Fairy Tales, Behind the Scenes: A Brief Bio of the Brothers Grimm

By Saad Salman Zia
In Legends of Literary World
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Who Were the Brothers Grimm?

A Short Biography

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, born on the 4th of January, 1785 and 24th of February, 1786 respectively, were the fathers of some of the most renowned fairy tales tales that we have grown with and know of today.

They were German linguistic academics who concentrated their work on folklore and developed their collections into fantasy tales which were later known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Little did they know that their creations would become historic phenomena all around the globe in the centuries to come. Wilhelm died in 1859 and Jacob lived until four years after.

What are Brothers Grimm Famous For?

Fairy tales have enchanted children and grownups alike for generations. The realm of fantasy, a soothing recluse from the dullness of reality has provided people with a world where the word ‘impossible’ ceases to exist.

From the charming tale of Snow White to the twisted imprisonment by Rumpelstiltskin and Little Red Riding Hood’s dangerous perils, the Grimm stories have captivated children for over two hundred years and have been adapted into some of the most memorable films ever made.

When was Their Work Published?

The first book was called Children’s and Household Tales and it was published in the year 1812. The book comprised over two hundred tales when it was published. Some of the tales were Charles Perrault’s work but were enhanced by the Grimm siblings. The original versions were a lot violent and dark as compared to the Disney adaptations of today.

What Made the Grimm Brothers so Great?

The Grimm tales were short, simple and had moral lessons imbibed in the limited number of words with great subtlety. Their tales have lasted for over 8 generations and continue to seep through the webbing of modern pop culture.

Famous Works and Adaptations

Some of the famous Brothers Grimm works include:

Little Red Riding Hood

little red riding hood

The tale of Little Red Riding Hood was about a young girl in a hooded red cloak who wanted to visit her ailing grandmother yet she faced a perilous threat from a wolf. The story was originally written by Perrault but was modified by the Grimm brothers. It has been adapted in plays, books and most recently a dark themed Hollywood movie.

Snow White

Snow White

The tale of a princess forced away by an evil queen has captivated audiences for hundreds of years. Snow White showed the effects of greed, vanity, jealousy and naivety in human beings. It also showed major human traits through dwarfs with very distinct personalities. It was adapted into one of the most famous Disney movies of all time in 1937 and continues to be seen in Disney theme parks today.

Cinderella

Cinderella

Another tale of vanity, oppression and jealousy was shown in the form of Cinderella. This was the dream of every adolescent young girl; to be rescued from poverty and oppression by a handsome monarch. This was also adapted into a Disney movie but the concept was much older than the Grimm brothers or Perrault himself. The first form of the story dates back to the first century BC.

Rapunzel

Rapunzel

This story also showed oppression yet it showed elements of beauty. A young girl is trapped in a tall tower with no way to descend but by using her hair. Only others can climb or descend but she has to remain at the top. The story has been adapted into many storybooks and was recently adapted into a Disney animated movie named ‘Tangled’.

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

 Also remembered as the story of Briar Rose, this tale showed a beautiful maiden in enchanted sleep waiting through the tides of time to be rescued by her true love. This story has always enchanted girls throughout time and was adapted into several movies and books which also included another Disney title.

Rumpelstiltskin

Rumpelstilskin

 As with most Grimm tales, this tale also showed the ‘damsel in distress’ scenario. A young girl is imprisoned by a goblin-like miller for weaving gold out of hay. The tale has been adapted into many books and assumed many variants across borders e.g. Tom Tit Tot in England and Gilitrutt in Iceland. It was also adapted into several animated features.

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

Most children dream of heaven to be made of candy and delicious eatables. Hansel and Gretel translated that fantasy into a tale which revolved around family relations, cruelty and the fact that evil can lurk in the most beautiful of places. The story was written in many different books and many cartoon movies were created alongside its plot.

The Elves and the Shoemaker

The Elves and the Shoemaker

This tale showed with great subtlety, how fantasy creatures such as elves, made use of their efforts to help a poverty stricken shoemaker and his wife. The imaginative boundaries of this tale were vast and it is still adapted into modern day cartoons.

The Frog Prince

The Frog Prince

Beauty is only skin deep and lies only in the eyes of the beholder. This story showed how a frog turns into a handsome prince when kissed by a princess. The tale also nurtured every little girl’s dream of finding a prince in a place that they expect the least to do so. The story appeared in several books and was referred to in the recently produced animated movie, Shrek.

Did They Really Write all These Memorable Tales?

Like most figures in literary history, the Grimm brothers also face skepticism over a hundred years after their demise. Although they are remembered as some of the best story tellers in European history, some critics argue that their works were mere collections of past folklore and legend which was later compiled and framed as an inception.

It is true that some of their tales were influenced by folklore and many were tales which were originally drafted by Perrault. However, they did not regurgitate the tales of old. They revamped the old stories to make them appealing to the new generation and drafted several new ones and published it as a collection in what we know as Grimm’s Fairy Tales; the finest collection of fairy tales that we know of today.

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