The Fairy-Tale Road Feature
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The Brothers Grimm
The Grimm fairy tales originated in the southern part of the Märchenstrasse. This area, mainly in the state of Hesse, was the home region of the brothers Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm. They didn't conceive the stories for which they are famous. Their feat was to mine the great folklore tradition that was already deeply ingrained in local culture.
For generations, eager children had been gathering at dusk around the village storyteller to hear wondrous tales of fairies, witches, and gnomes, tales passed down from storytellers who had gone before. The Grimms sought out these storytellers and recorded their tales.
The result was the two volumes of their work Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), published in 1812 and 1814 and revised and expanded six times during their lifetimes. The last edition, published in 1857, is the basis for the stories we know today. Earlier versions contained more violence and cruelty than was deemed suitable for children.
That is how the world got the stories of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Rumpelstiltskin, Puss-in-Boots, Mother Holle, Rapunzel, and some 200 others, most of which remain unfamiliar.
Both Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm had distinguished careers as librarians and scholars, and probably would be unhappy to know that they are best remembered for the fairy tales. Among other things, they began what would become the most comprehensive dictionary of the German language and produced an analysis of German grammar.
The brothers were born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, which has a statue memorializing them and a Grimm exhibit at Schloss Phillipsruhe. They spent their childhood in Steinau, 30 km (18 mi) to the north, where their father was magistrate. There are two Grimm museums there, one in their home. On their father's untimely death they moved to their mother's home city of Kassel. It, too, has an important Grimm museum. They attended the university at Marburg from 1802 to 1805, then worked as librarians in Kassel. It was in the Kassel area that they found the best of their stories. They later worked as librarians and professors in the university town of Göttingen, and spent their last years as academics in Berlin.
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