Once upon a time there were two German brothers called Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who decided – and it was a very clever, but not wholly original idea – that they wanted to preserve the folktales that had been shared amongst themselves by the German people for many many years. They lived in a cabin in the woods and every day Wilhelm would leave the cabin and travel to a nearby town or village and speak to the locals, asking them for their favourite stories, which he would memorise as best he could and then return home to his brother. Once at home Wilhelm would present from memory the stories he had heard and in that way Jacob would be able to experience them as he, Wilhelm, had done and as generations of local people had done too. Jacob was a writer and he spent his days in the cabin transcribing and working on the stories that Wilhelm brought home.

What does thou have for me, brother Wilhelm? said Jacob, as Wilhelm stepped through the door. You won’t be happy, brother Jacob, replied Wilhelm. Did you speak to the tailor? asked Jacob. I did, said Wilhelm. Did you speak to the baker? asked JacobI did, said Wilhelm. Did you speak to the miller? asked Jacob. I did, said Wilhelm. And thou hast nothing for me? 

“Brother I have many tales for thee,
But none of the finest quality.”

I see, said Jacob.Do you want me to tell you one of the stories I heard today? asked Wilhelm. Though it may prove to be a sore disappointment, please present your best story, said Jacob. So, with heavy heart, and scant enthusiasm, Wilhelm began to tell the story he had heard from the blacksmith, the story of the unfortunate pin.

The Unfortunate Pin 

There once was a pin, quoth Wilhelm, and it had its home in a pincushion. However, one day after being used by his mistress he was not taken home but was instead thoughtlessly left on a chair. When the master came home for his dinner he sat down on the chair and cried out in great pain for he had sat on the unfortunate pin. The master was very angry so he picked up the pin and he threw it on the floor. At this moment the mistress was walking over to the table with the master’s food and she stood on the unfortunate pin. As it pierced the sole of her foot she too cried out in great pain and dropped the master’s food on the floor, whereupon the plate shattered. In great anger she picked up the pin and threw it, this time out of the window where it landed in front of a curious dog. The dog sniffed at the unfortunate pin and quickly ate it. The pin stuck in the dog’s throat, cut him terribly, and prevented him from breathing. The dog died soon after.

Sheisse! Is that it? said Jacob.Yes, mine brother, replied Wilhelm. The story is not bad as such, but ’tis so short and the ending is so abrupt, said Jacob.Tis so, replied Wilhelm.The common working folk don’t have the time for complex story telling. Jacob’s face went dark, and he said:Our book will be a failure, Wilhelm. And so it was; the first edition of Kinder-und Hausmärchen sold poorly indeed. 

One day, however, the brothers’ luck changed. Wilhelm was passing through the forest on his way to a nearby town when there appeared in front of him a strange demon.Psst, looking for stories, my boy? said the demon. Wilhelm was scared and yet oddly drawn to the demon. Who are you, thou weird creature? he said.Oh my boy, my name is P.B. Gremlin, and I can make you rich and famous! cackled the demon.


“My name is P.B. Gremlin, and I can make you rich and famous!”

“Rich and famous? How so, demon?  The demon’s eyes flashed. In each of my eyes there is a stone; if you agree to my proposition I will cry tears of joy and the stones will fall to the ground and I shall give them to thee.

What good are stones to me?” said Wilhelm.

These are magic stones, my boy! Oh so magic are these stones!

Wilhelm was confused, so he asked: How so, demon? 

Please, call me P.B. Oh, P.B. is such a fine name! There is only one, my boy, only one P.B. Gremlin in all the world! I have been around since before time and will be here after time! said P.B. Gremlin. 

Very good, Mr P.B., but I know not yet what your proposition is and why I wudst want those stones that you say are in your eyes. 

The stones, my boy, are story-spinning stones. If you knock them together click-clack a man or a creature will appear and tell you a story, oh the finest story thou hast ever heard!

Wilhelm was intrigued. Those are truly magical stones, P.B. I wudst like them very much.

 Oh, you warm my heart, boy! Oh, how warm is my heart right now! We will have a fine time, you and I!” cried the demon.

What is your proposition? asked Wilhelm. 

I will give you the stones, my boy, if you agree to write me a book, oh, the very best kind of book! 

What kind of book is it thou wudst have me write? asked Wilhelm. 

A book to end all books, my boy! A smutty, dangerous, oh so misogynistic book! cried the demon happily

You want me to write a saucy book? asked Wilhelm.

You will write me an erotic book, my boy, one that will be yet also strangely unsexy! And, oh, the women will lose their minds and buy it, buy it in droves, boy! It will be called 50 Shades of Grey, my boy; oh, what a fine and meaningless name!

Suddenly Wilhelm felt uneasyI’m not sure I like the sound of this proposition, demon. What if I refuse?

The demon giggled. You won’t refuse, my boy! Not unless you want to keep publishing tiresome stories like The Nail for the rest of your life! 

But I have no talent for writing, demon. 

Don’t worry about that, boy, talent is not necessary when writing the kind of book I desire, in fact it’s an obstacle.

In that case, I agree, said Wilhelm.

Splendid! And with that the demon cried tears of joy and, as he had promised, two stones fell from his two eyes and he gave them to Wilhelm.Now, I have fulfilled my side of the bargain, boy. You must write the book I have ordered from thee within three years, at which time I will return and take the manuscript from thee. And so the demon disappeared and Wilhelm, instead of walking to the nearest town, turned around and went home.                 

At home Wilhelm told Jacob all about the story-spinning stones and offered to demonstrate for him their power. Jacob agreed and put down his quill and watched while Wilhelm took the two stones, one in each hand, and knocked them against each other click-clack. At that sound a fox appeared in the room and said:

“Masters, let me serve thee,
By telling you a fine story!”

Jacob and Wilhelm were very happy to see the fox and begged him to proceed with his story.

The Girl & The Fox

Once there was a fox, quoth the fox,who was very hungry and so he stole into the garden of a nearby family with the intent of taking one of their chickens. However, when he got there he found that the chickens were being guarded by a fierce dog. The fox did not want to risk his life, despite his hunger, and so he crept away. As he was about to leave the garden he saw a young girl playing by herself and the fox changed his plan, for he was sly and a quick thinker, and decided to take the girl for his dinner instead. He walked over to the girl and said:

“Little one, how bored you seem
All on your lonesome, sitting here.
To have a friend would be a dream
So come with me! Oh have no fear.”

But the girl was cautious, for her parents had warned her about talking to strangers, and she did not, in any case, like the fox’s untidy appearance or the hungry look in his eye. So she said no and the disappointed fox went away.


However, the fox was not to be so easily put off, so he returned the next day, this time with a gift for the child. He said:

“Little one, how bored you seem
All on your lonesome, sitting here.
This gift will prove I am not mean,
So come with me! Oh have no fear.”

But the girl had been taught not to take gifts from people she did not know and so she declined and told the fox to go away. The fox was very disappointed, but still he would not be put off. So, a third day dawned and he was back again, but this time he had put on a new waistcoat and combed his fur so that it shone like gold. When he saw the girl he said:

“Little one, how bored you seem
All on your lonesome, sitting here.
See how my coat doth shine and gleam!
So come with me! Oh have no fear.”

The girl looked at the well-dressed and well-groomed fox and this time could find no fault with him and being very bored and very lonely agreed to be his friend and go away with him. The fox was very pleased and that day ate well.

Jacob and Wilhelm were most pleased with the story of the fox and the girl and thanked the fox for it, whereupon the fox disappeared. Those stones will make our fortune! said Jacob. ‘Tis so, replied Wilhelm, and I need no longer go out hunting for stories. Once a day I will knock the stones together and you will write down what is said by whoever appears. Agreed, said Jacob. And so it was, and in this way the brothers amassed a large number of excellent tales, each one more delightful and sophisticated than the last. Amongst the stories told to the brothers were Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, The Bloody Chamber and many many more.

The tales, in content, were most fantastical and featured such things as a girl who wept pearls and a gold talking fish and a magic table that produces food when you wish it to, to name only a few. As a result, for people were enchanted by these magical stories, each subsequent edition of Kinder-und Hausmärchen sold better than the one before and the Grimm’s reputation was cemented and their fortune made. However, as the time passed the brothers became increasingly uneasy, albeit for different reasons.I am concerned, said Jacob, about some of these tales. When the demon comes for his smutty book we must question him. How goes the erotic novel, brother? As well you know,said Wilhelm, I have not written a word, I have only the names of the principle characters: Christian and Anastasia. And it has been three years today, the demon must come for it at any moment.” Thou aren’t a writer, the demon will understand, said Jacob.

At that moment the demon did appear in a burst of smoke, and said: My boys! How lovely to see you! Oh, what a sight! Three long years I’ve been waiting. So, tell me, how are the stories? Selling well? 

Very well, demon, said Jacob,but I have some questions. 

The demon frowned. Oh, they always have questions! The Marquis de Sade had questions! Chaucer had questions! No doubt Lil’ Kim and Philip Roth and Peter North will all have questions too! So, what are your queries, my boy? 

The stories are superb. With the tellers being magically transported to our cabin they have much more time to indulge us with lengthy tales, but quite a few of them share details or action or characters, Stupid Hans for example, or fooling a wolf into eating stones. I’m worried that readers will soon find them repetitious.” 

Oh my boy, your tales are meant to represent the oral story telling tradition of your fine country. So, of course there will be some repetition, as the tales have travelled around and changed shape from being passed from person to person. This means one will find variants of the same story, or elements repeated in numerous stories. If you use the magic stones once one might get a man from Cologne, another time a witch from Berlin, and both may tell you the local version of the same tale. If your reader is a serious one then he will find these repetitions interesting, if not he will skip the stories that bore him.” 

“I feel much better now, demon. But, I’m also worried about the dark subject matter of many of the stories. Demon, I don’t know if you’ve read them, but in almost every tale someone dies horribly, or is mutilated, like the girl whose hands are cut off or the mother and daughter who are put in a barrel full of nails and dragged by horses all over the world. And those are the least disturbing examples!” 

My boy, why does this bother thee? The world is a scary place, and life isn’t all candy floss and giggles!” 

“I know that, demon, but, although it wasn’t specifically intended for children, young ones do read our book.” 

“Quite so, and a good thing it is. Oh, there’s far too much molly-coddling of children, my boy, and in the future there will be much more. Children should not be raised to think that nothing bad will ever happen to them, that they are entitled to a life without periods of woe or hardship. It is much better for them to learn early that, yes, bad things can and do happen, and that life can sometimes be, and frequently is, hard and that all people must die. When young one is at one’s most perceptive, most receptive; if they be shielded too effectively from the darkness when it doth finally descend twill be a great a shock to them and they might handle it badly indeed.” 

“I am satisfied, demon, but I am also concerned that some of the tales involve religiosity – these tales feature God and Angels and so forth – that wudst be difficult to bear for the non-religious amongst us. People don’t like being preached to, demon.”

“They do not, my boy, and you’re right in thinking that there are people who will be unhappy or made uncomfortable by those stories. But, should it bother thee? No. You cannot make everyone happy all of the time; in any case, if you took out, say, the word God and replaced it with the word Wizard those tales wudst read like any of the others. If a religious word alone upsets people so much that they would want to close your book then I’d say the problem is not with your book but with them, indeed. Besides, religious tales are part of the oral story-telling tradition and they canst skip those stories if they wish.” 

Thy hast put my mind at rest, demon. But, can you convince me that racism is ok? One day we were told a story that the teller called The Jew among Thorns, and it was frightfully racist! I’m worried that it will offend people.”

“So it will, my boy, so it will! But aren’t people sometimes racist? These are stories from the people; the stories in your book must, and do, reflect the culture and society of your time. Is it fun to read? No. Is it important as a historical document? Indeed, yes, my boy.” 

The demon then moved towards Wilhelm who throughout the conversation with Jacob had been looking very glum.How nervous you look, my boy. You have something for me, I trust?he said. Wilhelm trembled and shook his head, for the power of speech had been lost to him for a moment.Bring forth the manuscript, my boy! P.B. is impatient! Oh, I do hope ’tis grubby, so grubby and offensive! he cackled.

I haven’t got it, demon, replied Wilhelm at last.

“Not got it? Oh, this is bad, my boy, very bad, said P.B. Gremlin.

‘Tis not my fault! I had completed the book but a sparrow flew through the window and stole it!” 

Oh, sparrows are psychotic creatures, but they aren’t thieves, dear boy. Tell me, have you learnt anything from the tales you have been told these long years?”

Why, yes, the stories all have morals or lessons.” 

What are those lessons, boy?” 

That thou shudst behave honourably and not cheat or lie or do wrong.” 

“Oh, what fine lessons those are, my boy! What else?” 

“That thou shudst be wary of strangers, that bad people may try and take advantage of you and do you wrong, that thou shudst not be greedy and avaricious.” 

Oh, those lessons are the most important lessons, boy! And what happens to those who are greedy, who lie, who cheat, who talk to strangers?” 

They are punished, most horribly,” said Wilhelm.  And with that the demon plucked out Wilhelm’s eyes so that he could no longer find his way through the forest in search of people to tell him stories. Next he lopped off Jacob’s hands so that he could no longer write down the stories told to him, for he had not once offered to help his brother write 50 Shades of Grey even though he too had profited from the magic stones. Finally P.B. Gremlin picked up the story-spinning stones and disappeared. The brothers never published a story again, for they died not long after. 

The Unfortunate Pin & The Fox and The Girl are my own work, so you haven’t been short-changed if you buy The Complete Fairy Tales and these two stories are not in it.

For more of P.B. Gremlin’s adventures:

I’ve read the Grimm’s fairytales innumerable times; as I get older, and marginally wiser, they get richer and more magnificent.


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