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Reimagining Fairy Tales: Grimm, Once Upon A Time and Their Modern Spin On Fantasy

The producers and writers have gone to great lengths to create a complex fairy tale mythology on Grimm. Many of the creatures have menacing German names -- terms like Blutbaden (literally “bloodbaths”) for the wolves like Monroe and Hexenbiests (hexen = “witch” and biest = “beast”) for the witchlike beings who appear as attorneys in Portland. The show’s scribes have developed elaborate backstories for the characters, such as intense rivalries between certain creatures and archenemies for others. The Grimms also have a deeply layered history which Burkhardt continues to discover.

Though Grimm’s critical reception has been mixed, the show has found a loyal audience, and NBC has given it a green light for the full season. Time will tell if the series’ edgy spin on fairy tales will generate long term success.

ABC has also entered the fantasy-themed programming fray with Once Upon A Time, which airs on Sunday nights. Lost writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz conceived the series, which centers around the residents of Storybrooke, Maine, who are in reality the classic characters from fairy tales and victims of a curse by the Evil Queen, though they do not know their true identities.

As revenge for Snow White's (Ginnifer Goodwin) marriage to Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) enacts a curse banishing all the residents of the Enchanted Forest to "someplace horrible" where only she is guaranteed a happy ending. In the present day, ten-year-old Henry Mills (Jared S. Gilmore) travels to Boston to track down his birth mother Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), who gave him up for adoption. She agrees to drive him back to his home in Storybrooke. On the ride from Boston to Storybrooke, Henry shows Emma his book of “real” fairy tales and explains the town’s curse to her. He mentions to Emma that she is the one who is destined to break the curse.

The lives of the residents of Storybrooke parallel their identities in the Enchanted Forest. The Evil Queen is Regina Mills, the mayor of Storybrooke and Henry’s adoptive mother, while her Magic Mirror (Giancarlo Esposito) is newspaper reporter Sydney Glass. Snow White turns into Mary Margaret Blanchard, Henry’s favorite teacher, and Jiminy Cricket (Raphael Sbarge) becomes Archie Hopper, Henry’s counselor. Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is Mr. Gold, the town’s mysterious “owner” and wealthiest citizen, who may or may not be the only other person besides Regina who is aware of their enchanted former life.