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A Country of Grim Stories

24 February 2012, 15:31

Open any newspaper, listen to the news, watch TV, check out the internet – the news is grim and, mostly, depressing.

 

As a child, I loved fairy tales. Wonderful stories about magic spells, gnomes, elves, witches, castles, dwarfs, giants, ogres, wizards, unicorns, and wicked stepmothers – and, of course, fairies. Later in life, I found that “a fairy” was a disparaging term for a homosexual man – who was also “gay.” Gay, to my mind, meant being happy, cheerful, or jolly; like a fairy. Therefore, I was back to square one, none the wiser.

 

OK, you moffies can relax now; this story is not about you. Lighten up.

 

Then, one day, I heard my first of many Grimm tales. I was instantly hooked. These tales were a collection of folklore put together by two brothers – Jacob (as in showerhead) and Wilhelm Grimm. Today, most stories are also grim; especially those in the media, but they are nothing like the Grimm stories of my childhood.

 

I was fascinated by the names of the tales – and the characters – in the Grimm tales: The Singing Bone, The Three Little Men in the Forest, Rapunzel, Fundevogel, and Rumpelstiltskin. They sounded so – how shall I put it – erotic, penile, and risqué. But these stories were not about gay fairies; so my parents allowed me to read them.

 

If some of the Grimm tales were to be taken literally, they would be banned outright.

 

Let’s take the story of Hansel and Grethel:

 

A wood-cutter did not have enough money to support his wife and two children. So what does he do? He decides to abandon the kids in the forest so the wild creatures could tear them to pieces. And, as if that was not Grimm enough, the children were kidnapped by an old woman; who intended to kill and eat them. And what did the kids do? They pushed the old woman into an oven and roasted her to death! They then proceeded to steal the old woman’s jewellery and returned home.

 

On reaching home, they shared the spoils of the robbery with their father, and all was forgiven. No charges were ever laid and no-one ever found out that the children had been abandoned by their parents; that they had been kidnapped; that the old woman was a cannibal and that they had murdered and robbed her.

 

How’s that for a Grimm tale?

 

Or how about the story of Rapunzel?

 

There once was a man and a woman who named their daughter “Rapunzel.” This was because the wife liked to eat rampion: a biennial Eurasian plant, Campanula rapunculus. (Weird, no?)

 

Anyway, the young girl was kidnapped by an enchantress (an English sangoma), who locked her up in a tower. Campanula rapunculus, or Rapunzel, as she was known on Facebook, grew her hair long; so long in fact, that when a Prince came to rescue her, she let her tresses (dreadlocks) hang out of the window so he could climb up to her.

 

Unfortunately, some white powder fell from her hair and into his eyes as he was climbing up – he lost his grip and plummeted to the ground. The customs officials came and arrested Rapunzel. As this incident happened in South Africa, she was not sentenced to death; but declared terminally ill*, and released into the custody of a golf course.

 

That’s not the way it really happened, but I thought it would make the story a bit more realistic. Imagine the Prince standing outside the tower, shouting: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, so I may climb the golden stair.” Ridiculous!

 

The neighbours would have called the cops! And that would really have had Grimm results; lost dockets, bribes, etc, etc.

 

But enough of my meandering thoughts.

 

Nowadays, a typical grim tale would be: Once upon a time, an incompetent minister of Health told a young girl from Soweto: “You must eat beetroot, garlic, and lemons, it’s good for you.” The young girl did; but still died.

 

Whereas, in a Grimm tale: Once upon a time, a wicked queen gave Snow White a poisoned apple and said: “Eat this apple, it’s good for you.” Snow White ate the apple and promptly collapsed.

 

Can you see the difference?

 

The grim tale is tragic, sad, and based on the truth. The Grimm tale is fairytale, intended to amuse.  

 

Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has discouraged the use of the term "terminally ill." The politically correct term to use is: “Scratch Player.”

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