Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in Hanau: Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm on 4 January 1785, and his younger brother Wilhelm Karl Grimm on 24 February the following year. Hanau was the obvious choice for the beginning of the German Fairytale Route, which ends in Bremen with the Town Musicians.
Jacob and Wilhelm went to school in Kassel before both going on to study at Marburg University. The first volume of Grimm's Fairy Tales was published in 1812 with the second following three years later. Both works have been revised and reprinted a great many times. The story of the Bremen Town Musicians appeared in the second edition of the first volume, published in 1819.
After many turbulent years of Napoleonic rule in Germany (1806-1813), the Brothers Grimm took up posts at the library in Kassel. In 1829, having received honorary doctorates from Marburg University, they moved to Göttingen. Before long, both the brothers had secured positions at the university: Jacob became professor in 1830 and Wilhelm, initially the head librarian, followed suit in 1831.
In 1837, Hannover's liberal constitution, which had been passed only four years earlier, was due to be revoked. The Grimm brothers protested against its abolition together with five other professors at the university. The "Göttingen Seven" as they came to be known were dismissed from office as a result.
In 1840, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia invited Jacob and Wilhelm to Berlin, where they were quickly appointed to the Royal Academy of Sciences. In 1842, Jacob Grimm received the Order Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts – an award also bestowed upon the Bremen Town Musicians sculptor Gerhard Marcks around 100 years later. Jacob was also a delegate at the Frankfurt Parliament, Germany's first national assembly, at St. Paul's Church, Frankfurt, in 1848.
The brothers spent the remainder of their lives in Berlin. Wilhelm died on 16 December 1859 and Jacob on 20 September 1863.
The Grimm Fairytales
The Brothers Grimm name is synonymous with a great number of fairytales that we all know and love. They began to collect folk stories during their student days in Marburg, inspired by their tutor Friedrich Carl von Savigny and his brother-in-law Clemens Brentano. Excited by the Heidelberg Romantic movement – whose exponents revisited German folklore in the name of national unity – the brothers sought out tales passed down through generations to publish as an anthology.
Their work resulted in the two famous collections of Grimm's Fairy Tales. The foreword of the first volume (1812) declares that it is perhaps time that these stories were recorded, for those who preserve them are becoming fewer in number. Jacob and Wilhelm continued to commit to paper the stories that they had heard and which people had sent to them, and the second volume of Grimm's Fairy Tales appeared only three years after the first.
The anthologies have been extended and revised countless times over the years. Translations and adaptations in more than 160 languages can be seen at the Brothers Grimm Museum in Kassel. Grimm's Fairy Tales is the most extensively translated, most widely read and bestselling German-language book of all time.
28 October 2009
Aside from the Bremen Town Musicians, the best-known and most popular Grimm fairytales include Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Snow White, The Frog Prince, Puss in Boots and Mother Hulda.
The works of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – most notably their dictionaries and grammar reference books – are considered milestones in the standardisation of modern-day German.