To celebrate the countdown to my modern fairy tale, “Free Agent,” I’m taking a look at some classic fairy tales you probably haven’t heard or read. I’ll recap the fairy tale, and note how in modern terms we at the Grimm Agency would handle things better.
There’s a reason for this you haven’t read all of these: Some of these were written by a little old man who wandered into the wood and ate a bad mushroom.
That’s the only reasonable explanation, and to prove it, I’m kicking it off with a doozy: Hans-My-Hedgehog, with apologies to Heidi Shultz, as “Hedgehogs ruin everything.” You can read it here, or skip ahead for my summary.
The Sad, Sad Story of a Hedgehog who could have used some counseling:
Hans-My-Hedgehog is the classic, oft-repeated tale of a man who wishes he had a son, even if his son was a hedgehog. And his wife gives birth, but the child she gives birth to has the upper body of a hedgehog and the lower body of a man.
That’s right, paranormal romance folks. The first hybrid was a were-hedgehog.
First off, let me point out that if this man had sought the help of the Fairy Godfather, we would have administered the most important treatment of all: A paternity test. Seriously, this guy’s wife gives birth to a child who doesn’t’ resemble dad, and his first thought isn’t “You know, I was out cutting wood late last month. Must have been lonely at the cabin.”
The mother blames the father for the half-hedgehog son, because she doesn’t want to admit that she was out drinking really late and woke up with a very dim recollection of what might have gone on the night before.
(For the record, the hedgehog claims it was consensual).
But regardless of how the boy got here, we move on to the sad story of his life. Poor Hans-my-hedgehog can’t get anyone to be his godfather (apparently Knuckles the echidna wasn’t available), and his mother sticks him in a pile of straw behind the stove. Because straw doesn’t burn or anything.
And Mom refuses to breastfeed him, on account of how it might hurt. I’ve got news for her: Don’t matter if the kid’s got quills or not, the miracle of being a human feed-bag hurts. But anyway, he somehow lives. That’s the thing about Fairy tales. They don’t go into specifics, but we do know the father and mother were very poor, probably from buying hedgehog formula.
Anyway, after eight years of wishing his son would die (no, really), the father goes to town and asks his wife what she’d like. Then for giggles, he asks Hans. And Hans says “Bagpipes.” Because if you’re a were-hedge hated by your mother and father, what you really want is a set of bagpipes with which you can make everyone’s lives miserable.
And Dad buys them and brings them home, probably wishing Hans had taken up the ocarina.
So next, Hans says “You know that bad-ass rooster of yours? Have the blasksmith put shoes on him.” What would I not give to be a fly on the wall during that conversation. “You, blacksmith, can you put shoes on a rooster?”
“You’re the one who’s wife had that thing with the hedgehog, right? Sorry, can’t help. You want Jason Ogg, Smith of Lancre, in the Ramtop Mountains. That man can shoe anything.”
So after trekking to an entirely different book series, Hans’s father comes back with a metal clad cock which clinks whenever he walks. Yes, some of these fairy tales have serious sub-texts. But this one gets worse. When Daddy comes home, Hans-My-Hedgehog takes pigs and asses into the woods, where he roosts in a tree and watches them.
Yup. The story says he sat around in a tree watching asses. Basically, Hans is just like every other man at the pool, only a little more spiny. Safely in the woods, Hans learns to play all the verses of American Pie on the bagpipe. He also is singularly responsible for the evolution of deaf pigs.
And one day, who should come stumbling through the forest, but a King? Now, at the Grimm Agency, we make sure all royalty have GPS units, but even you get lost, there’s no need to panic – summon the Fairy Godfather and an agent will arrive to assist you shortly.
We’re like the AAA guy, but with guns.
But this King is lost and hears Hans playing the bagpipe, and thinks “I do believe in God Above. Also, I must have eaten some bad potato salad, because I think I see a tiny hedgehog man sitting on a cock.”
But Hans and the King strike a deal: Hans shows the king the way home, with the deal that whatever the King sees first, Hans gets. And the first “thing” the king sees is his daughter.
Timeout: Yup, the daughter is a “thing” in the context of this fairy tale. But it gets worse.
King #1 says “Ain’t no way any daughter of mine is getting her spiny freak on.” And Hans? He’s the honey-badger. He don’t care. He just gets on his cock, goes back up a tree, and continues to stare at swine and asses all day. In other words, we think he worked at Starbucks.
The whole King-Lost-In-The-Woods thing repeats, and this King gets home, and what do you think he sees first? A pile of rotten garbage? Nope. His ex-wife? Nope. His daughter? You got it. And this king, he says “You’re an adult, and matters of your love life are none of my business, but I support you in being whoever you are.”
No, not really. He says “You and spiny dude are a thing now, if he shows up.”
Flash back to the forest, and a tiny hedgehog man riding a cock. He’s grown a ton of pigs. Basically, like an entire South Texas worth of pigs, and he mails Dad and says “I’m coming home.”
And Dad realizes he was a bad father, begs forgiveness, attends counseling and reconciles.
No, not really. Dad says “I thought he died a long time ago. Damn it, now I’m on the hook for child support.”
But Hans-My-Hedgehog rides back with a flock of pigs and has them all slaughtered. And strangely, everyone likes him now, because, well, bacon. Bacon cures everything, something the folks at the Grimm Agency know well.
Ok. So Hans-My-Hedgehog takes his money, says Hi to Dad, and says “All I want is for you to go get more shoes put on my cock.” Which the father does. And according to the story, Daddy is happy: Hans-My-Hedgehog is leaving for good.
In what will be a recurring theme, parents are real jerks.
So Hans rides off to claim his bride and rides to King #1’s castle, where they try and get all stabby. My guess is that King #1 lived in Arizona and Hans didn’t have his citizenship papers. But when Hans gets past the guard, the King says, in essence “It’s you or me, Daughter, and while I may have experimented with a badger in my college days, I’m an older, wiser King now. What will the other folks at the church think of me?”
So he sends his daughter off with Hans-My-Hedgehog.
And right here, a story that has a were-hedgehog riding cock with metal shoes on it goes from weird to even worse: Hans takes off her pretty clothes, and right when you think he’s going to get all romantic with her in a “Mark of the Tala” moment, Hans stabs her with his quills. Yup. He stabs her until she bleeds and drives her off, since she wasn’t honest with him.
And Hans-The-Psycho-Hedgehog drives to King #2’s castle. King #2 says “Hey, I owe this dude a daughter, and I’ve got a whole stack, so if he shows up, let him on in.” And the daughter, when he arrives, says “You know, my experience on the Bachelorette didn’t work out, so why not?”
She goes with him.
Now, when evening came, it says, she was afraid of his quills. Which were bloody from the last wife he married that day. So, you know, it’s kind of a valid fear.
But Hans says to the King, “It’s my wedding night and all. I know this is your daughter we’re talking about, but I’m about to go creeping into her bed, and what I really want is for you to station four men by my door. So they can report to all the townspeople about what a stud I am.”
No, not really. The four men are supposed to wait, and when Hans creeps into bed, he’s going to take off his hedgehog skin. And the four men will burn it.
NOW, HOLD ON. If Hans could do that, why the hell didn’t he just take it off the first time?
But it gets worse.
The trick works. The men burn the hedgehog skin, but it burns Hans, and horror of horrors, he turns out to be like a black man. So the fairy tale thus far is weird, sexist, psychotic and now racist. But hang on, we’re not done yet.
A physician comes and treats him, and Hans turns white again. Whew. There for a moment, I though the worst thing in the story that features cross-species relationships, treating women like possessions, a violent plural marriage, was that Hans would turn out to have a decent amount of pigmentation.
But we’re not done yet.
Because nowhere does it ever say Hans turned to normal size. It says he was a handsome man, but this is a guy who was riding a rooster. But their marriage is “properly solemnized,” and I guess it goes to prove it’s not what you’ve got but how you use it.
Hans re-unites with the father, who loves him now that he’s white and married to a princess and not spiny. The mother is never mentioned again. We assume she ran off with a nice English Hedgehog and had a whole litter with him.
Why you should always contact The Grimm Agency
The Fairy Godfather would have insisted on a paternity test. Then marital counseling, followed by parenting classes. Litlle Hans-My-Hedgehog may have turned out to be a tiny, psychotic king, but not every fairy tale ends so nicely, as we shall see next time.