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The Brothers Grimm



Brothers Grimm

Compiled by Matthew Williams from the Lectures of Michael Bachem at Miami University


Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm
Born in Hanau, January 4th 1785, Studied law at the University of Marburg in 1802-5. A researcher for Friedrich Carl von Savigny, Paris in 1805. A secretary of the War Office, Kassel in 1806. A librarian for the private library of King Jerome Bonaparte, Wilhelmshohe in 1808-14. The co-editor, with his brother Wilhelm, of Altdeutsche Walder in 1813-16. A legation secretary for the Hessian delegation at the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15. He was librarian in Kassel in 1816. He was chairman, archaeology and librarianship departments at the University of Gottingen, Hanover in 1830-37. He was dismissed from the university for political reasons in 1837. This is very important that I will later explain. He lived in Kassel in 1837-41. He was president of the Conferences of Germanists, Frankfurt in 1846 and Lubeck in 1847. He was elected to the Frankfurt Parliament in 1848. He received the Order of Merit in 1842. He was a member of the Academy of Science, Berlin in 1841. He received honorary doctorates from the University of Marburg in 1819, Berlin University in 1828 and Breslau University in 1829. He died September 20th 1863.

Wilhelm Carl Grimm
Born in Hanau, February 24th 1786. Studied law at the University of Marburg in 1803-6. Received law degree in 1806. Co-editor, with his brother Jacob, Altdeutsche Walder in 1813-16. A assistant librarian in the electoral library, Kassel in 1814-29. He was a professor at the University of Gottingen in 1830. He was dismissed from the university for political reasons in 1837.
This is very important that I will later explain. He lived in Kassel in 1837-41. He was a member of the Academy of Science, Berlin in 1841. He received honorary doctorates from the University of Marburg in 1819. He died December 16th 1859.

The History
From the Encyclopedia of German Literature

The Brothers Jacob Ludwig Carl Grim and Wilhelm Carl Grimm (here after to be called The Brothers Grimm) were the two oldest sons of Philipp Wilhelm Grimm. Philipp, a lawyer, married Dorothea Zimmer daughter of a city councilman in Kassel. Three of their children died, and five boys and one girl survived. Philipp became a district judge and died at the age of 44 in 1796. The family was then supported by Dorothea’s family.

The Brothers Grimm were diligent students at Lyzeum in Kassel. They graduated at the top of their classes in 1802 and 1803. Low in social standing both needed special permission to study law at the University of Marburg. One of their professors of law was Friedrich Carl von Savigny. Jacob attended Savigny’s lectures in the winter semester and became one his prize pupils. Savigny left Marburg in the summer of 1804 to pursue research at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris on the history of Roman law in the Middle Ages. IMPORTANT: Savigny needed an assistant and offered the opportunity to Jacob Grimm. The friendship and collaboration with Savigny instilled in Jacob Grimm the importance of the past in affecting the future. Roman law of the Middle Ages was the basis of modern law and it was important to see the origins and effect. He also learned how to research. Jacob Grimm learned an appreciation which lead to the collecting of folk materials and literature. The Brothers Grimm produced many of the first editions of Old High and Middle High German literature that would had been otherwise lost. Incidentally they laid the foundation fort what was to become the discipline of Germanic philology.

In 1828 Jacob Grimm published “Deutsche Rechtsalterthumer” (Ancient German Law). He searched for and copied by hand, and cataloged medieval Latin law codices. Jacob was offered and turned down a position so as to stay working with Savigny. Wilhelm came to work with them too. Savigny was brother-in-law of Clemens Brentano. Brentano was a close collaborator and friend of Achim von Arnim. Brentano and Arnim had begun collecting fork poetry in June of 1802 and had published Knaben Wunderhorn in 1805. The contributions of the Brothers Grimm with the Second and third volumes. Helping publish second and third volumes of Des Knaben Wunderhorn, which was the first major collection of German folk poetry.

Note of interest: Ludwig Emil Grimm, youngest brother, was an illustrator who drew a visual record. Ludwig drew running cartoons, illustrations, and portrait. Because of his illustrations we know the people that the Brothers Grimm interviewed.

The Birth of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales
With the genre of folk songs covered well next was the collection of folktales. At this point the Brothers Grimm were in there early 20’s. Collecting the folk materials was the idea and the project of young men and women. The reasons behind the collection had political reasons. In 1789 Germany did not exist but as a collection of principalities and countries. Germany in their age was only unified by their language. A literary history unknown.

Soon Napoleon’s troops crossed into the Rhine lands in 1792. Initially Germans were hopeful for social progress, democracy and a written constitution. The French did not bring them liberte, fraternite and egalite. The Code Napoleon brought disillusionment for they were a conquered people. From letters of the Brothers Grimm it is clear that they were frustrated at being victimized. This motivated their mission to study and preserve what they possessed. This was the common culture that was articulated in poetry, philosophy, music and painting. The beginning of the Brothers Grimm work was a desire for liberation from French occupation. The French language was imposed. 600,000 young men were recruited for Napoleon’s Army which were the ones who died invading Russia. Social progress at the tip of a bayonet.

Jerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, was now emperor of Westphalia (Germany). Jacob experienced in the French Language received a post in the king’s library in 1808.

The first edition of Kinder- und Hausmarchen (Which means “Children’s and Household Tales” latter named The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales) began to take form. Sketches started in 1812 but now became a mission. Tale collecting continued involving circles of friends, neighbors and in the end over 80 people involved. It did not stop while in Vienna when Jacob Grimm was secretary to the Hessian delegation to the Congress of Vienna. Jacob Grimm sent out a Open Letter concerning the Collecting of Folk Poetry. The Letter stated was a solicitation for contributions of folk poetry, sagas, superstitions, proverbs, plays and what would generally be described as the material of folk life: ceremonies, occasions of birth, marriages, deaths, and so on.

Dorthea Viehmann, a peasant woman who came to Kassel regularly to sell produce, was a major contributor. She had a reputation of being a storyteller and was invited to the Brothers Grimm’s house. Over a glass of wine and something to eat, she would tell stories and the Brothers Grimm would write them down as accurately as possible. Another major contributor was Marie Hassenpflug. Pictures provided by Ludwig Grimm. 35 Stories can be traced to another piece of literature “die Viehmannin”. Many of the contributors where stories in previous editions, interviewed storytellers, and stories held in common. There is a misconception that the Brothers Grimm scowered the countryside looking for stories it is not so. They compiled with things that were closely available.

The first edition was published in 1812. It grew from edition to edition, up to the 7th edition. 86 tales to 210 tales.

1st Edition in 1812
2nd Edition in 1829
3rd Edition in 1837
4th Edition in 1840
5th Edition in 1843
6th Edition in 1850
7th Edition in 1852

The tales underwent changes and embellishments. The changes they made were to tone down sexually, violence added, and they knew other versions and would made a construct. They were responsible for “Once upon a time” and “They live happier ever after.” Frog Prince in the original version took the princess directly to bed: “The man who was frog is now prince.” The original “Rumplestiltskin was different. Early Versions was sent to Brentano in 1809. 40 tales including the first “Rumplestiltskin”


Once upon a time there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter. Now it happened that he got into a conversation with the king and said to him: "I have a daughter who knows the art of turning straw into gold."

So the king immediately sent for the miller's daughter and ordered her to turn a whole room full of straw into gold in one night. And if she could not do it, she would have to die. She was locked in the room, and she sat there and cried, because for her life she did not know how the straw would turn into gold.

Then suddenly a little man appeared before her, and said: "What will you give me, if I turn this all into gold?" She took off her necklace and gave it to the little man, and he did what he had promised.

The next morning the king found the room filled with gold, and his heart became even more greedy. He put the miller's daughter into an even larger room filled with straw, and told her to turn it into gold. The little man came again. She gave him a ring from her hand, and he turned it all into gold.

The third night the king had her locked in a third room, which was larger than the first two, and entirely filled with straw. "If you succeed this time, I'll make you my wife," he said.

Then the little man came and said, "I'll do it again, but you must promise me the first child that you have with the king."

In her distress she made the promise, and when the king saw that this straw too had been turned into gold, he took the miller's daughter as his wife.

Soon thereafter the queen delivered a child. Then the little man appeared before her and demanded the child that had been promised him. The queen begged him to let her keep the child, offering him great riches in its place.

Finally he said, "I'll be back to get the child in three days. But if by then you know my name, you can keep the child.!"

For two days the queen pondered what the little man's name might be, but she could not think of anything, and became very sad. On the third day the king came home from a hunt and told her how, two days earlier, while hunting deep in a dark forest, he had come upon a little house. A comical little man was there, jumping about as if on one leg, and crying out:

Today I'll bake; tomorrow I'll brew.
Then I'll fetch the queen's new child.
It is good that no one knows
Rumpelstiltskin is my name.

The queen was overjoyed to hear this.
Then the dangerous little man arrived and asked: "Your majesty, what is my name?"
"Is your name Conrad?"
"Is your name Heinrich?"
"Then could your name be Rumpelstiltskin?"
"The devil told you that!" shouted the little man. He ran away angrily, and never came back.


Source: Jacob and Wilheml Grimm, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, 1st ed. (Berlin, 1812), v. 1, no. 55.

The Grimms dressed this tale up considerably in succeeding editions. The most notable change is the introduction of the spinning wheel as a device for turning straw into gold. Further, in later editions the queen discovers the dwarf's name through a messenger whom she herself sends forth to collect strange names, not through her husband's chance meeting with the little man.

Christmas of 1812 in German bookstores the book didn’t sell. It initially didn’t have a scholarly audience. It took time for people to acquire a taste for it. The tales caught on quickly in England. Translator unknown and the illustrator George Cruikshank appeared in London in 1823. The success of the Tales continued and started a latter Fairy Tale movement. Charles Perrault “Contes de Fees” used the stories and changed them.

The stories are not purely German infact many of the stories turned out to have different origins: American Indian Tales, Danish Heroic ballad and tales, Serbian, Irish Elphan Tales, French, Neapolitan, Celtic, Latin, and India.

The reason being dismissed from University 
-The Brothers Grimm become heroes.

The Brothers Grimm where not famous for their writings, while they were alive, but for their political stand. They are considered the fathers of academic freedom.

In 1837 the Brothers Grimm were professors at the University of Gottingen, part of the kingdom of Hannover. When William IV died in June of 1837 had no male heir. His brother Ernst August, duke of Cumberland, became king of Hannover. He declared the constitution of 1819 to be in effect, and the present constitution void. He lacked legal authority and also dissolved the parliament.

Seven Professors, the Brother Grimm among them, refused to submit a Diest- und Huldigungsrevers, a loyalty oath on the old constitution requiring all civil servants.

The group called The Gottingen Seven, became internationally famous because of this stand as having great integrity and courageous stand against an arrogant rulers. The refusal was explained in a letter to the Universitats-Kuratorium (university board of trustees) The principle of refusal was the notion of academic freedom that which was a part of German university life. They were model institutions, important for universities elsewhere as well. The argument was shifting loyalties willy-nilly from one constitution to another, without any acceptable reason, and taking steps backward in rights and responsibilities would undermine both the credibility of the professorate among the students and the ideals of the university. The claim of the dismissal was not for the letter as so much as someone leaked the letter out to the French and British press. The seven were dismissed from the university and also banished from Gottingen. They crossed the river Werra, and entered Hessia in Witzenhausen and where greeted as heroes by students that had rushed ahead to welcome them.

When Cincinnati, Ohio sent relief money to Europe after Napoleon war. There was four who were the most trusted in all of Europe. The money was sent to the Brothers Grimm.

“The power of language shapes people and keeps them together; without this bond they would fall apart.” - Jacob Grimm 1851 in “The Origin of Language”.

Interesting facts about Grimm tales:

None of the stories in their collection is written by the Grimms; there thought to be about 80 sources (written and oral) for the tales.
The Brothers Grimm were law students doing research when they began finding tales.
In the Late 19th Century The Grimm Fairy Tales were a part of the school curriculum for children.
The Book was band by Adolf Hitler during WWII as violent tales contributing to the violence in the German soul.
Grimm Fairy Tales have been banned a lot and is a part of the top 100 most banned books.

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