For about a year in middle school, my constant companion was an old hardback edition of Grimms’ Complete Fairy Tales
. I read the whole thing through at least five times, at turns delighted and gripped by a macabre fascination with these stories, more bizarre and gruesome than anything Disney serves up. As is common with folktales, Grimms’ fables tend to serve an instructional purpose, impressing vivid moral lessons upon young listeners. In “Mary’s Child
,” for example, a queen is nearly burned at the stake and her babies are abducted by the Virgin Mary because she refuses confession.
Other cultures have their folktales, too. In American evangelicalism, one of our most common
stories might be called “The College…