This Day In Literary History
On February 24th, 1786, the legendary German writer and folklorist Wilhelm Grimm was born in Hanau, Germany. As a boy, Wilhelm was strong and healthy, but over the years, he would suffer from an increasingly severe illness that left him weak. He and his older brother Jacob were inseparable.
In 1803, Wilhelm enrolled at the University of Marburg to study law, one year after Jacob began his studies there. Around 1807, Wilhelm and Jacob began collecting folktales.
They were inspired by The Youth's Magic Horn, a multi volume collection of German folk songs and poems edited by Ludwig Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano. The first volume was published in 1805.
The Grimm brothers would invite storytellers to tell their tales, which the Grimms then transcribed and edited, adding their own distinctive touches to the stories.
By 1812, their first collection of folk tales was published as Kinder und Hausmärchen. (Children's and Household Tales) It contained 86 stories.
A second volume, containing 70 tales, was published in 1814. During the Grimm brothers' lifetime, five more editions of their story collections would be released, some containing new stories.
Since then, all 211 stories would be published in one volume as Grimms' Fairy Tales. Some scholars believe that the Grimm brothers, both devout Christians, cut the salacious elements from the stories they collected.
They did not, however, tone down the dark and violent elements of the stories, which led to complaints that the stories were inappropriate for children. Thus, since their initial publication, the Grimms' Fairy Tales have been softened and changed considerably by publishers.
The original, unaltered Grimms' Fairy Tales are still published, and parents who buy the book for their children are quite shocked by the content, as are other readers who remember the softer versions.
Classic tales as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as in all the Grimms' original stories, had different endings, with the villains often tortured horribly and / or put to death.
Little Red Riding Hood (her original name was Little Red-Cap) and her grandmother are saved when a huntsman cuts open the wolf's stomach. He later skins the dead wolf and keeps the skin as a souvenir.
In Cinderella, (Cinderella was her nickname; her real name was Ashputtel) the nasty stepsisters mutilate their feet to try and fit into the glass slipper. Later, they get their eyes pecked out by doves as punishment for their cruelty and vanity.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs originally ends with the Wicked Queen lured to Snow White and Prince Charming's wedding - where she's forced to wear hot iron shoes and dance until she dies.
Despite their dark and sometimes gruesome nature, the Grimms' Fairy Tales remain an all-time classic work of literature, inspiring generations of writers.
Though his older brother remained a lifelong bachelor, Wilhelm Grimm married his girlfriend, Henriette "Dortchen" Wild, in 1825. She bore him four children. Their firstborn son was named after his uncle Jacob.
In addition to the fairy tales he compiled with his brother, Wilhelm published three books under his own name, a collection of Danish folk songs, a study of German runes, and a study of German folk legends.
(The Grimms' Fairy Tales were also criticized as being "not German enough.")
Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm later became professors at the University of Gottingen. They joined five of their colleagues and formed the "Gottingen Seven," an activist group that protested against Ernst August, the King of Hanover, over his abrogation of the constitution. The King fired them all from the university.
Wilhelm Grimm died of an infection in 1859. He was 73 years old.
Quote Of The Day
"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." - Wilhelm Grimm
Today's video features a dramatization of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin, performed by English actor-comedian Rik Mayall. Complete with the story's original ending, this one must be seen to be believed! Enjoy!