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Are the supposed names of beasts (or "wesen") in the television show Grimm based on folklore, history, or are they made up for the show?

Examples:

  • Blutbaden
  • Reinigen
  • I was an army brat in the seventies an one of the reasons I love Grimm is tho I have mostly lost my ability to speak German I am able to get the "gist" of the descriptive names of the wesen as well as locations and "wessen law"....such fun. No matter if it is not an exact translation.......television you know....poetic license. – user25107 Apr 15 '14 at 19:54

10 Answers 10

26

They're based neither on myth nor history, but are very loosely based on German.

For example, the first time a Reaper of Grimms appears his scythe says Erntemaschinen der Grimms. This is German for "Reapers of Grimms", but as you might guess from the maschinen it means an automated harvesting machine. I think they word they wanted would be Schnitter but in a later episode it's been changed to Vernichter, "destroyer".

Some like Blutbaden are more subtle - Blutbad is the correct term for bloodbath in German, but the plural is Blutbäder, not Blutbaden. Blutbaden is more like "to bathe in blood" or "bloodbathing", although I don't think it's really a word.

A few, like Jägerbär, are "correct" but don't appear in the original tales at all. Jägerbär translates to hunter-bear.

Worst is the Mellifer queen. Mellifera is the Latin species name for honeybees. But they call the leader of the hive Mellischwuler which is like, honey gay - as in homosexual. The only explanation I have for this is that they looked up "queen" in a translation dictionary but read one definition too far and hit the translation for "queer".

  • 3
    Certainly in England "Queen" can also be used to describe someone as being gay. No need for skipping onto Queer in the dictionary :) – Dan Kelly Jan 16 '12 at 10:08
  • I did a Google translate on "Jäger bär" and it said "bear hunter", which I assume was meant to mean "hunter bear". Thanks for the good research! – C. Ross Jan 16 '12 at 13:31
  • 2
    @C.Ross: "Jägerbär" does indeed translate to "hunter bear", and is indeed not a German word. +1 to Joe because it's all correct from my German POV. :) – sbi Jan 16 '12 at 17:34
  • Actually, they probably did get "queen", not "queer": in English, it's a slang term for flamboyant/effeminate gay male. Hidden pun, perhaps? – Izkata Jul 15 '13 at 23:02
  • @Izkata, Dan: Two people have suggested that, so I guess I have to clarify: No. You wouldn't translate that meaning of "queen" like that. Any dictionary suggesting that translation is utterly wrong. The Wikipedia page you link to even suggests an appropriate German translation, though I have most often just seen "Queen" used directly. – user1030 Jul 16 '13 at 12:07
5

From the relevant Wikipedia page:

these creatures do not exist by these names in the Grimms' tales, nor are they referred to as such in spoken or written German

So they were made up for the show.

2

Those names are not used in written or spoken German nor are they used in the original Grimm fairytales. They are very loosely based on the German language but it is often obvious that the person who made them up for the show was not a native German speaker.

  • 1
    ...this is pretty much exactly what the accepted answer already says, except they also have examples... – Izkata Jul 15 '13 at 23:03
2

Well I am a native German speaker and I love the show but when I hear these words... Okay I know they should based on the German language but nobody is saying anything like this in Germany and these words are false(grammar) ... For instance blutbaden means something like to take a bath in blood but the person who made these words wanted to say bloodbath and that would be blutbader in German. It's funny because in the German translation of the show all words are correct, but on one hand side it's ridiculous but on the other hand side it's so funny because you notice that the writer isn't a native German speaker.

  • What's the German equivalent of Franglais? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franglais – Valorum Mar 26 '14 at 19:58
  • what you mean is denglisch? Some smothen language between german (deutsch) and english (englisch)? – Fulli Sep 6 '14 at 0:25
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    Blutbader is not the German word for ‘bloodbath’; that would be Blutbad. Blutbader would, if anything, mean a ‘bloodbather’ (whether that is someone who causes a blood bath or someone who bathes in blood). If you were going for the plural of Blutbad, you forgot the umlaut in Blutbäder. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 1 '16 at 6:04
2

Krampus (evil santa as they put it) is German folklore, based on Germanic paganism. So I can say krampus was not made up for the show.

2

Well, some are made up and some are based on existing folklore. Like the Krampus is bases in German paganism and the wendigo is based in Algonquian folklore. And so on. So even though many of the wesen seem to be made up, some are based on real folklore.

1

These names are essentially German words, and as a guess possibly the names of types of things in the original German obscure tales by the brothers Grimm. Only a small portion of their stories are commonly known in English.

Blutbaden = Bloodbath
Reinigen = to clean/to cleanse

  • 2
    Sorry, but this is complete nonsense. – user30564 Nov 11 '12 at 20:45
1

There was an episode that revolved around a "Golem" which is legitimate, it comes from Jewish folklore and dates back quite some time.

There's more about it in this Wiki article if you want to take a look: Golem

  • 3
    Your answer would be even better if you edit it to say which episode revolves around a Golem. – Blackwood Sep 19 '16 at 4:34
-1

Well, I know it's been a long time since anyone posted here but, I came across this show only recently. When I started watching it I was not hooked from the start. These word creations they are using finally made me stay. I keep rolling over my carpet laughing, really!!

Of course, hardly any of it is proper German, neither contemporary nor mediaeval nor of any other times. If it is "Germanish", there is often a different meaning to what they're saying, in spoken German.

So what! It's a TV show. And as much as I enjoy listening to Scottish or Northern British accents, I think that this fake, or let us say, creative German, makes Grimm special. The language is nothing but comic relief. Enjoy folks! I know, I will.

If you really want to know something about German, you might find pretty hilarious what Mark Twain wrote when trying to learn German. The text is available on the internet titled "The Awful German Language"! Have fun!

So, and now, I hope I didn't make a fool of myself with his post. You see, I am a little concerned because of my English, since I am German, born an bread.. Haha... only taking the mickey. I know it should be born and bred. But you see that's about how creative Grimm's German is!!

Thanx for reading!

  • Welcome to SFF.SE! You may want to take the tour, to better understand how the site works - especially since the answers to this question don't make it particularly clear :-). First, this is a Q & A site, not a discussion forum. Much of your post would be fine as comments, but kind of hide the answer. Second, while there are times where multiple people post the same answers over the course of years (as you see here), generally it's preferred for each answer to provide something new on the topic. This may lead to your answer being downvoted, or even deleted. Thought you should know. – RDFozz Jan 18 at 0:32
  • Oh, OK. Is it possible to move or delete it right away? I did not intend to disturb anyone. I was just trying to proof a point, and post something funny at the same time. My comment is not important, though. Thank you anyway for your advice. Another lesson! One should never be too spontaneous! ;-) – Jadzeli Jan 18 at 8:52
  • Understood entirely. If you look through the site, you'll find a number of funny remarks - they're just usually in the comments. That said, you've got the option to delete your answer (if you still have your cookies - you may want to register your account, as you can then access it from multiple devices, and even after cleaning out cookies). If you need to, see here for info on merging accounts. That said, I'd leave the message alone for now - you can always delete it if it gets more downvotes. – RDFozz Jan 18 at 15:36
  • ...(I appreciate the humor, and there's certainly nothing offensive there! (And your English is fine, if you actually had any doubts)) – RDFozz Jan 18 at 15:37
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I don't think Jadzeli (see comment below) has any reason to apologise for his/her remarks (note the PC!) nor is there any need to delete them. The whole Grimm series is now on Netflix, and you can expect new people like myself to come bounding in with new enthusiasm.

The quick answer to this question is that most of the German names for Wesen used in the TV series "Grimm" are indeed made up, using roughly the same principle of shoving concepts together to make a portmanteau word as German psychologists used at the time of Jung and Freud, who excelled in this semantic pastime. But not all the Wesen names are artificial.

It is perfectly admissible for a TV show based on fantasy to invent its own "pidjin" German. JK Rowling did the same with the Latin language for her Hogwarts spells, and that never spoiled the books, just made me, a Classics MA graduate, laugh like a drain.

To find the complete answer to the original question you have to trace the origin of each species of Wesen . The show producers admitted that they had ranged far beyond Grimm's Germany to find new tales to bring to the screen, so they brought in Egyptian gods (eg Anubis, Khepra), the Jewish Golem, other imports like Krampus and Wendigo and of course there were rich pickings from Mexico and South America (eg chupacabra). For these Wesen, the correct names and spellings are used.

For all the Wesen-"species" supposedly originating in the Schwarzwald (literally Black Forest), the show had to find new terms where the Grimm Brothers had written just "a wolf", a "bear", "a large dog" in order to emphasise the job of the Grimm, helping him decide which ones were good and which were bad. So Fuchsbau is literally a fox's den (foxhole in trench warfare), which is easier to say than Fuchsgesicht - literally, foxface. Bauerschwein is boar-pig. Seltenvogel is just a rare bird. Hexenbiest is witch + beast. The utterly disgusting Hasenfussige Schnecke is literally a "hare worm" and why they introduced "fussig" meaning possessing legs, nobody knows. But if they had not used pidgin German here, but only correct literate German, they would still have come up against a great deal of criticism because German is far from a unified language. Everybody would have weighed in with criticism of incorrect translation - it's a Lose Lose situation.

So, enjoy the pidgin German!! Who cares about blutbaden vs Blutbäder? We all love Monroe.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. You could improve this answer by focusing more on the specific names used and giving examples that are definitely made up vs. not. Your credentials are impressive, but not nearly as important to the answer. Please read How to Answer. – DavidW May 1 at 11:11

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