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History of Brothers Grimm

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more
intelligent, read them more fairy tales, so said Albert Einstein. Jacob and Wilhelm
Grimm were The Brothers Grimm, story tellers and publishers of European folk and fairy tales which
were anything but sweet and gentle bedtime stories.
German linguistics professors, specializing in what became known as Grimms Law, the way sounds
in words from related languages have developed over time such as German Apfel and the English
Apple, the brothers brought together age-old fairy tales which they published in collected editions.
The tales portrayed life as it was known by generations of central Europeans, unpredictable and
often cruel, and some of these were told to them by peasants, but many came from the middle and
aristocratic classes who had heard them from their servants. Especially their nursery maids.
Jakob Ludwig Karl Grimm was born on January 4, 1785, in Hanau nearFrankfurt in Germany, his
brother Wilhelm Karl Grimm on February 24 1786, and they were the oldest surviving children of
nine born to Philipp Wilhelm Grimm, a lawyer who served as Hanaus town clerk, and his wife
Dorothea Grimm.
Philipp Grimm died when Jakob was eleven. Close as children, as the brothers grew up they
continued to spend most of their time together and, apart from a short time apart, remained together
their entire lives, even after Wilhelms marriage, while as they both had placid temperaments it was
easy for them to work as a team.
Their characters were also complementary because Wilhelm, with his warmer personality and a
greater interest in music and literature, worked on the presentation of their fairytale collection, while
Jakob, a pedantic workaholic, was in his element being responsible for most of the necessary
research as well as developing their language and grammar theories.
Linguistic research was their main goal, however while studying they had been encouraged by one
of their University of Marburg professors, Friedrich von Savigny, to take an interest in past cultures,
and the collections of tales through which they became identified were a development from what
they considered to be their real work.
Once the brothers saw the tales had found an audience with young readers, even though this had
not been the readership they had envisaged, they, but mainly Wilhelm, began to fix things, and
although the spirit of the stories remained Grimm fairy tales themselves changed, slowly becoming
less graphic and cruel and instead more charming, humorous and moral.
Jacob Grimm was appointed court librarian to the King of Westphalia in Bad Wilhelmshoehe, Hesse,
in 1808, and it was not until 1816 that he joined his brother in Kassel where William had been
working at the library since 1814. The brothers stayed there until they moved, as a double pack, to
the University of Goettingen, Lower Saxony, in 1830, and from there, seven years later, they were
sacked and deported, because they had protested against a breach of the constitution by the new
King of Hanover.
During their time of separation Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm had continued their interest in folktales,
editing pieces of folklore and early literature, and produced a work that, alongside Luthers Bible, is
the most widely circulated of all German books and has been translated into 160 languages.
The first of what was to be many editions of Brothers Grimm
tales was published in 1812, and Kinder-und
Hausmaerchen, Tales of Children and the Home, is filled with
stories passed down orally for generations and gathered from
many different regions. Included in that world of fantasy are Red
Riding Hood, Cinderella, Snow White, Rumpelstilzchen, The
Brave Little Tailor, The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats,
and Rapunzel.
In its preface was written Perhaps it was just the right time to
record these tales, as those who should have been preserving them are becoming rarer, and All of
these tales contain the essence of German myth, which was deemed forever lost.
At the same time the Grimm brothers knew that their folktales existed in similar versions in other
European countries, so were not wholly German, and in later editions of their book they added that
the tales could be at home everywhere. Nevertheless the German fairytale tradition has been
The Tales of Children and the Home was followed between 1816 and 1818 by two volumes
of German Legends, Deutsche Sagen, as well as a study into the history of early literature, Old
German Forests, Altdeutsche Waelder.
German Romanticism was popular during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. As an arts
movement which valued humor, wit and beauty and favored a return to nature and a focus on
national culture, especially folk tales, this had awakened an interest in the past throughout the
Germanic nations, so the Grimm brothers found a ready audience for their books and were amongst
the most important, and influential, of the early language and folklore romantic historians.
They both loved their people and were determined through their work with linguistics and folktales to
preserve their heritage, and they were also dedicated supporters of a united Germany. At the time
there was no Germany, the Holy Roman Empire, of which much of what is now Germany had been
the heart, had only recently been dissolved and the area consisted of 39 small to medium sized
states, independently ruled by an assortment of Royal Families, where the only thing they all had in
common was their language.
Researching forgotten roots, the brothers Grimm had originally immersed themselves in the study of
Old German which had then developed in the direction of all things Germanic, anything that might
help to forge a common German consciousness, hoping their writings would help towards creating a
sense of German identity.
Their work on sagas, myths, ancient laws, the origin of words and grammar
laid the foundation of German Studies, and another major
undertaking,the Deutsche Woerterbuch. A complete dictionary of the German
language, which they began in 1838, and was not completed until 1960, was
in fact their most important project and their intention was to trace the origin of
every word. The force of language forms nations and holds them together,
without such a bond they would fall apart, was Jakobs reasoning.
Both brothers had become professors at the University of Berlin, and died
there while working on their dictionary: Wilhelm on December 16,1859, after
completing the letter D; and Jacob four years later, on September 20, 1863,
having completed A, B, C and E, and, it is said, he was working on Frucht (fruit) when he collapsed
at his desk.
They travelled widely, had a thorough grasp of other languages and literature, championed causes
in and relating to other countries, belonged to foreign academies and concerned themselves with
many things outside their own surroundings and experiences, and today Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm,
The Brothers Grimm, collectors of fairytales and protectors of Germanic culture, heritage and
language, could easily be described as amongst the first Europeans.