Grimm’s Fairy Tales

written on 13/08/2020
by Jutta Triebe

The stars of Kassel, the Hessian city that houses the largest Bergpark (mountain park) in Europe, are the Brothers Grimm. No child in Germany grows up without encountering these remarkable brothers at least once. They studied law but dedicated their lives to researching the roots of the German language and they are considered founding fathers of German Studies.

Even so, they became world famous for two fairy tale collections which were created almost by chance: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, two brothers who spent their entire lives together.

The brothers Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm were born to a Hessian family of officials and pastors. The father died in 1796, so Jacob had to take on the position of head of the family at the age of eleven.

The family received financial support from an aunt who was the lady of the Elector of Hesse in Kassel. From 1807 they began collecting and recording fairy tales from oral traditions. In 1812 the first volume of their "Children's and Household Tales" appeared. The second volume followed in 1815.

The Hessian farmer Dorothea Viehmann played a special role in the collections. She came from a Huguenot family and was able to accurately reproduce more than 40, largely French fairy tales from memory.

Neither of the brothers expected their fairy tale collection to be profitable. Rather, they saw their work as a contribution to German cultural heritage.

During the first two decades of the 19th century, they also published several old German legends and poems. From 1816 to 1829 both brothers worked as librarians in Kassel and whilst in this position,  published the first volume of "German Grammar" in 1819. The "Grimm dictionary" is still a standard work of reference for German Studies.

Some of the most famous fairy tales are: ‘Hänsel und Gretel’, ‘Rotkäppchen’(Little Red Riding Hood), ‘Rapunzel’, ‘Frau Holle’, ‘Dornröschen’(Sleeping Beauty), ‘Rumpelstilzchen’ and ‘Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten’ (Bremen Town Musicians). The fairy tales have been translated into more than 170 languages.

You can find all of the stories on this website.