Grimmification

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I guess you think you know this story.
You don't. The real one's much more gory.
The phony one, the one you know
Was cooked up years and years ago
And made to sound all soft and sappy

Just to keep the children happy.
Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes

The act of allegedly de-bowdlerizing a story, but going to the other extreme instead: Making it Grimmdark.

It is common belief that most traditional Fairy Tales were designed to inform kids via metaphor about a potentially harsh world, in a time where children worked and traveled, and were essentially treated more like miniature adults than "kids". This is actually not the case. Original fairy tales were told to many different audiences, adults included, and the practice of softening stories for children did not yet exist. It was not until The Brothers Grimm that fairy tales began to be reworked into a style that was suitable for children as innocents. Still, even in those stories heroes could fall victims to violence and mutilation; villains were disposed of with vivid and painful executions. The harshness of these stories explains why later publishers of The Brothers Grimm's collection toned them down for popular consumption, especially in the later Victorian era, the time period when the concept of childhood truly emerged. During this time period fairy tales were once again warped and became more like the modern versions that we know today.

However, if one follows most old fairy tales back to their roots, they'll discover that they are incredibly gory. Often, these earlier elements are either rediscovered by adults or the bowdlerized version of the story is changed by other cultures that have no connection to it. As adults, we rediscover the themes that got toned down and enjoy pointing out how creepy they sound. Then it becomes popular to return a story to its non-sanitized roots or to pervert the popular Disneyfied version, unaware that earlier versions of the folk tale had included similar elements. Sometimes this includes throwing in more modern Nightmare Fuel. When done well, this can open up a completely new perspective. However it can also be done wrong, gutting a story of its nostalgia value while not adding enough to make the story appealing.

Even now the modern version of Little Red Riding Hood is very different from the first recorded version of the nursery tale, Petit Chaperon Rouge (1697) which ends with both Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother being eaten. However, going even further back, folklorists have learned that witches were said to put on red caps and hoods before they went riding on their familiars to visit a magic circle deep in the woods and pay homage to the horned god, the Dark Woodsman. Knowing that Little Red Riding Hood was originally a tale about werewolves, it's very possible to extrapolate an entirely different meaning. Remember, these old stories might in fact be Bloodier and Gorier than Grimmified retellings.

A common example of Grimmification is having Little Red Riding Hood survive the well known version... but be scarred by the events—varying from just becoming jaded and cynical, to becoming completely psychotic.

A subtrope of Darker and Edgier. Commonly also includes Hotter and Sexier and Bloodier and Gorier. See also Fractured Fairy Tale. Not to be confused with Grimm's Law. The opposite is Disneyfication.

Technically, this trope isn't Darker and Rape-ier, but looking at the examples below you'd be forgiven for thinking this.

Examples of Grimmification include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • There's a Hentai story out there (its English version called, rather uncreatively, Alice In Sexland if you're really curious about it—although that's still more creative than the Japanese name, where the first half is "Alice First" and the second half is "Alice Second") where, after all the rape and wanton sex Alice goes through, she finds out that she's dead and Wonderland is actually the afterlife. If you take out all the rape and wanton sex, it's actually a pretty good re-interpretive take on the story: the rape, occurring when she dies and goes to Wonderland is actually played as drama, and ends up extremely grimmified.
    • Fridge Brilliance: Once Alice enters Sexland, the only real serious rape she or her friends undergo is at the hands of the Red Queen, The only other person in Sexland that isn't FROM sexland, and therefore is free to do as she wishes instead of fulfilling Sexland's purpose of helping people who are emotionally fucked-in-the-head from sexual abuse.
  • Kano Yasuhiro has a one-shot horror manga called Snow in the Dark. Think Snow White, but with a well-intentioned (and naturally, horribly misunderstood) Queen and a Soul Jar Snow White, who gets possessed by her evil (and dead) mother. The day is saved by a slaying/suicide. The author manages to work in a mildly happy ending anyway.
  • Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade features a grimmified re-telling (or possibly the original version) of Little Red Riding Hood, the events of whom run parallel with the actual happenings of the movie.
    • It is the same version that Gaiman used in The Sandman, point of fact.
  • CLAMP's Miyuki-chan in Wonderland is an erotic, very lesbian rendition of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The series focuses on Miyuki, a Japanese schoolgirl who finds herself pulled into several nonsensical worlds populated by scantily-dressed females who want to have their way with her.
  • Kaori Yuki, of course. Everything that she ever writes based on anything will always be this in her hands. Ludwig Kakumei for example is about a necrophiliac, perverted prince and has some of the most twisted versions of fairy tales ever. In the first chapter, Snow White is an incestuous bitch who liked manipulating people. And then she dies.
    • In Ludwig Kakumei, Yuki keeps all the original unpleasant aspects of the original fairy tales, then adds her own, twisting the stories further and further.
    • Lampshaded during the Cinderella arc, when the author mentions the stepsisters mutilating themselves. In their retelling, the shoe is to big, and said sisters tell that it's not the problem.
  • Pandora Hearts is a a manga based on Alice in Wonderland (even though the book isn't technically a fairytale) that can be very dark, violent and sometimes creepy.
  • There are whole manga anthologies dedicated to Guro versions of Grimm's fairy tales, titled Cruel Grimm Tales (Zankoku Grimm Douwa) or variations thereof. Also note that this are usually aimed at a Josei audience.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • Alan Moore has done this several times.
    • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an example of this done with Public Domain Characters. While he reintroduces some parts bowdlerised in the past, such as Captain Nemo being Indian (Jules Verne originally meant for Nemo to be Polish, but Verne's publisher made him change it to avoid offending the Russians. Obviously the publisher didn't care about offending the British), he also adds a lot of sex and violence completely absent from the originals. However, he was deconstructing these works rather than claiming to be recreating the original. As well, excessive sex and violence were common in the Victorian penny dreadfuls it's openly inspired by.
    • Lost Girls re-tells the stories of Peter Pan, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland as allegories for the extremely sexual (sometimes abusive) experiences of their main characters. Captain Hook, for instance, is a pedophile who nearly rapes Tinkerbell to death, and Peter grows up to be a prostitute.
  • Fables: That entire series is basically the textbook definition of this trope.
    • Some of the versions of the characters in Fables are far darker, others are spot-on with the original story, and still others are changed for the better. For example, the Big Bad Wolf's reformation and redemption... completely absent in many (if not most) of the old stories.
      • Then again the BBW didn't slaughter hundreds of people in the fairy tales.
    • Beauty's Beast becomes less beastly when Beauty is happy with him; to become the strongest, most effective possible warrior, he has to get Beauty severely annoyed.
    • One instance deconstructs this. Riding Hood is perfectly and totally innocent even though it's implied that what the Adversary has his sorcerers do to her was basically rape.
  • Zenescope's comic series Grimm Fairy Tales.
  • Neil Gaiman told one of the grimmest versions of Little Red Riding Hood in The Sandman. However, at the end the storyteller points out that the only thing that matters is how people think of the story.
    • Gaiman actually took his version from a history book called "The Great Cat Massacre" that has a chapter on folk tales of pre-revolutionary France.
      • "The Great Cat Massacre" has a version even older and shorter.
  • Penthouse Comix included a strip about an adult version of Little Red Riding Hood who was a werewolf hunter, who was known to have sex with some of the werewolves before killing them.
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin's dad gives Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie this treatment after being forced to read it to Calvin one time too many. We don't get to hear either version, but Calvin and Hobbes are too scared to sleep afterwards.

Calvin: Wow. The story was different that time!
Hobbes: Do you think the townsfolk will ever find Hamster Huey's head?

    • Even more of an example of this trope was Calvin's version of the tale of Goldilocks. Calvin's dad stopped reading when the three tigers divided Goldilocks into big, medium, and small pieces, which they dipped in the porridge.
  • Nightmares and Fairy Tales is pretty much made up of this trope. Even the happy endings result in some sort of grisly or frightening encounter.
  • Marian Churchland's Beast was initially inspired by Beauty and The Beast but rather than being darker than the original tale Beast is a more ambiguous and low key story about a female sculptor who takes a commission from a shadowy, mysterious being who lives in a slightly decrepit old house in the suburbs.
  • The Queen of Fables, an enemy of the JLA and Superman, controls Grimmified versions of fairy tale scenarios and characters (including those from the fairy tales of Krypton, Atlantis and Mars).


Fan Fiction[edit | hide]

  • Downfall is headed in this direction post- chapter 18.
    • And especially in wake of the events of chapter 20
  • The Death Note fanfic Poison Apple featured an Alternate Continuity thematically based around "Snow White", including hearts cut out and of course, the titular poisoned apples.


Films[edit | hide]


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Gregory Maguire does this in all of his books based on fairy tales, but most of all in Mirror Mirror. Turning the Wicked Stepmother into Lucrezia Borgia, with all of the historical significance of the Borgia family, would do that. However, Lucrezia never poisoned anyone, and was quite a nice lady.
  • Parodied in several Discworld books with the works of the Sisters Grim, whose tales seem to consist entirely of the bits Disney left out.
    • Also in Discworld, Susan does this with the fairy tales she reads to her young charges, her version of their morals being things like "If you're a hero, you can get away with anything because no one asks any inconvenient questions."
  • Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny anthologies of short stories from the Witcher Saga mostly follow the formula of the main character coming upon a somewhat altered and twisted version of a classical fairy tale, discovering the dark secret behind it all that makes it even more twisted, and seeing it to the usually-grisly end. For instance, the Beauty and the Beast? The Beauty is a particularly nasty kind of a vampire that is trying to make the Beast lose what little humanity he still has. What's perhaps even more messed up is that she is doing it out of love. As for the Beast himself, he was cursed by a priestess of a Religion of Evil that he raped.
  • Francesca Lia Block's short story collection The Rose and the Beast retells several fairy tales and, as usual for this author, stuffs them with erotica.
  • Neil Gaiman's short story "Snow, Glass, Apples" gives a very good reason why the evil queen would want to knock off Snow White... and why she might not have been so evil in doing so. (In general, it's disturbingly common for Grimmified versions of "Snow White" to involve Vampire motifs, what with her being an Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette and all.) Full story posted here.
    • His treatment of Narnia in "The Problem of Susan".
  • Tanith Lee and Angela Carter both wrote works where Grimm's and Perrault's fairy tales were retold as horror stories.
    • Not all of them in Angela Carter's case, though: The Bloody Chamber starts off with one of Grimm's creepiest stories retold as French gothic horror; but "Puss in Boots" becomes a Restoration-style sex farce.
    • Lee's version of "Beauty and The Beast" was a science-fiction love story; nothing horrible about it at all. On the other hand, she's another author who decided to go for the Snow-White-is-a-vampire reinterpretation.
  • Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty trilogy retold that particular fairy tale as a work of erotica. That Rice, whose Vampire books are squicky enough as is, chose to publish them under a pseudonym should tell the reader all one needs to know about them.
  • The psychotic Red Riding Hood is used in The Sisters Grimm series.
    • She does get better.
  • Robin McKinley's Deerskin is partial Grimmification—the original fairy tale does involve the king's incestuous urges towards his daughter, but in Deerskin he actually acts on them. Throw in the fact that what seems to be the demon/ghost of the princess's dead mother blames her for it, and the fact that the princess miscarries her father's rape-baby and you've got something definitely not meant for children.
  • The Stepsister Scheme revolves around three fairy tale princesses, and at one point the most feared assassin this side of the mountains is mentioned, The Lady of the Red Hood. She's apparently going to show up in one of the sequels.
  • Waking Rose is a modern day version of Sleeping Beauty in which the protagonist, Briar Rose, is attacked and put in a coma by a group of corrupt doctors who kill people in long comas and sell their organs on the black market.
  • Beastly is a modern day adaptation of "Beauty and The Beast" - in which the "Beauty" (a poor girl named Lindy Owens) lives alone with her sleazy drug-user father who ultimately basically sells her into slavery to the "Beast" (a teenage boy under a spell) after trying to break into the Beast's house to steal stuff. And later, the Beast has to rescue Lindy from another drug dealer, who implies that her father sold her to him as well, most likely for prostitution.
  • The Snow White, Blood Red series of anthologies have quite a few stories that invoke this trope, although there are also plenty that don't.
    • For example, Esther Friesner wrote a version of "Snow White" where the "evil stepmother" was actually quite a religious woman who sent Snow away to keep the king from sexually abusing her.
  • Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes is all over this trope as may be expected from the page quote. A handful of examples:
    • It has Little Red Riding Hood as a femme fatale with a pistol always ready in her knickers
    • It points out that Goldilocks is a thief (not really subtext that though)
    • The prince in Cinderella is revealed as a psychopath and she marries a jam-maker instead
  • The poem "The Parable of the Old Man and the Young" by Wilfred Owen gives Genesis 22:6-13 a grisly updating: Abraham refuses the angel's order to spare his son and instead sacrifices him "and half the seed of Europe" in trench warfare.
  • Following the Snow White, Blood Red series of anthologies, a series of novels were published as well.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • An episode of Tales from the Crypt tells the story of "Sleeping Beauty" with a twist: she was a Vampire who lured unsuspecting would-be suitors to their deaths.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had an episode where Hansel and Gretel were evil creatures who fed off of paranoia and hatred. They would appear, fake their own deaths, and then use this as an excuse to rile a town up to a witch hunt. Both Buffy and Willow were nearly burned at the stake, by their own mothers.
  • In Supernatural the season 3 episode "Bedtime Stories" deliberately invokes this trope, with a comatose girl imagining Grimmified versions of a couple fairy tales to be wrought upon poor, innocent bystanders, prompting Sam to give a speech about how the "original" Grimms' tales were much darker and edgier.
  • Syfy is fond of movies like Alice and Tin Man which Grimmify traditional stories.
    • They have a new one coming out based on Little Red Riding Hood, appropriately called Red (not that one), where the titular character is the descendant of the original, and her family works as cops by day, werewolf hunters by night.
  • The Grimm TV series.


Music[edit | hide]

  • The music video for Rammstein's "Sonne" has a darker take on "Snow White": She's a gold dust addict who abuses the dwarfs (played by the six band members).
  • There's a Vocaloid song featuring Rin and Len as Hansel and Gretel where the witch they kill is Miku, who raised them after kidnapping them when they were babies.
    • Vocaloid's "Alice in Wonderland" is devoted to this trope. Whether the result is terrifying or Black Comedy shall be left as an exercise to the listener.
  • Sound Horizon's 7th Story CD Märchen (German for "fairytale") is about fairytales. They're quite dark, being based on the Grimm versions instead of the Disney versions, and then there's also a hint about there being a "real" side and a "fantasy/ lie" side to them, with the real side being, well, realistic (Idoko/Goldmary falling into a well, dying and her younger sister spreading the plague for example).


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Grimm, by Fantasy Flight Games. It's a bit complex, but essentially, the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm were already sanitized from the true events, and due to the influence of a magical book and a mysterious woman called Melusine, they have been given a sort of eternal life in an alternate reality. Since its formation, every fairytale ever imagined or read has been added. How much of the nastiness of the setting is simply because the truth behind the tales—where there was truth—was nastier than what passed into fiction, and how much is because of the influence of the Rotten King—Humpty Dumpty, now existing in a maddened and twisted state of Undeath due to the unsuccessful efforts to restore him as he was before his fall—is not entirely clear.
  • Warhammer 40,000 tries to do this to itself every new edition, but it mostly ends up as differently Grimdark than more Grimdark. Thanks to influences such as Gaunt's Ghosts and Ciaphas Cain, the setting went somewhat lighter in 4e, every race was given a win condition, which sometimes was a bit grating. 5e makes it clear that the Imperium is still the biggest and strongest faction in the galaxy and may have Retconned some of the 4e changes.
  • Then there's Wonderland, a horror RPG for the JAGS universal system. Wonderland is real, but it's an otherspace where logic and reason completely break down and the major personages of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland are basically the Great Old Ones, seeking to reduce humanity to its base elements so they can figure out why we keep mucking up the universe with higher reasoning. Oh, and Wonderland also takes the form of a mental illness not unlike schizophrenia, only you can physically interact with the "hallucinations" and "go down the rabbit hole." And did we mention it's contagious?
    • Though it's unique as, unlike many Grimmifications, Earn Your Happy Ending is far more then just possible.
    • Not nearly as grim as that, but still rougher than the original Alice stories, are Gary Gygax's AD&D modules based on Wonderland: Dungeonland and Beyond the Magic Mirror.
  • Changeling: The Lost is all about this. The intro to one splatbook involves several classic fairy tales with a World of Darkness twist - the Big Bad Wolf is a werewolf, Snow White becomes a vampire (of course), all told to impress a True Fae...
  • The card game Scary Tales revolves around twisted versions of fairy tale characters fighting over the crown of the late king.


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • Stephen Sondheim's musical Into the Woods, a deconstruction of fairy tales, spends its first act telling the combined stories of "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Little Red Riding Hood", "Rapunzel", and "Cinderella", along with an original story along the same lines about a baker and his wife that want to have a child and live next door to the witch from "Rapunzel". Then the second act examines the aftermath of everyone's selfish behavior and the bloodshed that ensues.
    • It also uses the less extreme version of the standard Grimmification of "Little Red Riding Hood"—her song "I Know Things Now" being even more blatantly about lost innocence than the original story was.
      • The wolf's, er, prominent genitalia in the filmed version. And the double entendres in "Hello, Little Girl". "Look at that flesh, pink and plump!" And the mentions of "carnality". He actually hip-thrusts at the audience at the end.
      • The Wolf and Prince Charming are traditionally played by the same actor. This is no accident.


Toys[edit | hide]

  • McFarlane's Twisted Fairy Tales. The fourth series of the McFarlane's Monsters series of statuettes/action figures was themed around the Grimmification of fairy tales and childrens' stories, to the extent of nightmarish images mostly involving Body Horror, and combining this with a good deal of Fetish Fuel and Fan Service for the sufficiently-twisted collector. Red Riding Hood is dressed in a dominatrix-style bikini outfit, wields a large carving knife and holds the disembowelled wolf with dead grandma pouring out of its innards. Peter Pumpkin-Eater is a cannibal who stores dismembered body parts in a hollow pumpkin, Little Miss Muffet wears a pink corset and faces down with a Giant Spider, Humpty Dumpty has maggots crawling out of his broken corpse and Gretel is in a goth/dominatrix outfit and fishnets mopping up blood All cheerfully chronicled in the form of a storybook on this promotional webpage.
    • McFarlane preceded this with the Twisted Land Of Oz line. Toto has become a fearsome, gigantic dragon-dog, Dorothy is subjected to bondage by evil munchkins, The Tin Woodman was a cyborg zombie thing and the Scarecrow was a corpse stuffed with straw and being eaten by crows. Todd McFarlane and his artists can be hired to provide entertainment at childrens' birthday parties, and they can also read bedtime stories to your kids for a special fee.
    • Only Todd McFarlane would grimmify Christmas to the point of being Nightmare Fuel. Santa Claus is obese, hunchbacked, wears a gas mask over his bare skull and has Freddy Kreuger-esque bladed gloves. Mrs Claus is, of course, almost naked. The elves have been zombified and wield blades. Rudolph wields an axe and is being held back by, uh, fairy lights and leather belts. A six-armed melting snowman and a deformed Jack Frost round out the collection. Todd McFarlane as his artists can also make appearances at your Christmas parties and carolling sessions.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • American McGee's Grimm is a platform game where you perform a literal version of this: the player character is a sarcastic, ugly little dwarf named Grimm who's tired of "cutesy" fairy tales, so he goes around messing them up and making them gruesome and scary again. He takes on various tales from The Brothers Grimm and other sources, from classics like "Cinderella" and "Puss in Boots" to more obscure tales like "The Girl Without Hands" and "A Boy Learns What Fear Is".
    • He also (accidentally) subverted this when he got to Red Riding Hood. It manages to be Lighter and Softer (if you ignore the random curse words) than the original by having the wolf get a mercy killing via ax to the stomach: a far better fate than drowning in a well or starving to death. The original is far darker (no friendly woodsman for one).
      • Although the part with keeping the Woodsman was intentional—he comments on the original version where she dies, but decides to stick with a modification of the more familiar version.
  • American McGee's Alice, which chronicles the now orphaned and mentally insane Alice's battle for sanity, in what can be only described as a goth child's nightmare come true.
  • The God of War series is an (arguably effective) Grimmification of Greek myths (and several sword-and-sandal movies) wrapped around a new storyline. While a lot of things are gorier, some things were bowdlerised, or at least abandoned due to Squick: the fact that several Olympians are married to their sisters, for example. Zeus in the second game, however, is not an exaggeration. He was that much of a bastard.
    • Ares, Theseus, Perseus, however, they definitely get the Grimmification. Athena gets reduced to The Chick—especially since SHE may/may not be prophesied to kill Zeus, depending on which text you read!
      • That particular prophecy has been filled in games with Kratos.
      • Who is himself a very bad Expy of Cratos, the Titan embodiment of strength in Greek myth.
  • Bulleta/B.B. Hood of Darkstalkers is implied to be Red Riding Hood in the Ax Crazy category, motivated by a combination of sheer self-serving greed and her traumatic experiences to hunt monsters.
  • The indie game The Path is a psychological horror game inspired by Little Red Riding Hood. You take one of six sisters based on the character (including innocent little Robin and gloomy Goth Ruby) on a path through "the woods". Despite you being instructed to "go to grandma's house, and don't stray from the path", you're supposed to wander off the path, confront the metaphorical (or sometimes literal) wolf, and quite possibly get scared out of your mind.
  • Text adventure game Bronze by Emily Short is an adaptation of the Beauty and The Beast story where the Beast has inherited a Deal with the Devil from his predecessors, and the servants of the castle are spirits rather than metamorphosed living people. Also, one of the possible endings lets the player break the curse by killing the Beast.
  • Fairytale Fights, ohhh so much.
  • Epic Mickey is a rather mild version of this to the entire Disney canon. If not, it's definitely Darker and Edgier.
  • Alice Is Dead is a Grimmified take on Alice in Wonderland, which features the Rabbit and Alice as contract killers. The Rabbit is the main character.


Web Comics[edit | hide]


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The pic above comes from a guy on Deviant ART by the name of jeftoon01, who has been working diligently on a "Twisted Princess" series, where he imagines what the Disney heroines would look like if they became Femme Fatales. Besides the Wicked Witch version of Aurora above, we also have a revenant version of Mulan, a Golem Cinderella, and a Dark Action Girl Magic Knight version of Jasmine. By the way, his rendition of Snow White illustrates the Darth Wiki main page.
  • Another artist who does this with Disney characters is rinoatilmitt. Stitch may give you nightmares.
  • The "Snow-White-as-vampire" motif is very popular on Deviant ART as well. Here are some examples.
  • The Furry Fandom has its own takes on Little Red Riding Hood, some of which have ended up pretty good, others, not so much. A few variations likely to be found:
    • The wolf is a hero. The villain can range between pretty-much all the human characters likely to be found in the setting.
    • Red and the wolf are lovers. Usually including an age-up for Red, this one can turn out surprisingly good.
    • Various combinations of species and gender swapping.
    • Making one or more characters werewolves.
    • And, or course, given The Internet Is for Porn, there are outright pornographic takes on the story, essentially using the framework of the story as an excuse for gratuitous sex.
    • There's at least one comic that parodies the concept of a "sexy" wolf man. After pointing out how weird the eating/sex parallels are, Little Red concludes that the Wolf needs professional help and skips away.

"I CAN'T HELP THAT I WAS BORN A METAPHOR, OKAY?!"