Introductory research into The Brothers Grimm, the writers of which the Fairy Tales I will be focusing on for my Product/Range/Distribution design project, more information and development of which can be found on my Design Practice blog.
All information below is sourced from the relevant Wikipedia page.
THE BROTHERS GRIMM
The Brothers Grimm (German: Brüder Grimm or German: Die Gebrüder Grimm), Jacob Grimm (January 4, 1785 – September 20, 1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (February 24, 1786 – December 16, 1859), were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, and authors who jointly collected folklore. The first collection of folk tales, Children's and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen), was published in 1812. The Grimms are among the best-known story tellers of European folktales, and their work popularized such stories as "Cinderella", "The Frog Prince" (Der Froschkönig), "Hansel and Gretel" (Hänsel und Gretel), "Rapunzel", "Rumpelstiltskin" (Rumpelstilzchen), and "Snow White" (Schneewittchen).
The brothers spent their childhood first in Hanau and then in Steinau; their father's death in 1796 caused great poverty for the family, which would affect the brothers for many years. They attended the University of Marburg where they became interested in philology and Germanic studies—a field which they pioneered—and began the interest in folklore that grew into a life-long dedication to collecting German folk tales. In addition to writing and modifying folk tales, the brothers wrote collections of well-respected German and Scandinavian mythologies, and in 1808 began the project of writing a definitive German dictionary (Deutsches Wörterbuch), uncompleted in their lifetime.
The rise of romanticism in the 19th century revived interest in traditional folk stories, which the Grimm brothers believed represented a pure form of national literature and culture. With the goal of researching a scholarly treatise about folk tales, the brothers established a methodology for collecting and recording folk stories that became the basis for studies in folklore; between 1812 and 1857 their collection of Kinder- und Hausmärchen went through many editions and modifications, and grew from 86 stories to more than 200. The popularity of the Grimms' collected folk tales endured well beyond their lifetimes. The tales are available in more than 100 translations and have been adapted to popular Disney films such as Sleeping Beauty. In the mid-20th century the tales were used as propaganda by the Third Reich; later in the 20th century, although original versions of some of the tales were sanitized of cruel and violent scenes, psychologists such as Bruno Bettelheimreaffirmed the value of the work.
Upon graduation from the Friedrichsgymnasium the brothers attended the University of Marburg, where their low social status, which disqualified them from admission, required that they request dispensation to study law. Furthermore, unlike students of higher social classes who received stipends, the brothers were ineligible to receive aid for their tuition. Because of the severe poverty they experienced, they were unable to join student activities and engage in social life, instead pursuing their studies as industriously as possible. At that time, at the small university, they became painfully aware that students were treated unequally based on social status, but they believed diligence and hard work would lead them to improved circumstances.
Financially responsible for his brother, mother, and younger siblings, Jacob accepted a post in Paris as research assistant to von Savigny in 1805. On his return to Marburg he abandoned his studies and took a job with the Hessian War Commission to support the family whose poverty was so extreme that food was often scarce. In a letter to his aunt, Wilhelm wrote of their circumstances, "We five people eat only three portions and only once a day". Both brothers studied medieval German literature, inspired by their law professor, Friedrich von Savigny , who awakened in them an interest in the past and philology. The brothers shared with Savigny the wish to see the 200 principalities of Germany become united in a single state. Through Savigny, and his circle of friends, German romantics such as Clemens Brentano and Ludwig Achim von Arnim, the Grimms were introduced to the ideas of Johann Gottfried Herder who felt German literature should return to what he defined asVolkspoesie (natural literature). In Marburg, the brothers dedicated themselves with great enthusiasm and industry to their studies, about which Wilhelm wrote in his autobiography, "the ardor with which we studied Old German helped us overcome the spiritual depression of those days."
In 1808, Jacob was appointed court librarian to the King of Westphalia, and went on to become librarian in Kassel, where Wilhelm would join him. When Dorothea Grimm died in 1808, Jacob became fully responsible for his younger siblings. He arranged and paid for his younger brother Ludwig's studies at art school, and for an extended visit to Halle for Wilhelm to be treated for heart and respiratory illness. At this time the brothers began to collect folk tales, at Brentano's request, although Zipes writes that "the Grimms were unable to devote all their energies to their research and did not have a clear idea about the significance of collecting folk tales in this initial phase."
The brothers had a productive period in their scholarship while employed as librarians—which paid little but afforded ample time for research—publishing a number of books between 1812 and 1830. In 1812, they published their first volume of 86 folktales, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, quickly followed in by two volumes of German legends and a volume of early literary history. They went on to publish works about Danish folktales and Norse mythology, Irish folktales, and continued to modify the German folk tale collection. These works became widely recognized to the point that the brothers received honorary doctorates from universities in Marburg, Berlin and Breslau.
In 1825, Wilhelm married Henriette Dorothea (Dortchen) Wild, a long-time family friend and one of a group who supplied the brothers with stories. Jacob, who never married, continued to live in the household with Wilhelm and Dortchen. The brothers were greatly disappointed when they were overlooked in the appointment of a chief librarian position in Kassel, and in 1830 they moved the household to Göttingen where they were hired at the University of Göttingen—Jacob as professor and head librarian and Wilhelm as professor.
Without income and in extreme financial difficulty, in 1838 the brothers began work on what would become a life-long project, the writing of a definitive dictionary, the German Dictionary, Deutsches Wörterbuch, the first volume of which was not to be published until 1854. Once again the brothers depended on friends and supporters for financial assistance and influence in finding new employment. In the following seven years the brothers continued to research, write and publish. Jacob published the well-regarded German Mythology(Deutsche Mythologie) in 1835; Wilhelm continued to edit and prepare for publication the third edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen. They established the field of German studies at the university, becoming well-respected in the newly created discipline. However, in 1837, they lost their university posts when they joined in protest with the Göttingen Seven. The 1830s was a period of political upheaval and peasant revolts, resulting in a movement for democratic reform known as young Germany. Although not directly aligned with the young Germans, the brothers and five of their colleagues reacted against the demands of King Ernest Augustus I, who in 1837 dissolved the parliament of Hannover and demanded oaths of allegiance from civil servants—including professors at the University of Göttingen. For refusing to sign the oath the seven professors were dismissed from the university and three were deported from Hannover, including Jacob who left immediately for Kassel to be joined there later by Wilhelm, Dortchen and their four children.
BERLIN AND LATER YEARS
After the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states the brothers were elected to the civil parliament with Jacob becoming a prominent member of the National Assembly at Mainz. Their political activities however were short-lived as they became disenchanted when the hope for a unified Germany dwindled. At that time Jacob resigned his university position and that year he saw the publication of The History of the German Language (Geschichte der deutschen Sprache). Wilhelm continued at the university and upon his retirement in 1852 the brothers devoted themselves completely to work on their German Dictionary until their deaths. Wilhelm died of an infection in Berlin in 1859, after which Jacob, who was deeply upset, became increasingly reclusive, continuing work on the dictionary until his own death in 1863. Jack Zipes writes of the work on the dictionary, and of the great amount of work the brothers produced in their life-times, that "Symbolically the last word was Frucht(fruit)." Through friends such as Bettina von Armin and von Savigny, who appealed to Frederick William IV of Prussia, in 1840 the brothers were offered posts at the University of Berlin. In addition to teaching, they received offers from the Academy of Sciences to continue their research. After the household was established in Berlin, they directed their efforts toward the German dictionary and continued to publish. Jacob began to follow his own research, publishing in the late 1840s and early 1850s works about German legal traditions and the history of the German language while Wilhelm continued to edit new editions of the Hausmärchen as well as research in the field of medieval literature.
CHIlDREN'S AND HOUSEHOLD TALES
The rise of romanticism in the 19th century, combined with Romantic nationalism and trends in valuing popular culture, revived interest in fairy tales, which had declined since the late 17th century when in Paris fairy tales had been popular in literary salons. A German collection of tales by Johann Karl August Musäus had been published between 1782 and 1787. The Grimms added to the revival with their folklore collection, which they based on a conviction that a national identity existed in popular culture and the common folk (volk). They collected and published tales that were meant to be a reflection of German cultural identity, however included in the early collection were Charles Perrault's tales, published in Paris in 1697, which were exclusively written for an aristocratic audience. According to scholar Lydia Jean, at this time a myth was created, in which Perrault's tales, some of which were original, were said to be "exact reflection of folklore".
Maria Tatar, professor of German studies at Harvard University, explains that it is precisely in the handing from generation to generation, and the genesis in the oral tradition, that gives folk tales an important mutability. Versions of tales differ from region to region, "picking up bits and pieces of local culture and lore, drawing a turn of phrase from a song or another story, and fleshing out characters with features taking from the audience witnessing their performance." However, as Tatar explains, the Grimms appropriated as uniquely German stories such as "Little Red Riding Hood", which had existed in many versions and regions throughout Europe, because they believed that such stories were "distinctly German and both mirrored and shaped national identity." Directly influenced by Brentano and von Arnim who edited and adapted the folksongs of Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy's Magic Hornor cornucopia), the brothers wrote the collection with the purpose of writing a scholarly treatise of traditional stories and to preserve the stories as they had been handed from generation to generation—a practice threatened by increased industrialization.
METHODOLOGY AND WRITING
On Jacob's return to Marburg from Paris in 1806, their friend Brentano sought the brothers' aid in adding to his collection of folk tales, at which time "Jacob and Wilhelm began systematically gathering oral and literary tales and other material related to folklore." By 1810 they had produced a manuscript collection of several dozen tales, which they wrote by inviting storytellers to their home and transcribing what they heard. These tales were heavily modified and many had roots in previously written sources. At Brentano's request, they printed and sent to him copies of the 53 tales they collected for inclusion in his third volume of Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Brentano either ignored or forgot about the tales, leaving the copies in a church in Alsace where they were found in 1920. Known as the Ölenberg manuscript, it is the earliest extant version of the Grimms' collection and has become a valuable source to scholars studying the evolution of the Grimms' collection from the time of its inception. The manuscript was published in 1927 and again in 1975.
According to scholars such as Ruth Bottigheimer and Maria Tatar some of the tales probably originated in written form during the medieval period with writers such as Straparola and Boccaccio, were modified in the 17th century, and again rewritten by the Grimms. Moreover, Tatar defines as "intellectual resistance" the brothers' goal of preserving and shaping the tales as uniquely German during a period French occupation. They established a methodology for collecting and preserving folklore at a time of occupation that set a model for later writers to follow as a form of nationalism and resistance throughout Europe . Although the brothers gained a reputation for collecting tales from peasants, many tales came from middle-class or aristocratic acquaintances. Wilhelm's wife Dortchen Wild and her family, with their nursery maid, told the brothers some of the more well-known tales, such as “Hansel and Gretel” and “Sleeping Beauty”. Wilhelm collected a number of tales after forming a friendship with August von Haxthausen, whom he visited in 1811 in Westphalia where he heard stories from von Haxthausen's circle of friends. Several of the storytellers were of Huguenot ancestry, telling tales of French origin such as those told to the Grimms by Marie Hassenpflug, an educated woman of French Huguenot ancestry, and it is probable that these informants were familiar with Perrault’sHistoires ou contes du temps passé. Other tales were collected from the wife of a middle-class tailor, Dorothea Viehmann, also of French descent; in the first English translation she was characterized as a peasant and given the name Gammer Gretel.
From 1807 onward the brothers added to the collection. Jacob established the framework that was maintained through many subsequent iterations. By 1815 until his death, Wilhelm assumed sole responsibility for editing and rewriting the tales. Zipes explains that the editing included writing the tales in a stylistically similar manner, adding dialogue, removing pieces "that might detract from a rustic tone", improving the plots and incorporating "psychological motifs". In the later editions Wilhelm polished the language to make it more enticing to a bourgeoise audience, eliminated sexual elements, and added Christian elements. After 1819 he began writing for children (children were not initially considered the primary audience), adding entirely new tales or adding new elements, often strongly didactic, to existing tales.
Over the years, Wilhelm worked extensively on the prose, polishing with a specific audience in mind, and expanding and adding detail to the stories to the point that many grew to be twice the length as in the earliest published editions. Some changes were made in light of unfavorable reviews, particularly from those who objected that not all the tales were suitable for children because of scenes of violence and sexuality. He worked to modify plots for of the many stories: for example, "Rapunzel" in the first edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen clearly shows the relationship between the prince and the girl in the tower as sexual, which he edited out in subsequent editions. Tatar writes that morals were added (in the second edition a king's regret was added to the scene in which his wife is burned at the stake), and often the characters in the tale were amended to appear more German: "every fairy (Fee), prince (Prinz) and princess (Prinzessin) was transformed into a more Teutonic-sounding enchantress (Zauberin) or wise woman (weise Frau), king's son (Königssohn), king's daughter (Königstochter)."
THEMES AND ANALYSIS
The collection consisted of legends, novellas, and folk stories, the vast majority of which did not originate as tales meant for children. At the advice of von Armin, who was deeply concerned by the content of tales—such as those that showed children being eaten—the brothers added cautionary advice to the introduction of 'Kinder- und Hausmärchen in which they suggested parental guidance was necessary to steer children toward age-appropriate stories in the volume. Despite von Armin's unease, none of the tales were eliminated from the collection, in the brothers' belief that all the tales were of value and reflected inherent cultural qualities. Furthermore, the stories were didactic in nature at a time when discipline relied on fear, according to scholar Linda Dégh, who explains that tales such as "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Hansel and Gretel" were written to be "warning tales" for children.
Tales with a spinning motif are broadly represented in the collection. In her essay "Tale Spinners: Submerged Voices in Grimms' Fairy Tales", children's literature scholar Bottigheimer explains that these stories reflect the degree to which spinning was crucial in the life of women in the 19th century and earlier. Spinning, and particularly the spinning of flax, was commonly performed in the home by women. Although many stories begin by describing the occupation of a main character, as in "There once was a miller", as an occupation spinning is never mentioned, probably becasue the brothers did not consider it an occupation. Instead, spinning was a communal activity, frequently performed in a Spinnstube (spinning room), a place where women most likely kept the oral traditions alive by telling stories while engaged in tedious work. In the stories, a woman's personality is often reflected by her attitude toward spinning: a wise woman might be a spinster, and Bottigheimer explains the spindle was the symbol of a "diligent, well-ordered womanhood." In some stories, such as "Rumpelstiltskin", spinning is associated with a threat; in others spinning might be avoided by a character who is either too lazy or not accustomed to spinning because of her high social status. The stories in Kinder- und Hausmärchen include scenes of violence that have since been sanitized. For example the Grimms' version of "Snow White" ends with the stepmother dancing at Snow White's wedding wearing a pair of red-hot iron shoes that kill her; another story has a servant being pushed into a barrel "studded with sharp nails" and then rolled down the street. The Grimms' version of "The Frog Prince" describes the princess throwing the frog against a wall instead of kissing him. Some of extent the cruelty and violence may have been a reflection of medieval culture from which the tales originated, such as scenes of witches burning, as described "The Six Swans".
The tales were also criticized for being insufficiently German, which not only influenced the tales the brothers included, but their use of language. Scholars such as Heinz Rölleke however say the stories are an accurate depiction of German culture, showing "rustic simplicity [and] sexual modesty". German culture is deeply rooted in the forest (wald), a dark dangerous place to be avoided, most particularly the old forests with large oak trees, and yet a place to which Little Red Riding Hood's mother sent her daughter to deliver food to grandmother's house.
Some critics such as Alistair Hauke, use Jungian analysis to say that the deaths of the brothers' father and grandfather are the reason for the Grimms' tendency to idealize and excuse fathers, as well as the predominance of female villains in the tales such as the wicked stepmothers, such as the evil stepmother and stepsisters in "Cinderella", but this disregards the fact that they were collectors, not authors of the tales. Another possible influence can be found in the selection of stories such as "The Twelve Brothers", which mirrors the brothers' family structure of one girl and several brothers overcoming opposition. Zipes believes that a number of the stories show autobiographical elements and that the brothers may have used their work as a "quest" to replace the family life they lost when their father died. The collection includes 41 tales about siblings, which Zipes believes are representative of Jacob and Wilhelm. Many of the sibling stories follow a simple plot in which the characters lose a home, work industriously at a specific task, and in the end find a new home.
Between 1812 and 1864 Kinder- und Hausmärchen was published 17 times: seven of the "Large edition" (Große Ausgabe) and ten of the "Small edition" (Kleine Ausgabe). The Large editions contained all the tales collected to date, extensive annotations and scholarly notes written by the brothers; the Small editions had only 50 tales and were intended for children. The Small editions were illustrated by Jacob and Wilhelm's brother, Emil Grimm, who added Christian symbols to the illustrations.
In Germany Kinder- und Hausmärchen was also released in a "popular poster-sized Bilderbogen (broadsides)" format and in single story formats for the more popular tales such as "Hansel and Gretel". Pirated editions became common; the stories were often added to collections by other authors as the tales became a focus of interest for children's book illustrators. Well-known artists such as Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane and Edmund Dulac illustrated the Grimms' tales; a popular edition that sold well, released in the mid-19th century, included elaborate etchings by George Cruikshank. At the deaths of the brothers, the copyright went to Hermann Grimm (Wilhelm's son) who continued the practice of printing the volumes in expensive and complete editions; however after 1893 when copyright lapsed, the stories began to be published in many formats and editions. In the 21st century, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, commonly called Grimms' Fairy Tales in English, is a universally recognized text. Jacob and Wilhelm's collection of stories has been translated to over 160 languages; in the US 120 different editions of the text are available for sale. The first volume was published in 1812 with 86 folktales. A second volume with 70 additional tales was published late in 1814 (dated 1815 on the title page); the two volumes of 156 tales is considered the first of the Large (annotated) editions. A second expanded edition with 170 tales was published in 1819, followed in 1822 by a volume of scholarly commentary and annotations. Five more Large editions were published in 1837, 1840, 1843, 1850 and 1857. The seventh and final edition of 1857 contained 211 tales—200 numbered folk tales and the rest were legends.
The brothers strongly believed the dream of national unity and independence relied on a full knowledge of the cultural past that was reflected in folklore. They worked to discover and crystallize a kind of Germanness in the stories they collected because they believed that folklore contained kernels of ancient mythologies and beliefs, crucial to understanding the essence of German culture, and by examining culture form a philological point-of-view they sought to establish connections between German law, culture, and local beliefs. During their studies at the University of Marburg the brothers came to the realization culture was tied to language, and they regarded the purest expression of culture to be found in the grammar of a language. For this reason they began to distance themselves from the practices of Brentano and the other romanticists who frequently changed the original oral style of folk tales to fit a literary a style that the brothers considered artificial; they believed that the style of the people (the volk) represented a natural and divinely inspired poetry (naturpoesie) as opposed to the kunstpoesie (art poetry) which they thought of as artificially constructed. As literary historians and scholars they delved into the origins of stories and attempted to retrieve them from the oral tradition without loss of the original traits of oral language.
As early as 1812 they published a version of the Lay of Hildebrand, a 9th-century German heroic song, along with Die beiden ältesten deutschen Gedichte aus dem achten Jahrhundert: Das Lied von Hildebrand und Hadubrand und das Weißenbrunner Gebet, (The Two Oldest German Poems of the Eight Century: The Song of Hildebrand and Hadubrand and the Wessobrunn Prayer), the earliest known German heroic song.The Grimms considered the tales to have origins in traditional Germanic folklore, which they thought had been "contaminated" by later literary tradition. In the shift from the oral tradition to the printed book, tales were translated from regional dialects to Standard German (Hochdeutsch or High German), however, over the course of the many modifications and revisions, the Grimms sought to reintroduce regionalisms, dialects and low German to the tales—to re-introduce the language of the original form of the oral tale.
Between 1816 and 1818 the brothers published a two-volume work titled Deutsche Sagen, (German Legends) consisting of 585 German legends. Jacob undertook most of the work of collecting and editing the legends that he organized according to region and historical (ancient) legends, and which were about real people or events. Meant to be a scholarly work, the historical legends were often taken from secondary sources, interpreted, modified and rewritten, resulting works "that were regarded as trademarks". Although some scholars criticized the Grimm's methodology in collecting and rewriting the legends, conceptually they set an example for legend collections that was to be followed by others throughout Europe. Unlike the collection of folk tales, Deutsche Sagen sold poorly.
Less well-known, is the brothers' monumental scholarly work on a German dictionary, the Deutsches Wörterbuch, which they began in 1838. Not until 1852 did they begin publishing the dictionary in installments. The work on the dictionary could not be finished in their lifetime because in it they gave a history and analysis of each word.
RECEPTION AND LEGACY
Kinder- und Hausmärchen was not an immediate bestseller but its popularity increased with each new edition. The early editions of the book received lukewarm reviews on the basis that the stories were unappealing, which the brothers responded to with modifications and rewrites in order that the book would have a greater market appeal for children.
Simultaneously, in the US, the 1937 release of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs shows the triumph of good over evil, innocence over oppression, according to Zipes: a popular theme that Disney repeated in 1959 during the Cold War with the production ofSleeping Beauty. The Grimms' tales have provided much of the early foundation on which the Disney empire was built. In film, the Cinderella motif, the story of a poor girl finding love and success, continues to be repeated in movies such as Pretty Woman, Ever After, Maid in Manhattan, and Ella Enchanted. By the 1870s the tales had increased greatly in popularity to the point they were added to the teaching curriculum in Prussia and in the 20th century the work has maintained status as being second to the bible as the most popular book in Germany. The popularity of the tales spawned a mini-industry of critics who analyzed the tales based on folkloric content, literary history, socialism and psychological elements and along Freudian and Jungian lines. Furthermore, the brothers made a science of folklore and generated a model of study that "launched general fieldwork in most European countries". During the Third Reich the Grimms' stories were used to foster nationalism and the Nazi's decreed Kinder- und Hausmärchen was a book each household should own; later in occupied Germany the book was banned for a period.
In the 20th century educators debated the value and influence of teaching stories that include brutality and violence, causing some of the more grim details to be sanitized. Dégh writes that some educators believe children should be shielded from cruelty of any form, that stories with a happy ending are fine to teach whereas those that are darker, particularly the legends, might pose more harm. On the other hand some educators and psychologist believe children easily discern the difference between what is a story and what is not and that the tales continue to have value for children. The publication of Bruno Bettleheim's 1976 The Uses of Enchantment brought a new wave of interest in the stories as children's literature, with an emphasis on the "therapeutic value for children". More popular stories such as "Hansel and Gretel" and "Little Red Riding Hood" have become staples of modern childhood presented in coloring books, puppet shows and cartoons. Other stories, however, have been considered too gruesome and have not made a popular transition.
Regardless of the debate, the Grimms' stories have continued to be resilient and popular around the world, although a recent study in England appears to suggest that parents consider the stories to be overly violent and inappropriate for young children, writes Libby Copeland for Slate.
- Die beiden ältesten deutschen Gedichte aus dem achten Jahrhundert: Das Lied von Hildebrand und Hadubrand und das Weißenbrunner Gebet, (The Two Oldest German Poems of the Eight Century: The Song of Hildebrand and Hadubrand and the Wessobrunn Prayer) – 9th century heroic song, published 1812
- Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales) – seven editions, between 1812 and 1857
- Altdeutsche Wälder (Old German Forests) – three volumes between 1813 and 1816)
- Der arme Heinrich von Hartmann von der Aue (Poor Heinrich by Hartmann von der Aue) – 1815
- Lieder der alten Edda (Songs from the Elder Edda) – 1815
- Deutsche Sagen (German Sagas) – published in two parts between 1816 and 1818
- Irische Elfenmärchen – Grimms' translation of Thomas Crofton Croker's Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland, 1826
- Deutsches Wörterbuch (German Dictionary) – 32 volumes published between 1852 and 1960.