Who were the Brothers Grimm?
The Brothers Grimm were 19th century German academics and collectors of traditional stories, who became pioneers in the discipline of folklore studies. They left an enduring legacy to the world in their collected editions of traditional tales, which include such famous stories as Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin and Hansel and Gretel.
The brothers – Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) – were born in the German town of Hanau and enjoyed an early life of privilege. This was badly affected by the death of their father, Phillip, in 1796. After this, the brothers, their mother and siblings lived in relative poverty, aided by the support of relatives.
In the early 1800s, both brothers attended the University of Marburg. Here, it became obvious that their poverty left them excluded from a lot of university life. However, this outsider status merely served to strengthen the brothers‘ already close relationship. Marginallised, the brothers dedicated themselves to the study of mediaeval German literature. It was their interest in this which eventually led to their passion for collecting and recording traditional German and Scandinavian folk tales.
In 1812, while the brothers worked as librarians at the court of the King of Westphalia, the first edition of the Brothers Grimm Kinder-und Hausmarchen or Children and Household Tales was published. The first edition was not immediately popular, as many of the stories were thought to be unsuitable for children. Later revisions saw some of the stories, such as Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretel being changed slightly, to become more child friendly, and into the fairy tales we know today.
Brothers Grimm legacy
The work of the Brothers Grimm has had an immeasurable impact on popular Western culture. The folk tales they collected have been reproduced in countless forms, from the opera Hansel and Gretel to the Rumpelstiltskin movie.
The folk tales of the Brothers Grimm continue to shape and thrill children’s imagination to this day.