No place here for dancing dwarfs or a kissing prince. No musical songs. Here I present you the scariest Grimm fairy tales. Only for those who dare!
1. The Stolen Farthings
Let’s start with a good old ghost tale.
As a stranger comfortably lunches with a beautiful family, suddenly a pale child in a white dress comes floating by. Only he appears to be shocked.
When he asks the family, the father says he never saw it. The mother never saw it. The children never saw it.
As the stranger follows the child ghost, it seems to be searching for something. But what?
This is a classic ghost tale about a ghost who still needs to do something before finding some rest.
2. The Willful Child
Oh, those children with strong personalities.
According to this fairy tale, God does not like them. So he sickens the child, and it dies.
Death, however, will not stop this child. Her arm reaches up out of the grave to the world of the living. Then the mother does the unbelievable.
The darkness in this fairy tale is in how they deal with the child, all from God’s choices to the ending. It’s an icy kind of scary.
3. The Dog and the Sparrow
For sure, a fairy tale with the title ‘The Dog and the Sparrow’ can’t be scary, yes?
This story starts as a lovely story about friendship. The dog and the sparrow enjoy their summery life together.
Then a wagoner makes the fatal mistake of willingly killing the dog. And then the pleasant summer drama turns into a wild and dark action revenge movie.
The sparrow goes ballistic. You can see the blood-red fire in its eyes. Horses are viciously attacked. Birds gather to strike the food supplies. Finally, the sparrow gets swallowed alive.
You will never look at sparrows again after this tale.
4. The Juniper Tree
You might not think it when you see the title, but for sure, this is one of the scariest Grimm fairy tales.
The villain in this tale is the classic villain you find in many Grimm fairy tales: the stepmother. To make matters worse, the devil comes and enters her. She kills her stepson by slamming his head when he dives into a chest to get an apple.
💡 Find out in this post about the Grimm Brothers how they changed many mothers into stepmothers in later editions of their fairy tale collection.
Now what to do with the corpse? She tricks her daughter, who ends up thinking she killed the boy. She cooks him and gives his flesh to her husband to eat.
Now, all would end well for this stepmother had the daughter not carried the bones outside to the juniper tree.
5. Fitcher’s Bird
It starts very creepily.
An old wizard goes from house to house, catching young girls and taking them home, where they end up in a lot of blood and gore.
When the third daughter of the family gets caught, she needs all her wits and powers to beat the wizard and attempt to bring her sisters’ bones and flesh back to life.
A horrific Grimm story, if there ever was one. The ending is equally horrible.
6. The Robber Bridegroom
Deep in the forest, things happen that are unfit for daylight.
A young girl is betrothed to a rich man. He invites her to visit his house, deep, deep in the forest. It’s dark. It’s silent. It’s creepy.
When the girl arrives, she hears an old voice crying out:
“Turn back, turn back, young lady dear,
It’s a murderer’s house you enter here.”
She meets a shivering older woman, hides, and the house gets darker and darker. Then the robbers return with her future husband leading them. They carry a young girl and what follows is a horrifying scene when you imagine it.
7. The Girl Without Hands
This tale starts with the stranger who offers a deal, too good to be true. A father who sells ‘that which is behind the house.’ A pious girl, who just happens to be ‘behind the house’ at that exact moment.
The dark horned stranger cannot get to her though, cause she prays, the girl prays.
At long last they cut of her hands. No praying anymore. But she still can cry, and her salty tears flow to purify her body.
A tale full of darkness (and light) if there ever was one. Gives you the creeps.
8. The Twelve Brothers
Twelve brothers, unfortunate enough to be boys.
Now the king is sure of it: the next child will be a girl.
And so he orders twelve coffins made and twelve burial shirts. The boys will be killed as soon as the girl arrives.
Stop here. Isn’t that one of the scariest and cruellest fathers you have met?
The boys escape, but that is not the end of the tale. When their sister goes in search of them something happens. And when she tries to solve this problem, she is almost burned at the stake.
9. Mary’s Child
Throughout many of the scariest Grimm fairy tales run strains of religion.
In this fairy tale, the girl makes one mistake. Just one. When she doesn’t own up to it, the Virgin Mary ruthlessly strikes her down, again and again.
She loses her voice, but what is even scarier is the taking of her babies. Only when at long last she is burned at stake, she confesses.
Of course, then the Blessed Virgin restores all. But you will still end up feeling very disturbed.
BONUS: The Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was
This tale has a comedic vibe, but you can tell it as scary as you want.
A boy who does not know fear (‘how to shudder’), goes in search of it. Nothing scares him, but the situations he gets in are truly scary.
There is an appearance of ghosts, giants, ravenous black cats and dogs, skeletons and dead men hanging from a tree.
In the end he discovers how to shudder, with the help of his wife.