Brothers Grimm

Brother duo of German academics and folklorists / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Brothers Grimm (die Brüder Grimm or die Gebrüder Grimm), Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859), were a brother duo of German academics, philologists, cultural researchers, lexicographers, and authors who together collected and published folklore. They are among the best-known storytellers of folk tales, popularizing stories such as "Cinderella" ("Aschenputtel"), "The Frog Prince" ("Der Froschkönig"), "Hansel and Gretel" ("Hänsel und Gretel"), "Little Red Riding Hood" ("Rotkäppchen"), "Rapunzel", "Rumpelstiltskin" ("Rumpelstilzchen"), "Sleeping Beauty" ("Dornröschen"), and "Snow White" ("Schneewittchen"). Their first collection of folk tales, Children's and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen), began publication in 1812.

Wilhelm Grimm (left) and Jacob Grimm (right), portrayed by Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann (1855)

The Brothers Grimm spent their formative years in the town of Hanau in the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel. Their father's death in 1796 (when Jacob was eleven and Wilhelm was ten) caused great poverty for the family and affected the brothers many years after. Both brothers attended the University of Marburg, where they developed a curiosity about German folklore, which grew into a lifelong dedication to collecting German folk tales.

The rise of Romanticism in 19th-century Europe revived interest in traditional folk stories, which to the Brothers Grimm represented a pure form of national literature and culture. With the goal of researching a scholarly treatise on folk tales, they established a methodology for collecting and recording folk stories that became the basis for folklore studies. Between 1812 and 1857 their first collection was revised and republished many times, growing from 86 stories to more than 200. In addition to writing and modifying folk tales, the brothers wrote collections of well-respected Germanic and Scandinavian mythologies, and in 1838 they began writing a definitive German dictionary (Deutsches Wörterbuch) which they were unable to finish during their lifetimes.

The popularity of the Grimms' collected folk tales has endured well. The tales are available in more than 100 translations and have been adapted by renowned filmmakers, including Lotte Reiniger and Walt Disney, with films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In the mid-20th century, the tales were used as propaganda by Nazi Germany; later in the 20th century, psychologists such as Bruno Bettelheim reaffirmed the value of the work in spite of the cruelty and violence in original versions of some of the tales, which were eventually sanitized by the Grimms themselves.