Study Guide

Grimms' Fairy Tales Transformation

By Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm


Nothing is as it seems in Grimms' Fairy Tales. A frog might be a prince; an old hag might be your next BFF; and you'd better watch where you take a leak in the woods. You know, in case one of the trees turns out to be someone under an enchantment. Characters in these tales are constantly undergoing transformations, sometimes literal, and sometimes in terms of internal state (becoming mature) or social status (becoming stinking rich). Hence the message to be nice to everyone no matter who or what they seem to be, since that fish you wanna eat might be an enchanted prince…or just a talking fish. Neither of which really sounds that appetizing.

Questions About Transformation

  1. Do most of the transformations in the tales seem to be voluntary or involuntary? What impact does this have on the meanings of the stories?
  2. You get two transformations in the course of a fairy tale. How do you maximize them? 
  3. Are all transformation-causers (witches, enchanted streams, etc.) evil? Would you assign a moral value to them at all? 
  4. What's the most shocking transformation in these tales? Why?

Chew on This

Being transformed into something/someone new is a necessary occurrence in all fairy tales.

Transformations follow gendered patterns. As in, men get transformed into more Xs and women get transformed into more Ys.