[Be sure to read Grim Stories and More Grim Stories.]

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A poor girl’s mother and father died, leaving her without a home. She had nothing but the clothes she wore and a piece of dry bread. But she was a good girl and put her trust in God. One evening, she went out into a field to find a place to sleep and came upon a hungry beggar. She gave him her only piece of bread, saying, “God bless this to your use.” The beggar was grateful. Later, the girl came upon an old woman whose ears were sore. The girl gave the old woman her only bonnet, saying, “God bless this to your use.” The old woman, too, was grateful. The girl went on and soon she came upon a small child dressed in rags. It was cold out, and the child was shivering. But the girl didn’t have any extra clothing. What was she to do? The girl reasoned that because it was dark, no one would see her anyway. So she gave the child her only dress, saying, “God bless this to your use.” The child, too, was grateful. However, when the sun rose, and the beggar, the old woman, and the child saw the girl’s nakedness, they all laughed and pointed.

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A poor and hungry fisherman pulled a magic fish with a golden voice out of the turbulent sea. The magic fish begged the fisherman to let it go. In its mellifluous golden voice, the fish promised to grant the fisherman whatever he wished for in exchange for its freedom. Attempting to enchant the man, the fish spoke at great length about the countless earthly possessions it could provide for him and his family, and about the myriad of worldly honors it could bestow. Fifteen minutes passed, and the fisherman was convinced. The magic fish’s offer sounded, on balance, like a good deal. He would accept. But the magic fish just kept talking and talking. The fisherman could not get a word in edgewise. Half an hour passed. The fisherman opened his mouth to speak, and the fish, thinking the fisherman was about to lodge a protest, spoke louder and, he thought, more persuasively. An hour passed, and then another. The fisherman still could not speak. Two more hours went by, then three. Finally, exasperated and a good bit hungrier, the fisherman thought, “Fuck this shit, man.” He slit the fish’s throat and ate it raw.

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There were once three peasants who were known as Lazy Heinz, Skinny Lisa, and Fat Trina. The three of them really need some surnames.

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A peasant woman’s luxuriant mane of thick, curly hair was renowned throughout the village for its beauty. The peasant woman’s husband, jealous of the eyes of other men upon his wife, ordered her to tame it. The peasant woman insisted that there was little she could do. To try to appease him, however, she braided it tightly and pinned it firmly to the top of her head. As she did so, she said, “My hair has a life of its own.”

When a few curly strands invariably escaped, her husband ordered his wife to cover her hair with a kerchief. As she did so, she said, “My hair has a life of its own.”

Of course, within an hour or two, wisps of it were peeking out from beneath the kerchief. When the woman’s husband saw them prettily framing her face, he attacked her with a wooden spoon.

At her wit’s end, the poor woman consulted a witch who lived in the forest nearby. The witch gave the woman a potion, promising it would solve all her problems. The woman took it home and gave it to her husband, who promptly applied it to her hair. As he did so, she said, “My hair has a life of its own.”

Unfortunately, the potion ended up being a kind of conditioner and cream rinse all in one, and so only served to make the woman’s hair even more luxuriant and attractive. When he saw this, the woman’s husband became enraged. He grabbed a kitchen knife and chopped her hair off at the root. Finally freed from her head, the woman’s thick mane of hair wound itself around the man’s neck and strangled him to death. “I told you so,” muttered the woman.

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There was once a ragged wandering girl who knocked on people’s doors and told them she was a princess. If someone deigned to speak with her a minute, she told them that, furthermore, she was well-acquainted with a cat who wore a pair of high-heeled silver boots and by the way, a wicked witch was trying to kill her with a poisoned apple. None of this surprised anyone, who had, over the years, heard their fill of ragged wandering girl stories.

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A king promised to give his beautiful daughter in marriage to the first man who solved her riddle. Those who failed to answer correctly were to be put to death. Clever Hans, a handsome and intelligent peasant boy, decided to give it a shot. On the appointed day, he arrived at the castle only to find hundreds of noblemen waiting in line. They scoffed when they saw Clever Hans, a peasant who dared to compete with them, and cut ahead of him in line. Clever Hans was not daunted; he waited patiently as the noblemen entered before him. As he waited, the moat around the castle filled with their blood.

Finally, there were only three men left — two princes from distant kingdoms and Clever Hans. They were ushered into the presence of the princess, who looked down at her suitors from her lofty throne.

To the first prince she said, “What is bigger than big and smaller than small, older than old and younger than young?”

The first prince thought a while and then answered, “It is friendship.”

The princess said, “No, that’s not it.” As the guards carried the first prince away, she turned to the second prince and asked her riddle again.

The second prince thought a while and then answered, “It is eternity.”

The princess said, “No, that’s not it.” As the guards carried the second prince away, she turned to Clever Hans, her final suitor and by far the most handsome, and posed her fiendish riddle.

Hans thought a while and then answered, “It is true love.”

The princess smiled at him and said, “Nope, that’s not it, either.”