included by the Grimms were not intended for children in the first place—hence the distinction made in the name of their popular collection.

Although many of the Grimms' fairy tales now languish in obscurity, a significant chunk of these stories remain in the popular consciousness. Those with pages of their own on this site include:

Full collection here, here, here, in the Project Gutenberg and the World of Tales website.

Although the Grimms' collection does contain a version of "Cinderella" ("Aschenputtel"), the better known version is based on an earlier story by Charles Perrault. "Sleeping Beauty" and "Little Red Riding Hood" also appeared first in Perrault, but the Grimms' versions ("Dornröschen" and "Rotkäppchen") are better known. One of their stories, "The Summer And Winter Garden", is usually referred as "Beauty and the Beast", and even though the stories follow the same formula, they begin and end slightly different, and despite popular belief, Brothers Grimm did not write "Beauty and the Beast". It is worth mentioning that the Grimms, as mentioned above, mainly collected their material from middle- and upper-class friends. Those often had ties to other countries and cultures. Several of them were in fact of French ancestry (i.e. Marie Hassenpflug and Dorothea Viehmann), thus the "German" tales collected were not always necessarily of German origin.

While best known today for their fairy tales and mythological studies (such as the monumental Deutsche Mythologie (Germanic Mythology), they were also pioneers in linguistics (Jacob in particular is remembered for Grimm's Law of Consonantal Shift), wrote the first bit of the German dictionary, and were two out of the "Göttingen Seven," the prominent liberal professors at Gōttingen University whose dismissal by the autocratic Ernst August, King of Hanover (who, somewhat confusingly, was born and raised in the far more liberal Britainnote ) caused a major stir in 1830s Germany.

The Grimms were the subject of a highly fantasticated Musical Biopic in 1962, called The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, with Karlheinz Böhm as Jacob and Laurence Harvey as Wilhelm; the film won 1 Oscar (Costume Design) and was nominated for 3 more. In 1998, the brothers, played by Andy Henderson and Joerg Stadler, made an appearance in Ever After: A Cinderella Story (despite the film being a riff more on the Perrault than on the Grimm version of "Cinderella"). In 2005, Terry Gilliam made The Brothers Grimm, a decidedly unsettling reinterpretation; Heath Ledger and Matt Damon were the brethren in this outing. The Grimms in the form of Allen Smith and Millen Baird were deconstructed in the 2006 film Big Bad Wolves.

The Grimms, this time portrayed by Dean Jones and Paul Sand, were also the subject of a well-remembered 1977 TV movie, Once Upon a Brothers Grimm, which was nominated for 5 Emmys, winning 2. They also had cameos in the webcomic Hetalia: Axis Powers, working with the Anthropomorphic Personification of Prussia.

An anime series, Gurimu Meisaku Gekijou (retitled Shin Gurimu Meisaku Gekijou in its second season and shown on Western television under various titles such as "Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics") was produced in 1987-1988. Not all were actually found in the Grimms' collections. The webcomic Erstwhile is another modern collection of some of their tales.

Examples of tropes in the Grimms' folk tales:

  • Abusive Parents: Well, step-parents, anyway.
    • In a lot of cases, this was an example of editing on the part of the Grimms themselves. One of their areas of emphasis was on the virtue of a good, German family, so they changed all abusive mothers in stories to step-mothers.
  • Animorphism: Many fairytales deal with breaking an enchantment that has turned someone into an animal.
  • Antagonist Title: In "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs", the main character must get three hairs from the head of the Devil. "The Robber Bridegroom" and "Fitcher's Bird" are named after a serial killer.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • In "Faithful John", John is turned to stone for explaining his apparently senseless behavior. The king and queen learn they can restore him by cutting the throats of their twin children and using the blood. After they do so, the revived Faithful John puts the children's heads back and restores them to life.
    • In "Fitcher's Bird", the heroine restores her sisters after they have been hacked to pieces.
    • In "The Juniper Tree", after the stepson has been killed and cooked by his Wicked Stepmother, eaten by his father, and had his bones buried by his half-sister, he comes back as a bird. After killing his stepmother, he comes back to life as a boy.
  • Bag of Holding: In "All-Kinds-of-Fur" (link), the princess can store her three beautiful dresses in a nutshell.
  • Balloon Belly: Deconstructed in "The Wolf and the Fox". Both eponymous characters partake in feasting on a hunter's supply of salted meat. The fox notices that he's putting on weight, and he keeps checking to see if he'll fit through a hole they used to climb inside. The wolf ignores the fox's warning not to eat so much, insisting that he won't leave until he's cleaned house. By the time the hunter decides to check on his stash, the fattened wolf is unable to escape and gets beaten to death.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: In "Maid Maleen", the false bride has "a face as ugly as her heart was wicked".
  • Bedtime Brainwashing: In German Legends (''Deustche Sagen), the Grimm collected stories of the alps, demonic supernatural creatures that sit on a sleeping person's chest and cause her or him to have nightmares.
  • The Bluebeard: "Fitcher's Bird" and "The Robber Bridegroom" are this. Bluebeard appeared in the first edition but was cut as French, not German.
  • Bride and Switch:
    • In "The White Bride and the Black One", the Wicked Stepmother pushes the heroine out of the coach into the water to substitute her own child.
    • In "Maid Maleen", the princess, working as Scullery Maid, is asked to substitute herself for the bride by the bride herself, who either wants to hide her ugliness or her pregnancy. Alas for the bride, this means that Maid Maleen can reveal that she's the prince's old love, not actually dead.
  • Bystander Syndrome: There's at least one character in almost each of their fairy tale versions that undergoes this, which usually allows the villain to do as they please before the plot and/or protagonist foils them (and also may tie into a majority of the adults being absentminded and/or villainous themselves). To describe a few:
    • In the original The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats/Kids tale, the wolf goes to a miller in order to paint his hands and feet white to fool the young goats. The miller is argued to be in a position to outright refuse to give service, only he gives in to the wolf's threats of eating him with the quote "Yes indeed, that's the way people are".
    • The groom of the princess in The Six Swans/The Twelve Brothers both gives into his mother's decision to burn her at the stake and does nothing at all to intervene in the situation. Same applies to the original siblings' mother that doesn't bother to directly oppose her husband's decision to execute his 12 sons.
    • The father in Cinderella does nothing to stand up for her daughter's abuse, nor does he seem to notice the memory of his late initial wife.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In the Goose Girl at the Well, a king asks his daughters how much they love him, their answers decide how much of the kingdom they will get. The youngest daughter says that "The best food does not taste good without salt, therefore I love my father as I love salt", what does the king do? He divides the kingdom between her older sisters and sends her deep into the forest with a bag of salt bound to her back.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?:
    • In "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs", a king who discovers finds his daughter doomed to marry a poor man tries to kill him with many tasks, before and after the wedding; in the end, he fails.
    • In "Ferdinand the Faithful", after being slandered, Ferdinand must get a bride for the king and then all the things she demands before she will marry him. However, in the end, the bride tricks the king into letting her kill him, and then marries Ferdinand.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending:
  • Eats Babies: In "The Evil Mother-in-Law", which is more or less identical to the second part of Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty", the eponymous mother-in-law attempts to eat the heroine's children.
  • Egg Sitting: In Fitcher's Bird, the sorcerer Fitze Fitcher carries young women and gives them an egg, then tells them to carry it everywhere except the sorcerer's room and to be very careful with it for a few days before he can marry them. Failure to pass the test results in the women getting dismembered.
  • Elective Mute: The princess in "The Six Swans" is forbidden to speak a word while working on the shirts to undo the curse on her brothers.
  • Engagement Challenge:
  • Evil Matriarch:
    • "Hansel and Gretel" had an evil mother rather than a wicked stepmother in the first edition.
    • In "One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes", the mother cannot stand her second daughter because she has two eyes. So, she -together with her other daughters- strikes and insults Two-Eyes, forces her to wear rags and eat leftovers. Tellingly, Two-Eyes eventually forgives her sisters but not her mother.
    • In "Snow White" as the Brothers Grimm collected it, the queen actively abandoned the princess in the forest — telling her to get out of the carriage to gather roses and then driving on. In their first edition, they introduced the huntsman to tone it down. After that, they turned to the Wicked Stepmother.
  • Evil Mentor: In The Thief and His Master, the father only has to pay if he can't recognize his son, but the master uses magic to prevent him. And when the father succeeds, he tries to reclaim the boy.
  • Exact Eavesdropping:
    • In "Faithful John", Faithful John hears of the peril the king and his bride are in from ravens who happen to be talking of it and the magical curse that will fall on anyone who says it.
    • "Rumpelstiltskin" features a character - usually a servant, depending on the telling - overhearing the eponymous imp in the woods gloating about how the princess will never guess that his name is Rumplestiltskin.
    • In "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs" has the protagonist overhear the devil give the solutions to the three problems he encountered on his journey there, in his sleep.
  • Fairy Godmother:
    • In "Sleeping Beauty", she had twelve. However, after they made their initially good wishes, the fairies do never return to aid Sleeping Beauty.
    • Deconstructed in the story of "Rapunzel": Dame Gothel, the witch who keeps Rapunzel prisoner, is not only her godmother (which is the actual meaning of "Dame Gothel"), but was a fairy in earlier versions, including the Grimm's original publication. This is also the case in early French versions.
    • In "One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes", the heroine, Two Eyes, is aided by a mysterious lady. Some translations and retellings refer to her as her fairy godmother.
    • In "The True Bride" (link), a mysterious fairy helps the heroine complete three Impossible Tasks demanded by her stepmother. Once again, some translations and retellings refer to her as her fairy godmother.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • In "Faithful John", the king is thinking to execute Faithful John because of his apparently absurd behavior. John explains and falls under the curse — he is turned to stone. Then the king and queen learn they can restore him by killing their twin children and using the blood. (However, after they have done so, the revived Faithful John restores their children to life.)
    • In "Ferdinand the Faithful", at the end, the queen likes Ferdinand better than her husband. So she declares she can cut off people's heads and restore them; the king makes her demonstrate it on Ferdinand, and then she cuts off his — but then says something went wrong, so she can't put it back on, and marries Ferdinand instead.
    • In "Fitcher's Bird", Fitcher has a room where he keeps bodies he has hewn apart. Two sisters end up dead there, but the third rescues them, and then Fitcher and his friends are burned to death in the house.
    • In "Frau Trude", the little girl goes to a witch's house, where the witch turns her into a block of wood and burns her.
    • In "The Juniper Tree", the Wicked Stepmother chops her child stepson's head off with a heavy lid, then makes her daughter believe she did it. To hide the body, she cooks it into a stew and feeds it to the father. Later, the evil stepmother is crushed by a falling millstone.
    • In "The Robber Bridegroom", the heroine hides in the robbers' lair and sees them tear a captive woman to pieces.
    • In "The Singing Bone", the younger brother is murdered by the envious elder. His corpse rots, someone retrieves a bone from it and makes a flute, and the flute begins to sing of the murder.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence:
    • In "The Wonderful Musician", the musician traps wild animals to keep them away from him.
    • In "The Girl Without Hands", the Devil insists that the miller chop off his daughter's hands.
    • In "The Three Little Birds", the heroine's sisters throw her babies into a river, trying to drown them.
    • In "Aschenputtel", the evil stepsisters first cut off pieces of their feet to fit the golden slipper, and later had their eyes pecked out by birds who were avenging Ashenputtal.
  • Fear-Induced Idiocy: In the story "Straw, Coal, and Bean", if Coal had calmly walked along the Straw, they would have continued their journey. But no, it was necessary, having heard the splash of water under you, to stop in the middle and yell: "I'm afraid of water, I'm afraid of water!" The straw, of course, while he was shouting, ignited, and the failed travelers drowned in the stream.
  • The Fool: Quite a lot of stories are simply amusing anecdotes about foolish people, without any supernatural element at all.
  • Godiva Hair:
    • In "Mary's Child", the heroine uses her very long hair to protect herself from the elements after her clothing falls apart.
      When the sun shone warmly again she went outside and sat in front of the tree. Her long hair covered her on all sides like a cloak.
    • In "The Nix in the Mill-Pond", the nixie's long and flowing hair cascades down her shoulders and conceals her naked body.
      Turning around, he saw a beautiful woman rising slowly out of the water. Her long hair, which she was holding above her shoulders with her soft hands, flowed down on both sides, and covered her white body. He saw very well that she was the nixie of the pond, and he was so frightened that he did not know whether to run away or stay where he was.
  • Greedy Jew: The subject of the infamously antisemitic story "The Jew Among Thorns", who is punished, tortured, extorted, and ultimately executed by the protagonist on the grounds that, being a Jew, he must have come by his goods dishonestly. And they all lived Happily Ever After. Not surprisingly, this story is generally the first to be cut from modern editions.
  • Grimmification: Surprisingly, although they're the trope namers for their often Family-Unfriendly Violence, this trope is just as often averted. Once they realized that Kinder- und Hausmärchen was being read by children, they Bowdlerized some of the sex and violence for subsequent editions.
  • Headless Horseman: German Legends (Deutsche Sagen) includes two German folk tales of a headless horseman:
    • One is set near Dresden in eastern Germany. In this tale, a woman from Dresden goes out early one Sunday morning to gather acorns in a forest. At a place called "Lost Waters", she hears a hunting horn. When she hears it again, she turns around she sees a headless man in a long grey coat sitting on a grey horse.
    • In another, set in Brunswick, a headless horseman called "the wild huntsman" blows a horn which warns hunters not to ride the next day, because they will meet with an accident.
  • Impossible Task: In "The Peasant's Clever Daughter", a king promises he will marry the heroine if she can appear before him "not clothed, not naked, not riding, not walking, not in the road, and not out of the road". The peasant's daughter wraps herself in a fishnet that is being dragged by a donkey along the edge of the road.
  • Impossible Theft: In "The Master Thief" (link), the Count challenges the main character to carry out several extraordinarly hard robberies: "Well, then, in the first place, thou shalt steal the horse I keep for my own riding, out of the stable; in the next, thou shalt steal the sheet from beneath the bodies of my wife and myself when we are asleep, without our observing it, and the wedding-ring of my wife as well; thirdly and lastly, thou shalt steal away out of the church, the parson and clerk. Mark what I am saying, for thy life depends on it." The master thief manages to steal all of them.
  • "Just So" Story: "The Hedge-King" explains why owls are nocturnal mice-hunters, lapwings dwell in marshes, larks fly high in the morning and wrens skulk around bushes and are called "hedge-kings".
  • Karmic Death: In "The Robber Bridegroom", the seemingly charming and pleasant bridegroom is a cannibalistic serial killer who lures women to be eaten by he and his men. When a victim's finger is severed, it lands in the bodice of the young heroine who later uses it as proof to prove the bridegroom and his men are murderers, resulting in their executions.
  • Karmic Jackpot: In "The Queen Bee", the youngest prince helps some animals the beginning of his quest, and they all turn up at the end to help him do the impossible tasks.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: In "Snow-White-Fire-Red" and "The True Sweetheart", the hero is magically forced to forget the heroine.
  • Liminal Time: In some tales, the heroine is particularly vulnerable to an abduction and substitution at two in-between states: a Bride and Switch when she's going to her wedding, such as in "The White Bride And The Black One" (link)'' and "The Goose Girl"; and when she has first given birth, transitioning between childlessness and maternity, as in "Brother and Sister".
  • Merciful Minion: In "The Girl Without Hands", in the first edition the mother-in-law's servants spare her when the mother-in-law orders her taken to the forest and killed; in the second and later ones, the mother-in-law receives the letter ordering her death and sends her away to avoid it.
  • Nameless Narrative: Most of the fairy tales; where characters have names, they're often descriptions, like "Snow White" or "Little Red Riding Hood". "Hänsel and Gretel" is an exception, but even there the names weren't meant to be distinctive; in the Grimms' time and place, they were so common as to be nearly as generic as "Boy" and "Girl".
    • The variation of The Six Swans known as The Twelve Brothers has a unique variation of this with one of the title characters being named, but not the princess who is the supposed protagonist of the story.
  • Noble Fugitive:
  • Noble Wolf: According to "The Lord's Animals and the Devil's", wolves are created by God and are, in fact, God's dogs. Meanwhile the Devil creates goats, which, true to their creator's destructive nature, ruin fruit-bearing trees and grapevines with their gnawing. God is displeased "so that in his goodness and mercy" he sends the wolves to kill the misbehaving goats.
  • No Ending: "The Golden Key." The story ends as the reader waits for the boy to unlock the box.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: The "Wicked Mother-In-Law" is fragmentary, but we do know she wants to kill her daughter-in-law. In the first edition, the mother-in-law was the villain in the second part of "The Girl Without Hands."
  • Old Beggar Test:
    • In "Snow White" the Evil Queen invokes the fact that Snow White's good nature would make her an obvious candidate to pass the test and so disguises herself as a beggar woman so that she will not be questioned, giving Snow White a poison apple.
    • In "The Star Money", an unnamed, orphaned girl is poor and homeless; she has only her clothing and a loaf of bread that a kindhearted soul has given her. She is a goodhearted person, however, and so she goes out into the countryside to see what might happen. She gives a hungry man her bread, and to three cold children she gives her cap, her jacket, and her dress. In a forest, she sees a naked child begging for a shift, and since it was dark and she cannot be seen, she gives her own shift away. As she stands with nothing left at all, suddenly stars fall to earth before her, becoming talers, and she finds herself wearing a different shift of the finest linen. The story ends with her being rich.
    • Dummling in "The Golden Goose" shares his humble lunch with a hermit, after his two older brothers snubbed the same hermit and suffered nasty wood-cutting accidents. Not only does the hermit turn the hero's dry bread and water into cakes and wine as a sign of gratitude, but he tells him where to find the eponymous golden goose.
    • In "The Water Of Life" (here), the king's two older sons are rude to the dwarf when he asks what they are doing, and are magically trapped; the youngest is polite, and is told how to get what he's after.
    • In "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", the hero generally has to have done some good for the old woman to get the knowledge how to save the princesses.
    • In "The Three Little Birds" (here), two brothers in turn encounter an old woman on their quests and tell her she will have no luck fishing where she is. Their sister follows them and tells her, "May God bless your fishing," and so learns how to complete the quest and save her brothers.
  • Rags to Royalty:
    • In "The Girl Without Hands", the miller's daughter marries a king; then the Devil conspires against her, she is driven out to the wilderness, but the king follows her and she regains her place.
    • In "The Three Little Birds", the king's children are abandoned and grow up in ignorance of their birth, until a magic bird informs the king and children of the truth.
    • In "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs", a poor boy is foretold to be married to a princess, and does.
    • In "All-Kinds-Of-Fur", a princess is forced to flee her home, and lives in a forest and then as a scullery maid before marrying a prince and becoming royalty again.
  • Rule of Seven: In "The Singing, Springing Lark", the husband-turned-dove must remain in bird form for seven years.
  • Rule of Three:
  • Sapient Eat Sapient: In "The Wolf and the Fox", the former character threatens to eat the latter if he doesn't provide a place to find food.
  • Satan: Pops up as a villain in a few of the tales, like "The Girl Without Hands" or "The Grave Mound".
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • In "The Three Little Birds", two brothers tell a fishing woman that she won't catch fish where she is, and end up failing their quests; then, their sister tells her "May God help you with your fishing," and receives a magic wand and advice.
    • In another tale, some kids have watched the adults slaughter a pig, think this is worth imitating, and slaughter a younger kid. All the adults are upset, of course, but they can't agree whether the kid is really guilty or not. Then, one wise man comes up with a solution: He offers two gifts to the kid, an apple and a golden coin, and tells the kid to choose one of them. The kid immediately takes the apple, and he explains: The kid is still naive, and thus innocent; but if the kid had taken the coin instead, this would have proved the guilt, since the kid must have had enough experience with the world to know that killing is wrong.
    • In "Choosing a Bride/The Cheese Test", a young man goes courting and meets three girls of appropriate age and social status, and is unable to choose between them. His mother suggests to serve each cheese with the rind still on, and watch how they eat it. The first girl eats the cheese rind and all, revealing that she is gluttonous and lazy. The second girl takes a knife and chops off the rind, but also a lot of the good cheese, revealing that she is wasteful and careless. The third trims off the rind without wasting any cheese, proving that she is attentive and hardworking.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
    • In "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs", a poor boy is foretold to be married to a princess, and does — largely as a result of the king's attempts to prevent it.
    • In "The Bright Sun Brings It to Light", a tailor's apprentice in need of money robs and murders a poor Jew who prophesies with his last breath that the apprentice won't get away with it because "the bright sun will bring [the crime] to light." Years pass and the apprentice eventually finds work, marries his boss' daughter and starts a family. One day, he notices the sun shining on his coffee and the reflection making circles on the walls and mutters "yes, it would like very much to bring it to light, and cannot!" His wife asks him what he means by this and pesters him until he admits his crime to her. She confides the secret to someone else and it soon becomes public knowledge. "And thus, after all, the bright sun did bring it to light."
  • Shape Dies, Shifter Survives: In this version of "The Golden Bird", a talking fox repeatedly helps the protagonist in his quest, asking only that he cut off its head and feet afterwards. The protagonist refuses out of sentiment until the end of the story, when killing the fox allows it to regain its true form as a human prince.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: "Cat and Mouse in Partnership"
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man:
    • In "Bearskin", the youngest daughter agrees to marry the frightful-looking hero because only a good man would have paid off a total stranger's debts.
    • In "The Golden Bird", the prince who brings back the golden bird for his father also brings back a princess; when his brothers try to kill him and threaten her, she does not stop grieving until the prince returns alive.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: In "The White Snake", a king can communicate with animals because he regularly eats a bite from a white snake. When the servant who serves the king his food secretly eats a piece of the snake, he gains the same ability and uses it to rise socially.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: While it's traditionally given the more upbeat translation "They all lived Happily Ever After", the original phrase at the end of many of the tales would be more accurately translated, "And they all lived happily until they died."
  • Thrown Down a Well: In The Golden Bird, the hero's envious brothers shove him down a well to kill him, and succeed in trapping him there.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In The Seven Swabians the titular seven Swabians go out in search of adventure and glory, but are so stupid and incompetent that they can't even deal with a foe that doesn't even fight back — the bulk of the story has them trying and failing to charge a sleeping hare, while thinking it's a great monster. The story ends with all seven of them trying to wade over a deep river and drowning. Some retellings of the story have them survive because a fisherman comes to help them, whereupon they all decide to give up adventuring and return home, where it's dry.
  • The Unreveal: "The Golden Key." A boy finds a buried box opened by a golden key, but you'll have to wait for him to unlock it before you find out what's inside.
  • Uptown Girl: In "The Peasant's Wise Daughter", (Die Kluge Bauerntochter) the titular character gets married to a king.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Devil in "The Girl with Silver Hands" is adverse to water. He orders the girl's hands chopped off because they're soaked with her tears. When he comes back and her arm stumps are now soaked as well, he decides it's too much trouble to collect her.
  • Wealthy Ever After:
    • "Hansel and Gretel" return home with money.
      And as they had no longer any cause for fear, they went in the old hag's house, and here they found, in every corner of the room, boxes with pearls and precious stones. "These are even better than pebbles," said Hansel, and crammed his pockets full of them; and Gretel said: "I too will bring something home," and she filled her apron full.
    • In The Peasant and the Devil, the peasant outwits the devil to lay claim to treasure in his field without giving anything for it.
    • In "The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was" staying in the haunted castle three nights wins the youth treasure as well as the king's reward.
      The old man led him back into the castle, and in a cellar showed him three chests full of gold. "Of these," said he, "one part is for the poor, the other for the king, the third is thine."
    • In "The Star Money", the girl becomes "rich for her whole life" after gathering the eponymous talers.
  • Wicked Stepmother: A classic villain in many a Grimm tale. Many were mothers in the first edition, though.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: In "The Drummer", the drummer spends three days at the witch's house, and when he returns home three years have passed.
  • Youkai: Nine-tailed foxes? Wonder where they got that idea...
  • Youngest Child Wins: Usually, though there are some exceptions. "One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes" is a rare case where a middle-child wins.

Alternative Title(s): Brothers Grimm, Grimm Brothers