Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm
Born on 04.01.1785 in Hanau
Died on 20.09.1863 in Berlin
Wilhelm Carl Grimm
Born on 24.02.1786 in Hanau
Died on 16.12.1859 in Berlin
The Brothers Grimm are regarded as the founding fathers of German studies and are among the most important intellectual personalities in German and European cultural history. The Kassel hand copies of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “Children’s and House Tales” were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 2005.
They lived and worked together throughout their lives and devoted themselves to their work with enormous zeal. There was never an excuse for them to do nothing, whether it was leaves, scarlet fever, asthma, chest pain, depression or strokes. Nothing could stop them from their work, and the Grimms invested every hard-earned thaler in books.
“Poorness inspires diligence and work, saves from some distraction.”
Jacob Grimm wrote. Walks were overrated for him. He preferred to go for walks in literature.
In 1851 Jacob Grimm wrote in his Akademie-Schrift “Über den Ursprung der Sprache”:
“The power of language forms peoples and holds them together, without such a bond they would be scattered”.
Thus language always had a story for her: it was neither innate nor inspired by God, but the work of man and his thinking.
The Brothers Grimm also achieved world fame with their children’s and house tales, which they wrote in the typical romantic style. These were translated into over 160 languages and cultural dialects and are the most widely read and most widely spread book in German cultural history worldwide. The aim was not only to entertain, but also to preserve old folklore and, above all, to have an educational effect on children and adults by conveying moral values. This is how they called their fairy tale collection an “educational book”. In return, the two strictly religious Calvinists* removed erotic and political allusions and rewrote the fairy tales in such a way that they were decent and their educational goals were preserved.
In the fairy tales, good and evil can be clearly seen right at the beginning and, at the end, after the characters have had to pass numerous tests, the good always wins. Thus there is a balancing justice in the stories.
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm wrote in 1812: “Children’s tales are told so that the first thoughts and powers of the heart may awaken and grow in their pure and mild light; but because everyone can delight in their simple poetry and teach their truth, and because they are to remain at home and die away, they are also called house tales.
One of the most famous fairy tales is “Frau Holle”. Here two sisters are described, one beautiful and industrious and the other ugly and lazy. Both are tested for diligence and purity of heart and at the end of the story the rewards are distributed. The beautiful and hardworking one, who carries out all the work she is given as a matter of course and is always friendly, receives the gold. But her sister, ugly and lazy, is the exact opposite. She wants to give the gold without any service for it. But without diligence no price and so she is poured over with bad luck.
From this story several values and wisdoms can be derived. On the one hand the principle that good is rewarded with good and bad with bad. On the other hand, that there are no shortcuts in life. Or that the way can be the goal.
Telling stories is a tradition as old as man himself and goes beyond cultural circles and national borders. Seriousness is conveyed with ease and humour, so that they can enrich our lives and help us to progress in our development.
Jorge Bucay sums it up in a few words:
“Children are told stories to fall asleep – adults to wake them up.”
*Calvinism is a Christian worldview. The unconditional holiness of God is emphasized and that every human being must act in the sense of a virtuous way of life.