Grimm Brothers (1785 – 1863)

Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm was born on January 4th 1785, and his brother Wilhelm Carl Grimm was born on February 24 1786, Hanau, in present-day Germany.

The two brothers grew up in a large family in the countryside in a rather well-to-do family until their father died of pneumonia in 1796. After that the boys were forced to assume adult responsibilities in order to sustain the family. They attended secondary school with the help of their aunt, and graduated at the top of their class. They struggled to pay for University, but were dedicated to their studies, and later took jobs as librarians to aid their family who was suffering greatly from poverty, especially after the death of their mother. The brothers began to collect German folks tales, a scholarship they would later be noted for.

In 1812, they published their first volume of 86 folk tales, Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Nursery and Household Tales, or what is now referred to as Grimm’s Fairy Tales). The initial tales did not have illustrations, and the sex, violence, and footnotes made it clear the stories were not meant for children. Between 1812 and 1864, Kinder- und Hausmärchen was published 17 times, by the 7th edition in 1859 the book included detailed illustrations and 211 stories.

They went on to publish works about Danish and Irish folk tales and Norse mythology, while continuing to edit the German folk tale collection. In 1835, Jacob published the well-regarded German Mythology (Deutsche Mythologie).

For years the brothers taught German studies at the University, until 1837 when they were dismissed due to their participation in a protest. Without income, they began what became a lifelong project: the writing of a definitive dictionary, the first volume of which, Deutsches Wörterbuch, was published in 1854. They continued their work on the German Dictionary for the remainder of their lives, although they only got to the letter F.

Books by Grimm Brothers