The Brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm [1780s–1860s] were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, lexicographers and authors who together specialized in collecting and publishing folklore during the 19th century.
They were among the best-known storytellers of folk tales, and popularized stories such as “Cinderella”, “The Frog Prince”, “The Goose-Girl”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “Rapunzel”, “Rumpelstiltskin”, “Sleeping Beauty”, and “Snow White”.
They wrote during a rise of romanticism and in response to trends valuing popular culture in the early 19th century. This revived interest in fairy tales, which had declined since their late-17th century peak and the Grimms rode the crest of this revival with their collections.
…picking up bits and pieces of local culture and lore, drawing a turn of phrase from a song or another story and fleshing out characters with features taken from the audience witnessing their performance.
Their collections have become national and international masterpieces, classics retold in cinema, theatre, art and literature the world over.
A few points can be gathered from this brief summary of the work and significance of the Brothers Grimm.
- Folklore, legends and mythical stories have always had a deeper significance than simply being children’s morality tales. Their significance goes deeply into forming a sense of national and personal identity.
- The rise of romanticism and the threat of industrialisation created a flourishing interest in local folk lore which endures until today in some form or other. Where spirituality flourishes so does art, narrative, language, story and myth.
- When told in the vernacular of a region and with the nuances and influences of the customs and culture of a region, local stories can constitute “intellectual resistance” to outside influences.
The enduring popularity of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales indicates there is much untapped potential in the folklore, myths and legends of every region and language and ethnicity if only we had the persistence of the Grimms to catalogue and retell it.