Who are the Brothers Grimm?

Several of your fairytales have darker origins hailing from the Brothers Grimm.

Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann

Several of your fairytales have darker origins hailing from the Brothers Grimm.

Talay (Abigail) Valino, Staff writer

The Brothers Grimm were two brothers who were both German academics, philologists, cultural researchers, lexicographers, and authors. Together they published and collected folk tales, traditionally dark stories, according to Wikipedia. Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Carl Grimm (1786-1859) (Biography).

The Brothers Grimm were the oldest sons in their family. According to Biography, they had three younger brothers and a younger sister. Their father was a lawyer who later became a minister of the Calvinistic Reformed Church, but he died in 1796 when the children were relatively young. In 1808, their mother also passed away and the family went through hardships, leaving the older brothers responsible for their younger siblings.

Eventually, both Jacob and Wilhelm followed in their father’s footsteps, studying law at the University of Marburg (1802-06). During their time at the University of Marburg, both found Clemens Brentano, an influence on how they were both “awakened” in a love of folk poetry.

When the Brothers Grimm started writing folktales, they didn’t view themselves as folklorists but as collectors and literary historians. Originally they went out to record and study the oral history in German-speaking countries and poetry from the people, according to Alice Dundon on Culture Trip. She mentioned in her article that the Brothers Grimm wanted to record sagas, “epic” stories, and tales that were all passed down through several generations. Their first book was Children’s and Household Tales which was described as “particularly bizarre and brutal.” It was a collection of stories about children and family, but not a story for children. According to Alice Dundon, the Grimm Brothers demonstrated the moral compass of the time with the stories that they felt needed to be preserved before they got lost over time.

The fairy tales that are attributed to the Brothers Grimm were not originally intended for children. These stories included adult content, and violence, which were too dark for children to be introduced to but were later used as cautionary tales for misbehaving children.

The Grimm Brothers also had a bit of a “rags-to-riches” story like many of their characters. They came from a family of nine, and only six of them were alive throughout their adulthood. They spent most of their lives in a large home in Germany and later became successful and rich from their fairy tales.

During their time, oral storytelling came from women, so most of the stories attributed to the Brothers Grimm were told to them by women storytellers.

While many people connect fairy tales to Disney and Hans Christian Anderson, the stories told by the Brothers Grimm involve blood, gore, cannibalism, and weapons. Many of these tales were softened for a less mature audience, including Cinderella, the Frog Prince, and Little Red Riding Hood. Perhaps it’s time to read the original version, especially for people into horror films and violent novels.