Grimm fairy tales

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of the first English-language publication of the Grimms' fairy tales (2023).

Once upon a time...

There "were two brothers from Hanau whose family had fallen on hard times. Their father had died, leaving a wife and six children utterly penniless. Their poverty was so great that the family was reduced to eating but once a day.

So it was determined that the brothers must go out into the world to seek their fortune. They soon found their way to the university in Marburg to study law, but there they could not find luck from any quarter. Though they had been the sons of a state magistrate, it was the sons of the nobility that received state aid and stipends. The poor brothers met countless humiliations and obstacles scraping by an education, far from home.

Around this time, after Jacob had to abandon his studies to support his family, the entire German kingdom of Westphalia became part of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquering rule. Finding refuge in the library, the brothers spent many hours studying and searching for stories, poems, and songs that told tales of the people they had left behind. Against the rumblings of war and political upheaval, somehow the nostalgia of stories from an earlier time, of people’s lives and language, in the little villages and towns, in the fields and forest, seemed more important than ever.

This then is the strange rags-to-riches tale of two mild-mannered librarians, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (affectionately known as the Brothers Grimm), who went hunting for fairytales and accidentally ended up changing the course of historical linguistics and kickstarting a whole new field of scholarship in folklore."

-Luu, 2018

Select readings:

Luu, Chi. 2018. "The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm: How the Brothers Grimm went hunting for fairytales, accidentally changed the course of historical linguistics, and kickstarted a new field of scholarship in folklore." JSTOR Daily, May 2, 2018.

Hernández, Isabel. 2019. "Brothers Grimm fairy tales were never meant for kids." National Geographic, September 25, 2019.

Zipes, Jack. 2015. "How the Grimm Brothers Saved the Fairy Tale." Humanities 36, no. 2 (March/April).