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Literature / Frau Trude

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Frau Trude is a very short, very unsettling Fairy Tale collected by The Brothers Grimm. It can be read online here and here.

The story begins with a naughty girl who defies her parents' warning and goes to visit the mysterious Frau Trude. When the girl arrives, she tells the Frau of the frightening things she's seen, but one by one, Frau Trude reveals that the mysterious figures were just ordinary men: a coal miner, a hunter, and a butcher. But when the girl describes the scariest sight of all — a fire-headed demon — Frau Trude reveals that was none other than herself. She promptly turns the girl into a block of wood, throws it into the fireplace, and enjoys the warmth and light.

This is a cautionary tale warning children against parental disobedience, similar to "Little Red Riding Hood". For a fairy tale about a better-fated excursion to a witch's house, see "Vasilissa the Beautiful".

”Frau Trude” includes examples of:

  • Amazing Technicolor Population: On her journey, the girl sees a gray man, a green man, and a blood-red man. Frau Trude reveals that they are just normal men. This primes the girl for a similarly harmless explanation for the fire-headed devil, which never comes.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The witch turns the child to wood and enjoys the light.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The first three mysterious figures are just regular men, but the demon is the Frau's true form.
  • Downer Ending: The girl does not learn her lesson about obedience and dies in the house of the witch.
  • The Dreaded: The parents tell their child that the Frau is "a wicked woman who commits godless acts", but the child does not believe them until it is too late.
  • Fearless Fool: The child is too young or too obstinate to heed her parents' warnings.
  • Forbidden Fruit: The girl is curious about the mysterious Frau and visits her against her parents' warnings.
  • Forced Transformation: The girl is turned into wood and then fed to the witch's fire.
  • Horror Hates a Rulebreaker: Had the girl obeyed her parents, she would still be alive by the end of the story.
  • I Have No Son!: When it becomes clear that they cannot talk their daughter out of going to visit Frau Trude, the protagonist's parents disown her. By the story's end, she is no longer their child, and indeed, not a child at all.
  • Karma Houdini: Frau Trude wins out and kills the girl. However, given the time period she lives in, she may well fall victim to Burn the Witch! afterwards (which is what usually happens in these kinds of stories).
  • Scare 'Em Straight: This story clearly aims to frighten kids out of disobeying their parents.
  • Wicked Witch: Frau Trude turns a girl into a block of wood and then uses the former child to fuel her fire.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The witch successfully kills the child protagonist.