In a Glass Grimmly, p.1Adam Gidwitz
Also by Adam Gidwitz
Once Upon a Time . . .
The Wishing Well
The Wonderful Mother
Jack and Jill and the Beanstalk
The Giant Killer
Where You’ll Never Cry No More
The Gray Valley
Death or the Lady
Eidechse Von Feuer, Der Menschenfleischfressende
Face to Face
Where Do These Stories Come From?
A Tale Dark & Grimm
DUTTON CHILDREN’S BOOKS • A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Adam Gidwitz
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
In a glass Grimmly / Adam Gidwitz.—1st ed.
Summary: Companion to: A tale dark & Grimm.
Summary: Frog joins cousins Jack and Jill in leaving their own stories to seek a magic mirror, encountering such creatures as giants, mermaids, and goblins along the way. Based in part on fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.
[1. Fairy tales. 2. Characters in literature—Fiction. 3. Frogs—Fiction. 4. Cousins—Fiction. 5. Adventure and
adventurers—Fiction. 6. Humorous stories.] I. Grimm, Jacob, 1785–1863.
II. Grimm, Wilhelm, 1786–1859. III. Mother Goose. IV. Title.
Published in the United States by Dutton Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
My inspiration, my motivation, my home.
We see now as in a glass, grimmly.
But then we shall see face to face.
Once upon a time, fairy tales were horrible.
Not boring horrible. Not so-cute-you-want-to-jump-out-the-window horrible.
Horrible like they define it in the dictionary:
Horrible (adj.)—causing feelings of horror, dread, unbearable sadness, and nausea; also tending to produce nightmares, whimpering for one’s parents, and bed-wetting.
I know, I know. You’re thinking: “Fairy tales? Horrible? Please.” I get that.
If you’ve been raised on the drivel that passes for fairy tales these days, you’re not going to believe a word that I’m saying.
First of all, you’re probably used to hearing the same boring fairy tales over and over and over again. “Today, children, we’re going to read a Cinderella story from China! Today, children, we’re going to read a Cinderella story from Madagascar! Today, children, we’re going to read a Cinderella story from the Moon! Today, children—”
Second of all, those fairy tales that you hear over and over and over again aren’t even the real fairy tales. Has your teacher ever said to you, “Today, children, we’re going to read a Cinderella story where the stepsisters cut off their toes and their heels with a butcher’s knife! And then they get their eyes pecked out by birds! Ready? Is everyone sitting crisscross-applesauce?”
No? She’s never said that?
I didn’t think so.
But that’s what the real fairy tales are like: strange, bloody, and horrible.
Two hundred years ago, in Germany, the Brothers Grimm first wrote down that version of Cinderella in which the stepsisters slice off pieces of their feet and get their eyes pecked out. In England, a man named Joseph Jacobs collected tales like Jack the Giant Killer, which is about a boy named Jack who goes around murdering giants in the most gruesome and grotesque ways imaginable. And there was this guy called Hans Christian Andersen, who lived in Denmark and wrote fairy tales filled with sadness and humiliation and loneliness. Even Mother Goose’s rhymes could get pretty dark—after all, Jack and Jill go up a hill, and then Jack falls down and breaks his head open.
Yes, fairy tales were horrible. In the original sense of the word.
But even these horrible fairy tales and nursery rhymes aren’t true. They’re just stories. Right?
You see, buried in these rhymes and tales are true stories, of true children, who fought through the darkest times, and came out the other end—stronger, braver, and, usually, completely covered in blood.
This book is the tale of two such children: a boy named Jack, and a girl named Jill. Yes, they do fall down a hill at one point. And yes, Jack does break his head wide open.
But there is more than that. There is a beanstalk. There are giants. There might even be a mermaid or two.
Their story is terrifying. It is revolting. It is horrible.
It is the most horrible fairy tale I have ever heard.
Also, it is beautiful. Not sweet. Not cute. Beautiful—like the gray and golden ashes in a fireplace. Or like the deep russet of a drying stain of blood.
And, best of all, it is true.
* * *
Now, let me just say that if you happen to be the kind of person who actually likes cute and sweet fairy tales, or the kind of person who thinks children should not read about decapitation and dismemberment, or, finally, if you’re the kind of person who, upon hearing about two children wading through a pool of blood and vomit, runs out of the room screaming, you don’t need to worry. This book is for you. There is no decapitation, dismemberment, peo
* * *
At least, not anywhere in the first few pages.
“Wait!” you’re probably asking. “What was that about people without clothing?”
Nothing! Moving right along!
The Wishing Well
Once upon a time, there was a kingdom called Märchen, which sat just next to the modern countries of England, Denmark, and Germany.
* * *
I need to interrupt. Already. I apologize. No one in the history of the world has ever pronounced the word “Märchen” correctly. Some people say Marchin’, like what the ants go doing if you’re from Texas.
That’s not right.
Some people say MARE-chen. That’s closer, but still wrong.
Others say MARE-shen. That’s about as close as I’ve ever gotten to pronouncing it right, so it’s probably good enough for you, too.
But if you really want to say the name of the kingdom that this story takes place in correctly (and I don’t know why you would, I’m just offering, because I’m nice like that), you’ve got to say MARE, then you’ve got to make a sound in your throat like you’re hocking a loogie, and then you have to say shen. Like this: MARE-cccch-shen.
You know what? You might just want to say Marchin’.
* * *
At the center of the kingdom Märchen was a castle. Behind this castle was a hidden grove. In the grove was a well. And at the bottom of the well there lived a frog.
He was a sad frog. He did not like his well. It was wet and mossy and dirty, and very very very very very very very smelly.
All day long the frog sat at the bottom of his well as salamanders splashed around him. Now, maybe you know it, and maybe you don’t, but salamanders are not the most popular creatures in the animal kingdom.
But why? Salamanders seem all right to you. They’re lots of pretty colors, like shimmery purple and glowy red. They have tiny black eyes that stare at you oh-so-very-cutely. And they have these little mouths that are permanently curled into tiny, maybe-smiles.
All of this is true. But, in addition to the pretty colors and the tiny eyes and the maybe-smiles, they have these shrill little voices which they use to ask the most idiotic, mind-numbing questions that you have ever heard.
“Why is blue?”
Or, “Who is a stone?”
Or, “What tastes better, a fly or a fly?”
Or, “Who is uglier, me or Fred? Is it me? It’s me, right? Me? Is it me?”
The sad frog’s only solace, amid the damp, and the filth, and the smell, and the salamanders, was the sky. All day and all night, the frog stared up at a little patch of sky that peered down into his clearing. Sometimes it was gray like slate, other times it was inky black, other times it was washed with a burning red. But most of the time the sky above his well was a clear, deep blue, with white shapes like fluffy rocks that floated across its face. All day and all night he stared up, unblinking, at that sky.
And then, one day, while the frog was staring up at his sky, he heard a peculiar stomp-stomp-stomping on the forest floor. It was followed by a sudden whoomp, and then a cry. Curious, he climbed the slippery stone wall to the top of his well and peered out.
Sitting on the forest floor, with matted hair and muddied clothes, was a little girl. Her face was red with anger and exertion. Her lips were all scrunched up and furious. But her eyes . . . The frog studied them. Her eyes . . . Well, her eyes looked just like the patch of sky above his well when it was its clearest, deepest blue.
“They can’t play with my ball!” the little girl bellowed at no one in particular. “They can’t. It’s mine!” She began to throw the ball up and down, glancing over her shoulder from time to time to see if she had been followed into the wood, and returning, disappointed, to her ball each time she discovered she had not been.
The frog watched, mesmerized. And where you or I might have begun to suspect this little girl of being a selfish brat, the frog, not knowing many (any) humans, saw only a maiden who had somehow captured the sky and kept it jailed behind her eyelids. And he suddenly felt that if only he could spend the rest of his days in the presence of this beautiful creature he would be perfectly and totally happy.
So the frog began to croak at the top of his lungs. Maybe she’ll notice me! he thought. And then he thought, Maybe she’ll take me home with her! And then he thought, Wait, she doesn’t live with salamanders! And so he put every ounce of hope that flowed through his froggy little veins into each expert amphibian warble.
But, of course, the girl did not notice him. She only threw her ball up and down, up and down. The frog sat there croaking for a full hour, but never once did she look at him. Finally, she stood up and took her ball out of the wood. The frog, in despair, threw himself from the edge of his well, down to the depths, hoping that the long fall would kill him. It didn’t. Instead, the salamanders began to nudge him with their blunt noses.
“Hey! Hey! Hey!”
“Are you dead?”
“Are you? Frog? Frog?”
“What is it like to be dead?”
“Am I dead?”
“Am I smelly?”
“Who’s smellier, me or Fred? Me? It’s me, right?”
The frog shoved moss into his ear holes.
But, to the frog’s great joy, the girl returned to the wood to play with her ball the next day, and the day after, and the day after that. And every day, the frog wooed her with the most magnificent croaks he could muster. But she never noticed him. Still, he took pleasure in watching her, examining her utterly perfect beauty, and imagining all the happy times they might one day spend together.
* * *
Alas, dear reader, you know as well as I do the mistake that our poor friend, the frog, is making. We all know that beauty is well and fine, but that it is unimportant when compared to questions of goodness, kindness, intelligence, and honesty. And, watching the girl throwing her ball in the air, the frog could determine nothing of these things. In fact, he knew next to nothing about her.
He did not know that this wasn’t just any little girl he had fallen in love with. She was the princess, the king’s only daughter. He also did not know that, as pretty as she was, she was a horror. Sweet and pretty on the outside, cruel and selfish on the inside.
If you know anything about children, dear reader, perhaps this will not surprise you. Perhaps you know that one of the greatest dangers in life is growing up very pretty.
You see, when you are very pretty, people tend to remark on your looks. They smile at you more easily. They are more permissive of your faults. Soon, you come to believe that your prettiness matters, and that you are better because you are pretty, and that all it takes to get through life is a batting of your eyelashes and a twisting of your hair around your little finger, and that you can scream and pout and shout and tease because everyone will still like you anyway because you are so unbelievably pretty. This is what many very pretty people think.
Beware, then, for this is how monsters are made.
And I fear that our poor frog has fallen in love with a pretty little monster.
* * *
One day, the girl came to the well rather later than usual. As she played with her ball in the small clearing, the sun began to set, and the edges of twilight rose like a black mist in the east. The darkness made it harder to see the ball, and so, on one particular toss, the princess missed it, and it bounced directly into the well.
The girl yelped and ran to the well’s edge. She peered down into the dark. The frog, who had never been so close to the girl, stared at her and tried not to hyperventilate.
Suddenly, the girl began to wail like a foghorn. She wailed and wailed and wept and wailed some more. Well, it pained the frog
Oh, if only she could hear me! he thought. If only she knew I was trying to help her!
As the girl wept into the darkness of the well, tears ran down her face, dropped from her dimpled chin, and splashed into the black water below.
Far up above, the first few stars had just begun to appear in the sky. The tears that fell into the well shook the surface of the water, and with it, the stars’ reflection. Now maybe you know it, and maybe you don’t, but this is the only way to wake the stars. And awake they did.
Meanwhile, the frog was trying with all his might to croak something that the girl might understand. “I can get your ball!” he tried to tell her. “I can help you, beautiful, radiant, perfectly nonamphibious creature!” And as he stared into her cerulean eyes, now fading to gray in the dying light, he went beyond wanting to help her, and even beyond longing to help her. He wished for it, in loud, croaking, frog-wishing sounds.
Well, the stars heard his wish, and they granted it.
* * *
What? The stars heard the frog?
And they grant wishes?
Yes, they did.
And yes, they do.
* * *
Without any warning, his croaks became perfectly comprehensible to the girl, and what had before been, “Ribbit . . . ribbit . . . ribbit . . . ” became, “Please, beautiful girl, let me help you!”
The girl stood up like a bolt. “Who said that?” she asked.
“I think I did,” said the frog, as surprised as she was.
In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes