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Beginnings and Kassel period

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Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Brothers Grimm

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brothers grimm biography

The Brothers Grimm were two German folklorists and linguists who are today best known for their Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1812–22). This collection of stories, called Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the English-speaking world, led to the modern study of folklore . They were among the most important German scholars of their time.

The Brothers Grimm were Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (b. January 4, 1785, Hanau, Hesse-Kassel [Germany]—d. September 20, 1863, Berlin) and Wilhelm Carl Grimm (b. February 24, 1786, Hanau, Hesse-Kassel [Germany]—d. December 16, 1859, Berlin). They together compiled several collections of folk music and folk literature . Jacob in particular did important work in historical linguistics and Germanic philology , which included the formulation of Grimm’s law , a notable contribution to the study of Indo-European languages .

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were the oldest in a family of five brothers and one sister. Their father, Philipp Wilhelm, a lawyer, was town clerk in Hanau and later justiciary in Steinau, another small Hessian town, where his father and grandfather had been ministers of the Calvinistic Reformed Church. The father’s death in 1796 brought social hardships to the family; the death of the mother in 1808 left 23-year-old Jacob with the responsibility of four brothers and one sister. Jacob, a scholarly type, was small and slender with sharply cut features, while Wilhelm was taller, had a softer face, and was sociable and fond of all the arts.

After attending the high school in Kassel , the brothers followed their father’s footsteps and studied law at the University of Marburg (1802–06) with the intention of entering civil service . At Marburg they came under the influence of Clemens Brentano , who awakened in both a love of folk poetry, and Friedrich Karl von Savigny , cofounder of the historical school of jurisprudence, who taught them a method of antiquarian investigation that formed the real basis of all their later work. Others, too, strongly influenced the Grimms, particularly the philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder , with his ideas on folk poetry. Essentially, they remained individuals, creating their work according to their own principles.

Red Riding Hood and the Wolf from "Journeys through Bookland" by Charles Herbert Sylvester, 1922. (Brothers Grimm, Little Red Riding Hood, fairy tales)

In 1805 Jacob accompanied Savigny to Paris to do research on legal manuscripts of the Middle Ages ; the following year he became secretary to the war office in Kassel. Because of his health, Wilhelm remained without regular employment until 1814. After the French entered in 1806, Jacob became private librarian to King Jérôme of Westphalia in 1808 and a year later auditeur of the Conseil d’État but returned to Hessian service in 1813 after Napoleon ’s defeat. As secretary to the legation, he went twice to Paris (1814–15), to recover precious books and paintings taken by the French from Hesse and Prussia . He also took part in the Congress of Vienna (September 1814–June 1815). Meantime, Wilhelm had become secretary at the Elector’s library in Kassel (1814), and Jacob joined him there in 1816.

By that time the brothers had definitely given up thoughts of a legal career in favour of purely literary research. In the years to follow they lived frugally and worked steadily, laying the foundations for their lifelong interests. Their whole thinking was rooted in the social and political changes of their time and the challenge these changes held. Jacob and Wilhelm had nothing in common with the fashionable “Gothic” Romanticism of the 18th and 19th centuries. Their state of mind made them more Realists than Romantics . They investigated the distant past and saw in antiquity the foundation of all social institutions of their days. But their efforts to preserve these foundations did not mean that they wanted to return to the past. From the beginning, the Grimms sought to include material from beyond their own frontiers—from the literary traditions of Scandinavia , Spain , the Netherlands , Ireland , Scotland , England , Serbia , and Finland .

They first collected folk songs and tales for their friends Achim von Arnim and Brentano, who had collaborated on an influential collection of folk lyrics in 1805, and the brothers examined in some critical essays the essential difference between folk literature and other writing. To them, folk poetry was the only true poetry, expressing the eternal joys and sorrows, the hopes and fears of humankind.

Encouraged by Arnim, they published their collected tales as the Kinder- und Hausmärchen , implying in the title that the stories were meant for adults and children alike. In contrast to the extravagant fantasy of the Romantic school’s poetical fairy tales , the 200 stories of this collection (including, among the most enduring, “Snow White,” “ Little Red Riding Hood ,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Rumpelstiltskin” ) aimed at conveying the soul, imagination, and beliefs of people through the centuries—or at a genuine reproduction of the teller’s words and ways. Most of the stories were taken from oral sources, though a few were from printed sources. The great merit of Wilhelm Grimm is that he gave the fairy tales a readable form without changing their folkloric character. The results were threefold: the collection enjoyed wide distribution in Germany and eventually in all parts of the globe; it became and remains a model for the collecting of folktales everywhere; and the Grimms’ notes to the tales, along with other investigations, formed the basis for the science of the folk narrative and even of folklore. To this day the tales remain the earliest “scientific” collection of folktales.

The Kinder- und Hausmärchen was followed by a collection of historical and local legends of Germany, Deutsche Sagen (1816–18), which never gained wide popular appeal, though it influenced both literature and the study of the folk narrative. The brothers then published (in 1826) a translation of Thomas Crofton Croker ’s Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland, prefacing the edition with a lengthy introduction of their own on fairy lore. At the same time, the Grimms gave their attention to the written documents of early literature, bringing out new editions of ancient texts, from both the Germanic and other languages. Wilhelm’s outstanding contribution was Die deutsche Heldensage (“The German Heroic Tale”), a collection of themes and names from heroic legends mentioned in literature and art from the 6th to the 16th centuries, together with essays on the art of the saga .

While collaborating on these subjects for two decades (1806–26), Jacob also turned to the study of philology with an extensive work on grammar , the Deutsche Grammatik (1819–37). The word deutsch in the title does not mean strictly “German,” but it rather refers to the etymological meaning of “common,” thus being used to apply to all of the Germanic languages , the historical development of which is traced for the first time. He represented the natural laws of sound change (both vowels and consonants) in various languages and thus created bases for a method of scientific etymology ; i.e., research into relationships between languages and development of meaning. In what was to become known as Grimm’s law , Jacob demonstrated the principle of the regularity of correspondence among consonants in genetically related languages, a principle previously observed by the Dane Rasmus Rask . Jacob’s work on grammar exercised an enormous influence on the contemporary study of linguistics, Germanic, Romance, and Slavic. In 1824 Jacob Grimm translated a Serbian grammar by his friend Vuk Stefanović Karadžić , writing an erudite introduction on Slavic languages and literature.

He extended his investigations into the Germanic folk-culture with a study of ancient law practices and beliefs published as Deutsche Rechtsaltertümer (1828), providing systematic source material but excluding actual laws. The work stimulated other publications in France, the Netherlands, Russia, and the southern Slavic countries.

5 Facts About The Brothers Grimm

5 Facts About The Brothers Grimm

The Brothers Grimm didn’t write the fairy tales

Despite the fact that Jacob and Wilhelm are often associated with Snow White and Rapunzel , the brothers didn’t actually write any of those stories. In fact, the stories existed long before the two men were born in Germany in the mid 1780s. The fairy tales, in fact, were part of a rich oral tradition − passed down from generation to generation, often by women seeking to pass the time during household chores. But as industrialization took root, local traditions changed and scholars, like Jacob and Wilhelm, began a quest to save the stories from extinction. They interviewed relatives and friends, collecting whatever tales they could, sometimes embellishing them (although they insisted they did not). In 1812, Jacob and Wilhelm published the stories as part of a collection titled Nursery and Household Tales , or what is now referred to as Grimm’s Fairy Tales .

The stories were not intended for kids

Originally, Grimm’s Fairy Tales were not meant for children. The stories routinely included sex, violence, incest and copious footnotes. Worse yet, they didn’t even have illustrations. Initially aimed at adults, the early editions of Nursery and Household Tales contained remarkably dark elements. In its original version, for example, Rapunzel gets pregnant by the prince after a casual fling. In Cinderella, the stepsisters cut off their toes and heels to try to fit into the slipper. These sorts of scenes (and many others) were eventually revised once the stories became popular among children.

Jacob and Wilhelm faced deportation and bankruptcy

In 1830, King Ernest Augustus demanded oaths of allegiance from all professors in Gottingen, a university city where Jacob and Wilhelm taught Germanic studies. The brothers refused to pledge to the king and, along with five other professors, the “Gottingen Seven” were made to leave the city. Jobless and branded as political dissidents, the brothers were forced to borrow money from friends as they worked on their story collection.

"Grimm’s Fairy Tales" was a publishing blockbuster

The Grimm’s collection of fairy tales was in its 7th edition when Wilhelm died in 1859. By that point, the collection had grown to 211 stories and included intricate illustrations. Jacob − who had lived with Wilhelm and his wife − died in 1863. According to biographers, Jacob was deeply distraught after the death of his brother, with whom he had held a close bond throughout his life. Some claim their collection has only been outsold by Shakespeare and the Bible.

The Grimms worked on more than fairy tales

University-trained philologists (the study of language in historical texts) and librarians, Jacob and Wilhelm published more than fairy tales. They wrote books about mythology and published scholarly works on linguistics and medieval studies. They also worked on compiling an ambitious German dictionary, although both brothers died before they were able to finish the entry for the letter F.

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Brothers Grimm

brothers grimm biography

The Brothers Grimm ( Brüder Grimm, in their own words, not Gebrüder —for there were five surviving brothers, among them Ludwig Emil Grimm, the painter) were Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Hessian professors 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). The Brothers Grimm collected orally transmitted German tales and published the first series as Kinder- und Hausmärchen ("Children's and Household Tales") in 1812.

The Brothers Grimm were the first creators in this genre to present their stories as faithful renditions of direct folkloric materials, without attempting to render them as sophisticated stories. In so doing, they set the standard for the discipline of folklore studies. The concept of folklore developed as part of the nineteenth century ideology of romantic nationalism , leading to the reshaping of oral traditions to serve contemporary ideological goals. Thus Johann Gottfried von Herder advocated the deliberate recording and preservation of Germanic folklore to document the authentic spirit, tradition, and identity of the German people; the belief that there can be such authenticity became a chief tenet of romantic nationalism. Only in the twentieth century did ethnographers begin to attempt to record folklore without overt political goals.

  • 1 Biography
  • 2 The Tales
  • 3 Linguistics
  • 4 Miscellaneous
  • 5 Selection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm
  • 7 External links

Grimm's "fairy tales," as they have come to be known, are among the most famous in the Western world. Many of them reflect a simple spiritual truth, usually in the form of a single moral lesson. Their power is that the lessons are universal and simple, accessible to all, even children.

Jakob Ludwig Carl Grimm and Wilhelm Karl Grimm were born in 1785 and 1786, respectively, in Hanau near Frankfurt in Hesse. They were educated at the Friedrichs-Gymnasium in Kassel and later both read law at the University of Marburg.

The two brothers 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 byproduct of the linguistic research which was the Brothers' primary goal.

In 1830, they formed a household in Göttingen, where they were to become professors.

brothers grimm biography

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 of Hanover. This group came to be known in the German states as Die Göttinger Sieben (The Göttingen Seven). Invoking their right to resist on reasons of natural and constitutional justice, they protested against the King's hubris in abrogating the constitution. For this, all professors were fired from their university posts and some even deported. Though politically divided by borders of duchies and kingdoms at that time, public opinion and academia in the German realms almost unanimously supported the Grimms and their colleagues against the monarch.

Wilhelm died in 1859; his elder brother Jacob died in 1863. They 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, whose Revolutions of 1848 and 1849 were brutally crushed by the Kingdom of Prussia , where a constitutional monarchy was established.

The Brothers Grimm began collecting folk tales [2] around 1807, in response to a wave of interest awakened in German folklore following the publication of Ludwig Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano's folksong collection, Des Knaben Wunderhorn ("The Boy's Magic Horn"), 1805-1808. By 1810 the Grimms produced a manuscript collection of several dozen tales, which they had recorded by inviting storytellers to their home and transcribing their stories.

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 stories in 1814 ("1815" on the title page), which together make up the first edition of the collection, containing 156 stories. A second edition followed in 1819-1822, expanded to 170 tales. Five more editions were issued during the Grimms' lifetimes (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), [3] in which stories were added or subtracted, until the seventh edition of 1857 contained 211 tales, although it has long been recognized that many of these later-added stories were derived from printed rather than oral sources.

brothers grimm biography

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 Charles Perrault 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 pretense 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 [4] and others.

A century and a half after the Grimms began publishing, however, a sweeping, skeptical, and highly critical re-assessment disproved the Grimms' basic claims about their work. [5] The Brothers did not in fact use exclusively German sources for their collection; and far from maintaining fidelity to those sources, they rewrote and revised and adapted their stories, just as Perrault and their other predecessors had done. The different printed versions of the tales display the latter fact; and the 1810 manuscripts, published in 1924, 1927, and 1974, accentuate the Brothers' consistent habit of changing and adapting their original materials. The irony is that the Brothers Grimm helped create a serious scholarly discipline that they themselves did not practice.

In fairness, 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. [6] 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; [7] whether and to what degree they were deceitful, or self-deluding, is perhaps an open question. It should be noted, however, that many scientific disciplines have been begun by researchers who opened up fields of inquiry for those who would come to ultimately question the methods of these pioneers.


In the very early nineteenth century, the time in which the Brothers Grimm lived, the Holy Roman Empire had just met its fate, and Germany as it is known today did not yet exist; it was comprised of hundreds of principalities and small or mid-sized countries. The major unifying factor for the German people of the time was a common language. There was no significant German literary history, 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 Germany is the Brothers' work on a German dictionary , the Deutsches Wörterbuch. Indeed, the Deutsches Wörterbuch was the first major step in creating a standardized "modern" German language since Martin Luther 's translation of the Bible to German. It represented a very extensive (33 volumes, weighing 84 kg) standard reference for German etymology, remaining so to this day.

Jacob 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.


Between 1990 and the 2002 introduction of the euro currency in Germany, the Grimms were depicted on the 1000 Deutsche Mark note—the largest available denomination.

Selection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm

  • The Almond Tree
  • The Blue Light
  • The Valiant Little Tailor
  • Brother and Sister
  • The Bremen Town Musicians
  • The Elves and the Shoemaker
  • The Fisherman and His Wife
  • The Five Servants
  • The Frog Prince
  • The Gallant Sailor
  • The Golden Bird
  • The Golden Goose
  • The Goose Girl
  • The Grateful Beasts
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • Jorinde and Joringel
  • The Juniper Tree
  • King Thrushbeard
  • The Little Peasant
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Mother Hulda
  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin
  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • Simeli mountain
  • Six Soldiers of Fortune
  • The Six Swans
  • (Sleeping Beauty) Briar Rose
  • Snow White and Rose Red
  • The Spirit in the Bottle
  • The Three Little Men in the Woods
  • The Three Spinners
  • The Twelve Brothers
  • The Twelve Dancing Princesses
  • The Water of Life
  • The White Snake
  • The Wonderful Musician [8]
  • ↑ Jack Zipes, The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1988; Palgrave MacMillan, 2002). ISBN 9780312293802
  • ↑ James M. McGlathery, ed., The Brothers Grimm and Folktale (Champaigne: University of Illinois Press, 1988). ISBN 9780252061912
  • ↑ Donald R. Hettinga, The Brothers Grimm: Two Lives, One Legacy (New York: Clarion Books, 2001) p. 154. ISBN 9780618055999
  • ↑ Peter and Iona Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales (London: Oxford University Press, 1974). ISBN 9780195202199
  • ↑ John M. Ellis, One Fairy Story Too Many: The Brothers Grimm and Their Tales (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983). ISBN 9780226205472
  • ↑ Ellis, One Fairy Story too Many, pp. 2-7.
  • ↑ Ellis, pp. 37 ff.
  • ↑ The Brothers Grimm, Fairy Tales (Julian Messner, 1982). ISBN 0-671-45648-2

External links

All links retrieved November 21, 2023.

  • Grimm's Fairy Tales , available for free via Project Gutenberg.
  • Grimm's household tales , available for free via Project Gutenberg. Translated by Margaret Hunt.
  • The Museum of the Brothers Grimm in Kassel, Germany .
  • Jacob Grimm at the Internet Movie Database.
  • Wilhelm Grimm at the Internet Movie Database.
  • Grimmstories.com 40 Grimm's Fairy Tales available freely in English, German, and Dutch.

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Brothers Grimm fairy tales were never meant for kids

The world's most famous collection of children's stories began as an academic study for adults, when Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected German folklore in the 1800s.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Folktales are as old as human civilization itself. A synthesis of the spoken and the scripted, a fusion of different accounts of the same story. The story of Cinderella, for example, appeared in ancient China and in ancient Egypt. Details in the telling change depending on the storyteller’s cultural origins. In Egypt, her slippers are red leather, while in the West Indies, breadfruit, not a pumpkin, is the transformative object. The story of Cinderella that appears in Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s collection of German folktales, first published in 1812, might shock those familiar with today’s version of a scullery maid turned princess.

In the brothers Grimm telling, the heroine is called Aschenputtel, and her wishes come true not from the wave of a fairy godmother’s wand but from a hazel tree growing on her mother’s grave, which she waters with her flowing tears. When the prince comes to find the dainty foot that will match the single slipper (which is gold, not glass), the stepsisters do not shove and shriek but dismember, one cutting off her big toe to try and make the shoe fit, the other cutting off part of her heel. And at the story’s close, Cinderella’s wedding to the prince includes two white birds, which rather than cheerfully tweet Cinderella on her way to happily ever after, peck out the stepsisters’ eyes. (See also: Germany's fairy tale road .)

19th-century oil painting of Dorothea Viehmann sharing her stories with the Grimms

The brothers Grimm published what would become one of the most influential and famous collections of folklore in the world. Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder und Hausmärchen), later titled Grimm’s Fairy Tales , are childhood-defining stories. The Grimms, however, had curated the collection as an academic anthology for scholars of German culture, not as a collection of bedtime stories for young readers.

Amid the political and social turbulence of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), as France conquered Germanic lands, Jacob and Wilhelm were driven by nationalism to highlight their homeland and heritage. They were inspired by German Romantic authors and philosophers who believed that the purest forms of culture, those that bonded a community, could be found in stories shared from generation to generation. Storytelling expressed the essence of German culture and recalled the spirit and basic values of its people. By excavating Germany’s oral traditions, the brothers urgently sought to “preserve them from vanishing . . . to be forever silent in the tumult of our times.” (See also: Fairy Tales are much older than you think .)

Once upon a time

the cover of an 1865 version of Children's and Household Tales

Like Cinderella and many of the characters in their folktales, the story of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm is a rags-to-riches one. The brothers were born one year apart in Hanau, in the Holy Roman Empire’s state of Hesse-Kassel (in present-day Germany, near Frankfurt ). In 1796, just a few days after Jacob, the eldest, turned 11, their father died suddenly of pneumonia, plunging the once middle-class family of six children into poverty. Two years later, Jacob and Wilhelm left home to attend high school in Kassel, a privilege made possible by their aunt’s financial support. The inseparable pair shared the same diligent work habits, studying for up to 12 hours a day.

After graduating, Jacob moved to Marburg in 1802 to study law at the university; Wilhelm followed a year later. Most of the students from wealthier families received a tuition stipend, but the Grimms’ drastic change in financial circumstance and thus social status meant that they had to pay for their own education. But this setback later proved fortuitous. As Jacob later wrote in his autobiography, “Sparseness spurs a person to industriousness and work.”

The pair had entered the university intending to echo their father’s career in law and civil service. But identifying with the hardworking “folk” whose language and stories they would later preserve and publish, they instead discovered a vocation that would define their lives and their legacy.

Finding folk tales

Friedrich Karl von Savigny, a professor at the University of Marburg, sparked Jacob and Wilhelm’s interest in German history and literature and the new field of philology, the study of language in historical texts. Savigny introduced the brothers to his scholarly circle of Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim, German writers influenced by Johann Gottfried von Herder, a philosopher who called for a rediscovery and preservation of Volkspoesie , the people’s poetry.

Clemens Brentano

In 1805 Jacob worked as Savigny’s assistant in Paris, collecting documents on German customs, law, and literature. Jacob and Wilhelm were prolific letter-writers during their rare times apart, and while in Paris, Jacob wrote to Wilhelm in Marburg of his desire to devote his life to the study of German literary history.

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Arnim and Brentano had published a collection of old German folk songs, and Brentano, wanting to continue his philological pursuits, asked the Grimms for their help in combing library shelves for folktales. The brothers found some texts in books, but they also focused on oral traditions, seeking out storytellers in friends and acquaintances. Most of them were women, one of whom, Dorothea Wild, would later marry Wilhelm. The person who contributed the most to the Grimms’ collection was Dorothea Pierson Viehmann, whose father owned a popular inn near Kassel. She shared the many tales that travelers had told to her.

A happy ending

Brentano did not use the 54 tales that Jacob and Wilhelm sent him in 1810, but Arnim urged them to publish their collection nonetheless. Published in 1812, Children’s and Household Tales was not an immediate success. Even so, the brothers’ subsequent publications of philological research— two volumes of German legends and one of early German literary history, among others—cemented their reputation as innovative scholars in the field.

Over a 40-year span, seven editions of the folktale collection were published. The final edition, published in 1857, is the best known and is notably different from the first in both style and content. The brothers asserted that they collected the stories with “exactness and truth,” without adding embellishment or details of their own. In later editions, Wilhelm expanded the originally shorter, sparser prose and modified plots to make parts of the dark, tragic stories more accessible to children. (See also: T en things you didn't know about Aladdin .)

Beginning in 1815, illustrations were added to the books. The stories in the first edition are thus more faithful to the oral tradition than those in the last, which, together with Wilhelm’s adaptations, offered a more literary approach.

the Evil Queen as a guest at Snow White's wedding, illustrated by Franz Juttner

The Evil Queen is a guest at Snow White’s wedding, as shown in a 1910 illustration by Franz Juttner. In the Grimm version of the tale, the queen is punished for her crimes agaist the princess by being forced to wear red-hot iron shoes and to dance until she drops down dead.

The Grimms had not intended to publish a book of folktales. They wanted to resurrect the German oral tradition, but in the process, they ultimately curated a culturally encompassing collection of tales. Though the brothers became a household name because of it, Children’s and Household Tales was part of a bigger pursuit, to excavate and preserve the oral and written forms of German culture, to restore this treasure to the people.

As philologists, collectors, researchers, and editors, the brothers helped establish the methodology of collecting and documenting folklore. Their pioneering, scientific approach changed the course of historical linguistics, setting a standard worthy of imitation.

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How the Grimm Brothers Saved the Fairy Tale

The surprising history behind the world’s most famous collection of folk tales..

A black and white illustration of a man in a cage gesturing to someone outside.

The young son of a Lord extends kindness to a caged man in “The Wild Man.”

—Illustration © Andrea Dezsö

Two hundred years ago, two young German librarians by the names of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published a collection of tales that would become one of the most influential works of folklore in Germany, Europe, and eventually the world.

Between 1812 and 1857, seven editions of their tales appeared, each one different from the last, until the final, best-known version barely resembled the first. Given that the first edition has recently been honored in bicentenary celebrations throughout the world, it is perhaps a good time to reexamine what we think we know about the original tales of the Brothers Grimm.

The stories the Brothers Grimm first collected are brusque, blunt, absurd, comical, and tragic, and are not, strictly speaking, “fairy tales.” In fact, the Grimms never intended the tales to be read by children. The tales are about children and families and how they reacted to the difficult conditions under which they lived. The Grimms thought the stories and their morals emanated naturally from the German people in an oral tradition, and they wanted to preserve them before the tales were lost forever. In gathering the tales, the Grimms made a unique contribution to folklore, and their  Kinder- und Hausmärchen ( Children and Household Tales ) is even listed by UNESCO in its  Memory of the World Registry . It was in large part their first edition, published in two volumes in 1812 and 1815, that inspired folklorists in Europe and Great Britain to gather tales from their oral traditions to preserve as part of their cultural heritage.

Illustration of a whale jumping out of the water

An impoverished King sells his youngest daughter to an enchanted whale in “The Three Sisters.”

This first edition is wholly unlike the so-called definitive edition of 1857. In the process of publishing seven different editions over forty years, the Grimms made vast changes in the contents and style. The stories in the first edition are closer to the oral tradition than the tales of the  final, which can be regarded more as a literary collection, because Wilhelm, the younger brother, continually honed the tales so that they would resonate with a growing literary public. Their books would become second in popularity only to the Bible in German-speaking lands. By the twentieth century, they would become the most famous collection of folk and fairy tales in the western world.

When Jacob (b. 1785) and Wilhelm (b. 1786) began collecting folk tales and songs at the beginning of the nineteenth century, they were precocious students at the University of Marburg,  still in their teens . They grew up quite fast, plagued by money problems and caring for their siblings—their father died in 1796, leaving the once middle-class family in poverty. Their situation was further aggravated by the rampant Napoleonic Wars. Jacob interrupted his studies to serve the Hessian War Commission, although Wilhelm passed his law exams and found work as a low- paid librarian in the royal library. In 1807, Jacob lost his position with the War Commission, when the French occupied Kassel, but he was then hired as a librarian for the new King Jérome, Napoleon’s brother, who now ruled Westphalia. Amidst all the upheavals, their mother died in 1808, and Jacob and Wilhelm became fully responsible for their three younger brothers and sister.

Despite difficult personal problems and meager financial support from 1805 to 1812, the brothers proved themselves to be innovative scholars in the new field of German philology by publishing articles and books on medieval literature. In fact, they would be surprised to learn that they are more famous today for their tales than for their superb philological studies, which include pioneering work on German sound shifts, and the founding of the voluminous  German Dictionary  in 1854. But it was their training in philology and the demands that they placed on themselves as researchers that assisted their collecting and editing the tales.

In 1808, their friend, the romantic poet Clemens Brentano, asked them to collect all types of folk tales so he could use them in a book of literary fairy tales. In 1810, they sent him fifty-four texts, which they fortunately copied. Fortunately, because Brentano then lost the manuscript in the Ölenberg Monastery in Alsace and never used the Grimms’ texts. When they realized that Brentano was not going to use the tales, they decided, upon the advice of another romantic writer and mutual friend, Achim von Arnim, to publish their collection. It had grown to eighty-six tales, which they published in 1812, and then another seventy, which they published in 1815.

Illustration of a man dancing with the devil

A desperate young man makes a bargain for his soul in “The Devil in the Green Coat.”

What compelled the Grimms to concentrate on old German epics, tales, and literature was a belief that the most natural and pure forms of culture—those which held the community together—were linguistic and based in history. According to them, modern literature, even though it might be remarkably rich, was artificial and thus could not express the genuine essence of Volk culture that emanated naturally from experience and bound the people together. Therefore, all their efforts went toward uncovering stories from the past.

In their preface, the Grimms explained their interest in the culture of the common people, and their intention in recording their tales: “It was perhaps just the right time to record these tales since those people who should be preserving them are becoming more and more scarce. . . . Wherever the tales still exist, they continue to live in such a way that nobody ponders whether they are good or bad, poetic or crude. People know them and love them because they have simply absorbed them in a habitual way. And they take pleasure in them without having any reason. This is exactly why the custom of storytelling is so marvelous.” In short, the Grimms’ first collection was shaped as an archaeological excavation and as a book for adults and for scholars. Their tales were not to be classified as children’s stories, not even today.

Although the young Grimms had not entirely formalized their concept of folklore while they worked on the publication of the first edition, they held to their original principle: to salvage relics from the past. They intended to trace and grasp the essence of cultural evolution and to demonstrate how natural language, stemming from the needs, customs, and rituals of the common people, created authentic bonds and helped forge civilized communities. This is one of the reasons why they called their collection of tales an educational manual ( Erziehungsbuch ), for the tales recalled the basic values of the Germanic people through storytelling. The Grimms wanted to bequeath the oral tales to the German people, not realizing that these tales would assume relevance in all cultures. Though the tales can be considered part of a German nationalist movement in the nineteenth century, they were also related to tales from many other nations, and this relationship accounts for their international appeal today.

Turning to the tales of the first edition, a reader might notice that many of the stories such as “The Hand with the Knife,” “How Some Children Played at Slaughtering,” and “The Children of Famine,” have nothing to do with fairies or happy endings. Instead, these are stark narratives about brutal living conditions in the nineteenth century. For instance, “The Children of Famine” begins this way:

Once upon a time there was a woman with two daughters, and they had become so poor that they no longer had even a piece of bread to put in their mouths. Their hunger became so great that their mother became unhinged and desperate. Indeed, she said to her children, “I’ve got to kill you so that I can get something to eat.”

In another haunting tale, “The Godfather,” a poor man in need of a godfather unknowingly chooses the devil, who may eat him after a visit to the devil’s house of horrors. These tales were omitted in later editions. Some tales, such as “Puss in Boots,” “Bluebeard,” “Princess Mouseskin,” and “Okerlo,” were also omitted because they were con-sidered too French to be included in a German collection. Though it is impossible to clarify fully why certain tales were deleted or placed in footnotes in later editions, we do know that “Death and the Goose Boy” was omitted because of its baroque literary features; “The Strange Feast,” because of its close resemblance to “Godfather Death”; “The Stepmother,” because of its fragmentary nature and cruelty; and “The Faithful Animals,” because it came from the  Siddhi-Kür , a collection of Mongolian tales. From the first edition in 1812/1815 to the final one in 1857, the Grimms received numerous versions of tales already in their collection and new tales from strangers, friends, and colleagues, and they often decided to replace one tale with another version, to delete some of the tales, or to include variants in their footnotes.

In contrast to the final 1857 edition, most of the tales in the first edition are shorter and sparser. They have a rawness that was later to be refined. For example, “Rapunzel” is embellished a great deal in the final edition:

First Edition Once upon a time there lived a husband and wife who had been wishing for a child for many years, but it had all been in vain. Finally, the woman became pregnant. Now, in the back of their house the couple had a small window that overlooked a fairy’s garden filled with all kinds of flowers and herbs. But nobody ever dared to enter it. Seventh Edition Once upon a time there was a husband and wife who for quite some time had been wishing in vain for a child. Finally, the dear Lord gave the wife a sign of hope that their wish would be fulfilled. Now, in the back of their house the couple had a small window that overlooked a splendid garden filled with the most beautiful flowers and herbs. The garden, however, was surrounded by a high wall, and nobody dared enter it because it belonged to a sorceress, who was very powerful and feared by all.

Aside from adding a Christian motif and substituting a sorceress for a fairy, Wilhelm Grimm also concealed a later scene in the first edition when Rapunzel reveals that she apparently had sex with the prince and was impregnated by him. Other differences in the editions show: In the first, Snow White’s mother,  not  her stepmother, wants to kill the beautiful girl out of envy. The terse tale called “The Wild Man,” in which a mysterious powerful king helps a boy who has helped him escape from a cage, is embellished and transformed into a very long elaborate tale with the title “Iron Hans.” The wild man in the 1812 version is more kind than the stern Iron Hans, who determines the young man’s destiny in a coming-of-age story. Likewise, “The Devil in the Green Coat” is given a new title, “Bearskin,” and a totally new beginning and meaning. In the 1812 tale, the Grimms portrayed an oppressed, timid young man, abandoned in the woods by his brothers. He accepts the devil’s green coat that will enable him to survive for seven years if he doesn’t shave or clean himself. In the much longer 1857 version there are echoes of the Napoleonic wars: The protagonist is a discharged and homeless soldier who is treated poorly by his family and then turns to the devil for survival.

All of the tales in the first edition bear the marks of their diverse storytellers who believed in the magic, superstitions, and miraculous transformations of the tales. It may be difficult for us to understand why this is the case, but for the storytellers and writers of these tales, the stories contained truths about the living conditions of their times. The tales in the first edition were collected not from peasants, as is commonly believed, but mainly from literate people whom the Grimms came to know quite well. Evidence shows that these people often obtained their tales from illiterate or anonymous informants. Even if they did not know their informants, the Grimms came to trust almost everyone who contributed to their collection. It is this mutual trust that marks the tales as something special and endows them with a certain humanity, what Germans call  Menschlichkeit , and it is this mutual trust among folklorists in the nineteenth century that marks it as the golden age of folk and fairy tales. The tales in the first edition set a certain standard that collectors began to follow and still follow even today.

Though brusque and raw, the Grimms’ tales of the first edition still resonate with us today because they indicate how we can transform ourselves and our conditions to live in a better world. As philologists, collectors, translators, researchers, editors, and mediators, the Grimms worked in the hope that their tales would benefit us in unimaginable ways, and, indeed, it is this hope that can still be felt when we read and listen to their tales.

Jack Zipes is Professor Emeritus of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. His three most recent books are: The Golden Age of Folk and Fairy Tales: From the Brothers Grimm to Andrew Lang (2013), The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Gr imm (2014), and Grimm Legacies: The Magic Power of the Grimms’ Folk and Fairy Tales (2015), and this article is based on material from his books. He received an NEH fellowship for his work on the origins of European fairy tales.

Anna Deavere Smith

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Wonder of the Day #1828

Who Were the Brothers Grimm?


LANGUAGE ARTS — Literature

Have You Ever Wondered...

  • Who were the Brothers Grimm?
  • Why are the Brothers Grimm famous?
  • Did the Brothers Grimm write any of the fairy tales they published?
  • Language Arts ,
  • Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs ,
  • Fairy Tale ,
  • Character ,
  • Rumpelstiltskin ,
  • Cinderella ,
  • Sleeping Beauty ,
  • Brothers Grimm ,
  • Jacob Grimm ,
  • Wilhelm Grimm ,
  • Librarian ,
  • Philology ,
  • Tradition ,
  • Collection ,
  • Children’S And Household Tales ,
  • The Frog Prince ,
  • Little Red Riding Hood ,
  • Hansel And Gretel ,
  • Grimm’S Fairy Tales ,
  • Illustration ,
  • Mythology ,
  • Linguistics ,
  • Medieval Studies ,
  • Medieval Studies

Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Amelia. Amelia Wonders , “ Who were the brothers Grimm? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Amelia!

Have you heard the one about the beautiful young girl forced to live with seven tiny miners to avoid the evil plots of her wicked stepmother? Of course, you have! Everyone knows the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

But how is it we know Snow White’s tale , as well as those of other fairy tale characters, such as Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty? You can thank two brothers.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, were from Germany. They worked in a library and were really interested in studying old languages . In the 1800s, they started collecting stories that people told in different parts of the country and put them in books.

The Brothers Grimm weren't the ones who penned the stories they have become known for. The stories had been part of a time-honored oral tradition in Germany and passed down from one generation to the next for many years.

The Brothers Grimm talked to their friends and family and wrote the stories that people used to tell a long time ago. They did this to make sure the stories wouldn’t be forgotten . Then, in 1812, they made a book called Children’s and Household Tales that had all the stories in it, which included folklore and fairy tales .

The Brothers Grimm’s book had a lot of different stories in it. Some of the most popular ones are "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "The Frog Prince," " Little Red Riding Hood ," and "Hansel and Gretel." They kept adding more stories to the book over the years, so it got bigger and bigger. The first book had 86 stories, but the last one—the seventh edition—had over 200!

Lots of people all over the world like to read the stories that the Brothers Grimm wrote a long time ago. These stories are now written in over 160 different languages ! They are really timeless and popular, so there might be different versions of the same story in one language. In the United States, for example, there are more than 120 different editions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Many people like the stories that the Brothers Grimm wrote so much that they’ve made them into movies. Even though some think these stories are just for kids, they weren’t for children back then.

The first versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales did not have pictures in them, and they were meant for grown-ups to read. Some stories had things like fighting or scary stuff in them that wasn’t really for kids. But as time went on, people changed the stories to make them more like the ones we know now.

The Brothers Grimm wrote about many things like old stories, languages , and history. But the book people know them best for is Grimm’s Fairy Tales . It was a really famous book when they were alive, and people still like to read it today!

Wonder What's Next?

Feeling CROCHET-y or in a s-KNIT? Tomorrow’s Wonder will have you in a better mood!

Are you ready to explore the fairy tale world of the Brothers Grimm? Find a friend or family member to help you explore the following activities:

  • Now that you've learned all about the Brothers Grimm, you're probably anxious to read a few of the fairy tales they published. Check out Project Gutenberg's eBook of Grimm's Fairy Tales  to read through a wide variety of different fairy tales. Which one is your favorite?
  • Do you think it's important to preserve your culture and history? What about the stories that make up your own personal heritage? Sit down with friends and family members to talk about the stories everyone likes to tell at holiday parties and family reunions. Most families have a variety of stories that have been passed down over time. They could be funny stories of events that occurred long ago or stories of love about how people met. Choose one family story and take the time to write it down with as much detail as possible. You never know when your own children might one day cherish the story that you cared enough to write down!
  • Fairy tales are popular with kids of all ages…and that includes adults! There are many classic fairy tales out there, and it seems like many of them continue to be updated and remade because they remain popular. But what about new fairy tales? Take some time today to brainstorm ideas for modern fairy tales. If you're feeling inspired, write your own short fairy tale and share it with a friend or family member.

Wonder Sources

  • http://www.biography.com/news/brothers-grimm-facts (accessed 3 Apr., 2023)
  • http://www.nationalgeographic.com/grimm/article.html
  • http://www.neh.gov/humanities/2015/marchapril/feature/how-the-grimm-brothers-saved-the-fairy-tale (accessed 3 Apr., 2023)

Did you get it?

Wonder words.


Hi Julia! We'd suggest an Internet search or a visit to your local library. Thanks for commenting!


To learn new things and WONDER! We have MANY more WONDERs for you to read, as well!

Thanks, mackenzie! The Grimm's Fairy Tales started out much creepier than the fairy tales we know and love today!  What are some of your favorite fairy tales. mackenzie?


Hi, Anonymous! You should check out  Wonder 912: Can Fairy Tales Be True?


Wonder Friend


Nope nope nope nope nope nope


I know who are the Brothers Grimm do you guys know who are the Brothers Grimm?? Love, Melanie :) :D

Thanks, NopeX5!  We are glad you enjoyed this Wonder!


Sister Grimm

Hi, long-lost Sister Grimm!  We thought you were just a rumor!


We love books and reading, too, DD! Here are lots of Wonders related to books. Have fun WONDERing! ??


china richards

Fair enough.  What's a fairy tale you do like?


Kind of...did you learn more about them after reading this article?


Sad.  Boring.  Not as good.  ? We hate to even think about it!  Thanks for WONDERing with us, Lag!  


aubreigh wheeler

Coming right up!   How Do Cats Always Land On All Four Feet?  Enjoy! ?


We don't think that's a thing, Katie.  But thanks for sharing!  Is YOUR cat afraid of cucumbers?


Indeed it is, Allie!  Glad that irony is not lost on you.  Thanks for being awesome, Wonder Friend!


:) :) :) :)

We are getting some great recommendations for that one, Wonder Friend!  Thanks for the recommendation!  We love to hear what people enjoy reading!


Awesome, Anonymous! You should check if your local library has a copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Good luck and thanks for commenting!


It's just the facts, Simon. Maybe it is because it was a different time. The article states that originally these stories were intended for adults and were later adapted to be more suitable for children. So maybe that's your answer? Thanks for WONDERing with us, though!


bella ( mrs. thompson's class)

Thanks for sharing your connection, Bella! Now you've got us interested in checking out the Sisters Grimm Series. Thanks for WONDERing!


Briar Rose = Sleeping Beauty, right? And yes, some of those stories do seem a little graphic for kids. ? But thankfully, Disney made some changes before they turned them into movies. Thanks, Anonymous!


wondering like a boss

Hey, Wondering! Thanks for living up to your name and coming back and commenting! Do you have a favorite fairy tale?


Thanks for commenting, Makenna! You were pretty close on your guess about today's Wonder. Have you had a chance to check it out yet?


Yes, although technically they didn't "create" the fairy tales so much as "compile" them. But thanks to them, we have a lot of great fairy tales and Disney movies! What's one of your favorites, Emma?


You rock, Kat! Thanks for the feedback. Let us know what you think of today's very cool Wonder!


Thanks, Jason! Fist bump coming at ya! ?


If you think that is scary, you should read the Grimm versions of some of these classic fairy tales. They don't all have the "happily ever after" endings that we are used to from the Disney versions. Thanks for commenting, Nya!



We haven't heard that one before, Rex but thanks for sharing your thoughts with us! Happy WONDERing!


Haha- we see how the wording of the question would lead you to think that, Carter. But no, we can assure you that Batman is 100% alive and well in Gotham City.


We are sorry you feel that way, Isaiah. Were you looking for more information about fairy tales? You might want to head on a little Wonder Journey of your own and let us know what you find out. Thanks for WONDERing with us!


ethan kessler

Different Wonder Friends have different interests, Ethan. We are sorry you didn't see the value in this Wonder, but here are the Sports Wonders you were asking about. Enjoy!


Pretty cool connection, Rin! It is interesting to learn that the Grims were the real people that were largely responsible for passing along those fairy tales to us today. Thanks for WONDERing with us!


Gatlin tUrTlEzzz

Boom: Wonder #172: Can You Escape From Handcuffs? Also, what's up, Turtlezz? Thanks for WONDERing with us, Gatlin tUrTlEzzz!

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Question 1 of 3

The Brothers Grimm were named Wilhelm and what?

  • a Sam Not Quite!
  • b Jacob Correct!
  • c Peter Not Quite!
  • d Joshua Not Quite!

Question 2 of 3

The Brothers Grimm published their first collection of folk tales in what year?

  • a 2015 Not Quite!
  • b 1776 Not Quite!
  • c 1945 Not Quite!
  • d 1812 Correct!

Question 3 of 3

Which of the following is NOT a fairy tale associated with the Brothers Grimm?

  • a Batman Correct!
  • b Cinderella Not Quite!
  • c Rapunzel Not Quite!
  • d Sleeping Beauty Not Quite!

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The Brothers Grimm biography

Born: January 4 1785

Died: September 20 1863

Born: February 24 1786

Died: December 16 1859

Famous for: Their fairy tales, of course! But the Brothers Grimm also composed a German dictionary, protested against, and were banished by, the king of Hannover, composed a collection of 585 German Legends and introduced a new subject in higher education - German studies.

Brothers Grimm fairy tales

The Brothers Grimm were born in Hanau, Germany. Jacob was born on the 4th of January 1785 and Wilhelm - on the 24th of February 1786. From early youth, until their death, the brothers were very close friends, always complementing each other.

Their father, Philipp Wilhelm Grimm (1752 - 1796), was a lawyer. After his passing, the Brothers Grimm were able to finish their education only thanks to the generosity of their aunt. The Brothers Grimm showed their brilliant abilities while they were still young. After a graduation at the Kassel School, the Grimms continued their education at Marburg University, with the firm intention to become lawyers, following the example of their father. They listened to lectures at the Law School, studied legal science, but their natural inclinations led them in a completely different direction - the study of German and foreign literature. In 1803 the famous romantic Ludwig Tieck issued his "Minnelieder aus der schwabischen Vorzeit". In the preface he strongly urged to study the native cultural heritage. Under his influence, soon after graduating, Brothers Grimm decided to inspect the manuscripts with ancient German literature and continued their research in this area until the end of their life.

In 1805 Jacob Grimm went to Paris to do scientific work. The Brothers, accustomed to always live and work together found their parting difficult and decided never to be separated again.

Between 1805 - 1809 Jakob Grimm was a librarian to Jerome Bonaparte in Vilhelmsheg. After the war with France, Jakob Grimm received a task from the Elector of Kassel - to go to Paris and return to Kassel Library manuscripts which were stolen from the French.

In 1815, together with a representative of Kassel, Jacob Grimm was sent to the Congress of Vienna. He looked down upon a prosperous political career - all business matters were an obstacle to his scientific pursuits. Jacob left the service in 1816, refusing a proposed professorship in Bonn, along with a high salary, and became librarian in Kassel, where his brother worked since 1814. The Grimm Brothers kept their humble position, devoting themselves to their research. In 1825 Wilhelm Grimm married, but the brothers still continued to live and work together.

In 1829 there was an opening for the director's position at the Library of Kaseel. The position should have been awarded by Jacob Grimm, but another person, one without any merit, was preferred. Brothers Grimm felt so outraged by this injustice that left. Of course, they did not stay without a job - their scientific works were already too well-known. In 1830 Jacob Grimm was invited to Göttingen, became a professor of German literature and a senior librarian in the Göttingen University. Wilhelm received a junior librarians position in 1831 and was awarded the title of supernumerary, and later in 1835 - a full-time professor. There the brothers worked with a group of progressive scholars, especially Germany's science luminaries. But their stay in Göttingen was short.

The new King of Hanover, who came to the throne in 1837, decided to remove the constitution granted to Hanover by his predecessor with a single scratch. Of course, discontent swept through the country, but only seven scholars had enough courage to openly protest. The Brothers Grimm were among these seven brave men. King Ernst August immediately responded to this protest with the dismissal of the seven professors and drove away those who were not born in Hanover. Within three days the Brothers Grimm had to leave town and temporarily settled in Kassel.

Public opinion in Germany supported the famous scientists: a petition in favor if the Grimms was opened and the two most famous publishers in Germany, Reymer and Girtsel, offered to publish a German dictionary compiled on a broad scientific basis. Brothers Grimm accepted this suggestion without hesitation and after quite a long preparation they started to work. But they did not have to stay in Kassel for long - their friends helped them. Their new patron was Crown Prince Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia. When in 1840 he came to the throne, the Brothers Grimm were called in Berlin immediately. They were elected to the Berlin Academy of Sciences, and as academics have been granted the right to read lectures at Berlin University. Soon after Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm began to read lectures at the university and lived in Berlin until their death. Wilhelm died on the 16th of December 1859 and Jacob followed him on on the 20th of September 1863.

Ukrainian folktales

History and Biography

The Brothers Grimm

The Grimm Brothers biography

The Brothers Grimm biography

The Brothers Grimm were philologists and folklorists. Born in Hanau, Berlin, Germany. Jacob Grimm was the eldest (1785 – 1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786 – 1859). His father shared his time as a lawyer and pastor of a Calvinist Church. Under the influence of his father studied Law and Medieval Literature at the University of Marburg. With the death of his father, the brothers Grimm had to face complex situations to continue their studies and had to ask for assistance from a maternal aunt.

In this place, both met the poet and folklorist Clemens Brentano, soon built a close relationship. He inwards them into the world of poetry, especially popular poetry. In some special meeting, they met the jurist and law historian Friedrich Karl von Savigny, thanks to him they learned a method to conduct research from written sources. This event was key because that is where the work carried out by the Grimm brothers would come off, work that will give them popularity. Jacob traveled to Paris in 1805 as an assistant to Professor Von Savigny. After graduating, both worked as librarians and university professors at the Universities of Göttingen and Berlin.

The brothers felt great exaltation for the traditional anonymous literature of the philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, on the other hand, the philosopher took some of his ideas on poetry and popular narrative; the latter was studied by the brothers because they felt that their value was greater than that of literary literature as it was a genuine representation of the feeling of the people. They undertook research on the traditions of their people; their beliefs, cults, festivities, myths, and legends, among others. Certainly, the step by the university to study law had served them to know these great and influential personages.

Between 1812 and 1822, the brothers Grimm wrote in the writing of his first publication: Children’s stories and of the home, a collection of stories in which they expressed different popular traditions of Germany. Subsequently, they were known as the fairy tales of the Grimm brothers. This publication was very popular and sold because people could remember forgotten traditions or simply entertain themselves with those that lived in their mind. The Brothers Grimm tried not to make literary reinterpretations to maintain the original character of the stories, to preserve their liveliness and popular freshness. Simultaneously, they worked on German Legends, another meeting of texts about the historical legends of the German people.

The brothers began to have uncommon interests: Wilhelm Grimm focused on the medieval tradition, while Jacob Grimm was oriented in philology, specifically studied the history of the language. As a result, he worked on the book The German Grammar from 1819 to 1837. Text that later became fundamental in the contemporary studies of historical and comparative linguistics. In 1829 the Grimm brothers went as guests to the University of Göttingen, and then to that of Berlin, representing the Royal Academy of Sciences. From this center began the creation of the German Dictionary, a rich and complex work that started from the first volume. Although, this remained in the hands of several generations of scholars.

Returning, Tales of children and the home were published in three volumes. The desire of the Grimms was that this work was a tribute to popular literature, a document that could faithfully express the national oral tradition that supposed loss. Their main sources were their childhood memories, and the testimonies of the people of the villages: children, youth, adults and the elderly. For example, in the city of Kassel, pharmacist Wild’s daughter shared stories heard about “old Mary”.

In the transcription of the stories, they tried to preserve faithfully the plot, the tone and the expressions that they used. Although, sometimes there were confusions the narration and its oral style were respected to the maximum, beginning with it to the modern ethnographic methods. Many scholars began to use folk tales as a basic structure to carry out a stylistic and literary reworking and learn about a community. The Brothers Grimm decided to innovate on the basis of literary sources, from authors such as Luther, Hans Sachs, Johann Michael Moscherosch or Johann Heinrich Jung-Stilling. They focused on finding the naivety of the plot, analyzing proverbs or sayings.

The truth is that they knew how to give them so much freshness that few books immediately revive the mysterious and profound intimacy of Germanic nature, allowing them to feel it with the spirit with which the German people come to it. These collections include such famous stories as Snow White, Cinderella, Tom Thumb, Juan with luck, Legend of the Pixies, The daughter of the miller, Little Red Riding Hood, Rabanita, In search of fear, The musicians of Bremen or Blue Beard. Actually, the work was not intended to be a children’s book, but in the early nineteenth century in Germany became the favorite book of infants, with which generations and generations let their imagination fly.

The success of these works was such that they undertook their translations, which ended up making it a universal success. It is affirmed that 200 years after its publication, one thousand million copies had been published in one hundred and seventy languages, dissemination superior to the work of another great exponent of the classic age of children’s literature, the Danish Hans Christian Andersen .

In the end, Clemens Brentano ended up demeaning the work of the Brothers Grimm, because he found her disheveled and poor in writing. This work has been made a huge amount of reissues, acquiring new titles such as The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm or Tales of the Brothers Grimm, creating some distortion, since many readers came to believe that these works were creations of the brothers. Relegating the character of oral tradition and popular culture.

Wilhelm died in Berlin at 73 years of age, on December 16, 1859. Four years later, on September 20, 1863, Jacob died in the same city. At 78 years old Both were buried in the Alter Sankt-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Berlin cemetery. His legacy was so important that his work has been taken to the big and small screen; also to the theater.

Undoubtedly, the stories that the Grimm brothers compiled and published are known worldwide and have marked the childhood of several generations.

brothers grimm biography

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Yukio Mishima

Yukio Mishima Biography

Yukio Mishima Biography

Yukio Mishima (January 14, 1925 – November 25, 1970) was a novelist, essayist, poet, and critic . He was born in Tokyo, Japan. His birth name was Kimitake Hiraoka. His father Shizue served as Secretary of Fisheries for the Ministry of Agriculture and his mother Azusa Hiraoka was completely devoted to the household. Despite this, Yukio was in the care of his grandmother, Natsu. During this time, the little boy had no contact with his parents. Natsu had mental problems and on many occasions, she was violent and had a madness crisis, this was later portrayed in Yukio’s works.

He learned a taste for letters and languages from his grandmother. When he was 12 years old, Mishima began to write his first stories, besides, he had already read a large number of books by authors such as Oscar Wilde and Rilke , as well as numerous Japanese classics. He attended a fairly prestigious school called the Peers School, attended by the Japanese aristocracy, and eventually extremely wealthy commoners. But, then he realized that it was the worst decision he made. He spent six miserable years in this place.

He never built friendships and was sometimes attacked by his peers. The only redeemable of that time was his participation in the editorial board in the literary society of the school, thanks to this he was able to achieve a great aptitude for literature. His performance was so good that he was commissioned to write a story for the prestigious literary magazine, Bungei-Bunka. He presented a work called Hanazakari no Mori (The forest in all its splendor). Later, the story was published in 1944, due to the war it had to be published in a small print run due to a shortage of paper.

In his youth, he suffered from tuberculosis, for this reason, he avoided doing military service and participating in the war. But for Mishima, it was taken as something negative and shameful. One of Mishima’s dreams before he became a writer was to be a kamikaze pilot. It was glorious for him to die heroically for his homeland. Frustrated, he decided to spend a lot of time writing until his father disagreed and forbade him. Mishima had to do it at night, supported and protected by his mother Shizue, who always read his stories. Then his father ordered him that he should study law and not literature.

Graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1947, Mishima never stopped writing during his university career. He got a job as a civil servant in the Japanese Ministry of Finance. But this work was so exhausting that he decided to leave it with the support of his father a year later.At that time he was able to dedicate all his time to writing. Mishima began to write all kinds of works: novels, plays, short stories, also poems, articles, and essays. Usually, his work was devoted to dark and stark themes, although contrasted with the delicacy and restraint of his style. His works led him to have worldwide recognition and to be the best-known Japanese writer abroad.

Mishima’s works

The way he expresses desire and rejection, beauty, and violence, is of great attraction to the public. Mishima received the influence of Nihon Romanha , a writer belonging to Japanese romanticism, who emphasized the unity of Japan and its cultural values. This was a vehicle to reinforce nationalist ideology and more in times of war. However, Mishima was also interested and was a great admirer of modern Western literature. His first extensive work The Forest in Flower , was published in 1941. This work, like The Cigarette (1946) , and Thieves (1948) were written during World War II and show the total departure from the tragic reality of war and of defeat.

In 1949 he published a work that quickly gained popularity: Confessions of a mask , a work that marked the definitive consecration of him in the literary world. Although some critics showed bewilderment and reservations about the particularity of the subject (because the protagonist confessed his homosexuality) certainly this represented a novelty in Japanese literature. Mishima was drawn to the aesthetic values ​​of Western classicism. The Golden Pavilion (1956) was his most successful work in the 1950s.

In 1958, he traveled to the United States and upon his return, Mishima married the daughter of a well-known painter. A year later, Kyoko’s House was published, it did not receive the favors of the critics. He always tried to reflect his taste for the values ​​of the authentic Japanese based on the values ​​of the samurai. In this sense, fascinated by the ideology of warriors, he wrote The Way of the Samurai and In Defense of Culture (1968). Mishima presented himself as a defender of the restoration of the values ​​of the prewar and militaristic culture. The author was a man concerned about corporality and the state of the body, for this reason, he was a lover of the Martial Arts.

From 1955 Mishima began an intense program of physical activity and also resorted to military training at the Sietai base, together with a group of university students. His enormous literary production, among which, along with those already mentioned, stand out: The prohibited color (1951), The death of mid-summer (1953), The voice of the wave (1954), The taste of glory (1963) and Thirst for love (1964).

After the Banquet (1960), one of his most successful novels, he wrote Patriotism (1961) and Death in the afternoon, and other stories (1971), a compilation of short stories representative of a time when he was dying in the name of noble ideals.

Among his theatrical production of these years, it is worth mentioning Madame de Sade (1965) and My friend Hitler (1968) . His most popular work is: The sea of ​​fertility, composed of the novels Snow of spring (1966), Runaway horses (1968), The temple of the dawn (1970)  and The corruption of an angel , completed the latter days before his death. In this work, a critique of Japanese society is made for the loss of traditional values. Yukio Mishima was concerned about the strong westernization of his country and analyzed its transformation from a pessimistic and critical perspective.

This terrible vision of Mishima led him to embrace suicide as the only way out of him, ending his life on November 25, 1970.

Walter Scott

Walter Scott Biography

Walter Scott Biography

Sir. Walter Scott (August 15, 1771 – September 21, 1832) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. British writer, poet, and lawyer considered the founder of the historical novel. Scott was one of the key figures of the Romantic Movement in the United Kingdom. He began his long career as a writer at the end of the 18th century, at which time he published the translation of the ballads of G.A. Bürger, The Chase, and William and Helen (1796). Among his most acclaimed writings, are The Lady of the Lake (1810), Guy Mannering (1815), Rob Roy (1817), Ivanhoe (1819), The Monastery (1820), and The Talisman (1825). Most of these works were published anonymously. However, towards the end of the 1820s, the identity of the author was revealed.

Early years

Son of Walter Scott, lawyer, and Anne Rutherford, w ith only two years of age, contracted polio. Disease that seriously affected his health, leaving as a limp in his right leg. At this time, he lived with his grandfather Robert Scott in Sandyknowe. After four years he returned to Edinburgh, city in which he carried out his studies. Subsequently entered the University of Edinburgh, where he studied law , as did his father.

After graduating he began to practice his profession. At this time, he began to collect information about the myths and legends of Scotland while carrying out his duties. This theme was addressed by Scott in different works.

Literary career

Towards the end of the 1790s he began his career, translating the work of Gottfried A. Bürger, Leonore, as well as the ballads included in The Chase, and William and Helen (1796). S hortly thereafter translated Götz von Berlichingen of  Goethe , book based on the life of the poet and adventurer Götz von Berlichingen, known as Iron Hand. At the beginning of the 19th century, he published the collection of ballads collected during his travels, entitled Minstrels of the Scottish Border (1802). This includes famous Scottish ballads such as The Young Tamlane, The Twa Corbies, The Douglas Tragedy, The Wife of Usher’s Well, The Cruel Sister and The Daemon Lover. After its publication, the work had little reception, however, the author continued to update this collection until 1830.

In the mid-1800s, he published the poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), a writing that was well-received, followed by Ballads and Lyrical Pieces (1806), a written work while serving as secretary of the courts of justice in Edinburgh. Later, Scott published Marmion: a Tale of Flodden Field (1808), a romantic historical poem that ends with the death of the protagonist in the Battle of Flodden Field. Two years later, he published The Lady of The Lake (1810), one of his most acclaimed poems by the author.

He later published The Vision of Don Roderick (1811) and The Bridal of Triermain (1813). In 1814 he published his first novel Waverley, a work set in the Jacobite uprising of 1745 in the United Kingdom; it was published anonymously since the author was a public official. After its publication, the work became a success.

Since then, he published several novels using different pseudonyms as Author of Waverley, Jebediah Cleisbotham, Crystal Croftangry, and Lawrence Templeton, among others. It should be noted that at this time the author’s identity was a fairly well-known secret. After Waverley (1814) wrote Guy Mannering (1815), The Antiquarian (1816), Rob Roy (1818) and Ivanhoe (1819), a novel story set in medieval England that tells the story of Wilfredo de Ivanhoe, noble Saxon, likewise, delves into the contradictions between the Saxon people and the Normans. This is one of the most outstanding works of the author.

Three years later he published The Adventures of Nigel (1822) and Peveril of the Peak (1822), followed by Quintin Durward (1823), a novel set in France by Louis XI. Later published Redgauntlet (1824), Tales of the Crusaders (1825) and Woodstock or The Knights: A Story of 1651 (1826).

That same year the author’s identity was revealed; year in which the author went through one of the most difficult moments of his life, given that his wife Charlotte Carpenter died and the Constable publishing house, in which he had invested a large amount of money he went bankrupt. Leaving a debt of 130,000 pounds, which he paid for the rest of his life.

At the end of the 1820s, he published The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte (1827), a book in which he delves into the life of Napoleon Bonaparte . The following year he published The Beautiful Young Woman of Perth (1828) and Tales of the Grandfather (1828), followed by History of Scotland (1829-1830), The Daughter of the Mist (1829), Bonnie Dundee (1830) and Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft (1831), the author’s last work. At this time, Scott, stopped writing and his health began to deteriorate rapidly. Scott passed away on September 21, 1832, was buried in Dryburgh Abbey.

The author’s work is considered a pioneer in the field of the historical novel , his writings are exalted by critics, since in these he realistically addresses historical events linked to his native Scotland and the Middle Ages, vividly evoking the context in which the protagonist of the history. Scott profoundly influenced the work of European writers, as well as painters and musicians; the writings of this have been represented in the theater, cinema, and television on several occasions.

Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo Biography

Marie Kondo Biography

Marie Kondo (October 9, 1984) was born in Tokyo, Japan. Writer and businesswoman, famous for being the creator of the Konmari method. A system that explains the proper way of organizing the home so that only the necessary is available and what makes the owner happy, avoiding the accumulation derived from the tendency to cling to the past. Kondo’s method has become a trend, after the publication of her first book The Magic of Order (2011), in which she delves into the method and highlights the positive aspects of order, emphasizing the serenity and relaxation an organized house inspires, which will be reflected in the daily life of people living in the home.

Kondo was interested at an early age in order and cleanliness, influenced by magazines about decoration and the home that her mother bought. While growing up, she spent a lot of time alone, since her mother took care of her younger sister, who at that time was just a baby. During these years she studied and continued to cultivate her love for order. When she entered the institute she began ordering the shelves while other students practiced sports.

Upon entering the University of Tokyo, she noticed that ordering helped her stay calmed and release the stress produced by the studies and partials . One day she organized for the first time she experienced a state of total calm and perfect order, which motivated her to choose the organization as a profession.

The Konmari method

At 19, while studying at the University of Tokyo, she became a consultant and created the Konmari method, a System in which she explains the proper way to organize the home and other spaces, so that they become spaces of inspiration and serenity, which to some extent influences the mental health of the people who inhabit the place. The Kondo method proposes the elimination of unnecessary things, likewise, on a more personal level, it promotes the termination of unproductive relationships that do not positively influence the person. The goal of the system is to bring happiness and serenity to the person who carries it out.

Konmari is based on the steps that Kondo followed in the organization of her home, as well as certain aspects of Eastern philosophy, feng shui, and inspirational coaching. This is divided into five steps: the first is the selection and organization of clothing, only what is used is chosen, looks good or produces happiness to the owner. After the selection must be organized so that everything is visible and accessible.

The second is focused on books, only those that are of great importance are chose, preventing them from exceeding 30 books. The next step is the papers, keeping what is in force or necessary, then they are stored in folios. The fourth step is the komono, also understood as various objects that you have in the home such as photos, CDs, magazines, among others, of these should only remain what has great emotional value.

Finally, sentimental articles should be selected and organized, as mentioned above, only objects that have a deep sentimental value and that produce happiness should be chosen. I f that is not the case, it should be discarded since only objects that do not contribute to growth would be accumulating and peace of the person. This method has been widely disseminated since the publication of Kondo’s first book, entitled The Magic of Order (2011), which was well-received by the public. Shortly thereafter launched happiness after order (2012), in which delves into the method and well-being that it brings; subsequently published The magic of order. An illustrated novel (2017).

These books were transformed into lectures, audiobooks, and articles, through which, Kondo, has become one of the most prominent figures of recent years. After the publication of these, the author has participated in various radio and television programs in Japan and other countries, such as Ellen Show and Rachael Ray Show. Also has been interviewed by the Time Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue Magazine, among others.

In 2015, she was included in the list of the 100 most influential people in the world created by Time magazine, list in which the outstanding Japanese writer Haruki Murakami has also been included. At present, her company has a long list of clients whom she helps transform her spaces into places of inspiration and serenity. In January 2019, the series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo  was launched  from Netflix, in which Kondo is seen visiting and organizing homes based on her method.

Joël Dicker

Joël Dicker Biography

Joël Dicker Biography

Joël Dicker (June 16, 1985) Born in Geneva, Switzerland. Swiss writer considered one of the most relevant writers of recent years . Before devoting himself fully to writing he studied for a short time Drama in Paris, and Law at the University of Geneva, a career that ended in 2010; Dicker rose to fame that same year, winning the prestigious Prix des Ecrivains Genevois award , an award aimed at highlighting unpublished works.  Subsequently published the successful books: The Last Days of Our Fathers (2011), The Truth About The Harry Case Quebert (2012), The Book Of The Baltimore (2015) and The Disappearance Of Stephanie Mailer (2018). Their success turned Dicker into a phenomenon of international sales.

Son of a high school teacher and a bookstore ; he has three brothers. Dicker spent his childhood in Geneva, the city where he began his academic training. While studying he began to be interested in writing, an interest he cultivated by becoming the manager of nature and animal magazine. After attending elementary school, he entered the Collège Madame de Staël, an institution where he continued polishing his writing skills. It is worth mentioning that although he was attracted to writing, he did not like to study.

At the end of this training period, he moved to Paris, where he began taking acting classes at the renowned French drama school, Cours Florent. After a year he dropped out of school and returned to his hometown, where shortly thereafter he began studying law at the University of Geneva . At 19 he wrote his first work, The Tiger (2005), a short story set in Tsarist Russia, specifically in the government of Tsar Nicholas II. Five years later he graduated, obtaining the title of Lawyer.

Joël Dicker’s work

The trajectory of the young writer began in the mid-2000s, at which time he published the story, The Tiger (2005), a work he presented in a youth literary contest but was dismissed since for the judges it was suspected that such work was written by someone so young. In the story, he deepens on topics such as existential dilemmas, violence, the possibility of redemption and the great questions that human beings pose, this was set in the government of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II.

Five years later he won the Prix des Ecrivains Genevois prize, awarded by the Geneva Writers Society for the best manuscript not published for the work The Last Days of Our Fathers, written that was published a year later thanks to the prize. The Last Days of Our Fathers (2011), set in the period covered by World War II, focused on the strategy of Winston Churchill and the actions of the Special Operations Executive, an espionage agency infiltrated in the Nazi army lines.

In 2012, he published the criminal mystery, The Truth About The Case Harry Quebert (2012), a work that revolves around Marcus Goldman’s investigation of the murder of Nola Kellergan , who was close to the friend and mentor of writer Harry Quebert. This paper was awarded the Goncourt Prize and the Novel Grand Prix of the French Academy.

In 2018, the work was adapted to television in the miniseries format, which was directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Patrick Dempsey. Three years after the publication of The Truth About The Harry Quebert Case (2012), The Baltimore Book (2015) came out, written that continues the investigations of the young writer Marcus Goldman , this time he investigates the Goldman family of Baltimore, from the period of opulence to the decline of the family and the emergence of drama.

The most recent work of the author is The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer (2018), a thriller that revolves around the mysterious disappearance of a journalist who at that time had discovered the irregularities of an old homicide case, by revealing this information to the police officer in charge of case disappears.

Henri de Saint-Simon

brothers grimm biography

Henri de Saint-Simon Biography

Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Count of Saint-Simon (October 17, 1760 – May 19, 1825) was born in Paris, France. Historian and political theorist, he was one of the founders and theorists of modern socialism. The Count of Saint-Simon was part of the military who fought in the War of Independence of the United States (1775-1783), later joined the revolutionary cause in Paris becoming a Republican.

He was appointed president of the Paris Commune in 1792, at which time he renounced his noble title and changed his name to Claude Henri Bonhomme, after being accused of speculation and spending a short time in jail focused on writing, publishing the books The industrial system (Du système industriel) and New Christianity (Nouveau Christianisme).

He was born into an aristocratic family . Among his relatives is Duke Louis de Rouvroy de Saint-Simon, author of Memories (1739-1752), a book in which he described the court of Louis XIV of France. Due to family tradition, he began his military career at an early age actively participating in the United States War of Independence (1775-1783) , in favor of the colonies. After returning to the country began the revolutionary movement that ended in the outbreak of the French Revolution (1789-1799), political and social conflict that marked the history of the eighteenth century, driving profound changes in various parts of the world as the establishment of the republican model. During the development of the revolution, Saint-Simon became a Republican and was appointed president of the Paris Commune in 1792.

In the course of his government he was accused of speculation of national assets and criticized for his close relationship with Georges-Jacques Danton, which caused him to be detained between 1793 and 1794. During the Directory (1795-1799), Saint-Simon lived on comfortably, since he had a good fortune, at that time his home was visited by prominent figures of the time such as Gaspard Monge, Joseph-Louis de Lagrange, and Guillaume Dupuytren. Later, he traveled to Germany, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, in the course of the trip he began writing his first works.

Literary Works

At the beginning of the 19th century, he published his first work entitled Letter from a resident in Geneva to his contemporaries (Lettres d’un habitant de Genève à ses contemporains), where he outlined what he would later define as capacity theory. After spending several years living comfortably, his fortune began to decrease, which is why he faced serious economic problems. To sustain himself he wrote several scientific and philosophical articles with which he managed to stabilize his economic situation. For this same period he mentioned one of his best-known phrases in the newspaper L’Organisateur:

 If France lost its main physicists, chemists, bankers, merchants, farmers, blacksmiths, etc., it would be a body without a soul. On the other hand, if I lost all the men considered most important in the State, the fact would not bring more pain than the sentimental one

This statement was seen negatively and he was prosecuted for it. Starting the 1820s he published his next work called The Industrial System (Du système industriel, 1821) and four years later he published his most exalted work New Christianity (Nouveau Christianisme, 1825), a work in which he criticized the doctrine of Jesus and sat the basis for establishing a new Christianity that was more in line with the original evangelical teachings. After the publication of the book, he was ruined again, which is why he planned to take his life off of a shot. However, he failed and was injured in one eye, a short time later driven by one of his disciples decided to create the newspaper Le Producteur, but shortly before his appearance, he passed away. The renowned French theorist died on May 19, 1825, in Paris.

After his death, his approaches and ideas were disseminated by his disciples who created the ideological movement known as Saint-simonianism which was of great relevance in later generations influencing the formation of utopian socialism. His ideas were exalted by philosophers Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim . Saint-Simonianism’s thinking was based on his personal experience during the development of the French Revolution and the fall with the coup d’état orchestrated by Napoleon Bonaparte. In this, he stated that the government should be managed by industrialists such as workers, peasants, and owners, mentioned that the place that clerics had in the social order should be occupied by scientists; religion should guide social classes so that they improve their quality of life.

Finally, he mentioned that the redistribution of goods should be based on the capacity of each individual. These ideas influenced the work of Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill, and various socialist philosophers.


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The Brothers Grimm Biography

The brothers grimm (die brüder grimm)  are unique within the literary world. despite their work being some of the most well-known on the planet, jacob and wilhem were not, strictly speaking, writers. they were librarians..

brothers grimm biography

The Brothers Grimm (Die Brüder Grimm) are unique within the literary world. Despite their work being some of the most well-known on the planet, Jacob and Wilhem were not, strictly speaking, writers. They were librarians.

What, then, was so special about the dogged scholarly pursuits of Jacob and Wilhelm?

And why did the fruits of their research turn the brothers Grimm from unknown academics into literary superstars?

The brothers Grimm were born in Hanau, just east of Frankfurt, Germany – over the space of fourteen months. Jacob Ludwig Carl arrived on 4 th  January 1785, and was followed by Wilhelm Carl on 24 th  February 1786. In 1791, the Grimm family moved to the countryside town of Steinau, where, alongside a strict Calvinist instruction, the brothers developed a deep love of rural life.

The Brothers Grimm are unique within the literary world. They were librarians.

The brothers’ father died in 1796, plunging the Grimm family into financial hardship. When, two years later, Jacob and Wilhem moved to Kassel to attend the prestigious   Friedrichsgymnasium , it was paid for by a generous aunt. After graduating, the brothers attended the University of Marburg, where due to their lower-class background (the Grimm family were now living in near-poverty) they were excluded from much of student life.


Grimm’s fairy tales – illustrated by charles folkard the fairy tales of grimm – illustrated by anne anderson hansel and gretel – and other siblings forsaken in forests.

Despite these set backs, the Brothers Grimm, inspired by their law professor, Friedrich von Savigny, developed a keen interest in linguistics and medieval German literature. They were also inspired by Savigny’s wish to see the 200 principalities of Germany unified in a single state, and by the Romanticist notion that German literature should return to  Volkspoesie  (natural poetry) as opposed to  Kunstpoesie  (artistic poetry).

In 1808, Jacob was appointed court librarian to the King of Westphalia. Shortly afterwards, both he and Wilhelm became librarians in Kassel. Under the direction of their patron, the German Romantic Clemens Brentano, the brothers began to scour the Kassel archives for ancient folk-tales. They also began to invite storytellers to their home, where they would transcribe their stories. Despite the image the brothers would cultivate of these tales emerging naturally out of an ancient (but hitherto solely oral) German culture, in actual fact, many came from well-educated or aristocratic people, and even occasionally from French or Italian sources.

In 1812, the Brothers Grimm published their first work. Strong believers in the link between language and culture, they were extremely passionate about the Romanticist attempt to resurrect a uniquely German heritage (a large movement given French, Napoleonic, dominance).  The brothers saw this work as drawing on a timeless German spirit, inspired by the two oldest German poems of the Eighth Century,  The Song of Hildebrand and Hadubrand  and the  Wessobrunn Prayer . A few months later, they published the collection for which they are today world-famous,  Kinder und Hausmärchen.

The Brothers Grimm published their first work in 1812.

The first edition of   Children’s and Household Tales  contained 86 stories, including such well-known tales as   Rapunzel , Hansel and Gretel  and  Cinderella . It was also packed with footnotes laying out the various rustic, peasant sources from which each tale was drawn. Despite its self-avowed Germanics, the collection attracted lukewarm critical reviews, most asserting that the stories were unappealing and unsuitable for children. The reviewers had a point; the early editions of the tales are famously gory. In  Sleeping Beauty  the princess is raped in her sleep; in  Cinderella  the step-sisters cut off parts of their own feet in order to fit them into the glass slipper; and  Little Red Riding Hood faces truly disastrous consequences. After the first edition, Wilhelm quickly got to work making the tales more palatable. In the second edition, the tales emerged cleaner, more palatable, more moralistic, and perhaps most importantly, discernibly German.


brothers grimm biography

‘Rapunzel’, The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Arthur Rackham, 1909.

The Big Book of Fairy Tales, Charles Robinson, 1911.

‘Little Red Riding Hood’ (Brothers Grimm), The Big Book of Fairy Tales, Charles Robinson, 1911.

A Child's Book of Stories, Jessie Willcox Smith, 1914.

‘Hansel and Gretel’ (Brothers Grimm), A Child’s Book of Stories, Jessie Willcox Smith, 1914.

Between 1812 and 1857, the Brothers Grimm’s collection would run to seven editions. By the third edition the tales were already hugely popular across Germany, and in the 1870s the collection was added to the teaching curriculum in Prussia. By the early twentieth-century, Grimms’ Fairy Tales was a universally recognized text. It’s succinct narrative, deadpan style and casual mixing of the supernatural with the ordinary had come to define how people understood fairy-tales. The tales’ nationalistic roots did come back to haunt them however, as during the Third Reich, the Nazi Party declared Kinder und Hausmärchen to be a book each household should own. As a result, in Allied-occupied Germany, it was briefly banned.

Following Kinder und Hausmärchen , the brothers Grimm continued their work. They went on to publish works about Danish and Irish folk tales and Norse mythology , all of which solidified their reputations to the point that they received honorary doctorates from universities in Marburg, Berlin and Breslau. In 1830, they took employment at the University of Göttingen, Jacob as a professor and head librarian and Wilhelm as a professor. Here, they established the field of German Studies, becoming well-respected in the newly created discipline.

By the early twentieth-century, Grimms’ Fairy Tales was a universally recognized text.

In 1840, they were offered posts at the University of Berlin. Here, they directed their efforts toward the composition of a definitive German dictionary. Jacob began research on German legal traditions and the history of the German language, while Wilhelm published work on medieval literature. Jacob worked briefly in politics, however as his hopes for a unified Germany dwindled, he stepped down. By 1852, both brothers had retired from teaching to devote their efforts to a German Dictionary. This occupied their attention for the rest of their lives; Wilhelm died in 1859, aged 73; Jacob died four years later, aged 78.

brothers grimm biography

Ultimately, the brothers’ legacy is a curious one. Their original work was spurred on by a Romantic impulse to recover a pure form of German peasant literature.  The tales have been subsequently extolled as ‘quintessentially German’ by Otto Von Bismarck and Adolf Hitler. However few of their fables were discovered amongst the peasantry and almost all drew on a plethora of pan-European myths and legends. Indeed, in December 2012, on the collection’s 200th birthday, Der Spiegel set out to explicitly refute “a common misconception about the fairy tales – that they somehow represent the German ethnic soul.”

Reflecting this notion, the tales of the Brothers Grimm have been translated into 160 languages, and have successfully stood the test of time. Fairy tales have delighted adults and children alike, since their conception in the seventeenth century to provide lessons as well as entertainment.  Despite scholarly disagreement, the Brothers Grimm did ensure a constant consideration of mythology and tradition, yet enabled their reading public to escape into a fantasy world hitherto unknown. They transformed the tradition of oral folklore into a genre which has been enjoyed across generations. Their outstanding legacy continues to this day.

brothers grimm biography

The Sleeping Beauty (Brothers Grimm), Arthur Rackham, 1920.

brothers grimm biography

Arthur Rackham’s Little Red Riding Hood – From Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

brothers grimm biography

Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Illustrated by Ada Dennis and Others Hansel and Grethel and Other Tales by the Brothers Grimm – Illustrated by Arthur Rackham Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Illustrated by Elenore Abbott The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm – Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

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brothers grimm biography

The Brothers Grimm | Biography & Stories

Additional info.

Keira Hulihan has taught preschool and elementary-age children for over two years in science, English and other subjects with some experience in lesson planning for middle and high school levels. They have a Bachelors in English/Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz. They have several short stories published in a campus literary journal and won an Honorable Mention award for creative non-fiction.

  • Instructor Lucy Barnhouse

What are The Brothers Grimm known for?

The Brothers Grimm are best known for "Grimm's Fairy Tales," a collection of stories collected via oral tradition. The brothers got the stories from asking friends and acquaintances for folklore and recording them.

What fairy tales did The Brothers Grimm write?

The Brothers Grimm are responsible for many of the fairy tales that are considered classics today. These include "Snow White," "Rapunzel," "Cinderella," and "The Frog Prince."

How many fairy tales did the Brothers Grimm write?

In the first edition of their book of fairy tales, there were 86 stories included. By the time the seventh edition was published over 40 years later, it contained over 200 stories.

Table of Contents

The brothers grimm, grimm's fairy tales, lesson summary.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm , were German academics, cultural researchers, linguists, lexicographers, folklore collectors and writers. They established a methodology for collecting and recording folk stories that became the foundation for folklore studies.

Both brothers were born and raised in Hanau in the Landgraviate of Hesse–Kassel within the Holy Roman Empire, in present–day Germany. Jacob was born on January 4, 1785 and Wilhelm was born the following year on February 24, 1786. They were born to Phillip Wilhelm Grimm and Dorothea Grimm and were the two eldest siblings out of nine. In 1791, the family moved to the countryside in a town called Steinau, where the brothers enjoyed playing in the open fields surrounding their home. They got a strict Lutheran education at home from private tutors, and later attended local schools.

The family fell into financial trouble when their father passed away of pneumonia in 1796. Their servants and large house were given up, and their mother had to rely on her father and sister for financial support. Jacob, though only 11, was the eldest and quickly assumed adult responsibilities. In 1798, he and Wilhelm left their family to attend Friedrichsgymnasium in Kassel, a school that focused on music and foreign language. The two brothers became particularly close during this time.

Upon graduation, they both went on to attend the University of Marburg to study law, like their father. They both were influenced by their law professor, Friedrich von Savigny, to explore an interest in history in philology, and soon the two were studying medieval German literature. During this time they were also deeply influenced by Clemens Brentano, a German Romantic poet, and Johann Gottfried Herder, a German philosopher associated with the Enlightenment. These influences of Romanticism served as the structure for their future work.

After their time at University of Marburg, the brothers split up for some time. Jacob accepted a job in Paris as a research assistant to provide for the rest of his family. He went on to become a librarian in Kassel, where Wilhelm joined him after seeking treatments for his heart and respiratory ailments. At this time, they also began to collect old books and ask friends and acquaintances to tell them tales, which they gathered and intended to use to write a book on German history. In 1830, they moved to Göttingen, where they both got jobs at the University of Göttingen, Jacob as a professor and head librarian, and Wilhelm as a professor.

Wilhelm (left) and Jacob (right) Grimm in 1847.

Jacob Grimm

Jacob Grimm was the oldest child of his parents, Phillip and Dorothea Grimm. He became a student at the University of Marburg in 1802, a year before his brother Wilhelm joined him. Jacob was particularly inspired by his law professor, Friedrich von Savigny. In Jacob he sparked an interest in science and historical investigation. After he graduated in 1805, he accepted a job in Paris as von Savigny's research assistant, where he developed a taste for the literature of the Middle Ages. The following year, he accepted a job in the war office in order to continue providing for his mother and siblings, who by then had fallen into deep poverty.

In 1808, Jacob was appointed superintendent of the private library to the King of Westphalia, not long after his mother passed away and he became fully responsible for his siblings. In the following years, Jacob worked a variety of positions, and in 1814 he returned to Paris and attended the Congress of Vienna.

At Göttingen, he was a professor and he and Wilhelm were librarians. Jacob lectured on subjects like historical grammar, history, diplomatics, and legal antiquities. He joined six other academics who became known as the Göttingen Seven, a group who protested the absolutist tendencies in the Kingdom of Hannover, where they lived. As a result, he was banished from the Kingdom of Hannover in 1837 and returned to Kassel.

Jacob lived with Wilhelm and his wife, Henriette. Jacob never married himself. In 1840, both brothers accepted an invitation to teach at the University of Berlin, where they received stipends so they could continue their research. They began working on a project: a definitive dictionary called the German Dictionary . In the late 1840s, Jacob published The History of the German Language . Jacob Grimm died at 78 years old on September 20, 1863 in Berlin, Germany.

Wilhelm Grimm

Wilhelm Grimm was born on February 24, 1786. As a young boy, he was strong and healthy, but he suffered a long and severe illness while growing up that affected him for the rest of his life. He was less energetic than his brother Jacob, and instead preferred to confine himself quietly to his studies, which almost always involved literature. He also had a love of music and was a gifted storyteller.

In 1825, at 39 years old, Wilhelm married Henriette Dorothea Wild. The couple had four children together, one of which was named for Wilhelm's brother and close companion, Jacob. Jacob lived with Wilhelm and Henriette in Göttingen, where they lived very happily together.

Wilhelm joined his brother at the University of Göttingen in the group known as the Göttingen Seven, which protested against the King of Hanover, accusing him of violating the constitution. As a result, they were banished. Wilhelm Grimm died from an infection on December 16, 1859.

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Grimm's Fairy Tales was originally published as Children's and Household Tales in 1812. It contained 86 stories, and by the seventh edition in 1857, it contained over 200 unique fairy tales. One look at the original stories, though, might not qualify as what we consider a ''fairy tale''—these stories were blunt, violent, absurd, and tragic. In fact, they weren't even meant to be read by children. The stories were about German families and children and the ways in which they reacted to their circumstances, and the moral messages these stories contained derived from a German oral tradition that the Grimms brothers wanted to preserve. Later, any mention of fairies was omitted, as they were seen as being ''too French.'' In this way, they also participated in the wider effort of the time to oppose French domination.

The Grimms brothers strongly believed that the purest form of culture was linguistic and history–based. They saw the violent and disturbing aspects of the stories as reflections of the culture, which often emphasized teaching obedience through fear. However, as new editions of the book were released, they removed major disturbing scenes and events to make the stories more palatable for children. Listed below are some of their most famous stories, and a brief description of their original plot.

  • Most people know the story of Snow White , but what about the original storyline? In the original story, there is no wicked step–mother, only Snow White's mother. She wants more than Snow White's heart; she also wants her lungs and liver. When she learns that the huntsman didn't kill Snow White, she sets out to do so herself. Her attempts include a tight corset, a poisoned comb, and the poisoned apple.
  • In the original version of Rapunzel , the witch gets to keep baby Rapunzel because her father was caught stealing herbs from the witche's garden. A passing prince decides to visit Rapunzel several times by climbing her hair, but the witch finds out when Rapunzel becomes pregnant. The witch angrily chops off Rapunzel's hair and throws the prince off the top of the tower, landing in a thorn bush that plucks his eyes out. This story ends happily, though, when the two are reunited and Rapunzel heals his eyes with her tears.
  • One other story notable for its violence was The Frog Prince . In the original story, a princess reluctantly befriends the Frog Prince after he retrieves the golden ball that she dropped into a pond. In exchange, he says she must let him eat with her and sleep in her bed. This unsettles her—and rightfully so, as his intentions seem a little creepy. The next day, the Frog Prince came to her house, and her father, the king, told her she must keep her promise to the frog that helped her. That night in her room, she throws the frog against the wall in disgust, transforming him into a prince. They sleep in her bed together and make plans to escape to the prince's kingdom.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm were German academics who are best known for their collection of fairy tales. During their time at college, they studied medieval German literature and became interested in history and philology. They both eventually became professors at the University of Göttingen.

Their collection of fairy tales was collected from friends and acquaintances through German oral tradition. The tales had similar themes that included a value on hard work, rewards of virtue, and explanations for natural phenomena. The original versions of many of their stories were also rather violent, including classics like Cinderella , Snow White , and Rapunzel . In the original version of The Frog Prince , the frog is transformed back into a prince after the princess throws him against a wall. Some of their stories had fairies, which were later omitted because they seemed ''too French.'' Many of these stories have endured over time and have become classics across many cultures.

Romanticism and Scholarship

Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm may not have looked like Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, but they were romantics in the truest sense of the word. Gifted and influential scholars, they were passionately convinced of the value - and importance - of the stories told by ordinary people. Jakob and Wilhelm were born in 1785 and 1786, respectively, in Hanau, just east of Frankfurt, in what is now Germany. The brothers remained close all their life, both going to school in Kassel, and taking up professorships at the University of Göttingen.

Double portrait of the brothers

Influenced by Romanticism , Jakob and Wilhelm believed that collective memory could be expressed in folktales. Germany's recent past was troubled and its future uncertain. The Grimms wanted to convince people - not just politicians - that Germany as a political unit could and should exist. They believed that the stories told by countryside fireplaces could demonstrate this. The Grimms were gifted linguists, and their project made them influential scholars. In later life, the Grimms were also part of the 'Götingen Seven', a group of professors who protested absolutist tendencies in the Kingdom of Hannover where they lived. Although under political censure, they went on to publish further. Their volumes of fairytales remain their most influential legacy.

The Brothers Grimm in the home of Dorothea Viehmann, who told them many stories.

The Grimms had to fight for recognition of their groundbreaking project as 'true scholarship,' a bit like scholars today researching video games and fanfiction. Scholars have debated how much the Grimm brothers may have edited the tales they heard. Current consensus is that the original edition reflects fairly closely the tradition of oral transmission , handing down stories through recitation. The famous 'Once upon a time' suggests the style of a storyteller by a hearth, and so does the less frequently translated 'A mouse has run / My tale is done' (Es rennt ein Maus, die Geschicht' ist aus).

The Fairy Tales: Publication and Reception

Early reception.

The fairytales (or, in the original, 'children's and house stories') of the Brothers Grimm were first published in 1812 and have appeared in multiple versions since. The original version includes many stories not included in later editions. Even the most famous stories include graphic details that were removed from later publications. In the original Cinderella story, for instance, the stepmother tells the stepsisters to cut off their toes or a chunk of their heels, to fit into the dainty shoe. The prince only discovers the substitution when a bird sings 'Blood in the shoe! Blood in the shoe!' In a similarly gruesome vein, the frog prince is transformed not through a kiss, but when the princess throws him against the wall in rage!

Later Editions and Adaptations

The Brothers Grimm were the first to adapt their stories, publishing revised versions in the 1850s. When parts of what is now Germany came under French control, they decided to change the fairies in some of their stories (like ''Briar Rose,'' a version of ''Sleeping Beauty'') to wise women in order to be distinct from French traditions.

The tales of the Brothers Grimm have been frequently adapted and incorporated into other collections, like those of Andrew Lang , a Scottish anthropologist who collected fairytales from many cultures. The Grimms' stories have also seen numerous adaptations for television, including a popular East German version that put ordinary people and their hard work back at the heart of the stories, even when adapting the popular stories about princes and princesses.

The most famous adaptations of Grimms' fairytales, of course, have been made by Disney. These adaptations brought the fairytales to a wider audience than Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm could have imagined, but they removed a lot of sex and violence from the originals. According to the Brothers Grimm, Snow White's evil stepmother dances to her death in red-hot iron shoes. Additionally, Rapunzel is sent from her tower into a vast wilderness when the witch learns that she is pregnant by the prince, whom the witch then blinds.

Themes of the Fairytales

The fairytales recorded and edited by the Brothers Grimm extol several universal themes. Many of the fairytales also deal with hardships that the people of early modern Germany would have known well: starvation in Hänsel and Gretel, poverty in every story where a traveller shares his or her last crust of bread, war and its traumas, or violence, often sexual. These stories are not all darkness and despair though.

The Brave Little Tailor Outwits a Giant

The rewards of virtue are often demonstrated in these tales: Those who are kind to beggars are befriended by powerful spirits. The value of hard work is also shown. It is because Cinderella always works hard that her friends the birds help her sort lentils from ashes. The fairytales also contain explanations of natural phenomena . For instance: Why do beans have a line down the middle? According to ''Straw, Coal, and Bean,'' it's because a tailor sewed a bean together when it split. Why does it snow? As explored in ''Mother Holle,'' it snows when an old woman who lives in the sky shakes out her mattresses.

Perhaps the main reason why the Brothers Grimm fairytales endure is because they contain the best and worst of human nature. They're sure to captivate readers for years to come, in whatever form they appear.

Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, born in the late 18th century, were deeply influenced by Romanticism . They believed in the power and value of folktales as a force for cultural unity. During their lifetime, they were scholars, academics, and political dissidents. In the century and a half since their deaths, the stories they collected have gained a vast global audience. These stories extol the value of hard work and the rewards of virtue . They also contain much dark material left out of later adaptations. Sex and violence, along with war and poverty, are all present in these stories alongside wise women, talking animals, and happily-ever-afters.

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8 Fascinating Facts About the Brothers Grimm

By ali parr | sep 1, 2022.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

You’re probably familiar with Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and countless other fairy tale characters , but many people are unfamiliar with the origins of the popular versions of these stories. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm , more commonly referred to as simply the “Brothers Grimm,” were two German-born brothers who lived and worked in the 19th century as authors and collectors of folklore. They’re credited with popularizing more than 200 of our most-loved fairy tales with their most famous work, Children's and Household Tales —more commonly known as simply Grimms' Fairy Tales . Here’s what you need to know.

1. Like a lot of the characters in their stories, the brothers Grimm had a bit of a “rags-to-riches” story.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in 1785 and 1786, respectively, in what is now present-day Germany, to Philipp and Dorothea Grimm. Although the brothers were two of nine children (only six of whom survived to be adults), they spent the first few years of their lives in relative comfort—residing in a large home in the country and receiving at-home schooling with private tutors.

But as Jack Zipes writes in Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World , everything changed when their father died in 1796 and the family was plunged into poverty. The two young Grimm boys were forced to grow up quickly , and their new, lower social status was cemented as soon as they began their public schooling and found a large class divide between them and their wealthier peers.

This disparity only grew when the boys applied for university: While students of higher social standing were automatically enrolled, the Grimms were disqualified from admission because of their low status and forced to request a special dispensation to attend. But the brothers took this “outsider” status in stride and dedicated themselves to their studies with extra zeal; they remained hard workers for the rest of their lives, and would eventually become household names.

2. The Brothers Grimm studied law.

Like their father, who had been a civil servant, Jacob and Wilhelm went to university to study law with the intent of becoming civil servants themselves. Eventually, however, the brothers “came to believe that language rather than law was the ultimate bond that united the German people,” Zipes wrote in the introduction to The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, “and were thus drawn to the study of old German literature.” They threw themselves into collecting texts with zeal and set a new goal: to become librarians and scholars of the stories they loved so much.

3. Over 50 of the brothers’ stories were almost lost to history.

According to Zipes , the Grimms began “systematically gathering” folktales in 1807—but it wasn’t for their own project. The previous year, writer Clemens Brentano had asked for the brothers’ help while readying his own collection of folktales for publication. “The Grimms responded by collecting oral tales with the help of friends and acquaintances … and by selecting tales and the from old books and documents from their own library,” Zipes writes. From 1807 to 1810, they collected, transcribed, and organized a total of 49 stories to send to Brentano.

At some point, Brentano either forgot or abandoned his copies in a church in Alsace, where they would not be unearthed until 1920. These stories became known as the Ölenberg manuscript, and are believed to be the oldest surviving records of the Grimms’ work.

Luckily, the brothers made copies of what they had done before sending it off to Brentano (Zipes writes that they were concerned he “would take great poetic license and turn them into substantially different tales”), and were able to publish the first edition of Grimms’ Fairy Tales in 1812.

4. The brothers were two members of a group of political activists that would become known as the Göttingen Seven.

The brothers spent seven years employed at the University of Göttingen as professors and librarians before they were fired in 1837 for protesting against the new King Ernest Augustus of Hanover . In addition to annulling the country’s constitution to meet his personal whims, the king also demanded that civil servants—including professors— sign an oath of fealty to him . The brothers and five other men at the university who openly resisted were dismissed from their posts and became known as the “ Göttingen Seven .” This brave stand succeeded in bringing public attention to the king’s tyranny, and the seven were soon very popular in Germany and the rest of Europe.

5. Although associated with many of the modern forms of the tales that we know today, the brothers didn’t come up with these stories themselves.

It’s difficult to trace the exact origin of any single folktale—most were passed down orally through generations, and, like a game of telephone, things were bound to be misheard or omitted. Most of the versions of fairy tales that we know today are a mishmash of different stories, though the general theme remains the same. Take Cinderella: According to National Geographic , versions of the tale can be found everywhere from ancient Egypt to the West Indies to ancient China, with details like the material of her slippers to the food that turns into her coach differing from culture to culture. (The Egyptian version has slippers made of red leather rather than glass, for example, while in the ancient Chinese version they’re made of gold .) The brothers merely polished them to make them more cohesive for the masses.

6. Their stories weren’t originally aimed at children …

What would become one of the most famous collections of children’s tales ever began as a study of German oral traditions. The Grimms believed that stories passed down from generation to generation were an important part of German culture. “The more they began gathering tales, the more they became totally devoted to uncovering the ‘natural poetry’ ( Naturpoesie) of the German people, and all their research was geared toward exploring the epics, sagas, and tales that contained what they thought were essential truths about the German cultural heritage,” Zipes writes in The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm , the first English-language translation of the original version of the Grimms’ stories. “Underlying their work was a pronounced romantic urge to excavate and preserve German cultural contributions made by the common people before the stories became extinct."

They gathered as many stories as they could, and they didn’t sugarcoat them, either: Chi Luu writes at JSTOR Daily that the Grimm brothers found the polished moral tales peddled to the upper classes “to be more fakelore than folklore.” The Grimms themselves said that they sought to record the tales as they were told by the people—violence, dialect, slang, and all (though that would not turn out to be entirely true).

7. … And required a fair bit of editing to become more kid-friendly.

It’s understandable that parents would expect a book of stories called Children’s and Household Tales to be a family-friendly read, but the first edition of the brothers’ collection didn’t exactly hit that mark. There were complaints that the stories were too dark for children, and some of the more puritanical readers lamented the lack of overt Christian themes . So the brothers edited their tales , publishing more than a dozen editions: The unwed Rapunzel no longer became pregnant ; Cinderella’s stepsisters did not cut off parts of their own feet while attempting to make the slipper fit; and Snow White’s murderous mother was changed into her stepmother.

8. The Brothers changed their stories to promote a stronger sense of German nationalism, which lead to the Nazis later using them to promote their own agenda.

The Grimms lived during the unstable time of the Napoleonic Wars, and wanted to bolster a sense of patriotism throughout the fractured German-speaking realm. According to Luu, they tweaked some of the tales so that they appeared to be more German than they actually were—for example, a story originally known as “The Little Brother and the Little Sister” was retitled with two German names: Hansel and Gretel. Perhaps unsurprisingly, over a century later, the Nazis began interpreting nationalism to mean “Aryanism,” and Hitler liked the Grimms’ collection so much that he decreed it be taught in every German school .

The children of Philipp Wilhelm Grimm and Dorothea Grimm Friedrich Hermann Georg Grimm (1783-1784) Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (1785-1863) Wilhelm Carl Grimm (1786-1859) Carl Friedrich Grimm (1787-1852) Ferdinand Philipp Grimm (1788-1844) Ludwig Emil Grimm (1790-1863) Friedrich Grimm (1791-1792) Charlotte (Lotte) Amalie Hassenpflug, neé Grimm (1793-1833) Georg Eduard Grimm (1794-1795)

English-language sites

German-language sites, 1. the frog king; or, iron henry (der froschkönig oder der eiserne heinrich), 2. cat and mouse in partnership (katze und maus in gesellschaft), 21. cinderella (aschenputtel), 26. little red-cap (rotkäppchen), 27. the bremen town musicians (die bremer stadtmusikanten), 28. the singing bone (der singende knochen), 38. mrs. fox's wedding (die hochzeit der frau füchsin), 39. the elves (die wichtelmänner), 42. the godfather (der herr gevatter), 43. frau trude, 44. godfather death (der gevatter tod), 46. fitcher's bird (fitchers vogel), 48. old sultan (der alte sultan), 50. little briar-rose (dornröschen), 52. king thrushbeard (könig drosselbart), 53. little snow-white (sneewittchen), 55. rumpelstiltskin (rumpelstilzchen), 63. the three feathers (die drei federn), 65. all-kinds-of-fur (allerleirauh), 66. the hare's bride (häsichenbraut), 88. the singing, springing lark (das singende springende löweneckerchen), 101. bearskin (der bärenhäuter), 106. the poor miller's boy and the cat (der arme müllerbursch und das kätzchen), 108. hans-my-hedgehog (hans mein igel), 110. the jew in the thorns (der jude im dorn), 116. the blue light (das blaue licht), 117. the willful child (das eigensinnige kind), 179. the goose-girl at the well (die gänsehirtin am brunnen), 182. the little folks' presents (die geschenke des kleinen volkes), 187. the hare and the hedgehog (der hase und der igel), journals and encylopedias.

The Brothers Grimm Did Much More Than Tell Fairy Tales

A recent discovery in a Polish library of 27 books that were thought to have been lost sheds light on the breadth of the German scholars’ work

Aaron Boorstein

Staff Contributor


Throughout their lifetime,  Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm , better known as the Brothers Grimm, collected and compiled hundreds of oral stories told by adults and transformed them into enduring  written tales , including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel.

Their story collection, “ Kinder-und Hausmärchen   ( Children and Household Tales  in English),”  conveyed  simple moral lessons that resonate universally, making them accessible to all.

“The Grimms thought the stories and their morals emanated naturally from the German people in an oral tradition, and they wanted to preserve them before the tales were lost forever,” Jack Zipes writes for the  National Endowment for the Humanities . Yet, the brothers were more than folklorists; they were linguists who advanced the study of German classical literature and the German language. The pair began work on the Deutsche Wörterbuch ,  which is  considered  the most extensive German dictionary today. This lexicon—completed  more than a century later  by scholars determined to complete the Grimms’ unfinished work—features 32 volumes, over 331,000 entries and approximately 4,000 sources cited .

To aid their research on folklore and linguistics, the brothers looked to their private library of  8,000  books. Today, most of these books reside in a library in Berlin after Wilhelm’s son, Hermann, transferred them there, according to  Adam Mickiewicz University's  (AMU) Ewa Konarzewska-Michalak. Others were scattered and lost over the decades.

Last year, however 27 works from the Brothers Grimm's private collection were found in AMU’s library in Poznań, Poland. The works, dating from the 1400s through the second half of the 1800s, fit into three categories: incunables, prints and books, Artnet's Vittoria Benzine reports. According to AMU curator Renata Wilgosiewicz-Skutecka , the librarians were able to identify them thanks ot handwritten notes by the Grimms. These inscriptions also gave insight into the Grimms’ working method and choices of themes and motifs in their work.

The scholars also were able to track how the books arrived in Poland, with one path dating back to the end of World War II when librarians sought to protect the books from Allied airstrikes and sent them off to Poland. The works will remain at AMU as the library digitizes them and makes them publicly available online.  Eliza Pieciul-Karmińska , a linguist with AMU, expressed her hope that this is just the beginning of gaining a better understanding of the Grimms as creators of the German language dictionary. 

This discovery suggests that other libraries may also possess lost works from the Brothers Grimm's private collection, The New Voice of Ukraine explains.

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Aaron Boorstein | READ MORE

Aaron Boorstein is an intern with  Smithsonian magazine.

Brothers Grimm (Grimes)

Percy and Barton Grimes Brothers Grimm

The criminals Brothers Grimm began with curio dealer Nathan Dolly , who wielded an African witch doctor's pain-inducing voodoo doll as the criminal extortionist Mister Doll (also know as Mister Pain in some reports). Defeated by Iron Man and stripped of his doll, Nathan later bought two skull-faced dolls carved from the mystical wood of Wundagore Mountain by Django Maximoff. Each doll could be animated by an outside consciousness; but while trying to animate one of them later, Nathan accidentally mind-linked with both dolls and trapped his consciousness inside them. Aided by his wife Priscilla , he later transferred his spirit into a pair of full-size mannequins and committed crimes as the mystically empowered Brothers Grimm (or sometimes as a solitary Brother Grimm). Priscilla crafted civilian identities for the Brothers as her supposed sons Jake and William Dolly. After clashes with Spider-Woman and the Hangman, Nathan tried to usurp the body of Drew's associate Jerry Hunt but the sorcerer Magnus foiled this plan and Nathan's spirit apparently dispersed.

A broken Priscilla soon died, and her Playhouse Theatre base of operations was bought by realtor siblings Barton and Percy Grimes, who found the inert Brothers Grimm mannequins and discovered that their costuming somehow retained Nathan's conjuring powers. The siblings began leading a super-criminal double life as the new Brothers Grimm, even besting the new Iron Man (Jim Rhodes); however, Tony Stark uncovered incriminating evidence which led to their exposure and arrest. Escaping, the Grimes brothers joined the Night Shift criminal gang. Unknown to the gang, their leader, the Shroud , was really an altruistic vigilante posing as a criminal to infiltrate the underworld, so the Night Shift preyed almost exclusively on other criminals, though they sometimes came into conflict with heroes such as Captain America and the Avengers . Meanwhile, the Brothers continued to freelance as a duo. When Crossfire placed a bounty on the archer Hawkeye's arm, the Brothers were part of a small army of criminals who tried unsuccessfully to collect the reward, defeated by Hawkeye , Mockingbird and Trickshot . Later, the Brothers were twice manipulated into battling Spider-Man and twice defeated, the second time alongside Goliath (Erik Josten), Graviton , Titania (Mary MacPherran) and Trapster. The Night Shift eventually split with Shroud to follow a genuinely criminal leader, the new Hangman, Jason Roland, who led them against the Avengers and tricked them into serving the demon Satannish in exchange for fame and enhanced powers; but the Night Shift turned against Hangman and Satannish after learning the bargain would cost their souls. Captured by the Avengers, the Brothers escaped in time to attend the wedding of Absorbing Man and Titania. Recaptured and imprisoned in the Raft, they escaped during the mass breakout sparked by Electro and remain at large.

(both) 5'10"

(both) 210 lbs.

(Percy) Blue, (Barton) Green

(Percy) Black, (Barton) Brown

  • Marvel Universe

Other Aliases

Place of Origin

  • Fresno, California

Known Relatives

Marvel Insider


  1. Brothers Grimm

    The Brothers Grimm were German folklorists and linguists who are best known for their Grimm's Fairy Tales (1812-22), which led to the modern study of folklore. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm together compiled other collections of folk music and folk literature, and Jacob did important work in historical linguistics and philology.

  2. Brothers Grimm

    Biography Early lives Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm lived in this house in Steinau from 1791 to 1796.. Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm were born on 4 January 1785 and 24 February 1786, respectively, in Hanau in the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel, within the Holy Roman Empire (present-day Germany), to Philipp Wilhelm Grimm, a jurist, and Dorothea Grimm (née Zimmer), daughter of a Kassel ...

  3. 5 Facts About The Brothers Grimm

    Learn about the German brothers who collected and published fairy tales, such as Snow White and Rapunzel. Discover how they faced political persecution, wrote for adults, and worked on other scholarly projects.

  4. Grimms' Fairy Tales

    Grimms' Fairy Tales, originally known as the Children's and Household Tales (German: Kinder- und Hausmärchen, pronounced [ˌkɪndɐ ʔʊnt ˈhaʊsmɛːɐ̯çən], commonly abbreviated as KHM), is a German collection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, first published on 20 December 1812.Vol. 1 of the first edition contained 86 stories, which were followed by 70 more tales ...

  5. Brothers Grimm

    Biography. Jakob Ludwig Carl Grimm and Wilhelm Karl Grimm were born in 1785 and 1786, respectively, in Hanau near Frankfurt in Hesse. They were educated at the Friedrichs-Gymnasium in Kassel and later both read law at the University of Marburg. The two brothers were in their early twenties when they began the linguistic and philological studies ...

  6. Brothers Grimm

    Wilhelm Grimm (left) and Jacob Grimm (right), portrayed by Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann (1855) The Brothers Grimm spent their formative years in the town of Hanau in the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel. Their father's death in 1796 (when Jacob was 11 and Wilhelm was 10) caused great poverty for the family and affected the brothers many years after.

  7. The Brothers Grimm fairy tales had unexpected origins

    Brothers Grimm fairy tales were never meant for kids. The world's most famous collection of children's stories began as an academic study for adults, when Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected German ...

  8. How the Grimm Brothers Saved the Fairy Tale

    Facebook. Two hundred years ago, two young German librarians by the names of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published a collection of tales that would become one of the most influential works of folklore in Germany, Europe, and eventually the world. Between 1812 and 1857, seven editions of their tales appeared, each one different from the last, until ...

  9. Who Were the Brothers Grimm?

    The Brothers Grimm weren't the ones who penned the stories they have become known for. The stories had been part of a time-honored oral tradition in Germany and passed down from one generation to the next for many years. The Brothers Grimm talked to their friends and family and wrote the stories that people used to tell a long time ago.

  10. Brothers Grimm

    Image of the brothers on the 1000 Deutsche Mark bill. The Brothers Grimm ( German: Die Brüder Grimm, also Gebrüder Grimm) were the brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. They were German academics and most famous for their collections of folktales and fairy tales, and for their work in linguistics . The Grimm brothers both became linguists.

  11. Welcome to the Brothers Grimm biography

    The Brothers Grimm were born in Hanau, Germany. Jacob was born on the 4th of January 1785 and Wilhelm - on the 24th of February 1786. From early youth, until their death, the brothers were very close friends, always complementing each other. Their father, Philipp Wilhelm Grimm (1752 - 1796), was a lawyer.

  12. The Brothers Grimm

    The Brothers Grimm biography The Brothers Grimm were philologists and folklorists. Born in Hanau, Berlin, Germany. Jacob Grimm was the eldest (1785 - 1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786 - 1859). His father shared his time as a lawyer and pastor of a Calvinist Church. Under the influence of his father studied Law and Medieval Literature […]

  13. The Brothers Grimm Biography >> Grimm's Fairy Tales

    The brothers Grimm were born in Hanau, just east of Frankfurt, Germany - over the space of fourteen months. Jacob Ludwig Carl arrived on 4 th January 1785, and was followed by Wilhelm Carl on 24 th February 1786. In 1791, the Grimm family moved to the countryside town of Steinau, where, alongside a strict Calvinist instruction, the brothers ...

  14. The Brothers Grimm

    Jacob was born on January 4, 1785 and Wilhelm was born the following year on February 24, 1786. They were born to Phillip Wilhelm Grimm and Dorothea Grimm and were the two eldest siblings out of ...

  15. 8 Facts About the Brothers Grimm

    1. Like a lot of the characters in their stories, the brothers Grimm had a bit of a "rags-to-riches" story. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in 1785 and 1786, respectively, in what is now ...

  16. Grimm Brothers' Home Page

    Philipp Wilhelm Grimm, father of eight Grimm brothers and one Grimm sister, dies January 10, 1796, at the age of 44. Three of his nine children have preceded him in death. His oldest surviving child, Jacob, is 11 years old. 1798. Jacob and Wilhelm move to Kassel, their mother's home city, to enter secondary school.

  17. The Brothers Grimm Did Much More Than Tell Fairy Tales

    May 31, 2024. One of the lost works discovered in AMU's University Library with annotations from the Brothers Grimm Adam Mickiewicz University. Throughout their lifetime, Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm ...


    WHO WERE THE BROTHERS GRIMM? A BIOGRAPHY (MINDSHOCK PODCAST CLIPS)Examining the Grimm Brothers and their lives - famous for compiling Grimm's Fairy Tales.LIS...

  19. Brothers Grimm (Grimes) Powers, Enemies, History

    The criminals Brothers Grimm began with curio dealer Nathan Dolly, who wielded an African witch doctor's pain-inducing voodoo doll as the criminal extortionist Mister Doll (also know as Mister Pain in some reports).Defeated by Iron Man and stripped of his doll, Nathan later bought two skull-faced dolls carved from the mystical wood of Wundagore Mountain by Django Maximoff.

  20. The Brothers Grimm (film)

    The Brothers Grimm is a 2005 fantasy adventure film directed by Terry Gilliam.The film stars Matt Damon, Heath Ledger and Lena Headey in an exaggerated and fictitious portrait of the Brothers Grimm as traveling con-artists in French-occupied Germany, during the early 19th century. The brothers eventually encounter a genuine fairy tale curse which requires courage instead of their usual bogus ...