Grimm’s Grimmest – The Juniper Tree
It was my father who ate me,
But pretty Marlinchen looked for my bones,
And laid them ‘neath the juniper tree.
Kywitt, kywitt, kywitt,
Oh what a beautiful bird am I!”
The Juniper Tree tells the story of a little boy who comes to his beautiful mother by the juniper tree. Dying from joy, she is buried beneath the juniper tree after she has a child as red as blood and as white as snow.
The little boy’s father remarries and by the second wife has a daughter named Marlinchen. The woman is filled with love and happiness for her daughter, but when she looks upon the boy, evil thoughts come into her heart.
Without remorse, the woman kills the little boy, slamming down the lid of a chest and cutting his head clean off. Diabolically, she sets his head on his shoulders and positions his body outside so that no one would know that she has done the deed.
Marlinchen boxes him in the ear, causing his head to roll off his shoulders. She is innocent and frightened, dreadfully upset at her brother’s death. But the woman simply chops up the little boy into pieces and serves him in stew for her husband.
Marlinchen places her brother’s bones underneath the juniper tree, her father had merely strewn the bones beneath the table while he ate the stew. The little boy returns as a beautiful song bird, singing his song and receiving gifts from the townspeople in return for singing his song once more: a gold chain, a pair of red shoes, and a millstone.
The bird returns home with his gifts, enchanting his father and his sister to come out of the house to receive the gifts by singing. His father comes out, the gold chain falling around his neck. Marlinchen, his sister, comes out, putting the red shoes upon her feet.
And finally, his mother comes out after being tormented by his song and her fear of being caught. The bird drops the millstone, crushing his mother flat to the ground. The little boy is once more, returning home to his father and his sister.
This fairy tale is filled with terror and the macabre, which is necessary for any of the original tales brought to us by the Brothers Grimm. The Juniper Tree is a story of murder and of justice, the mother (the little boy’s step-mother) deserved what she received as a gift and the little boy rightfully returned to his family.