The Brothers Grimm Biography & Facts
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.
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.
Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm were born on 4 January 1785 and 24 February 1786, respectively, in Hanau in the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel, within the Holy Roman Empire (present-day Germany), to Philipp Wilhelm Grimm, a jurist, and Dorothea Grimm (née Zimmer), daughter of a Kassel city councilman. They were the second- and third-eldest surviving siblings in a family of nine children, three of whom died in infancy. In 1791 the family moved to the countryside town of Steinau during Philipp's employment there as a district magistrate (Amtmann). The family became prominent members of the community, residing in a large home surrounded by fields. Biographer Jack Zipes writes that the brothers were happy in Steinau and "clearly fond of country life". The children were educated at home by private tutors, receiving strict instruction as Lutherans, which instilled in both a lifelong religious faith. Later, they attended local schools.In 1796 Philipp Grimm died of pneumonia, causing great poverty for the large family. Dorothea was forced to relinquish the brothers' servants and large house, depending on financial support from her father and sister, who was then the first lady-in-waiting at the court of William I, Elector of Hesse. Jacob was the eldest living son, forced at age 11 to quickly assume adult responsibilities (shared with Wilhelm) for the next two years. The two brothers then followed the advice of their grandfather, who continually exhorted them to be industrious.The brothers left Steinau and their family in 1798 to attend the Friedrichsgymnasium in Kassel, which had been arranged and paid for by their aunt. By then they were without a male provider (their grandfather died that year), forcing them to rely entirely on each other and become exceptionally close. The two brothers differed in temperament—Jacob was introspective and Wilhelm was outgoing (although he often suffered from ill health)—but they shared a strong work ethic and excelled in their studies. In Kassel they became acutely aware of their inferior social status relative to "high-born" students who received more attention. Each brother graduated at the head of his class: Jacob in 1803 and Wilhelm in 1804 (he missed a year of school due to scarlet fever).
After graduation from the Friedrichsgymnasium, the brothers attended the University of Marburg. The university was small with about 200 students, and there they became painfully aware that students of lower social status were not treated equally. They were disqualified from admission because of their social standing and had to request dispensation to study law. Wealthier students received stipends, but the brothers were excluded even from tuition aid. Their poverty kept them from student activities or university social life. However, their outsider status worked in their favor and they pursued their studies with extra vigor.Inspired by their law professor, Friedrich von Savigny, who awakened in them an interest in history and philology, the brothers studied medieval German literature. They shared Savigny's desire to see the unification of the 200 German principalities into a single state. Through Savigny and his circle of friends—German romantics such as Clemens Brentano and Ludwig Achim von Arnim—the Grimms were introduced to the ideas of Johann Gottfried Herder, who thought that German literature should revert to simpler forms, which he defined as Volkspoesie (natural poetry)—as opposed to Kunstpoesie (artistic poetry). The brothers dedicated themselves with great enthusiasm to their studies, about which Wilhelm wrote in his autobiography, "the ardor with which we studied Old German helped us overcome the spiritual depression of those days."Jacob was still financially responsible for his mother, brother, and younger siblings in 1805, so he accepted a post in Paris as a research assistant to von Savigny. On his return to Marburg he was forced to abandon his studies to support the family, whose poverty was so extreme that food was often scarce, and take a job with the Hessian War Commission. In a letter written to his aunt at this time, Wilhelm wrote of their circumstances: "We five people eat only three portions and only once a day".Jacob found full-time employment in 1808 when he was appointed court librarian to the King of Westphalia and went on to become a librarian in Kassel. After their mother's .... Discover the The Brothers Grimm popular books. Find the top 100 most popular The Brothers Grimm books.