Just a little fun fact for the day…
December 20th marked The Brothers Grimm’s 200th anniversary since the first publication of their iconic cannon of fairy and folk tales. This first volume contained 86 stories; but they did not stop there. Forty-five years later, in 1857, the final compilation was published with 211 stories.
The life story of the Grimm brothers is a bit of a Cinderella story. Jacob Ludwig Grimm (b. 1785) and Wilhelm Carl Grimm (b. 1786) were two of nine children born of Philipp Wilhelm Grimm and Dorothea Grimm, though three of their siblings died as infants. In 1798, Philipp Wilhelm Grimm died unexpectedly, plunging his prosperous family into sudden and devastating poverty. Though the family received financial support from their mother’s father and sister, money remained scarce. Jacob Grimm, the eldest surviving son, became responsible for his mother and siblings financially. In many ways, their poverty was a blessing in disguise for both prospered academically as they were not distracted by frivolities they couldn’t afford. Both developed incredible work ethics and their isolating low status allowed them to rely on each other and focus on their mutual intersts. At the University of Marburg, they both distinguished themselves in the fields of linguistics and medieval literature and upon graduating, they both received positions as court librarians for the King of Westphalia. It was during this time as librarians that the brothers began collecting folktales, an endeavor that occupied the rest of their lives.
Something you all may not know about the Grimm brothers is that they began their work, not just for the sake of recording German folk and fairytales, but also for linguistic purposes. While Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm studied at the University of Marburg, they became interested in the history of the German language and medieval German literature. These two paths led them to see the grammar of a language as the purest form of cultural expression and one of the best places to find the purest forms of language, undiluted by international literature, was in the folktales and fairytales passed down from generation to generation supposedly from the Middle Ages. One of the goals they had in their research was to help reestablish regional dialects within Germany in opposition to the standardized Hochdeutsch (High German) that was replacing the varied dialects throughout the fragmented German principalities, kingdoms, duchies, and free cities. Germany was not united as a country until 1871 and the brothers’ lives coincided with intense nationalistic debates, both within Germany and throughout all of Europe. Their work with fairytales contributed greatly to the German Romanticism movement – the European artistic movement that was nationalistic in nature and reacted against the cold rationalism of the Enlightenment by looking back to earlier time periods – specifically the Medieval era – for ways to express true emotions like terror, fear, and awe. Their research laid the groundwork for the field of folklore and was instrumental in the study of Germanic linguistics; their legacy, of course, was the beautiful fairytales that may otherwise have been lost in the miasma of history.
If you haven’t gotten a chance yet, make sure you check out Google’s doodle commemorating the anniversary. Find it archived on their website here.
Celebrate the anniversary by reading your favorite Grimm tale today!
– Fairytale Studios