Today is Wilhelm Karl Grimm‘s birthday. He is best known one half of the brother duo that brought the world Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Where would we be without Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel or Rapunzel?
Wilhelm was born on February 24th 1786 and suffered health problems for most of his life. However he was always more affable than his older brother, Jacob. The brothers were interested in folk stories and the oral tradition, and in finding these tales they tried as much as possible to stick closely to the original oral retellings, though they did edit them a little for print. They also edited out a lot of sexual content, like the premarital coupling between Rapunzel and her prince, but the references are still there, as it is in The Frog Prince, who insists on sleeping on the Princesses bed in exchange for returning her golden ball.
The first compilation of their tales had only 10 stories in various German dialects. It appeared in two volumes from 1812 to 1815. By the final version in 1857, the Grimm brothers had compiled 239 stories, though 28 of them had been dropped for the final volume. The stories were mostly told to them by peasants. Wilhelm married one of their main contributors, Dortchen Wild, in 1825.
The Grimms made other contributions as well in the studies of law and ancient religion, and even contributed a German dictionary, but it’s their fairy tales that made them famous, even though the majority of the stories have no magical element or mythical creatures involved. The stories were not even regarded as exclusively children’s stories until a version of them was illustrated. The original title, KINDER- UND HAUSMARCHEN means CHILDREN’S AND HOUSEHOLD TALES.
Wilhelm died on December 16, 1859, leaving a legacy of stories that will last past several lifetimes.