People often smile at the sight of children at play. In the Grimm’s tale, “How Some Children Played at Slaughtering”, that includes watching children murder children.
In one of the most twisted tales in their collection, this story is told as two separate tales; both, however, involve children, man-slaughter, and poor choices. The tale’s first part begins with a councilman witnessing a group of children playing butcher. One child played the actual butcher, one was the cook, another was an assistant, and one played the pig. The boy playing butcher proceeded to actually slit the boy pig’s throat and the assistant caught his blood in a bowl.
The councilman takes the butcher to the mayor’s house, who immediately summons a council. One of the councilmen, supposedly the wisest, advises to the chief judge a clever way of determining the boy’s guilt or innocence. He suggests for the boy to be offered two choices: a red apple and a Rhenish gulden (a gold coin). If the boy were to choose the red apple, he was to be set free without a punishment for the murder; if he chose the Rhenish gulden, he was to be killed (it’s amazing how the justice system has radically changed since then). When offered these two items, the boy took the apple with a laugh, and so he was set free. The moral of the story seems to be that if you’re a child, you can get away with murder as long as you know how to play the innocent.
The second part of the tale has a similar incident, except the three children playing slaughter are all siblings. The children’s mother sees one of her sons slit his little brother’s throat while bathing another child, takes the knife out of her younger child’s throat and stabs the heart of the boy who played butcher out of anger. When she goes back to the child she was bathing, she comes to find the child has drowned in the tub. She becomes so scared and desperate that she hangs herself, and her husband dies soon afterward. The moral of this tale still remains unclear.
Both parts of the this tale seem to offer the idea that children will imitate what they see. Somehow, in recent acts of violence committed by children and young adults, this form of reasoning is still used to attempt to explain such crimes. Video games and violent movies are often targets of blame by adults for the influence it has on young minds. Although this may seem a far stretch to many, it’s a noteworthy source to examine when reviewing mass crimes of murder that have occurred in the past few decades among young people. One murderer who made skeptics of this claim do a double take was Anders Breivik.
For those who don’t remember, Anders Breivik was the mass murderer who killed 77 people, mostly teenagers, in Norway back in 2011. He dressed up as an officer after bombing a government building and slaughtered a multitude of teens at a sleep-away camp in Oslo. The ultranationalist right wing extremist admitted that he was a hardcore World of Warcraft player and fan, and that the game influenced his approach to his crimes. Breivik also stated that Call of Duty, another rpg, helped him hone his sharp-shooting skills before his shooting rampage in Oslo.
Although Breivik isn’t a child, many of those who play games such as Call of Duty are indeed children. If the violent video games managed to have such an incredible influence on a grown man, it’s frightening to think of what effect it would have on the mind of impressionable young children. If tales like that of the Brothers Grimm isn’t enough of a warning, the number of gun crimes by minors and young adults since the rising popularity of shooting RPGs should be. The killings in Columbine, Colorado and most recently Sandy Hook Elementary, both committed by young men, were executed in a manner reminiscent of the shooting scenes in a lot of these violent video games and films. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the two teens who massacred 12 people during the Columbine High School shooting, were avid violent-video game players. Adam Lanza, the 20-year old man who killed a multitude of young school children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut was also known to have spent hours playing Call of Duty.
Clearly, the children in the Brothers Grimm’s tale have been replaced by gamers playing violent RPGs, but ultimately the tale remains the same; children kill other children while playing out what they see. Nowadays, children see violence all around them, whether it is on the news, in movies, or in the very video games they play in their recreational time. Somehow, the influence that witnessing violence has on children is still the same today. Perhaps it’d be wise to heed the warning set by the tale.