Contrary to popular belief fairytales are not always child-friendly. Many of the original stories collected by the Grimm brothers, Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm, were filled with violence, sex, and incest.
The brothers Grimm were folklorists and linguists and their book Kinder-und Hausmarchen, known as The Grimm’s Fairy Tales, led to the birth of the modern study of folklore. When the original stories are read and compared to modern adaptations for children it is unbelievable how different some stories to the original folktale version. Many are starting to wonder are these stories really appropriate for my children? The now-famous brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785-1863)and Wilhelm (1786-1859), were both the oldest in a family of five sisters and brothers.
Their father, Philipp Wilhelm, was and lawyer and town clerk in Hanau, Germany, which was a small Hessian town. After his sudden passing in 1796, he left his family with hardships and only their mother to take care of them. Not long after their mother passed in 1808 and they left Jacob in to care for his four brothers and one sister. After graduating high school in Kassel the brothers wanted to follow in their father’s footsteps and enrolled and studied law at the University of Marburg intending to enter into civil service. While studying there they met Clemens Brentano and Friedrich Karl von Herder, and they were the ones who introduced the brothers to folklore made them fall in love with it.
Even though both brothers enjoyed folklore very much they decided to remain individuals and pursue each other own different principles. Although in 1805 started to collect folk songs and examine essays critical in determining the difference between folk literature and other literature and in 1812 published the first version of Kinder-und Hausmärchen (Grimm’s Fairy Tales) In 1814 Wilhelm was working as a secretary at the Elector’s library in Kassel, Germany and it wasn’t until 1816 the Jacob joined him. Around this time in 1816-1818, the brothers released a collection of local and historical legends of Germany called Deutsche Sagen which never gained much appeal from the German people. By this point in their lives, they were not thinking about a career in law anymore. From the years 1830-1837 both Jacob and Wilhelm were hired as professors at Gottingen University but after having protested the constitution by the new Elector of Hanover were dismissed for the university along with five others. Then in 1840 both Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were invited to be members of the Academy of the Sciences and that is where they started to work on the German dictionary ( final version was not published until 1961).The beloved fairy tales we know nowadays, for example, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel have very sinister origins.
This can be seen in a quote written by Maria Tatar in The Annotated Brothers Grimm, “Historians tell us that fairy tales originated in an age marked by wars, plague, and famine.”, (W.W. Norton, 552). This quote specifically explains why the stories are so wild and chaotic.
They were created during a time of chaos, poverty, and death so the stories reflect what the townsfolk were going through. Different scholars are debating the meaning of these stories, for example, Little Red Riding Hood, originally known as Little Red Cap.for a while british mythologists believed the view that Little Red Riding Hood represented the burning sun in the course of a day but when it sets out on its westward journey it is engulfed by the darkness of night ( Tartar 39-41). Many psychoanalytic critics find that preposterous and they had their own way of viewing the tale. Some said that when the wolf ate Little Red that symbolize pregnancy envy by attempting to put living things in his stomach. Also in the end the wolf was killed by stones and they believe that it symbolizes sterility and by that ” he mocks his usurpation of the pregnant woman’s role.”.
Even ideologists from the Third Reich had something to say about the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. They praised the Grimms’ Nursery and Household Tales as a “sacred book” and to them Little Red Riding hood was the people of Germany they were terrorized under the clutches of the wolf which symbolized the Jewish people. Work Cited Smith, Wendy. Happily Ever After: The Folk Tales Gathered by the Brothers Grimm Not Only Enchant Us; They Record the Hardships European Families Endured for Centuries.American Scholar; Winter2013, Vol. 82 Issue 1, web.
a.ebscohost.com/lrc/detail/detail?vid=0=2c0bddc5-3782-43f9-bb42-99808f5c4069%40sessionmgr4010=JnNpdGU9bHJjLWxpdmU%3d#AN=84304420=lfh.Russell, David L. “GRIMM, Jacob/GRIMM, Wilhelm.
” Continuum Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, web.a.ebscohost.com/lrc/detail/detail?vid=0&[email protected]&bdata=JnNpdGU9bHJjLWxpdmU=#AN=18765939&db=lfh.Tatar, Maria. The Hard Facts of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
University Press, 2003. Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: the Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. Vintage Books, 2010.
Denecke, Ludwig. “Brothers Grimm.” Britannica School, school.eb.