Lessons from Grimm

As children, our parents tell us stories about princesses, kings, and talking animals. Some of the most popular stories that we hear are the Grimms’ fairytales, compiled by the Grimm brothers from the many tales that they heard from all over Germany. In Fall 2011, NBC debuted a crime procedural drama called Grimm. The show borrows elements from the Grimms’ fairytales and other stories and gives them a modern twist. Nick Burkhardt is a homicide detective who finds out that he is a Grimm, which is essentially a hunter of the creatures that appear in the series. These creatures, called “Wesen”, are able to switch from human to creature form when they feel threatened, sad, or angry. They are often criminals, and Nick must use his job as a detective to track them down without raising too much suspicion about his own background.

Each episode centers on a particular fairytale along with introducing new Wesen and a new crime to be solved by Nick and his partner, Hank. Sometimes a reformed Wesen named Monroe helps Nick find out more about these Wesen and even helps him solve some of the crimes. The show has presented some really fascinating episodes that deal with things like jealousy, bullying, power, coming of age, loss, and identity.

Image from NBC
Image from NBC

Three of my favorite episodes are “Danse Macabre”, “Organ Grinder”, and “The Other Side”. All three episodes involve Wesen who are teenagers and address a variety of issues that are relevant to adolescents all around the world. “Danse Macabre” is based on the fairytale “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” and deals with the issue of fitting in and bullying. The creature introduced in the episode, a “Reinigen”, is a rat-like Wesen who is not violent unless provoked and has the ability to control rats using his amazing musical talent. Roddy, the Reinigen presented in the episode, is a teenage boy who is a gifted violinist, but he is also an outsider in his school because he is poor. Haunting classical music is played throughout the episode as Nick attempts to figure out who murdered a high school teacher and tries to understand the implications of Roddy’s musical ability. The episode does a great job of depicting the theme of trying to “fit in” in a whole new way.

“Organ Grinder” is based on the fairytale “Hansel and Gretel” and portrays homeless teens and the issue of selling human organs on the black market. The Wesen that Nick encounters in this episode is called a “Geier,” which is a vulture-like creature that captures humans for their organs in order to sell them on the black market to be used in medicines for Wesen. The audience is introduced to a group of teenagers living on the street. Two of them die as they attempt to run away from the murderous Geiers. Two others, a brother and sister, go with the Geiers with the promise of jobs. This episode is particularly frightening because of how relevant it is to our society. There are many more homeless teenagers than people realize and they are in danger of all kinds of things happening to them. Also, the issue of organ trading is, unfortunately, something that still goes on in the world today.

“The Other Side” is loosely based on the “The Adventures of Pinocchio”, which is actually not a Grimm fairytale. The episode is incredibly fascinating and addresses genetic engineering and parental pressure. Two Wesen, called “Genio Innocuo” and “Lowen” are featured in this episode. Genio Innocuo are turtle-like creatures, and Lowen are lion-like creatures. The episode focuses on a teenager named Pierce whose friends start dying right before an important academic competition. No one seems to know who is murdering the teens in such violent ways. Early on, we are introduced to Pierce’s mother, and it’s evident how protective she is and how she wants him to always be the “best”. At first, it seems that she may be committing the crimes. However, the writers do a great job of creating an unpredictable, highly fascinating conclusion to the episode. The story, even with its elements of fantasy, is relevant to many modern-day parents who will do anything to make sure that their child is on top.

The Grimms’ fairytales are often filled with violence, greed, and sadness, but there is always a lesson to be learned and a message of hope. Grimm does a great job of doing the same thing because it’s based on stories most of us grew up hearing, and it addresses a lot of modern-day issues that are relevant to our everyday lives.

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