Grimm Brothers and Fairy Tales
The brothers Jacob Karl and Wilhelm Karl Grimm were German scholars. They collected some of the Western world’s most popular stories. The German brothers put together a famous book of folktales that has been published in at least 70 languages. In addition, they are known for their work in comparative linguistics, which included the formulation of Grimm’s law.
Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm was born on January 4, 1785, in the German village of Hanau. Wilhelm Carl was born on February 24, 1786. The brothers first attended school in Kassel, then began legal studies at the University of Marburg.
While in their 20s the brothers began collecting folktales for a friend, who wanted to publish a collection of tales. But the friend never used the tales, so the Grimms decided to publish them. The first volume of the tales was published in 1812. It was called Children’s and Household Tales.
The Grimms added to the collection for many years. Eventually it contained more than 200 tales.
Aside from collecting folktales, the Grimm brothers wrote books about the German language. They also worked for the government and as university professors and librarians.
In 1808 Jacob was named court librarian to the King of Westphalia in Wilhelmshöhe, and in 1816 he became librarian in Kassel, where Wilhelm had been employed since 1814.
Between 1816 and 1818 they published two volumes of German Legends and about the same time they published a volume of studies in early literary history, Old German Forests.
In 1830 the brothers moved to the University of Gottingen, where Jacob was the professor and head librarian and Wilhelm was appointed assistant librarian. Jacob held lectures on linguistics and cultural history. Wilhelm became professor in 1835.
Their last years were spent in preparing the definitive dictionary of the German language. The dictionary was carried on by generations of scholars after the brothers’ deaths, and it was finished in 1960.
Wilhelm Grimm died on December 16, 1859, in Berlin, Germany. Jacob died there on September 20, 1863.
The Grimm brothers were the most important of romantic historians of early medieval language and folklore.