Study Guide

Grimms' Fairy Tales Justice and Judgment

By Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Justice and Judgment

Grimms' Fairy Tales have a strange sense of justice. Sure, the wicked get punished—except for when they don't. Cannibals and incestuous fathers often go free, while wicked stepmothers and stepsisters almost always die horrible, gory deaths. Sometimes certain characters are punished for being overly prideful, while the protagonist also exhibits proud behavior by acting confident enough to accomplish impossible X, Y, or Z. Alternately whimsical or deadly serious, judgments and justice in fairy tales are Serious Business.

Questions About Justice and Judgment

  1. Is it better to be rich or poor when punishments are being doled out?
  2. Who is usually dispensing the justice in these tales?
  3. Do these tales tend to follow the idea of "the punishment should fit the crime"? Or are they more about being cruel and unusual? 
  4. You've just been betrayed by your BFF/spouse/whomever. Which fairy tale would you model your idea of justice on?

Chew on This

Only the deserving are punished in fairy tales. No exceptions.

Judgment, shmudgment: the tales are less about judgment than about living with the consequences of one's actions.