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Author Spotlight: The Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm are known for reviving traditional folk and fairytales. Spanning over 200 titles, Brothers Jacob and Wilhelm have left behind a legacy that is still being remembered and applauded decades after they died. Despite being known for many popular German fairytales, the stories weren’t actually penned by the brothers. The stories were part of an oral tradition which the two of them successfully saved from oblivion.

Jacob and Wilhelm grew up in Hanau, Germany, and studied at the University of Marburg. Their studies in the university sparked their curiosity in German folklore. This later developed into their lifelong dedication in collecting and eventually publishing these stories.

After their studies, the brothers were employed as librarians, which gave them enough time and resources to research despite their low salary. In 1812, they published the first volume containing 86 folk tales. This was followed by two volumes of German legends and one volume of German literary history. The rise of romanticism and romantic nationalism sparked interest in folk tales, which aided the brothers in their publication. The books were published in the spirit of reviving the German cultural identity.

Some of the tales that the Grimm brothers popularized are the following: Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Little Red Riding Hood, The Brave Little Tailor, Hansel and Gretel, The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, and Rumpelstiltskin.

Upon publication, the stories contained themes of violence, incest, and sex. For example, in the original Sleeping Beauty story, Aurora was raped by the Prince while she was asleep and woke up after giving birth. In Cinderella, the stepsisters cut off their heels and toes in an attempt to fit the glass shoe. As the books were published in various editions, the endings of these tales were revised to be more children- and family-friendly.

Other than their collaborations, both brothers have published works individually. Jacob Grimm published texts on German grammar, mythology and history. Wilhelm Grimm published volumes of Danish ballads and folktales and German runes and legends. None, of course, came close to the popularity of the powerful tales they published together.

In 1859, Wilhelm Grimm died. By then, the volume was in its seventh edition and was filled with 211 stories and illustrations. Jacob Grimm died in 1863.

Over the years, the Grimm stories have been told and retold in various formats through different media. Grimm, a popular TV series, chronicles the life of a descendant of the two brothers. The descendant is a detective who lives in a world wherein all the creatures that the brothers conjured are real. The Grimm fairytales are also a huge part of another TV series, Once Upon a Time, in which the characters of fairytales are stripped of their happy endings and placed in the real world. Themes that first occurred in the Grimm fairytales are also still popular today.



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