GRIMM THEN: Jacob and Wilhelm
wo brothers in Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm, were completely devoted to keeping the stories of their past and present alive by turning tales that were spoken into ones which were written. Like a fairy tale itself, sometimes the path you start on in life brings you to an unexpected destination. This was the case with the Brothers Grimm who were the closest of friends and studying to be lawyers and librarians with no intention of devoting their life to the collection of these magical tales.
Similarly, when they set out to collect the tales, they had not planned for them to be enjoyed by children.
Seek and Ye Shall Find
Although the Grimm's would publish seven different versions of their tales over forty years, their stories were always full of the elements of surprise and darkness. The brothers believed in the idea that stories from the community helped to create community. And after seeing that so few stories had been written down and were not to be seen in libraries they worked in, it was the community that provided so many of the stories the brothers published and that we appreciate and enjoy today. The Grimm Brothers received their stories from nannies, neighbors and soldiers and listened to anyone who had a story to tell. The tales and brothers were German but they were influenced and fascinated by many cultures; Jacob and Wilhelm learned to speak over ten different ancient and modern languages.
From Spoken to Written
Jacob and Wilhelm read a great deal but they found they loved fairy tales the most. Educated people believed that fairytales were unsophisticated and for children but the Grimm Brothers believed that fairy tales were a path towards honoring one's culture. In addition to being entertaining, a fairy tale could help teach listeners about how to overcome unexpected challenges.
In 1812, after writing and collecting stories for over six years the Grimm Brothers published their first book, Children's and Household Tales. So popular was the first edition, which featured eighty-six stories, that many children took to memorizing them. The future editions of the stories became more child friendly with illustrations but they still had moments of darkness and violence.
The original cover and book of Children's and Household Tales in German.