One of the earliest entries into the Grimms’ original collection—one that would never make it into the later, popular edition—is a story called “How Some Children Played at Slaughtering.” Like all the Grimms’ folk tales, it is short and terse, and it goes something like this: In a small city in the Netherlands, a group of children are playing, and they decide that one should be the “butcher,” one the “assistant,” two the “cooks,” and another, finally, the “pig.” Armed with a knife, the little butcher pushes the pig to the ground and slits his throat, while the assistant kneels down with a bowl to catch the blood, to use in “making sausages.”
The kids are discovered by an adult, and the butcher-boy is taken before the city council. But the council doesn’t know what to do, “for they realized it had all been part of a children’s game.” And so the chief judge decides to perform a test: He takes an apple in one hand and a gold coin in the other and holds them out to the boy; he tells him to pick one.
The boy chooses the apple—laughing as he does, because in his mind, he’s gotten the better deal. Still operating by a child’s logic, he cannot be convicted of the crime. The judge sets him free.
I have a great many other books of secrets I have written, hidden in a safe place, and I am going to write here many of the old secrets and some new ones; but there are some I shall not put down at all. I must not write down the real names of the days and months which I found out a year ago, nor the way to make the Aklo letters, or the Chian language, or the great beautiful Circles, nor the Mao Games, nor the chief songs. I may write something about all these things but not the way to do them, for peculiar reasons. And I must not say who the Nymphs are, or the Dôls, or Jeelo, or what voolas mean. All these are most secret secrets, and I am glad when I remember what they are, and how many wonderful languages I know, but there are some things that I call the secrets of the secrets of the secrets that I dare not think of unless I am quite alone, and then I shut my eyes, and put my hands over them and whisper the word, and the Alala comes. I only do this at night in my room or in certain woods that I know, but I must not describe them, as they are secret woods.
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