Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm was born on 4th January 1785, and along with his brother Wilhelm Carl Grimm made up the Brothers Grimm, best known for their collection of moralistic fairytales. Despite popular belief many of the stories were not their own but rather a series of collected tales from German folklore that the brothers collected together.
In the last 200 years or so the tales have seen many rewritings and many changes, and the stories are now far more well known than the brothers. It seems very unlikely that anyone reading will not have heard of Cinderella, or Rapunzel, but there may be many things you do not know. Here are ten facts about the Brothers Grimm to mark the birth of Jacob Grimm.
While we accept the version that has been changed and toned down over the years, in the original version of Cinderella the ugly sisters cut off their toes to attempt to squeeze their feet into the glass slipper.
But this is probably because Grimm tales were never meant as children’s stories; the original collection was part of a scholarly project to identify and preserve the spirit of the Germanic people.
It was Englishman Edgar Taylor who took the stories, got them translated and published in England in 1823 that caused the stories to become as popular as they are today.
The final edition published by the brothers in 1857 is the version most replicated today and it contains an astonishing 210 fairy tales.
The cruel stepmothers in Snow White and Hansel and Gretel were natural mothers in the original versions. The brothers rewrote them as stepmothers to preserve the sanctity of motherhood.
Which shows us that while changes to the stories are sometimes criticised today, both Jacob and Willhem made big changes to the tales within their lifetimes.
Jacob Grimm was a expert in linguistics and the German Language, he discovered a linguistic rule called Grimm’s Law.
In fact the brothers were not authors of fairytales at all, but experts in language and scholars.
And so they would know that in German and English, grim means ‘harsh and cruel’, although despite their reputations all but a handful of the 210 fairytales has a happy ending.
Grimm Fairytales is one of the most reproduced book of our time with many versions available. For today’s children, you can’t beat a fairly recent reworking by Philip Pullman ‘Grimm Tales: For Young and Old’ for engaging storytelling and background information for each story.
I think as human beings there isn’t one of us who hasn’t been touched in some way by these fairy tales, particularly those in the Western World. They remain popular because they tell us something about our culture, our values and the world we live in.
Don’t lie around too long waiting for your prince though, and if you do, grab a book.