De-Fanging the Big Bad Wolf: An Examination of the Wolf in NBC’s Grimm

NBC’s Grimm continues the practice of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Once Upon a Time, Supernatural and Sleepy Hollow in retelling and reshaping fairy tales for the modern world.  In this series, the Brothers Grimm are not just collectors of folktales, but are part of a long line of monster hunters.  Magical realism becomes the order of the day, and we are treated to the juxtaposition of nature and science, the civilized and the wild.  The setting for Grimm is Portland, Oregon a useful location that pits the relative orderliness and safety of the city against the untamed dangerousness of the woods (Lindsay 2016).

 

Grimm is a show that straddles several lines: the us/them or culture/folklore line, and the line between society and civilization versus nature and wildness and monstrousness.  Through dealing with the Monster of the Week (MOTW)  (Tosenberger 2010) the show aims to answer questions about nature versus nurture, siding often with nature (monstrousness is genetic, manifests during puberty, and therefore is uncontrollable).  The monster is ‘them’ that undefinable Other  On the culture side we have Nick Burkhardt, the Grimm.  He is a new kind of Grimm who asks questions before he shoots.  To help him along is one of the key figures of the series: Monroe: a reformed Big Bad Wolf (or Wieder Blutbad in Grimm parlance).

 

Monroe, can control his monstrousness through ‘diet, drugs and Pilates.’  In other words, he has made a conscious choice to move away from his nature and embrace culture.  He does not eat meat, he works as a clockmaker, and eventually comes to marry a Fuchsbau (a fox-like being).  He is the consummate tame wolf, and modern man.

 

Monroe is a conduit through which we are given the message of the show: through culture the Big Bad Wolf can be de-fanged.  Monroe chooses to live in town, not in the forests.  He makes the choice not to eat meat because doesn’t like what happens to him when he does.  He adheres to a strict regimen to ensure that he does not slip back into his old and uncivilized ways.  He is mostly mild mannered, though in later episodes we see that he can be more intimidating.   We can never fully control our nature.

 

The pilot episode introduces us to the Jekyll and Hyde of Big Bad Wolves.  Monroe is Jekyll, and the MOTW is Hyde.  A non-reformed Blutbad kidnaps young girls (from prepubescent to young adult), all of whom were wearing red and carrying something (in one case an iPod, how modern is that?) .  The Little Red Cap/Riding Hood who survives is rescued from the belly of the wolf’s house (the basement) not from the wolf itself.  (This is prime time television, we can’t get too gruesome).  And the wolf is shot by the Grimm’s partner, Hank, an action that could perhaps be seen as the modern and less grizzly version of cutting someone up.

 

Brown (2014) discusses two written versions of the Red Riding Hood tale: Perrault’s version where the wolf wins, and the Grimm’s version where the girl wins.  Perrault’s version was published more than a century before the Grimm’s version.  The change in endings could be due to the audience (the Grimm’s quickly began to write for children), but it seems more likely to be due to a change in Weltanshauung, or outlook on life.  Life in the 1800s would have been better than in the late 1600s.  If this is the case, then it makes sense that two hundred years after the Grimm’s version of Red Riding Hood was published, the Big Bad Wolf been fully tamed by society.  What’s so scary about big teeth and claws when we have bright, on demand electric lighting, when the wolf dispatched at a distance with a gun, and explained away by genetics?  Nothing scary there, the wolf has been de-fanged.

 

Works Cited

Brown, Nathan Robert.  “Red Hoodies and Cross-dressing Blutbaden.”  The Mythology of         Grimm.  Berkeley Boulevard Books, New York, 2014.

“Grimm Wiki – Monroe.” Wikia, 24 Feb 2017, grimm.wikia.com/wiki/Monroe.

Lindsay, Julianna. “The Magic and Science of Grimm: A Television Fairy Tale for Modern Americans.” Humanities, 5.2 (2016): 34. CrossRef. Web. . <http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/h5020034&gt;.

“Pilot.” Grimm: Season One, Written By David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf, and Stephen Carpenter, directed by Marc Buckland,  2011, Universal Studios Home entertainment.

Tosenberger, Catherine.  “Kinda Like the Folklore of Its Day.” Transformative Works and Cultures, Vol. 4, 2010, journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/174/156, Acessed 26 Feb 2017.

 

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