Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm were famous German fairy tale writers, generally educated people, linguists, and those who were interested in folklore and cultural wealth. Jacob was born on January 4, 1785, and his brother Wilhelm on February 24, 1786.
They both studied law in Marburg. During their studies, they were active in criticizing King Ernest Augustus I, so they were expelled from the university.
They are the first creators in this genre who presented their stories as faithful depictions of direct folk materials, without trying to present them as sophisticated stories. In doing so, they set the norm for the discipline of folklore. The concept of folklore developed as part of the ideology of romantic nationalism in the nineteenth century, leading to a reshaping of the oral tradition to serve contemporary ideological goals. Thus Johann Gottfried von Herder advocated the conscious recording and preservation of German folklore in order to document the authentic spirit, tradition, and identity of the German people; the belief was that such authenticity might become a central theme of Romantic nationalism. It was not until the twentieth century that ethnographers began to try to record folklore without re-voting political goals.
They were the first creators in this genre to present their stories as faithful representations of direct folklore materials, not trying to present them as sophisticated stories. In doing so, they set the norm for the discipline of folklore. The concept of folklore developed as part of the ideology of romantic nationalism in the nineteenth century, leading to a reshaping of the oral tradition to serve contemporary ideological goals.
Grimm's fairy tales are among the most famous in the western world. Many of them reflect simple spiritual truth, usually in the form of a moral lesson. Their power is that the lessons are universal and simple, accessible to everyone, even children.
Jakob and Wilhelm were born in Hanau, near Frankfurt. They were educated in Kassel, and later both studied law at the University of Marburg.
The two brothers were in their early twenties when they began linguistic and philological studies that would culminate in both Grimm's Law and collected editions of fairy tales and folk tales. Although their collections of stories became immensely popular, they were basically a by-product of linguistic research, which was their main purpose.
The Brothers Grimm began collecting folktales around 1807, in response to a wave of interest that arose in German folklore after the publication of the collection of Ludwig Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano in the national collection, Des Knaben Wunderhorn 1805-1808. By 1810, the Grimm brothers had compiled a manuscript collection of several dozen fairy tales.
In 1812 they published a collection of 86 German fairy tales in a collection entitled Kinder-und Hausmarchen. In 1814, they published the second volume of 70 stories, which together make up the first edition of the collection, and contains 156 stories. The second edition, which followed in the period from 1819 to 1822, expanded to 170 stories. Five more editions were published during the brothers' lifetime. Two volumes of the second edition were published in 1819, and the third collection in 1822. The third edition appeared in 1837, the fourth edition in 1840, the fifth edition in 1843, the sixth edition in 1850, and the seventh edition in 1857. All were in two volumes except the triple second edition in which stories were added or subtracted, until the seventh edition in 1857 which contained 211 stories, although it has long been known that many of these later stories were added from a printed, not an oral source.
These editions, equipped with scientific notes, are conceived as serious folklore works. The brothers also published the Kleine Ausgabe, or "small edition", which contained a selection of 50 stories explicitly written for children (as opposed to the more formal Grosse Ausgabe or "large edition"). Ten editions of the "small edition" were published between 1825 and 1858.
The Grimm brothers were not the first to publish folklore collections. The French collection of Charles Perrault from 1697 is the most famous, although there were various others, including the German collection of Johann Carl August Musaus, published in the period from 1782 to 1787. Earlier collections, however, paid little attention to strict fidelity to the sources. The Grimm brothers were the first writers in this genre to present their stories as faithful depictions of the kind of immediate folk material that supports the sophistication of adapters such as Perrault. In doing so, the Grimm brothers took a basic and essential step towards modern folklore studies.
A century and a half after the brothers began to publish, however, a careful, skeptical and very critical review questioned Grimm's basic claims about their work. The brothers did not actually use exclusively German sources for their collection; and far from being faithful to these sources, they copied and revised and adapted their stories, just as Perrault and their predecessors did. Different printed versions of the story show the last fact; and the 1810 manuscripts, published in 1924, 1927, as well as the one from 1974, emphasize the brothers Grimm's consistent habit of altering and adapting their original materials. The irony is that the Grimm brothers helped create a serious scientific discipline that they themselves did not practice.
Wilhelm died in 1859, and his older brother Jakob died in 1863. They were buried in Berlin.
The Grimm brothers helped develop national democratic public opinion in Germany and are nurtured as descendants of the German democratic movement, whose revolutions in 1848 and 1849 were brutally overthrown by the Kingdom of Prussia, where a constitutional monarchy was established. We all know their most famous works - Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Puss in Boots, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Hansel and Gretel and Little Briar Rose today known as Sleeping Beauty.
Summaries, Analyses & Books
- Hansel and Gretel
- Hansel and Gretel Analysis
- Hansel and Gretel Characters
- Hansel and Gretel Summary
- Snow White
- Snow White Analysis
- Snow White Characters
- Snow White Summary
- The Brave Little Tailor
- The Fisherman and His Wife
- The Frog Prince
- The Golden Goose
- The Sleeping Beauty
- The Twelve Dancing Princesses
- The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats
- Town Musicians of Bremen