Devil in Disguise, originally titled “Frau Trude,” is a cautionary story from a collection of Grimm’s fairy tales published in 1812. The Grimm’s fairy tales were collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The brothers were German academics, philologists, cultural researchers, and authors who together collected and published folklore during the 19th century. They were among the first and best-known collectors of folk tales, and popularized traditional oral tales such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White.

Although this tale is short and concise, it has profound meaning and deeply reflects on social roles for females during the time it was conceived. This tale, and many other cautionary tales like it, tell the story of the curious and willful maiden that is punished for her obstinate ways. In Frau Trude, the protagonist desires to meet a mysterious and interesting witch. She goes directly against her parents’ wishes and ventures out to meet the witch. Despite meeting three frightening male figures on the steps of the Frau’s house, she still goes on. Even when she peers through the Frau’s window, and sees the Frau as the devil, she still ventures into her house. The protagonist’s deep obsession for Frau Trude, leans towards inclination of lust and indecent behavior. Frau Trude is referred to as a female witch, but she admits that her true form is a male devil. This additional element of ambiguity adds to the depth of the tale, questioning the protagonist’s motives further. In the end, the female protagonist is punished with death. This dark approach to storytelling, is a common theme in Grimm fairy tales and distinguishes them significantly from other folklore.

Devil in Disguise

(German Fairy Tale)

There was once a little girl who was obstinate and inquisitive, and when her parents told her to do anything, she did not obey them, so how could she fare well? One day she said to her parents, “I have heard so much of Frau Trude, I will go to her some day. People say that everything about her does look so strange, and that there are such odd things in her house, that I have become quite curious!”

Her parents absolutely forbade her, and said, “Frau Trude is a bad woman, who does wicked things, and if thou goest to her; thou art no longer our child.” But the maiden did not let herself be turned aside by her parent’s prohibition, and still went to Frau Trude.

And when she got to her, Frau Trude said, “Why art thou so pale?”

“Ah,” she replied, and her whole body trembled, “I have been so terrified at what I have seen.”

“What hast thou seen?”

“I saw a black man on your steps.”

“That was a collier.”

“Then I saw a green man.”

“That was a huntsman.”

“After that I saw a blood-red man.”

“That was a butcher.”

“Ah, Frau Trude, I was terrified; I looked through the window and saw not you, but, as I verily believe, the devil himself with a head of fire.”

“Oho!” said she, “then thou hast seen the witch in her proper costume. I have been waiting for thee, and wanting thee a long time already; thou shalt give me some light.”

Then she changed the girl into a block of wood, and threw it into the fire. And when it was in full blaze she sat down close to it, and warmed herself by it, and said, “That shines bright for once in a way.”

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