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Grimm Brothers Essay, Research Paper

The Brothers Grimm

Matthew Malacarne

All over, the world children have grown up with the Grimm brothers’ ‘Nursery and Household Tales’. The 200 stories usually called ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’, that have stories in them like ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ ‘Rapunzel,’ and ‘Rumpelstiltskin,’ have been translated into 70 languages.

The Grimm brothers first collected these stories, though scholars have found that the brothers often made the tales as they thought were good before they published them. To the scholars of their time, the two brothers were most known as trained professors. Jacob Grimm established philology, the study of languages, as a science.

Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm was born on Jan. 4, 1785, at Hanau in Hesse-Kassel. Wilhelm Carl Grimm was born on Feb. 24, 1786. They were the oldest of six children; they had three brothers and one sister. Their father, Philip Wilhelm, was a lawyer and town clerk in Hanau. Jacob and Wilhelm went to school together in Kassel. Later Jacob worked with Savigny, a man studying jurisprudence and that believed that law should be based on history, in the libraries of Paris. At Marburg, in Germany, the brothers were also inspired by Clemens Brentano, a poet, novelist, and dramatist who helped found the Heidelberg Romantic school. In 1814, Wilhelm obtained a job in the library in Kassel, and Jacob joined him there in 1816.

During the period 1814-15, Jacob worked for the Hessian government, traveling to Paris twice to get back valuable paintings and books taken by the French from Hesse and Prussia. Jacob and Wilhelm published ‘German Legends’ (1816-18), a collection of historical and local legends, but it never gained wide popular interest.

In 1830 the brothers moved to Hanover, where Jacob was chosen a professor and librarian and Wilhelm a librarian, and later a professor, at the university of Marburg. The brothers returned to Kassel afterwards.

Wilhelm had married Dorothea Wild in 1825, but this did not keep the Grimms apart from eachother. Jacob kept living in his brother’s household and took care of Wilhelm’s children–Herman, Rudolf, and Auguste–as though they were his kids. In 1841, the two brothers went to Berlin, where they were given authority and elected members of the Academy of Science. Both wrote well-known books. Jacob wrote many more than Wilhelm did, and his German Grammar is one of the world’s greatest books in language study.

Collecting the Folktales

To the people of Hesse in middle Germany and in other places, the quiet, educated Jacob Grimm and the more friendly, happy Wilhelm became well known for their books. They spent about 13 years in collecting “from the lips of people” the stories that went into their folktales. The Grimms said in an introduction, “As their simple poetry delights and their truth can interest anyone, and because they remain an inheritance in the house, they are also called House Stories.”

In collecting the stories, the brothers sometimes drastically edited the tales to stress their point of view about religion, politics, and morality. For example, with “Little Red Cap,” or Little Red Riding Hood, in the original story, the wolf eats the grandmother and Red Cap. They changed it so that someone who was not even mentioned in the original finally did with the wolf away in the end. Sometimes there were several versions of the stories, and then the Grimms combine them.

Their notes, which appeared in an early English edition, reveal a lot about the stories, their origin, and their characters. The Grimms, for example, traced the origin of Briar Rose, one of their stories set in a castle surrounded by briar patches, to the story of Brunhild and noticed the setting of the stories that appear in many countries.

The stories were kept alive by the German peasants of the time–the cowherder, the woodcutter, and the wood-carver–who had no hope of rising above their positions in life. The tales played the peasants minds with the gold that they usually did not ever see–in the form of golden eggs, golden feathers, and a tree with leaves of gold. This description gives a clear picture of the brothers at work, writing eagerly, enjoying the great quality of their storytelling.

After Wilhelm Grimm died on Dec. 16, 1859, Jacob paid tribute to him in the Berlin Academy, noting that the most of their lives had been together. On Sept. 20, 1863, Jacob died.


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