Once Upon a Time, There Was a Grimm Fable

Snow White riding Bigby Wolf in his wolf form

How many of you are familiar with fairy tales? I mean REALLY familiar –  not just seen the Disney movies or read the sugarcoated stories retold in picture books. “What’s the difference,” you may ask? “How can they be any different from the versions I saw in those classic Disney movies?” Well, Grimm wasn’t just the name of the brothers who collected many of these tales – “grim” also describes the overall nature of the stories. Tales like The Little Mermaid and The Little Match Girl were often very graphic and many times, had a depressing ending. Even in the original Cinderella story, the stepsisters went as far as cutting their feet in order to fit the glass slippers. In Little Red Riding Hood, the woodsman cut open the wolf to find Red and her grandmother whole and replaced their spot inside the wolf with stones. Indeed, in that day & age, children’s stories were much, much different than their modern counterparts.

In 2002, a former artist for TSR (the company behind Dungeons & Dragons) began penning a comic series about the fairy tale characters of old and how they became stuck in our reality. This series, he called, Fables.  Fables mostly takes place in an area of New York City appropriately called, Fabletown, which is where the majority of the human characters (or those who could change their shape to human) live. Old King Cole is the mayor of Fabletown, with Snow White as his right-hand (she actually runs the town) and Bigby Wolf as the sheriff. Other notable residents of Fabletown include Jack Horner (of every Jack-based fairy tale), Prince Charming (a broke, but charming con artist playboy), Bluebeard, Pinocchio (now a real, albeit permanent, boy), and Beauty and the Beast. Fabletown also has a separate entity known as the Farm, which is where many non-humanoids are encouraged to live so that they don’t attract attention from who they call, “Mundys” (us). Some of those include the three bears as well as the three little pigs. According to the story, some centuries ago, the Fables were chased into our universe from theirs by a mysterious character know only as “the Adversary.” The Adversary waged war, conquering just about everyplace his army landed with the intention of enslaving the Fables. For whatever reason, once the Fables crossed into our universe, they became more or less immortal and for that reason, it was generally decided that they would try to stay away from Mundy affairs.

Due to the popularity of the series as well as the critical acclaim, executives rushed to cash in on the marketability of the comics by developing them into a television series. The first was NBC, who purchased the rights in 2005, but could not seem to get a script off the ground. Then in 2008,  ABC purchased the rights to create their own television series based on the comics. However, their script writers also seemed to not be able to make anything of it. Despite this, two series based on the premise of fairy tales becoming reality premiered this past fall: Once Upon a Time and Grimm.

Once Upon a Time

If you’re like me and saw the promos for this series on ABC, you were saying to yourself, “OMG, IT’S FABLES ON TV!!” And this isn’t too far off. Out of the two fairy tale themed tv series of this past season, Once Upon a Time, is clearly the most similar to the original source material. OUT, like Fables, is about the exile of notable fairy tale characters from their lands. But unlike Fables, this exile is imposed by the evil queen from Snow White & the Seven Dwarves (Lana Parilla) in order to prevent the prophecy of Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter usurping her reign. Fortunately, Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and the Prince (Josh Dallas) were privy to the prophecy and were able to enter a complicated deal with Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) to ensure her safety just before they were transported from their world. As an adult (Jennifer Morrison), she is talked into coming to Storybrooke by her son whom she gave up for adoption 10 years prior and has been adopted by the Evil Queen. He tells her that all the residents of Storybrooke are from fairy tales, they don’t remember who they are (save himself, Rumplestiltskin, & the Queen), and they are unable to leave the town.

“Wait a second – that doesn’t really sound like Fables at all,” is what some may be saying, and yes, that is true. Beyond the surface resemblance of fairy tale characters being trapped in the real world and their near-immortality (Time stands still in Storybrooke while Fables’ popularity keeps them alive), there isn’t really much in common between the two titles. Fables not only remember the stories that made them popular, but are able to leave Fabletown at will (although it isn’t recommended). The one major benefit that OUT has over Fables is the fact that it is aired on a Disney-owned network, which means that popular characters who had only been named in Disney movies (such as Pinocchio‘s Jiminy Cricket and Sleeping Beauty‘s Maleficent) were able to make appearances in episodes. It is an interesting series, but due to the oversaturation of good Sunday night TV, I couldn’t justify watching it over series like Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, or The Walking Dead.

Grimm

Grimm, on the other hand, is pretty much nothing at all like its inspiration, which is probably a good thing. Unlike Once Upon a TimeGrimm is made up of a cast of relative nobodies, the most recognizable of which most likely being Russell Hornsby (former star of the ABC Family series Lincoln Heights) and Silas Weir Mitchell (most remembered from his recurring role as criminally insane Charles “Haywire” Patoshik of Prison Break). Grimm takes the old Grimm brothers tales and assumes that they were all based on reality. The Grimm brothers were apparently a part of a line of monster hunters known as “Grimms,” which extends down to Portland Homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) who suddenly begins to notice people changing into odd creatures. His dying aunt is unable to give him much information about his new predicament before being hospitalized, but she leaves him her old trailer full of weapons and notes on the wesen (or creatures) he is to face. Russell Hornsby plays his partner, Hank, who does not know about Nick’s new task. However, on his first case as a Grimm, he meets Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a reformed Blutbad, or “Big Bad Wolf.” Nick mistakenly attacks him on his first encounter, but grows to rely on him for knowledge of the wesen world when he realizes Monroe is indeed as harmless as he claims.

The main reason I love Grimm so much is because as a fairy tale fanatic, I know that they were originally very dark stories, and Grimm keeps that in mind. While it’s nowhere near as gory or dark as Supernatural, for the major  four network channels (CBS, ABC, NBC, & FOX), it is a pretty dark series. There are vicious attacks, blades and claws being slashed, and plenty of skulking about at night. And with the level of backstory and mystery going on in its world, Grimm makes me want to not miss a single episode in case a minute detail may be missed.