Brothers Grimm

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Wilhelm (left) and Jakob Grimm (right) from an 1855 painting by Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann

The Brothers Grimm (German: Die Brüder Grimm or Die Gebrüder Grimm), Jakob (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 fairy tales[1] and for their work in linguistics, relating to how the sounds in words shift over time (Grimm's Law). They are among the best known story tellers of novellas from Europe, allowing the widespread knowledge of such tales as Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel.


[edit] Biography

Jakob Ludwig Grimm and Wilhelm Karl Grimm were born on January 4, 1785, and February 24, 1786, respectively, in Hanau near Frankfurt in Hessen. They were among a family of nine children, only six of whom survived infancy.[2] Their early childhood was spent in the countryside in what has been described as an "idyllic" state. The Grimm family lived near the magistrates' house between 1790 and 1796 while the father was employed by the Prince of Hessen.

When the eldest brother Jakob was eleven years old their father, Philip Wilhelm, died and the family moved into a cramped urban residence.[2] Two years later, the children's grandfather also died, leaving them and their mother to struggle in reduced circumstances. It has been argued[citation needed] that this is the reason behind the Brothers tendency to idealize and excuse fathers, leaving a predominance of female villains in the tales—the infamous wicked stepmothers, for example, the evil stepmother and stepsisters in “Cinderella”[3] However this opinion ignores the fact that the brothers were collectors of folk tales, not their authors:

"They urged fidelity to the spoken text, without embellishments, and though it has been shown that they did not always practise what they preached, the idealized ‘orality’ of their style was much closer to reality than the literary retellings previously thought necessary."[4]
"Scholars and psychiatrists have thrown a camouflaging net over the stories with their relentless, albeit hey fascinating, question of 'What does it mean?'"[5]

Another influence is perhaps shown in the brothers' fondness for stories such as The Twelve Brothers, which show one girl and several brothers (their own family structure) overcoming opposition.[6]

The two brothers were educated at the Friedrichs-Gymnasium in Kassel and later both read law at the University of Marburg. It was the inspiration of Friedrich von Savigny there, who awakened in them an interest in the past. They were in their early twenties when they began the linguistic and philological studies that would culminate in both Grimm's Law and their collected editions of fairy and folk tales. Though their collections of tales became immensely popular, they were essentially a by-product of the linguistic research which was the Brothers' primary goal.

In 1808, Jakob was named court librarian to the King of Westphalia, and in 1812 the Grimm brothers published their first volume of fairy tales, Tales of Children and the Home. They had received their stories from peasants and villagers, and controversially from other sources such as already published works from other cultures and languages (eg. Charles Perrault). In their collaboration, Jakob did more of the research, while Wilhelm, more fragile, put it into literary form and provided the childlike style. They were also interested in folklore and primitive literature. In 1816 Jakob became librarian in Kassel, where Wilhelm was also employed. Between 1816 and 1818 they published two volumes of German legends and also a volume of early literary history.

In time the brothers became interested in older languages and their relation to German. Jakob began to specialize in the history and structure of the German language. The relationships between words became known as Grimm's Law. They gathered immense amounts of data. In 1830, they formed a household in Göttingen with Jakob, where both brothers secured positions at the University of Göttingen. [7] Jakob was named professor and head librarian in 1830, Wilhelm became a professor in 1835.

In 1837, 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, a reactionary son of King George III. This group came to be known in the German states as Die Göttinger Sieben (The Göttingen Seven). The two, along with the five others, protested against the abrogation. For this, the professors were fired from their university posts and three deported--including Jakob. Jakob settled in Kassel, outside Ernest's realm, and Wilhelm joined him there, both staying with their brother Ludwig. However, the next year, the two were invited to Berlin by the King of Prussia, and both settled there.[8]

Their last years were spent in writing a definitive dictionary of the German language, the first volume being published in 1854; it was carried on by future generations. Jakob remained a bachelor until his death, but Wilhelm married Henriette Dorothea Wild(Also known as Dortchen), a pharmacist's daughter and a childhood friend from whom the brothers heard the story Little Red Riding Hood, in 1825. They had four children, of whom three survived infancy. Even after Wilhelm's marriage, the brothers stayed incredibly close.

Graves of the Brothers Grimm in the St Matthaus Kirchhof Cemetery in Schöneberg, Berlin.

Wilhelm died in Berlin on December 16, 1859, while Jakob continued work on the dictionary and related projects until his death in Berlin on September 20, 1863. The brothers are buried in the St. Matthäus Kirchhof Cemetery in Schöneberg, Berlin. The Grimms helped foment a nationwide democratic public opinion in Germany and are cherished as the progenitors of the German democratic movement,[citation needed] whose revolution of 1848/1849 was crushed by the Kingdom of Prussia, where a constitutional monarchy was established.

[edit] The Tales

The Brothers Grimm began collecting folk tales[9] 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 it is often believed that they took their tales from peasants, many of their informants were middle-class or aristocratic, recounting tales they had heard from their servants, and several of the informants were of Huguenot ancestry and told tales French in origin.[10] It is believed that certain elements of the stories were "purified" for the brothers who were Christian. [11]

In 1812, the Brothers published a collection of 86 German fairy tales in a volume titled Kinder- und Hausmärchen ("Children's and Household Tales"). They published a second volume of 70 fairy tales in 1814 ("1815" on the title page), 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 which were published in 1816 and 1818.[12] The legends are told in chronological order of which historical events they were related.[13] Then they arranged the regional legends thematically for each folktale creature like dwarfs, giants, monsters, etc. not in any historical order.[13] These legends were not as popular as the fairytales.[12]

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,[14] in which stories were added or subtracted, until 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.[15] They were also criticized for being insufficiently German; this not only affected the tales they included, but their language as they changed "Fee" (fairy) to an enchantress or wise woman, every prince to a king's son, every princess to a king's daughter.[16] (It has long been recognized that some of these later-added stories were derived from printed rather than oral sources.) [17]

These editions, equipped with scholarly notes, were intended as serious works of folklore. The Brothers also published the Kleine Ausgabe or "small edition," containing a selection of 50 stories expressly designed for children (as opposed to the more formal Große Ausgabe or "large edition"). Ten printings of the "small edition" were issued between 1825 and 1858.

The Grimms were not the first to publish collections of folktales. The 1697 French collection by Michael Alexander Nenasheff is the most famous, though there were various others, including a German collection by Johann Karl August Musäus published in 1782-7. The earlier collections, however, made little pretence to strict fidelity to sources. 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 sophistications 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[18] and others.

It should be noted that the Grimms' method was common in their historical era. Arnim and Brentano edited and adapted the folksongs of Des Knaben Wunderhorn; in the early 1800s Brentano collected folktales in much the same way as the Grimms.[19] The good academic practices violated by these early researchers had not yet been codified in the period in which they worked. The Grimms have been criticized for a basic dishonesty, for making false claims about their fidelity—for saying one thing and doing another;[20] whether and to what degree they were deceitful, or self-deluding, is perhaps an open question.

[edit] Linguistics

In the very early 19th century, the time in which the Brothers Grimm lived, the Holy Roman Empire had recently dissolved, and the modern nation of Germany did not exist. In its place was a confederacy of 39 small- to medium-size German states, many of the states newly created by Napoleon when he reorganized Germany. The major unifying factor for the German people of the time was a common language. So part of what motivated the Brothers in their writings and in their lives was the desire to help create a German identity.

Less well known to the general public outside of Germany is the Brothers' work on a German dictionary, the Deutsches Wörterbuch. It was very extensive, having 33 volumes and weighing 84 kg, and is still considered the standard reference for German etymology. Work began in 1838, but by the end of their lifetime, only sections from the letter 'A' as far as part of the letter 'F' were completed. Ultimately, the work was not considered complete until 1960.[21]

Jakob is recognized for enunciating Grimm's law, the Germanic Sound Shift, that was first observed by the Danish philologist Rasmus Christian Rask. Grimm's law was the first non-trivial systematic sound change ever to be discovered.

[edit] Books and film

In 1962, the movie "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" was released, with a cast including Barbara Eden, Russ Tamblyn, Yvette Mimieux and other high-profile stars of the time. The movie intertwined a slightly dubious, but charming, biography of the Grimm brothers' lives as young men (directed by Henry Levin) with fantastical productions of some of their fairy tales (directed by George Pal). It went on to win the 1963 Oscar for costume design and was given several other nomination nods.

In 1998, in the movie Ever After, the Grimm Brothers visit an elderly woman, the Grande Dame of France, who questions their version of the Cinderella story. The Brothers Grimm reply that there was no way for them to verify the authenticity of their story as there were so many different versions. She proceeds to tell the story of Danielle De Barbarac.

In 2005, a movie based roughly on the Grimm brothers and their tales was made called The Brothers Grimm, starring Heath Ledger as Jakob Grimm and Matt Damon as Wilhelm Grimm. The film, directed by Terry Gilliam, resembles the contents of the sagas from the real brothers' collections, much more than the scholarly reality of their lives.

[edit] See also

Children's and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen)

[edit] Citations

  1. ^ Zipes 2002
  2. ^ a b Michaelis-Jena 1970, p. 9
  3. ^ Alister & Hauke 1998, pp. 216-219
  4. ^ Simpson & Roud 2000
  5. ^ National Geographic, December 1999, Thomas O'Neill
  6. ^ Tatar 2004, p. 37
  7. ^ "Jakob Ludwig Karl Grimm." Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, 2nd ed., 8 vols. Gale Group, 2002.
  8. ^ Die Brueder Grimm Timeline at, retrieved February 4, 2007
  9. ^ James M. McGlathery, ed., The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, Champaigne, University of Illinois Press, 1988.
  10. ^ Zipes 1998, pp. 69-70
  11. ^ Clarissa Pinkola Estes, 'Women Who Run with the Wolves, p 15 ISBN 0-345-40987-6
  12. ^ a b Michaelis-Jena 1970, p. 84
  13. ^ a b Kamenstsky, Christa. The Brothers Grimm & Their Critics: Folktales the Quest for Meaning. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1992.
  14. ^ Two volumes of the second edition were published in 1819, with a third volume in 1822. The third edition appeared in 1837; fourth edition, 1840; fifth edition, 1843; sixth edition, 1850; seventh edition, 1857. All were of two volumes, except for the three-volume second edition. Donald R. Hettinga, The Brothers Grimm: Two Lives, One Legacy, New York, Clarion Books, 2001; p. 154.
  15. ^ Tatar 1987, pp. 15-17
  16. ^ Tatar 1987, p. 31
  17. ^ Kathleen Kuiper, Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature, Springfield, MA, Merriam-Webster, 1995, p. 494; Valerie Paradiz, Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales, New York, Basic Books, 2005, p. xii. One example: the tale "All Fur," Allerleirauh, in the 1857 collection derives from Carl Nehrlich's 1798 novel Schilly. Laura Gonzenbach, Beautiful Angiola: The Great Treasury of Sicilian Folk and Fairy Tales, London, Rootledge, 2003; p. 345.
  18. ^ Peter and Iona Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales, London, Oxford University Press, 1974, is the most famous of their many works in the field.
  19. ^ Ellis, One Fairy Story too Many, pp. 2-7.
  20. ^ Ellis, pp. 37 ff.
  21. ^ Grimm Brothers' Home Page at, retrieved February 28, 2007

[edit] References

  • Alister, Ian; Hauke, Christopher, eds. (1998), Contemporary Jungian Analysis, London: Routledge, ISBN 0415141664 
  • Michaelis-Jena, Ruth (1970), The Brothers Grimm, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, ISBN 0710064497 
  • Simpson, Jacqueline; Roud, Steve (2000), A Dictionary of English Folklore, Oxford University Press, ISBN 019210019X 
  • Tatar, Maria (1987), The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-06722-8 
  • Tatar, Maria (2004), The Annotated Brothers Grimm, W.W. Norton & Co, ISBN 0-393-05848-4 
  • Zipes, Jack (1988), The Brothers Grimm, Routledge Kegan and Paul, ISBN 0416019110 
  • Zipes, Jack (1998), When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-92151-1 
  • Zipes, Jack (2002), The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World, Palgrave MacMillan, ISBN 0312293801 

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