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The Brothers Grimm

collectors of fairy tales and compilers of the first German dictionary

The Brothers Grimm

Their Lives

Jakob Ludwig Karl Grimm was born in Hanau, Germany, on January 4, 1785; his brother, Wilhelm Karl Grimm, was also born in Hanau, on February 24, 1786. Their father died in 1796, and in 1798 Jakob and Wilhelm were sent to live with an aunt in Kassel, where they attended secondary school. Both brothers studied law at the University of Marburg, where they came into contact with some of the leading romanticists of the day. They held several positions as librarians and professors in the 1820's and 1830's. In 1840, they became members of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin and received professorships at the University of Berlin. Jakob also served in several diplomatic positions during his life and was a member of the Parliament of Frankfurt in 1848.

Wilhelm Grimm married Henriette Dortchen Wild in 1825. He died in Berlin on December 16, 1859. Jakob Grimm remained a bachelor his entire life. He died in Berlin on September 20, 1863.

Fairy Tales

Jakob and Wilhelm began collecting folktales (Märchen) in 1806. In 1812, they published volume one of Kinder- und Haumsmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), an unpretentious book containing 86 numbered folktales. Volume two, which added 70 stories to the collection, appeared in 1814 (but was pre-dated 1815). The work would eventually go through six additional editions during the brothers' lifetimes. The final version, which is the one now popularly known as Grimm's Fairy Tales, was not published until after the deaths of both brothers. It contains 200 numbered stories, plus 10 "Children's Legends."

In 1816 and 1818, the Grimms published two volumes of Deutsche Sagen, a collection of 585 German legends.

Other Work

The work of the brothers on Deutsches Wörterbuch (German Dictionary) was a pioneer effort that has served as a model for later lexicographers. The brothers worked on it from 1838 until their deaths; it was completed by scholars in the mid-1900's.

Jakob Grimm was a very prolific author in his own right. He studied the historical development of literature, law, and language, and his work is basic to the study of historical linguistics. In his chief work, Deutsche Grammatik (German Grammar, 1819-1837), he compared 15 different German languages and stages of language development. One of the main results was the set of sound correspondences known as Grimm's Law, now considered basic to the later development of comparative linguistics. Jakob Grimm's other important works include: Deutsche Rechtsaltertümer (German Legal Antiquities, 1828); Deutsche Mythologie (German Mythology, 1835); and, Geschichte der deutschen Sprache (History of the German Language, 1848).

Although not nearly as prolific as his brother, Wilhelm Grimm also authored some important works on German languages and literatures. These include: Altdänische Heldenlieder, Balladen und Märchen (Old Danish Heroic Lays, Ballads, and Folktales, 1811); Über deutsche Runen (On German Runes, 1821); and, Die deutsche Heldensage (The German Heroic Legend, 1829).

Site of Interest

Grimm Brothers' Home Page

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This page was last updated on 12/20/2018.