Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm are undoubtedly the most famous collectors of fairy tales of all times. Their Children’s and Household Tales were at first not meant for children but they decided to adapt them to children because of strong moral messages which they believed should be presented to the youth of 19th century.
They were (actually, it was Wilhelm, who did a majority of this work) constantly rewriting fairy tales year after year, edition after edition and the book, by many experts called ‘one of the cornerstones of western society’ now considered as a collection of originals is very much author’s work.
The main reason for their monumental work (which, by the way, was only a moderate commercial success during their lifetime and much less popular than similar collection written by Ludwig Bechstein), was a belief in a united Germany, then divided into many smaller entities, yet connected with a common language, culture and folklore.
While they achieved international fame with a publication of German Grammar, their book of fairy tales became their by far most influential work, inspiring numerous collectors like Afanasiev in Russia, Jacobs in United Kingdom, Asbjornsen and Moe in Norway, Yakumo in Japan, ...
We will talk about the collection later, let’s look at some interesting facts about Grimm’s themselves:
- they lost their father when they were very young and we can find motif of the dead or absent father in many of most famous fairy tales from their collection (Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella…); they were soon forced to earn money for the family, what significantly shortened their childhood, they had to become very responsible and hard working at early age and similar situation is typical for a large number of fairy tales in their book
- Jakob and Wilhelm were not the only artists in the family, their brother Ludwig (schooled by their money) was a painter and engraver and he also illustrated some editions of Children’s and Household Tales (first illustrated editions in Germany although not the first altogether)
- Jakob and Wilhelm were very versatile academics, collecting, translating, researching, ..., one of their biggest work was a start of the first German dictionary which they never saw finished (one died at the letter D, the other at the letter F) and which as a final version weighted more than 180 pounds!
Pretty amazing stuff, right?