Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales

Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm: Jacob (January 4, 1785 - September 20, 1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (February 24, 1786 - December 16, 1859), were German academics who were best known for publishing collections of folk tales and classic fairy tales, which became very popular.

The Brothers Grimm began collecting folk tales around 1807, in response to a wave of awakened interest in German folklore that followed the publication of Ludwig Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano's folksong collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn "The Youth's Magic Horn", 1805-8. By 1810 the Grimms produced a manuscript collection of several dozen tales, which they had recorded by inviting storytellers to their home and transcribing what they heard. Although they were said to have collected tales from peasants, many of their informants were middle-class or aristocratic, recounting tales they had heard from their servants. Several of the informants were of Huguenot ancestry and told tales that were French in origin. Some scholars have theorized that certain elements of the stories were "purified" for the brothers, who were devout Christians.

In 1812, the Brothers published a collection of 86 German fairy tales in a volume titled "Children's and Household Tales". They published a second volume of 70 fairy tales in 1814, which together make up the first edition of the collection, containing 156 stories. They wrote a two-volume work titled Deutsche Sagen, which included 585 German legends; these were published in 1816 and 1818. The legends are organized in the chronological order of historical events to which they were related. The brothers arranged the regional legends thematically for each folktale creature, such as dwarfs, giants, monsters, etc. not in any historical order. These legends were not as popular as the fairy tales.

A second edition of the Kinder-und-Hausmärchen followed in 1819-22, expanded to 170 tales. Five more editions were issued during the Grimms' lifetimes, in which stories were added or subtracted. The seventh edition of 1857 contained 211 tales. Many of the changes were made in light of unfavorable reviews, particularly those that objected that not all the tales were suitable for children, despite the title. The tales were also criticized for being insufficiently German; this not only influenced the tales the brothers included, but their language. They changed "fee" (fairy) to an enchantress or wise woman, every prince to a king's son, every princess to a king's daughter. (It has long been recognized that some of these later-added stories were derived from printed rather than oral sources.) These editions, equipped with scholarly notes, were intended as serious works of folklore. Ten printings of the "small edition" were issued between 1825 and 1858.

The Brothers Grimm were the first workers in this genre to present their stories as faithful renditions of the kind of direct folkloric materials that underlay the sophistication of an adapter like Perrault. In so doing, the Grimms took a basic and essential step toward modern folklore studies, leading to the work of folklorists like Peter and Iona Opie and others.

Grimm Brothers were educated at the Friedrichs Gymnasium in Kassel and later both read law at the University of Marburg. From 1837 until 1841, the Brothers Grimm joined five of their colleague professors at the University of Göttingen to protest against the abolition of the liberal constitution of the state of Hanover by King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover. This group came to be known anywhere in Germany as Die Göttinger Sieben (The Göttingen Seven). Invoking their right to resist on reasons of natural and constitutional justice, they protested against the King's hubris to abrogate the constitution. For this, all professors were fired from their university posts and some even deported. Though politically divided by borders of duchies and kingdoms at that time, public opinion and academia in Germany almost unanimously supported the Grimms and their colleagues against the monarch. Wilhelm died in 1859; his elder brother Jakob died in 1863. They are buried in the St Matthäus Kirchhof Cemetery in Schöneberg, a district of Berlin. The Grimms helped foment a nationwide democratic public opinion in Germany and are cherished as the progenitors of the German democratic movement, whose revolution was crushed brutally by the Kingdom of Prussia in the revolution of 1848.

Grimm Brothers also did academic work in linguistics, related to how the sounds in words shift over time - Grimm's law. They are among the best-known story tellers of folk tales from Europe, and their work popularized such tales as "Snow White", "Rumpelstiltskin", "Rapunzel", "Hansel and Gretel", "Cinderella", and "The Frog Prince".

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