What links The Three Little Pigs, Santa Claus, Bigfoot and Hitler? If you answered ‘not a great deal’, you’d be right. If you answered ‘they’re all secretly liminal creatures from the world of NBC’s Grimm’, you’d also be right. If you answered ‘That’s my dream dinner party guest list!’, er, we probably aren’t going to be friends.
Grimm takes inspiration for its monster-of-the-week Wesen from all over the world. Not only do we meet versions of fairy tale characters from Goldilocks and the Three Bears to The Pied Piper of Hamelin, but also creatures from Native American and European legend, and those written to overlap with human history, regrettable or otherwise.
Join us as we take a closer look at where a few of Grimm’s Wesen intersect with existing history and legends…
Sasquatch, Yeti, The Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot… the Wildermann Wesen is known by many names in human mythology. When these Wesen transform – or woge – they become enormous, hirsute beasts with, you guessed it, big feet.
As Grimm tells it, the Wildermann’s natural proclivity towards outdoorsy behaviour, remote natural wildernesses and solitary pursuits is the root of myths painting them as the famous monster of the wild. Actually a very friendly species, the Wildermann enjoys being alone, hiking and camping, and isn’t the bloodthirsty creature handed down in frightening stories from generation to generation. They are by nature, peaceful, and Grimm rumour has it that famous Americans such as poet and naturalist Henry David Thoreau were in fact Wildermann.
Grimm’s penultimate season one episode, Big Feet, introduced the Wildermann with a lightly satirical exploration of the world of Wesen therapeutic support groups. The lesson of that episode? Don’t deny your true nature.
All the way back to Aesop and before, wolves have appeared as the baddies of myths and fairy stories. The Black Forest-set Brothers Grimm tales are no different, with Red Riding Hood notably depicting a cunning wolf attempting to trick and eat our protagonist. Stories of men who transform into wolves are similarly widespread in mythology, leading to today’s well-publicised full moon/silver bullet/enemy-to-vampires notion of the werewolf.
Grimm’s explanation for all things lupine in mythology is the Blutbad Wesen, a vicious wolf-like creature which hunts in packs and is responsible for the popular conception of werewolves in human mythology. These guys are bad news if you happen to be a little pig, or Bauerschwein.
The Blutbad is the Wesen we’re most familiar with on Grimm, thanks to Nick’s ally, Monroe, happening to be one. Specifically, Monroe is a Wieder, or reformed Blutbad who no longer hunts and eats humans and lives a quiet, vegan life suppressing his bestial impulses.
Dragons are every bit as popular in myth and legend as wolves, so it’s only fitting that Grimm should provide an alternative explanation for the origin of such stories. Enter the Dämonfeuer.
A rare fire-breathing Wesen who lives in a cave, eats humans and hoards treasure, it’s not hard to see the parallels between the Dämonfueur and mythological dragons. Season one’s Plumed Serpent provided a thorough explanation of exactly how the ‘fire-breathing’ works, using a combination of vaporised fat (from all the people they eat) and gastric acid.
These creatures are tricky to kill, what with bullets causing their vaporised lipid breath to explode. Nick rescued his damsel old school-style, by slaying the dragon using an improvised lance, à la Saint George.
Hasslich, Seltenvogel, Reinigen
More fairy tales here, as you might expect from a show called Grimm. First up we have the Hasslich, a nasty troll-like Wesen who believe that bridges are their natural property. Trolls… Bridges… If you’re thinking The Three Billy Goats Gruff then you’d be right on the money. The season one episode, Leave It To Beavers, is based on the story of the sub-bridge-dwelling troll who threatened three seemingly harmless goats, or in this case, Eisbiber. It’s less an explanation for the existence of the story than a modern update.
The Story Of The Golden Goose has a similar retelling in season one episode The Thing With Feathers. The Seltenvogel bird-like Wesen are known to produce a valuable golden stone (or egg), for which they are farmed by other, crueller Wesen species.
Finally, the Reinigen, a rat-like species of Wesen from which Grimm suggests we take the story of The Pied Piper Of Hamelin. A few Reinigen are known to be prodigious musicians and able to hypnotise and control rats with their music, as seen in season one’s Danse Macabre.
As the Wesen Grimm posits could be responsible for the popular image of extra-terrestrial Greys, the Gluhenvolk are a rare crossover with twentieth-century myth/government-controlled conspiracy (delete according to your beliefs, then go and have a bit of a lie-down if you’re left with the last one) instead of ancient legend.
As hairless humanoid reptilian Wesen with glowing skin, mistaking the Gluhenvolk for aliens would be an easy mistake to make.
That luminescent skin, which glows with a lunar beauty, is the source of no end of trouble for this particular Wesen, attracting as it does the attentions of hunters from throughout the Wesen world. So over-hunted had the Gluhenvolk been in fact, they were thought to have been extinct until Nick encountered a pair in season two episode, Endangered.
While we’re tracing links to existing myths, the likelihood of seeing a Gluhenvolk, according to Nick’s ancestors, makes them about as rare as leprechauns.
Steinadler, Schakal, Taurus-Armenta
We’ve some real-world overlaps here, according to hints dropped throughout Grimm’s first two seasons. First up is the idea, glimpsed in Aunt Marie’s Book of Lore, that Napoleon Bonaparte was in fact, a Steinadler Wesen (from the German meaning ‘stone’ and ‘eagle’). As was the President of the Italian Republic in the early nineteenth century, a prominent Japanese general and countless other military figures from history, the book goes on to tell us.
More historical military figures were revealed to be of the Taurus-Armenta species, a line of Minotaur-like bull Wesen famed for their honour and military prowess, but the biggest revelation of all has to be Adolf Hitler wogeing into a Schakal-like Wesen (sporting two of the three Coins of Zakynthos no less) mid-speech in a video watched in season two’s Three Coins In A Fuchsbau.
Just as the Taurus-Armenta overlaps with the Hellenic image of the Minotaur, both the Musai and the Naiad are similarly taken from Greek myth. Both also share a habit of beguiling men; the latter for the purposes of procreation as males of their species are unable to father their offspring, and the former in order to draw out artistic talent and eventually, send their victims mad and kill them.
The Nine Muses of Greek myth inspired artistic creation, just as Grimm’s Musai does, though she achieves her end through a psychotropic substance secreted in her kiss. It’s suggested in Aunt Marie’s Book of Lore that painter Vincent Van Gogh was the victim of just such a creature, who sent him mad with love and caused his eventual suicide.
You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry. You’d better not pout, I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is really a Gefrierengeber! Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?
Monroe is the source of this rumour in Grimm, which suggests that Santa Claus’ ability to live in the hostile conditions of the North Pole is down to his Wesen identity as a Gefrierengeber (from the German ‘Gerfrieren’, meaning to freeze). “Well think about it? I mean who else could live up there?”
More recently in Grimm, we met the Krampus (pictured above), a Santa-like creature from Alpine myth who kidnaps children on the naughty list.
So there we have it, just a few places where Grimm‘s fictional world intersects with our own and existing stories. Next up: Grimm’s deadliest Wesen.
Grimm season 3 starts on Wednesday the 5th of February at 9pm on WATCH in the UK (Sky TV 109 & Virgin TV 124).
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