Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm

Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm


Jakob was born on Jan. 4, 1785, in Hanau and died on Sept. 20, 1863, in Berlin. Wilhelm was born on Feb. 24, 1786, in Hanau and died on Dec. 16, 1859, in Berlin. Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm were German philologists.

The sons of a public official, the Grimm brothers studied law at Marburg. They were professors at the University of Göttingen, from which they were dismissed in 1837 for refusing to swear allegiance to the king of Hanover, who had failed to abide by the constitution. In 1841 the Grimm brothers became professors at the University of Berlin and members of the Prussian Academy of Sciences.

Close to the German romantics, they published editions of medieval texts, including On the Old German Meistergesang (1811), The Rose Garden (1836), Poor Heinrich (1815), and Reynard the Fox (1834), as well as the research work German Heroic Sagas (1829). Founders of the so-called mythological school of folklorists, the Grimm brothers based their work on comparative methods (for example, Jakob Grimm’s German Mythology, 1835). They deserve great credit for publishing Children’s and Household Tales (vols. 1–2, 1812–14) and German Legends (vols. 1–2, 1816–18), which enriched the literature of Germany and the world.

The collection of Grimms’ fairy tales has a solid place among the literary works that are read by the peoples of the world, and it has greatly influenced the study of folk stories. The fairy tales are imbued with loving concern for the story as a phenomenon of popular culture. Eager to preserve the originality of folk fantasies and the language of oral narration, the Grimms insisted on precise recording of story texts. In their commentaries on the tales the scholars cited numerous parallels from the folklore of other European peoples. In the spirit of their romantic ideas they sought to explain the similarity of the plots by the existence of a common “protomyth”—by a common legacy from a single forebear. Later refuted, the mythological theory of the Grimms found disciples among Western European scholars (for example, A. Kuhn, W. Schwartz, M. Müller, and A. Pictet) and Russian scholars, including F. I. Buslaev and A. N. Afanas’ev. Of great importance for the study of the history of the German language were Jakob Grimm’s linguistic works A History of the German Language (vols. 1–2, 1848) and German Grammar (vols. 1–4, 1819–37).


Deutsches Wörterbuch, vols. 1–16. [Berlin, 1854–1961.]
Kinder- and Hausmärchen, 2nd ed., vols. 1–4. Berlin, 1957.
In Russian translation:
Skazki[vols. 1–4]. Moscow, 1908–12.
Skazki. Moscow, 1949.
Skazki. Moscow, 1957.


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