The fairytale that inspired tonight’s episode of Grimm was “The Jew in the Brambles.” The Brothers Grimm, like many of the intellectuals in their time, had a problem with the people we call the Jews. That problem’s name is ANTI-SEMITISM. When I saw the preview and the title for tonight’s show two weeks ago, I immediately knew the story reference. “The Jew in the Brambles” is racist propaganda, a form of literary bullying if you will. There is a fool who is at the service of a rich man. Instead of getting paid his wages, the rich man gives him nothing but 3 pennies. The fool gives his last 3 pennies to a gnome who grants him three wishes. One of his 3 wishes is for every time he asks a favor, someone will do what the servant wants; another one of the wishes was for a fiddle. Well, the servant runs into a Jew, who the servant (like a good Aryan Third Reicher would) accuses the Jew of stealing money from others. So, playing the fiddle, the servant coerces the Jew into dancing in a bush filled with thorns. At the end of the story, after the Jew has alerted the proper authorities of the servant’s actions, the servant plays the fiddle, and forces the Jew to confess to a crime he did not commit. Like a certain Jewish savior for Christians, an innocent Jew was executed. The message of the story: There’s economic injustice in the world, so much so that foolish men-servants prosper, and the only thing to do about it is to find a scape-goat. That’s where the Jew comes in. On a religious symbolic, nay, theological level, “The Jew in the Brambles” represents a perverted religion, a complete inversion of the Cross–the Jew Christ Jesus wore a crown of thorns on his head and was crucified, hung high because he promoted spiritual and economic shalom. It is racist cultural narratives such as these that makes the notion of a transcendent God necessary, to combat radical evil in the world (by transcendent, I mean a divine Spirit who goes “to battle in front of humanity,” to show us the way to holiness).
Now to the televised rendition of this racist folk tale, Grimm’s Danse Macabre At the beginning of the episode, a mangled man’s body, Paul Lawson, was found in a car, apparently eaten alive by rats. Roddy Geiger becomes a person of interest, since his dad owns a pest control company. When our heroes Grimm and his partner Hank inquire about Roddy, he is playing a violin, “captivating” a group of rodents. Roddy’s dad complains, “I am tired of them treating us like garbage.” Roddy becomes frightened of Nick, afraid as a Grimm, he will kill the Geiger men right there at the trailer park.
Economic inequality and bullying loomed large in this episode. Captain Renard says that the department’s chief concern is about how a popular teacher at a private school for rich kids was murdered (and not any concern fro the victim as such). The obvious classwarfare between the rich (Carter Brimley and his family) versus the poor (The Geigers). “You’re gonna pay” Roddy promises Carter. “Some of us can afford to,”Carter replies. Sarah’s mother (Sarah we discover is Roddy’s and Carter’s love interest) tells Hank and Nick, “This boy does not belong at our school.” Hank (the Token Black) finishes the sentence for her, “or in your neighborhood.”
Nick convinces Eddie, the Big Bad Wolf (who just happens to play the cello as well), to talk to the Reinegen (rat humanoid monster) Roddy, and Monroe asks (in typical comic yet prejudiced fashion), “He’s not a rapper, is he? Nothing against rappers, but where is the melody?” Grimm tonight was a fantastic fantasy telling of the inner turmoil that the marginalized suffer. Carter Brimley the bully, and his friends are shocked to discover that their favorite local DJ, DJ Retchit Kat, was actually Roddy himself. DJ Retchit Kat (“a rapper”) represents the poor struggling to become included into society by the rich.  The fiddle playing-cat comes from the story, The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat (another fairytale about class differences). [end edit-12/9/12] This alter ego is what W.E.B. DuBois called, a “double conciousness” or two souls warring against the other, one vying for acceptance and an integrated society, while the other struggling to affirm the self as is (much like the Jew exiled in 19th century German or the American Negro during the days of segregation).
Another interesting part of the story, as part of the story-arc over all, is the fear that creatures have around Nick. A plumber who happens to be a creature turns around, takes one look at Grimm, and runs out of the house without completing his task (fixing the refrigerator). It was the same kind of terror that Roddy had in his initial encounter with Nick. I suspect there is a trend here, that the Grimms are not just criminal profilers historically, but also terrorizing bullies as well. Perhaps a tongue-in-cheek critique of the current power of militarized police forces in the USA these days?
For further commentary on “The Jew in the Brambles,” as well as “The Poor Miller’s Boy,” see the text, The Annotated Brothers Grimm.
Also see this link for an abridged German version of
Christ Crucified “The Jew in the Brambles”: A Jew in the Brambles
Link to the Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat: Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat
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- ‘Grimm’ Preview: Music, Rats and a Look Behind-the-Scenes for This Thursday’s Episode (buddytv.com)
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- Grimm: Variations on a Theme (politicaljesus.com)
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