The Grimm Conclusion (Grimm Series #3)

The Grimm Conclusion (Grimm Series #3)

4.4 27
by Adam Gidwitz, Hugh D'Andrade
     
 

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Once upon a time, fairy tales were grim.
 
Cinderella’s stepsisters got their eyes pecked out by birds.
 
Rumpelstiltskin ripped himself in half.
 
And in a tale called “The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage,” a mouse, a bird, and a sausage all talk to each other. Yes, the sausage talks. (Okay, I guess that

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Overview

Once upon a time, fairy tales were grim.
 
Cinderella’s stepsisters got their eyes pecked out by birds.
 
Rumpelstiltskin ripped himself in half.
 
And in a tale called “The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage,” a mouse, a bird, and a sausage all talk to each other. Yes, the sausage talks. (Okay, I guess that one’s not that grim…)
 
Those are the real fairy tales.
 
But they have nothing on the story I’m about to tell.
 
This is the darkest fairy tale of all. Also, it is the weirdest. And the bloodiest.
 
It is the grimmest tale I have ever heard.
 
And I am sharing it with you.
 
Two children venture through forests, flee kingdoms, face ogres and demons and monsters, and, ultimately, find their way home. Oh yes, and they may die. Just once or twice. 
 
That’s right. Fairy tales
Are
Awesome.   

* “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Gidwitz deploys his successful formula of bloody happenings and narratorial intrusion in his third and final installment of unexpurgated fairy tales. … Underneath the gore, the wit, and the trips to Hell and back, this book makes it clearer than ever that Gidwitz truly cares about the kids he writes for.” —Publishers Weekly starred review
 
“Entertaining story-mongering, with traditional and original tropes artfully intertwined.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The conclusion to the trilogy that began with A Tale Dark and Grimm (2010) and continued with In a Glass Grimmly (2012, both Dutton) is equally gorey and awesomely dark. ... As innovative as they are traditional, the stories maintain clear connections with traditional Grimm tales while creatively connecting to the narrative, and all the while keeping the proceedings undeniably grisly and lurid. … Readers will rejoice.”— School Library Journal

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 09/30/2013
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Gidwitz deploys his successful formula of bloody happenings and narratorial intrusion in his third and final installment of unexpurgated fairy tales. The protagonists are Jorinda and Joringel, who go through hair-raising and stomach-churning travails similar to those of their predecessors, Hansel and Gretel (in A Tale Dark & Grimm) and Jack and Jill (from In a Glass Grimmly); there are even a few cameo appearances by characters from the earlier books. Among the sources this time are “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty,” lesser-known tales such as “The Juniper Tree” and “The Boy Who Left Home to Find Fear,” and a few non-Grimm tales. Reflecting his love of theory, Gidwitz takes an excursion into metafiction near the end that highlights the power of story, one of two key themes, along with the folly of repressing one’s feelings. Underneath the gore, the wit, and the trips to Hell and back, this book makes it clearer than ever that Gidwitz truly cares about the kids he writes for. Ages 10–up. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Company. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-15
The names change, but the characters and themes not so much as Gidwitz takes a pair of children through a third series of folk-tale scenarios punctuated with washes of blood, fire, tears and parental issues that presage readers' encounters with Bruno Bettelheim. Before finally making good on their vow never to part, twins Jorinda and Joringel hie off on separate plotlines. Jorinda, as Ashputtle (freely translated as "Toilet Cleaner"), is betrothed to a comically clueless prince, survives three nights in an ogre's haunted castle, becomes a child tyrant queen and is murdered. Joringel, magically reconstituted after having his head snipped off by his stepfather, swallows a fear-killing juniper berry, gives Sleeping Beauty CPR and rescues his sister from hell with help from the devil's grandmother. So intrusive a narrator that even his characters hear him, Gidwitz offers commentary and (necessarily frequent) warnings about upcoming shocks. He then later steps in to shepherd his protagonists to modern Brooklyn for some metafictional foolery before closing with notes on his sources. After many tears, few of them happy ones, and much reference to suppressed feelings of anger and guilt, the children are reconciled with their neglectful, widowed mother and go on to a happy-ever-after in an anarchic day camp dubbed Jungreich, the Kingdom of Children. Entertaining story-mongering, with traditional and original tropes artfully intertwined. (Fantasy. 11-14)

From the Publisher
Praise for The Grimm Conclusion:

* “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Gidwitz deploys his successful formula of bloody happenings and narratorial intrusion in his third and final installment of unexpurgated fairy tales. … Underneath the gore, the wit, and the trips to Hell and back, this book makes it clearer than ever that Gidwitz truly cares about the kids he writes for.” —Publishers Weekly starred review
 
“Entertaining story-mongering, with traditional and original tropes artfully intertwined.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The conclusion to the trilogy that began with A Tale Dark and Grimm (2010) and continued with In a Glass Grimmly (2012, both Dutton) is equally gorey and awesomely dark. ... As innovative as they are traditional, the stories maintain clear connections with traditional Grimm tales while creatively connecting to the narrative, and all the while keeping the proceedings undeniably grisly and lurid. … Readers will rejoice.”— School Library Journal

“Adam Gidwitz continues his eerily funny Grimm fairytale takeoffs with fresh takes on Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, and the Juniper Tree. Perfect for snuggle up reads.”—Barnes & Noble

"Entertaining story-mongering, with traditional and original tropes artfully intertwined." — Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal
12/01/2013
Gr 4–8—The conclusion to the trilogy that began with A Tale Dark and Grimm (2010) and continued with In a Glass Grimmly (2012, both Dutton) is equally gorey and awesomely dark. Jumping outside normal book conventions, Gidwitz not only relies on the previously recounted horror, but he also embraces and integrates it into the plot. "The third raven blinked at the little boy. 'The metafictional dimensions of that statement are kind of blowing my mind.'" Fans of these gruesome tales will not blink an eye, and newcomers are more likely to return to the previous titles to catch up than to find the references off-putting. The assured voice of the storyteller continues to be distinctive and clearly indicated by the bold type. Jorinda and Joringel, main characters in these adventures, gradually take on this storyteller role, upending the expected, and provide a satisfying conclusion while extolling the power of story. As innovative as they are traditional, the stories maintain clear connections with traditional Grimm tales while creatively connecting to the narrative, and all the while keeping the proceedings undeniably grisly and lurid. Gidwitz includes a note regarding the sources of his stories, which are not just Grimm, but also include Peter Dickinson, Hans Christian Andersen, Eric Kimmel, and his own fertile imagination. Readers will rejoice.—Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780525426158
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
10/08/2013
Series:
Grimm Series, #3
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
241,217
Product dimensions:
5.94(w) x 8.48(h) x 1.25(d)
Lexile:
630L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

A wicked stepfamily

It was morning, and Jorinda and Joringel’s stepfather was in the kitchen with his daughters, taking big red apples from a marketing basket and putting them in a large chest with a big heavy lid and a sharp brass lock, when Jorinda and Joringel came in.

Jorinda, seeing the lovely apples, said, “Stepfather, may I have an apple?”

The man said, “Of course, my dear.” And he handed the little girl an apple. The stepsisters scowled.

And then Joringel said, “Stepfather, may I have an apple, too?”

“NO!” the man bellowed. And he snatched the apple back from Jorinda, threw it into the chest, and slammed the heavy lid shut.

The stepsisters laughed loudly.

ALSO BY

Adam Gidwitz

A Tale Dark & Grimm In a Glass Grimmly

Once upon a time, fairy tales were grim.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word grim as “ghastly, repellent, or sinister in character.” Their example of how to use the word is this: “a grim tale.” (Really! It says that!)

Once upon a time, fairy tales were Grimm, too. That is, they were collected by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

You know the tales of the Brothers Grimm.

For example, raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of a story called “Little Red Riding Hood.”

You haven’t?

Oh, you have. Then why aren’t you raising your hand? Go ahead and raise it. I don’t care how stupid you look, sitting in the corner of the library by yourself, or on the school bus, or in bed at night, raising your hand for no apparent reason. How else am I supposed to know whether you’ve read “Little Red Riding Hood”?

Raise it.

Thank you.

Okay, raise your hand if you’ve heard of “Hansel and Gretel.”

Do it.

Thanks.

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of “Rumpelstiltskin.” (I assume you’re raising your hand.)

“Sleeping Beauty.” (Your hand’s still up, right?)

“Snow White.” (Of course you have.)

“Cinderella.” (Your hand better still be in the air.)

But now you’re thinking: Wait a minute. You said fairy tales used to be grim—i.e., ghastly, repellent, sinister. These stories aren’t ghastly, repellent, or sinister at all. They are cute, and sweet, and boring.

And, I must admit, these days you are correct. The versions of these stories that most people tell are indeed cute and sweet and incredibly, mind-numbingly, want-to-hit-yourself-in-the-head-with-a-sledgehammer-ingly boring.

But the original fairy tales were not.

Take “Rumpelstiltskin,” for example. You may know “Rumpelstiltskin” as a funny little tale about a funny little man with a funny not-all-that-little name.

But do you remember what happens at the end of that funny little story? The girl guesses his name, right? And he gets very angry. And do you remember what happens then?

No?

Well, in some versions of the story, Rumpelstiltskin stamps his foot and flies out the window.

Which makes no sense. Who has ever stamped their foot and suddenly gone flying out of a window? Impossible.

In other versions of the story, he stamps his foot and shatters into a thousand pieces.

This is even more ridiculous than him flying out of a window. People don’t shatter. People are fleshy and bloody and gooey. Shatter is not something that people do.

So what actually happens when the girl guesses Rumpelstiltskin’s name? In the real, Grimm version of the story?

Well, he stamps his foot so hard that it gets buried three feet in the ground. Then he grabs his other leg, and he pulls up on it with such force that he rips himself in half.

Which, it must be admitted, is indeed ghastly, repellent, sinister—and awesome.

The story I am about to tell you is like that, too.

It is Grimm. And grim.

In fact, it is the grimmest, Grimmest tale that I have ever heard.

And I am sharing it with you.

Yeah. You’re welcome.

Jorinda and Joringel

Once upon a time, in the days when fairy tales really happened, there lived a man and his wife. They were a happy couple, for they had everything their hearts desired. They had a little house, a little garden, and in the center of that garden, they had a pretty little juniper tree.

Yes, they had everything their hearts desired. Everything, that is, except a child. More than anything else—more than their house, their garden, their tree—this couple wanted a child. But they did not have one.

One winter’s day, the wife stood in the garden beneath the juniper tree—which is a handsome pine with needles so dark they are almost blue and little red berries that look like drops of blood. She was peeling an apple with a knife when her hand slipped, and she cut herself. A drop of her blood fell to the snowy ground. She saw the drop of blood on the snow, and she thought, “Oh, how I wish I had a child, as red as blood and as white as snow.”

Hold on. I have to interrupt.

You think you know this story. You think it’s “Snow White.”

You think wrong.

If I wanted to be educational, I would explain that fairy tales often share “motifs” with one another—images and phrases that crop up again and again, even in tales from different countries and cultures. Which is a little bit interesting.

I do not, though, have any desire to be educational.

No. I just want to tell you this completely messed-up story.

Well, a month went by, and the snow with it. Two months, and the world was green. Three months, and flowers came out of the ground. Four months, and the trees of the forest pressed hard upon one another and the green branches all mingled together. The fifth month passed, and the wife stood under the juniper tree as its blossoms fell to the earth. When the sixth month was gone, the berries had grown big and firm, and the woman became very still. After the seventh month, she snatched at the juniper berries and ate so greedily she grew sad and sickened. When the eighth month had passed, she called her husband and wept and said, “If I die, bury me under the juniper tree.” With that she took comfort and was happy until the ninth month. Then she bore twins: a little boy with dark hair, dark eyes, and lips as red as blood; and a little girl with dark hair and green eyes and cheeks as white as snow.

She brought them to her husband. This man took one look at his two beautiful children, and he was so happy that he died.

WHAT? He was so happy that he died?

Yup.

That sort of thing used to happen all the time. It was just . . . “Oh, I’m so happy! I’m so happy! I’m so ha-a-a-ack-ack-ack . . .”

Dead.

On the infants’ very first night in this world, their mother sat by the fire and wept with joy for her living children and with grief for her dead husband. The infants, off in their crib, wondered where their mother was, and why she was not holding them, and where that distant crying sound was coming from. At last, because a baby needs to be held, the infant girl reached out her tiny hand, and the infant boy reached out his, and they held on to one another.

Now, this mother was a very learned woman. She was known far and wide for her collection of old books and her mastery of dead languages. But no amount of learning or knowledge had prepared her to raise two children on her own. She had no books for that—and what she did read about children in her ancient books had very little to do with these two delicate, squirming, crying creatures.

She was afraid. She feared that she would raise them badly. So she pretty much left them alone. She would feed them and clothe them and then she would retire to her study and pore over her ancient books in dead languages and try not to think too much about the babies who cried for her from the room upstairs.

———————————————

Well, these babies grew, as babies will. Soon they were scampering around on their own, laughing and running and playing.

Everywhere the little boy went, the little girl went. And everywhere the little girl went, the little boy went. They tended to the house together and played together out of doors and tucked themselves in bed at night and told each other bedtime stories—so their mother wouldn’t have to stop her studies. And they rarely called each other by their names, which were strange and German and hard to pronounce. They called each other Little Brother and Little Sister, even though they were just about exactly the same age. They loved each other so dearly that one grew sad when the other was out of sight. The little boy would often say to his sister, “If you won’t leave me, I won’t leave you.” To which the little girl would always reply, “I will never, ever leave you.”

Now, even though the children called one another Little Brother and Little Sister, I can’t manage to tell their entire story without using their names. I did try, but it gets very confusing. For example, if I want to let you know that one of them looked little, I can’t say, “The enormous, murderous ogre peered down at little Little Sister.” That would sound weird.

Since I’m going to need to use their names, you’re going to have to learn to pronounce them. Even if the children, generally, didn’t bother.

The little girl’s name was Jorinda. You pronounce that YOUR-INDA.

The little boy’s name was Joringel. You pronounce that: YOUR-INGLE.

Yes, German is weird.

As the years went by, the mother became more and more worried about her children. She worried that she neglected them, and she worried that they had no one who knew how to guide their growth properly.

So she decided to marry again. She consulted all the ancient books that she owned, considered all the single men in the village, and decided on her husband.

The man she chose was neither handsome nor very kind, but he was a good cook, and the mother had read that growing children need good, hearty food to help them grow.

Also, he had two beautiful daughters, just a little bit older than Jorinda and Joringel. So the man knew how to raise children. That, the mother decided, was good, too.

And everything was good. For a few days.

Jorinda (that’s the girl) and Joringel (that’s the boy) always cleaned the house and took care of all the chores, so their mother did not have to interrupt her important studies. Well, one day, they asked their new stepsisters if they wanted to help clean the house.

The girls flipped their long, beautiful hair and laughed. “Why would we want to help?”

“You look like you’re doing a fine job on your own!”

And they walked away giggling.

So Jorinda and Joringel went into the kitchen where their stepfather was cooking and asked if they could have some help with the laundry, now that there was twice as much of it to do. He brandished a wooden spoon and chased them away.

Soon, Jorinda and Joringel began to realize that their new family members did not like them very much. In fact, the stepsisters loathed Jorinda and teased her cruelly. And the stepfather hated Joringel with a passion as hot as the hottest coal. I don’t know why. He just did.

———————————————

One day, Jorinda and Joringel found themselves standing outside their mother’s study.

The little boy sniffled hard. “I wish Mama would come out.”

“Shh,” said Jorinda. “Don’t disturb her.”

Joringel’s jaw was moving sideways, back and forth. This either meant he was thinking about something or he was going to cry. Jorinda was nervous about both possibilities.

“I’m going to knock,” said Joringel.

“Don’t!” Jorinda hissed. But before she could stop him, he had rapped three times on the door of their mother’s study.

Behind the door, they could hear a chair being pushed back and pages being shuffled. “Coming!” a voice called.

Jorinda tried to pull her brother away, but Joringel stood firm.

The door opened, and their mother appeared. Her long hair was held up in a messy bun behind her head, and she was blinking, as if she weren’t used to looking at anything that wasn’t words on a page. When she saw the children, she smiled sadly and knelt before them.

“Yes, my dears?” she asked.

Suddenly, Joringel didn’t know what to say. He looked at the floor.

“Nothing, Mama,” Jorinda cut in. “We’re sorry to disturb you.”

But her mother said, “You’re not disturbing me. What is it?”

Joringel raised his head. His eyes were brimming with tears.

The mother took her children by their small hands and led them into her study.

The walls were lined with ancient volumes, huge books bound with leather and nails. It smelled musty in there, but the sunlight slanted warm and bright through the small window. Jorinda and Joringel felt like they were entering a secret temple. Neither breathed.

The mother sat down by her desk and, holding her children’s hands, looked into their eyes. “What’s bothering you?” she asked.

Joringel said, “I wish we had our real father with us.”

His mother nodded. “So do I. Every day. Every night, when I try to sleep, the pain is like a stone under my mattress. But do you know what to do when there’s a stone under your mattress that you just can’t get rid of?”

“What?”

“Get another mattress, and another, and another. Bury the stone under mattresses, until you don’t feel it anymore.”

Joringel squinted. “You sleep with lots of mattresses on your bed, Mama?”

His mother smiled. “It’s a metaphor.”

Joringel didn’t know what a metaphor was. Neither did Jorinda, but she wasn’t about to let the longest conversation they had had with their mother in years end yet. So she said, “I hate our stepsisters. They’re selfish, and they’re mean.”

Her mother pressed her lips together. Then she said, “Anger is a weed, Jorinda. It grows up through the soil, choking every other plant. You must stamp it out. Don’t let it enter your garden. Stamp out your anger until it never comes back.”

Both children held their faces tight. Jorinda was trying to stamp out her anger. Joringel was trying to smother his pain. Suddenly, a single tear choked its way out of Joringel’s eye. His mother reached out her finger and caught it. She wiped it on her shirt. “And never cry,” she said. “Choke back your tears. Tears are waves on the ocean of sadness. You will drown in them if you’re not careful. Believe me. I know.”

Then Jorinda and Joringel’s mother turned back to the ancient books on her desk. She clenched her jaw and exhaled through her nose, like she was steeling herself against something. She began to read.

Jorinda took her brother by the arm and led him away.

Excuse me. I have a question.

What do you think of the advice that Jorinda and Joringel’s mother just gave them?

Is it good to stamp out your anger? To choke back your tears? To smother your pain? Is that how you find peace?

I’m just wondering. ’Cause I’d like to know.

Also, you’re probably thinking, Hey! You promised to tell us a grim and messed-up story. This story isn’t messed up. It’s all emotional and stuff!

Yeah, I’m sorry about that.

But we have now arrived at the part of the tale that might fairly be described as ghastly, repellent, and sinister.

In other words, the part you’ve been waiting for.

You have been warned.

It was morning, and Jorinda and Joringel’s stepfather was in the kitchen with his daughters, taking big red apples from a marketing basket and putting them in a large chest with a big heavy lid and a sharp brass lock, when Jorinda and Joringel came in.

Jorinda, seeing the lovely apples, said, “Stepfather, may I have an apple?”

The man said, “Of course, my dear.” And he handed the little girl an apple. The stepsisters scowled.

And then Joringel said, “Stepfather, may I have an apple, too?”

“NO!” the man bellowed. And he snatched the apple back from Jorinda, threw it into the chest, and slammed the heavy lid shut.

The stepsisters laughed loudly.

A few minutes later, Jorinda was outside weeding the garden while Joringel mopped the floors in the living room. The stepfather approached the little boy. The man’s voice was gentle when he said, “I’m sorry I snapped at you. Would you like an apple now?”

Joringel nodded.

His stepfather smiled. “Then follow me.”

So Joringel followed his stepfather past his mother’s study and into the kitchen. The stepsisters were nowhere to be seen. The man walked over to the great chest of apples. He unlatched the sharp brass lock and lifted the heavy lid with a creak of hinges. “There,” he said to the little boy. “Choose any apple you want.”

Joringel bent down and leaned his head over the apples. They smelled fresh and rich, and their yellow skin was dappled with rose and—

BANG!

The stepfather slammed the lid of the chest down.

Right on the back of Joringel’s neck.

And the little boy’s head fell off into the apples.

For a moment, there was no sound in the kitchen at all, and the only movement was the dust dancing in the slants of light from the window. The stepfather stood stock-still over the chest. The boy’s small, headless body lay on the floor. Blood pooled under his severed neck. His head, of course, was in the chest of apples.

And then his stepfather said, “Oh no! His mother will be furious with me!”

Wait, he just killed the kid, and he’s worried his wife will be ticked off?

You think?

The stepfather gathered up the little boy’s body and carried it to a chair that sat near the front of the house. Then he went to the kitchen, opened the chest, retrieved Joringel’s head, and took it over to his body. He placed the head on the severed neck, and then tied it on with a white handkerchief. Finally, he put a fine red apple in the little boy’s hand.

Joringel sat in the chair, eyes wide and staring, facing the front door.

The stepfather surveyed his handiwork, nodded once, and went back to the kitchen to clean up.

Is everyone okay out there?

I will remind you that, just because this is a fairy tale, that does not mean that it is appropriate for little children. Little children should not be hearing stories about decapitation and infanticide. In fact, anyone who’s young enough not to know the words decapitation and infanticide should probably put this book down right now.

Okay? Did you do it?

No, I didn’t think you would.

A little while later, Jorinda went looking for her brother. She found him sitting in the chair by the front door, his head tilting slightly off to one side, his eyes wide, an apple in his hand, and a handkerchief around his neck. The handkerchief was red.

“Little Brother, Little Brother! What a lovely apple you have!” she exclaimed. “Will you share it with me?”

But her brother just stared at her, deathly still.

Jorinda began to feel frightened. She went into the kitchen to find her stepfather scrubbing the floor. “Father, Father!” she said. “I think there’s something the matter with Little Brother! His eyes are wide and staring, his face is pale, and when I asked him to share his apple with me, he didn’t say anything at all!”

The stepfather shook his head. “Oh, he’s just being rude. Go back in there and ask him to share it with you again. If he still doesn’t reply, slap him in the face.”

Oh, yes—he said that.

So the little girl went back into the front room and said, “Brother, Brother, will you share your apple with me?”

And he said . . .

Nothing. Because he was dead.

So the little girl took a deep breath, looked ruefully toward the kitchen, cocked her hand back, and slapped her brother in the face.

And his head fell off.

“OH, MY GOD, I KILLED MY BROTHER!” the little girl screamed.

Her stepfather burst from the kitchen, saw the boy’s head lying on the floor, and bellowed, “What have you done, you wicked child?” He glanced at the closed door of the study and hissed, “Your mother will be furious with you!”

Jorinda was hyperventilating.

The man took her by the arms and whispered, “There, there, my dear. Don’t cry. Come in the kitchen.” And then he added, “I’ll help you hide the body.”

So the stepfather dragged the little boy’s body into the kitchen, and Jorinda carried her beloved brother’s head after him. And then the stepfather took out a big knife, and he carved the meat from Joringel’s bones.

And he threw it into their largest stew pot.

At this point, I imagine that every adult reading this book aloud has just slammed it shut and said, “Never mind. Forget it. We’re done here.”

And half the kids are probably screaming for their mothers. And the other half are screaming at the adult to keep reading because this is, well, completely awesome.

Let me say that I agree with all parties involved. Adults, you really should not read any further. Kids who want your moms, you should probably go get them. Kids who think this is awesome, you have never been more right.

What did I tell you about fairy tales? Did I lie?

Once the father was done carving the meat from the boy’s bones and putting it into the stew pot, he said, “Now open the icebox.”

The icebox was a deep hole, just behind the kitchen, where perishables were kept. It was cool and damp, and became icy in winter. Hence the name.

Jorinda, still hyperventilating, opened the icebox, and the stepfather lowered the stew pot into it.

“This’ll keep for a good long while,” he said. And then he turned to the little girl and stuck a thick finger in her face. “If you ever mention this to anyone, you’ll be hanged. But first, I’ll make you eat this stew.”

Finally, the man led his stepdaughter back into the kitchen, where he took the boy’s bones, tied them up in a kerchief, and handed them to Jorinda. “Go,” he said. “Bury these under the juniper tree.”

So Jorinda went into the garden, stood under the juniper tree, and buried her brother’s bones.

As she scooped the last handful of black soil onto the makeshift little grave, a tear ran down her cheek, and she thought, You said you’d never leave me.

Okay! I’m sorry!

I know, I know.

This is bad. This is, maybe, the worst thing that you have ever read, in any book, ever.

I am sorry for that.

But let me say this: While I do like messed-up stories, and I do like stories where grim, bloody, horrible things happen, I do not like stories with sad endings.

I hate them, in fact.

So lots of grim, bloody, horrible things will keep happening in this book, but everything will turn out okay in the end. I promise you.

Of course, before things get better, they’ll probably get worse.

Ready?

Then buckle up, and let’s do this thing.

Ashputtle

Before I even say “Once upon a time,” I’ve got to tell you something.

“Ashputtle,” which is the title of this chapter, is the Grimm brothers’ name for “Cinderella.”

And now you are worried.

You do not want to hear the story of Cinderella, because you have heard it ten hundred thousand million times, and it makes you want to hit yourself in the head with a sledgehammer.

Good. I’m glad you don’t want to hear the story of Cinderella, because I don’t want to tell it.

I want to tell you the story of Ashputtle.

“Cinderella” is the name of the cute version of the story, the one that makes little girls want to dress up like pretty princesses.

That story makes me want to hit myself in the head with a sledgehammer, also.

“Ashputtle” is the name of the horrible, bloody, Grimm, awesome version of the story.

It will not make little girls want to dress up like pretty princesses. It will make little girls want to run out of the room screaming for their mommies.

It will make little boys want to do that, too.

So if there are any little girls or little boys in the room, please—for their sakes, and for their mommies’ sakes . . .

Do not let them hear this story.

Once upon a time, a little girl named Jorinda knelt under a juniper tree and tried not to weep.

She had, as far as she could tell, killed her brother. She was confused, a bit, by how his head had fallen off with just a slap across the face. She hadn’t even slapped him very hard. But his head had fallen off nonetheless. No question about it. And now his bones were buried under the juniper tree, and his flesh sat in a stew pot in the icebox out back.

Jorinda, kneeling beneath the tree, tried to choke back the tears that pressed at her eyes, just as her mother had told her to. But it was not easy.

And then, the little girl felt a tickle on her shoulder. She raised her head. There, sitting just beside her ear, was a little bird. It was as red as blood and as white as snow. It cocked its head left and right as it looked at her. Jorinda smiled. It reminded her of her brother.

“Hello,” she said. “What’s your name?” It flittered its wings and pecked her twice on the nose, gently. She laughed.

And from that moment on, Jorinda spent every moment of her free time beneath the juniper tree, and the little bird played in the dirt around her feet and chirruped at her and pecked her happily on the nose.

But while Jorinda’s friendship with the bird lightened her heart a little bit, her life in the house became worse. Her mother barely seemed to notice that Joringel was gone. She asked about him, absently, one night, and before Jorinda could say a word, her stepfather replied that Joringel had gone off to visit with his uncle in the country. Jorinda’s mother tried to remember if Jorinda and Joringel had an uncle living in the country. After a moment, she shrugged her shoulders and went back to her study. Jorinda stared in disbelief.

Jorinda’s work around the house became much harder than before. Without her brother to help her, she had twice as many windows to clean, twice as much floor to scrub, twice as much laundry to wash in the cold, cold stream that ran behind their garden. And they began to call her “Ashputtle.”

Why, you might ask, did they call her Ashputtle?

Well, you might think it was because her job was to clean the chimney and fireplace, making her all covered with ashes and cinders.

Which is fifty percent correct. That is one reason she was covered in ashes and cinders. But there is another reason, one that is never mentioned in any of the cute, boring, pretty-princess versions of this story.

You see, the other half of the reason that she was covered in ashes and cinders was that her job was to clean the chamber pots. What, you ask, is a chamber pot? A chamber pot is a bowl that is used like a toilet, but doesn’t have a hole or water at the bottom. It’s just a pot that you go potty in, if you know what I mean. So, you sit on this little pot, and you do your business. Then you leave your business in the pot. Eventually, someone comes around and pours all your business into a bucket. Then they scrub the pot with water and ashes and cinders, until it’s as clean as they can make it, and until they’re covered in ashes and cinders and . . . well . . . whatever business you left in the pot.

And that is why the girl was called Ashputtle.

Once upon a time, everyone who heard the name “Ashputtle”—or “Cinderella,” for that matter—knew exactly what it meant.

Toilet Cleaner.

Her name was Toilet Cleaner.

By the way, the next time you see a little girl who’s excited for Halloween, and she says, “I want to be Cinderella! I want to be Cinderella!” you’ll know that what she’s actually saying is, “I want to be Toilet Cleaner! I want to be Toilet Cleaner!”

But don’t tell her that, because she’ll cry.

So Jorinda, whom the stepsisters and stepfather called Ashputtle, scrubbed the floors and cleaned the windows and the fireplace and the chamber pots. And, late at night, she would go out to the little juniper tree, and the bird would come down and flit back and forth between her feet, and the candle in her mother’s study would burn yellow and warm, and Jorinda would try not to cry at the lonely, wreck of a life she now led.

And then, one day, everything changed.

For an invitation arrived.

It was an invitation to a ball. Hosted by the prince of the Kingdom of Grimm. He wanted to marry someone. In order to choose this someone, all the girls of the kingdom were invited to the palace for three nights of dancing and socializing and whatever else you do at a ball. The stepsisters were very excited, of course.

Jorinda, on the other hand, was not excited, because she wasn’t allowed to go. Her stepfather made her sew her sisters’ dresses and help them prepare and tell them how lovely they looked. And they said nice things to her like, “Oh, it’s such a shame you can’t come with us!” And then they would look at one another and laugh.

But of course, she will get to go, won’t she? Someone gives her a beautiful dress and shoes to wear, right?

Who gives them to her?

Her fairy godmother!

And the fairy godmother is plump and wears purple and has little wings, and goes “Bippity boppity boop!”

Right?

Right?

Wrong.

What really happened was that, on the day of the ball, after the stepsisters had left, Jorinda went out to the juniper tree. She tried not to cry. She tried to choke back her tears. She did not want to drown in the ocean of sadness, whatever that was. But all of the horrible things that had happened crowded in on her. And a tear fell from her lashes into the dirt.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for The Grimm Conclusion:

• “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Gidwitz deploys his successful formula of bloody happenings and narratorial intrusion in his third and final installment of unexpurgated fairy tales. … Underneath the gore, the wit, and the trips to Hell and back, this book makes it clearer than ever that Gidwitz truly cares about the kids he writes for.” —Publishers Weekly starred review
 
“Entertaining story-mongering, with traditional and original tropes artfully intertwined.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The conclusion to the trilogy that began with A Tale Dark and Grimm (2010) and continued with In a Glass Grimmly (2012, both Dutton) is equally gorey and awesomely dark. ... As innovative as they are traditional, the stories maintain clear connections with traditional Grimm tales while creatively connecting to the narrative, and all the while keeping the proceedings undeniably grisly and lurid. … Readers will rejoice.”— School Library Journal

“Adam Gidwitz continues his eerily funny Grimm fairytale takeoffs with fresh takes on Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, and the Juniper Tree. Perfect for snuggle up reads.”—Barnes & Noble

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