Grimm Reckonings

Summary Thoughts on Five Fairy Tales: A Sonnet Cycle



I wish Rapunzel could have saved the day
__By climbing down her own unfurled hair,
__Escaping from her prison-tower lair
__Without a prince to help her get away.
Why do all hapless damsels in distress
__Need to be saved by someone wearing pants?
__If only she were given half a chance
__The hero could be someone in a dress.
That said, I don’t believe the Brothers Grimm
__Were simply two misogynistic pigs
__Who felt the weaker sex were helpless prigs
__In need of being rescued by a “him.”
For after all, through tears Rapunzel shed,
She wound up rescuing the prince, instead!



In Germany, her name is Aschenputtel,
__In English, this translates as Cinderella.
__Her father is a cruel, beastly fella,
__As pleasant as a bag of putrid kuttel.
Exploited and abused, the forlorn lass
__Is decked out by a cemetery bird,
__Attends two Prince’s balls and, at the third,
__Wears slippers that are made of gold, not glass.
The Disney version has a happy ending.
__The fairy tale’s very much the same,
__Except the two step-sisters’ claim to fame
__Is being blinded at their sister’s wedding.
The story’s Grimm indeed, without much laughter.
Although she does live happ’ly ever after.

kuttel: tripe, offal, internal organs



Nobody in this story has a name.
__The miller’s daughter is “the miller’s daughter,”
__The greedy king is “king.” The impish plotter
__Has got a name but hides it from the dame.
He spins straw into gold and saves her neck,
__And in exchange, demands her first-born child.
__“But if you figure out my name,” he smiled,
__“I’ll let you off the hook and go to heck!”
She then gets married, has a baby who
__The imp returns to claim for his own self.
__She learns his name and tells the loathsome elf,
__“You’re Rumpelstiltskin. There! Now beat it! Shoo!”
This story seems to be unfairly skewed
To guarantee the little guy gets screwed.


Hansel & Gretel

A story of attempted filicide
__Where heartless parents kiss their kids good-bye
__And leave them in the deep, dark woods to die
__Without a GPS or travel guide.
The children, Hansel and his sister, Gretel,
__Together find a house of gingerbread
__Owned by a witch who also wants them dead,
__So she can braise and stew them in her kettle.
She feeds them sweets to make them plump and fat,
__Locks Hansel in a cage and often beats them
__So they will be more tender when she eats them.
__But Gretel kills her first and that is that.
This fairy tale is frightening and gory.
In short, it is the perfect bedtime story.


Snow White

Alas, the green-eyed monster Jealousy
__Enrages and consumes the wicked queen.
__For Snow White is a sweet and kind colleen
__Who’s fairer than the queen will ever be.
__She contracts an assassin but the man
__Has pity on Snow White and saves her skin.
__She’s found by seven dwarfs who take her in
And care for her as only true friends can.
__The queen finds out she’s still alive and schemes
__To kill her with a poisoned apple, which
__She hand-delivers dressed up like a witch.
One bite and Snow White dies—or so it seems.
A prince awakens her with love’s first kiss.
Which leads to marriage and, of course, to bliss.



James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers.

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14 Responses

  1. Peter Hartley

    James -Practically faultless verses as usual, which I expect from you in your own(?) consistent sonnet form. I particularly like some of the very felicitous rhymes like the way you have rhymed “plotter” with “got a” in Rumpelstiltskin. In Rapunzel, L2 I would probably put a grave accent in “unfurlèd” and in Cinderella, L10 “The fairy tale IS very much the same” but apart from these two very minor quibbles (and you may have very good reasons for your having put things the way you did) these five little verses are excellent and vastly diverting; and also extremely fine takes on the original storylines. I won’t say they are better than the brothers Grimm could have written but I’m tempted to.

  2. James A. Tweedie

    Thank you, Peter. This is how I was taught how to write a sonnet in my Junior year of high school. It was only years later that I discovered that it was a rare sonnet form. Some sources classify it as a variant form of the English sonnet. I see it as a hybrid of the English and Italian forms. I have found examples of the form here and there but it seems to have only enjoyed some popularity over the past 100 years or so. I am aware of several contemporary formal poets who use it as their standard form. Since joining SCP I have trended more towards the Shakespearean form but find that when it begins to sound too clunky and rote I return to this style and find that it potential “sings” more musically than any other sonnet style.

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    The story of Cinderella is told in almost all European languages. In Italian she is “La Cenerentola” — the “girl in the cinders.”

    The seventh line of Mr. Tweedie’s Cinderella poem is unfortunate, as it lapses into unintended sexual comedy when it refers to Cinderella attending the Prince’s two balls.

    What’s nice about Grimm’s fairy tales in general is that bad characters tend to get royally screwed in the end, as they deserve. It’s a healthy way to scare children.

  4. James A. Tweedie

    Thank you for the pointed, uplifting, and penetrating comment. The “unfortunate” passage is self-correcting insofar as it continues on with reference to a “third.” That is, of course, unless Mr. Salemi’s intimate acquaintance with male anatomy leads him to enlarge and expand his annotation.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Well, I’m sure the Prince would have been quite happy with Cinderella attending to his two balls (or three, if he were specially endowed). But the line still does little to enhance the poor girl’s reputation. Can’t it be revised? How about this:

      Attends two fancy-dress balls; at the third

      • James A. Tweedie

        The Prince, well-endowed or not, needs to be mentioned somewhere. I’ll consider your suggestion to rewrite the line. Thank you for pointing it out.

  5. Monty

    . . . but if she attends a third ball, James: that means she attended three balls in total. So why not:
    Attends three Prince’s balls; and at the third
    Wears slippers that are . .

    • James A. Tweedie

      Monty, That would work. I’ve been distracted lately and am happy to let you (and others) do the heavy lifting for me!

      As I have thought about this matter it has occurred to me that there are so many words that can carry sexual connotations that, if someone is inclined to look for them, it would be an easy matter to find them. Attempting to adjust one’s usage of language to avoid them so as to not offend or be misread by someone seems somewhat PC to me. If I were to say that a baseball outfielder spent the afternoon shagging flies, should I reconsider and choose to use the words “catching flies” or “chasing fly balls” instead? And then I run into problems with the word “balls” again . . . (sigh) . . . .

      • Monty

        In the first place, I found the perceived sexual link to be of the flimsiest kind. If, hypothetically, you’d worded it as: “Attends the Prince’s two balls..” then of course it’s smothered in instantly-recognisable innuendo; but to word it as you did: “..the two Prince’s balls” doesn’t suggest an obvious innuendo . . only a sought one.

        But I must tell you, James: the suggestion that I made above was certainly not offered as a means of escaping any potential innuendo; it was offered simply in the name of diction. If C’rella attended THREE balls in total, then I felt it would be better-written that she attended THREE balls; after which it could then be conveyed what she wore to the third.

        I just simply felt that it was a tad incongruous to read the words “attends two Prince’s balls”.. only to then learn that she actually attended three! My offering was made just as a clearer way of describing the events.

        Regarding the aforementioned innuendo itself . . although I felt the link to be tenuous, I was still glad to be alerted to it; I’ve never been impartial to a play on words. It was well-spotted.

  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    When I was an undergraduate at university back in the 1960s, I took a course in the 19th-century English novel. One of the assigned texts was Pride and Prejudice, and in one chapter it is said (of the main character) that “she longed for balls.” There was unrestrained hilarity among American students at this phrase, which of course had no intended sexual meaning by the author. It simply meant that she wanted to attend fancy-dress dances.

    It is impossible to avoid sexual double-entendres, because the language of sexuality changes so frequently, and will vary from country to country. Once in England I stayed at a bed-and-breakfast in the lovely Lake District. My English hosts were impeccably polite and solicitous, but I was taken aback when the young teenage daughter of the establishment asked, just before I retired for the night, this question: “Shall I knock you up in the morning?”

    I did what comedians call a double-take. In New York, to “knock someone up” means to have very energetic sex with them. But later I learned that in the UK it simply means to awaken someone at a certain time in the morning by knocking on their bedroom door.

    Honi soit qui mal y pense.

  7. C.B. Anderson

    James, these were delightful — all of them. I don’t care how many balls there were, but it’s interesting that Disney rendered the Prince monorchid. I noticed, also in “Cinderella” (line 10), that you used the contraction “tale’s,” when simply writing “tale is” would have preserved the iambic, which is fairly consistent throughout.

  8. James A. Tweedie

    Monty, you misread me. I was actually trying to compliment you on your suggested rewrite and glad you had made one (with cogent reasoning behind it) that I could fully embrace without having to think up a new line in my own.

    And as for Dr. Salemi, the O of the G reference was (in this context and in light of the one who established it) inspired!

    • Monty

      Nah, I never misread you, James: it might’ve been vice versa. My first paragraph referred to the fact that he who first spotted the innuendo must’ve been looking for it, ‘cos it wasn’t written in an obvious way . .

      . . paragraphs 2 and 3 were to emphasise that my suggestion was purely in the name of keeping the diction aligned to the narrative (she attended three balls); and not as a way of re-wording the line to eliminate the perceived innuendo.. the innuendo was irrelevant to my suggestion . .

      . . and the 4th paragraph was just saying that although I felt the innuendo to be tenuous; I was still glad to’ve been made aware of it.

      I subsequently took your reply-words as a compliment.


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