Halloween’s coming up, so it’s a great time for some scary stories. Try the pioneering gothic fiction from American horror author Edgar Allan Poe (including many free editions of his scariest stories). And this Halloween, in a dark corner of the Kindle Store, you can also find free editions of Frankenstein and Dracula. But if you’re looking for a really exotic scare, don’t don’t overlook this forgotten treasure chest: the dark and quirky original stories by the Brothers Grimm.
Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm is a free ebook that collects over 200 gnarly pieces of authentic folklore that the two brothers had carefully collected over their lifetime. The table of contents even supplies the original German titles for the stories (though the collection is written in English), so the tale “Little Snow-White” is also identified as “Sneewittchen.” (And “The Bremen Town Musicians” was originally called “Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten”.)
I’m not kidding about the stories being dark, quirky, and gnarly. One of them is titled “The Girl Without Hands,” and there’s some absolutely horrifying plot twists in “Our Lady’s Child” (“Marienkind”). A mute queen’s three children are kidnapped by the Virgin Mary, and the queen is then burned at the stake because the king’s councilors believe that the queen killed and ate them herself. (Surprisingly, there is a happy ending, but the twists along the way are pretty hair-raising…)
And early in the book is another tale called “The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was.” A man on the road points him to the tree “where seven men have married the ropemaker’s daughter, and are now learning how to fly.”
“Sit down below it, and wait till night comes, and you will soon learn how to shudder…”
But instead, the youth worries about whether they’re cold, as “the wind knocked the hanged men against each other.” So he sets them around his campfire, but “they sat there and did not stir, and the fire caught their clothes…” Soon his fearlessness has led him to take a king’s challenge of spending three nights in a haunted castle, where he’s assaulted by black cats and dogs “from every hole and corner,” all carrying red hot chains. He kills them with his cutting knife, crying “Away with ye, vermin,” and then lies down to sleep in the haunted bed…
The story-telling is very simple, but it’s still a wild and unpredictable experience that I’m sure I’ll never forget. Just remember that while these are authentic fairy tales, they’re not necessarily the cute and colorful legends you might be expecting! So if instead you’re looking for a “cute and cuddly” free fairy tale book this Halloween, there’s also free editions of the tales of Beatrix Potter — which includes the tale of Peter Rabbit!