Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm were two German siblings who became renowned for their collaboration as authors, prolific researchers and lexicographers among others. They are best known for their work “Grimm Fairy Tales”. This effectively led to the birth of the modern study of folklore. While some of their literary work is meant for children, others are better suited for older children. Their contributions to a number of fields made them the most important German scholars of the era.
The eldest of the six siblings, Jacob and Wilhelm were born a year apart in 1785 and 1786 respectively. Their father, Philipp Wilhelm, was a lawyer by profession in a small town called Hanau. Unfortunately, the brothers lost their father in 1796 and their mother in 1808. This meant that the burden of the household and younger siblings fell significantly on the two brothers.
Jacob was known to be erudite with a slender frame and chiselled features. Wilhelm on the other hand, was taller, gregarious and was extremely fond of all types of arts. They attended a high school in Kassel in central Germany before they followed their late father’s example and pursued law at the University of Marburg at the turn of the century.
This was where they met an individual called Clemens Brentano, who inspired both siblings to take a keen interest in folk poetry. Another person who had a similar effect was Friedrich Karl von Savigny. The co-founder of the Historical School of Jurisprudence, he was instrumental in teaching the Brothers Grimm about antiquarian research. This essentially formed the crux of their work later in their lives.
Another decade had passed as the brothers were employed in different roles. By that time, they had given up the notion of forging a legal career and were fully focused on literary research. They were able to incorporate the politics and culture of the era.
In particular, they accumulated folk songs and stories from their mentor Brentano and Achim von Arnim as well. One of their first publications was called Kinderund Hausmarchen, which comprised of 200 stories and was written for readers of all ages.
Chief among their literature were enduring classics such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin. While Disney brought many of these on to the silver screen, they originated from the brilliant minds of the Brothers Grimm.
The main idea behind the composition of these stories was to delineate imagination and soul. Another interesting fact regarding these famous stories is that only some of these were published, many were derived from oral sources!
The brothers enjoyed phenomenal success with this literature. It was published across Germany and in various parts of the world in due course. In doing so, they created archetypal narratives which became the flag bearer for fairy tales and informed others that would come much later also.