During 19th century two German brothers made a name for themselves for writing folklores. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm became famous as Brothers Grimm for their contribution to traditional folk tales. They had diversified interest in the world of academia as they worked as cultural researchers, linguists, lexicographers, folklore collectors and writers.
The older brother, Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm, was born in 1785 and Wilhelm Carl Grimm a year later. They grew up in Hanau, Germany and were raised by parents, Dorothea Grimm and a jurist father, Philipp Wilhelm Grimm. The untimely death of their father in 1796 plagued the family with financial difficulties. The two brothers tried to support their family before leaving Steinau.
They received their education from the prestigious Friedrichsgymnasium when they moved to Kassel which was financed by their aunt. Later The Brothers Grimm pursued a law degree at the University of Marburg after completing graduation. Here they were treated as inferiors just as they were in their previous school. They were not even admitted at first for their low social standing. Status quo was severely maintained and they suffered exclusion from social and extracurricular activities. However, negligence forced them to strive for recognition and they put in extra effort in their studies. A renewed interest in history and philology, inspired by their law professor, made them pursue medieval German literature.
Jacob was appointed as secretary at a royal library in Kassel and was later joined by his brother. At a German Romantic, Clemens Brentano’s request the brothers began to rigorously research folk tales with a special focus on village oral folklores. Eventually, they compiled their research in a book named Kinder-und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales). The first volume was published in 1812 followed by the second one in 1815. These volumes now recognized as Grimms’ Fairy Tales include the famous stories of Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, The Golden Goose, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White. The stories in these volumes are fusion of several different accounts of the same stories. Their sources even include non-German influences, for instance, Briar Rose is inspired by a French writer, Charles Perrault’s version of The Sleeping Beauty.
The Brothers Grimm left behind legacy of folk stories, novellas and legends. Unlike the modern version of the fairytales, the first volume of Grimms’ Fairy Tales was actually grim, violent and highly unsuited for children. They were suggested to remove the violent and disturbing content from the book but they choose not comply because they believed these tales were reflective of their inherent culture. Tales like Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood were considered didactic in nature as their culture educated obedience through fear.
While Grimm Brothers attained employment at the University of Göttingen, they devoted their time to research in mythology. Jacob made a valuable addition to German literature with his Deutsche Mythologie (German Mythology) published in 1835. Wilhelm edited the third volume of Kinder- und Hausmärchen. Later they were removed from their posts at University of Göttingen for protesting against changes made in the constitution. They moved to Berlin in 1840 where they were appointed as lecturers at the Royal Academy of Science. The Brothers Grimm also occupied themselves as linguists. The years to come brought them the biggest project of compilation of a comprehensive dictionary in German. Before its completion Wilhelm passed away.