Brothers Grimm

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Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm

The Brothers Grimm (Brder Grimm) are Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm.


The collection of children's tales

The Brothers Grimm are well known for publishing collections of German fairy tales, as Kinder- und Hausmrchen ("Children's and Household Tales"), in 1812, with a second volume in 1814 ("1815" on the title page), and many further editions during their lifetimes. Along with traditional German stories, many originally French tales entered the collection through a Huguenot tale-teller that the Grimms used as one of their main sources. English translations of the 7th edition (1857) remain popular, and they exist now predominantly as highly expurgated and saccharine versions intended for children, even though the folk tales that the Grimms had collected had not been previously considered stories for children. Witches, goblins, trolls and wolves prowl the dark forests of the Grimms' ancient villages, as well as the deeper psyche of the insular German city-states of the time. Modern psychologists and cultural anthropologists read in quite a bit of emotional angst, fear of abandonment, parental abuse, and sexual development in the stories that are often read at bed-time in the West. The child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim in his book The Uses of Enchantment read familiar Grimms' fairy tales as Freudian myths. A modern editor of the Brothers Grimm and interpreter of the fairy tales tradition is Jack Zipes.


In the very early 19th century, the time in which the Brothers Grimm lived, the Holy Roman Empire had just met its fate, and Germany as we know it today did not yet exist; it was basically an area of hundreds of principalities and small or mid-sized countries. The major unifying factor for the German people of the time was a common language. There was as yet no significant German literary history. So part of what motivated the brothers in their writings and in their lives was the desire to help create a German identity.

Less well known to the general public outside Germany is the Brothers Grimms' work on a German dictionary, the Deutsches Wrterbuch. Indeed, the Deutsches Wrterbuch was the first major step in creating a standardized "modern" German language since Martin Luther's translation of the Bible from Latin to German. Being very extensive (33 volumes, weighing 84 kg) it is still considered as the standard reference for German etymology.

The brother Jakob is recognized for enunciating Grimm's law, Germanic Sound Shift, that was first observed by the Danish philologist Rasmus Christian Rask. Grimm's law was the first non-trivial systematic sound change ever to be discovered.


The Grimms were born in Hanau near Frankfurt. They were educated at the Friedrichsgymnasium in Kassel and later both read law at the University of Marburg. From 1837 until 1841, the Brothers Grimm joined five of their colleague professors at the University of Gttingen. This group came to be known as Die Gttinger Sieben (The Gttingen Seven). They protested against King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover, whom they accused of violating the constitution of that state. For this, they were all fired from their university posts by the king. Wilhelm died in 1859; his elder brother Jakob died in 1863. They are buried in the St Matthus Kirchhof Cemetery in Schneberg, a district of Berlin.


Between 1990 and the 2002 introduction of the euro currency in Germany, the Grimms were depicted on the 1000 Deutsche Mark note - the largest available denomination.

Selection of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm

External links and references

cs:Bratři Grimmové da:Brdrene Grimm de:Brder Grimm es:Hermanos Grimm eo:Fratoj GRIMM fr:Jacob et Wilhelm Grimm he:האחים גרים nl:Gebroeders Grimm ja:グリム兄弟 pt:Irmos Grimm sv:Brderna Grimm zh:格林兄弟


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