Grimm Legacies: The Magic Spell of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales

Grimm Legacies: The Magic Spell of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales

by Jack Zipes


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691160580
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/23/2014
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 1,320,933
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Jack Zipes is the translator and editor of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (Princeton), the editor of The Golden Age of Folk and Fairy Tales (Hackett), and the author of Why Fairy Tales Stick, among many other books. He is professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota.

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Grimm Legacies

The Magic Spell of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales

By Jack Zipes


Copyright © 2015 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4008-5258-1


German Popular Stories as revolutionary Book

We have recently been translated into English, that is, part of the children's tales. Everything neatly printed, and it seems to me, very readable (except the selection is not remarkable). Yes, except for the rhymes, more readable and smoother at times than the German text. The succinct, nice English in itself suits the storytelling children's tone much more than the somewhat stiff high German. We had not taken necessary care of the style for reasons that I would now abandon or modify.

— Jacob Grimm, letter to Karl Lachmann, May 12, 1823

With all its faults, Taylor's translation has achieved a sort of classic status of its own. If modern readers were aware that it is a period piece, that would not much matter, but most do not realize how skewed a picture of the Grimms' collection they get through reading Taylor. Not that Taylor attempted to camouflage what he was doing in adapting, combining and expurgating his originals— on the contrary, he signalled his changes very frankly in the notes he appended to the tales. But what he presents is not what a modern reader would be entitled to expect.

David Blamires, "The Early Reception of the Grimms' Kinder-und Hausmärchen in England"

Cruikshank's etchings here have long been recognized as one of his greatest achievements; what is less frequently noticed is the aptness of their setting. The coherence of Taylor's text, the typography, the misenpage all combine with the illustrations to make German Popular Stories one of the most attractive books of its time, and one entirely suited to its humble but revolutionary contents.

— Brian Alderson, "The Spoken and the Read: German Popular Stories and English Popular Diction"

It may seem strange if not startling to refer to Edgar Taylor's (1793–1839) translation of the Grimms' Kinder-und Hausmärchen as a revolutionary book, but his German Popular Stories, including the two volumes of 1823 and 1826 and George Cruikshank's (1792–1878) unusual and delightful illustrations, radically changed the destiny of what we today call the "fairy tales" of the Brothers Grimm. Moreover, Taylor altered the legacy in English-speaking countries by shaping his books so that they would appeal to young readers and their families. And, indeed, they had a great appeal.

Ironically, the reason for the success of German Popular Stories is that Taylor did not translate the tales. Rather, he adapted them, initially with the help of his friend David Jardine in 1823, and later, alone in 1826 and in 1839. He rewrote and reconceived them in such a careful and innovative way that they were transformed into amusing stories that emphasized the importance of freeing the imagination of children while catering at the same time to the puritanical tastes and expectations of young middle-class readers and their families. Not only did Taylor change and sanitize a small amount of tales selected from the second edition of the Grimms' 1819 collection, deleting anything that smacked of obscenity, irreverence, and violence, but he also rearranged the plots, combined stories, and changed the tone of the language, often making the tales illogical and unrecognizable from their original German stories. In short, he appropriated the tales, turning them upside down, and this anglicized transformation laid the basis for a misunderstanding of the German tales in Great Britain and America for the next sixty-odd years or more until Margaret Hunt's more faithful rendition of the stories appeared in 1884. And even later, Taylor's adaptations have continued to be disseminated in the twentieth-first century and mistaken as "genuine" translations of the Grimms' tales. As late as 2012, Puffin published a children's edition titled Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm without any mention of Edgar Taylor, but with Taylor's tales, George Cruikshank's illustrations, and a trivial and misleading introduction by Cornelia Funke, the German popular writer of fantasy books similar to J. R. Rowling's Harry Potter series. After plugging one of her new novels based on the lives of the Brothers Grimm, she exclaims enthusiastically:

For me, Grimms' fairy tales know every secret of the human heart. They know about our fear and greed, but also about true friendship and unquestioning love. They know about the darkness of the world and about its endless treasures. They are whispers from the past, where children could starve in the woods and where forests were dangerous places, but also filled with treasure and magic. Where animals could talk and people shift their shape whenever they wanted because they knew they were part of nature ... something we easily forget these days.

What we really should forget are these insincere trite compliments that have nothing to do with the Grimms' tales. Not only does this Puffin "celebrity" introduction and publication do a disservice to the Grimms' legacy but also to Taylor's mission.

As pioneer— that is, the first English "translator" of the Grimms' tales—Taylor benefited from the numerous illustrations that spruced up his book. Charles Baldwyn, his publisher, recruited George Cruikshank to provide etchings, and Taylor welcomed this decision (figure 2). As a consequence, the tales were enriched by images before the Grimms did anything like this in Germany. Indeed, Baldwyn and Taylor were fortunate to have hired the gifted and well-known caricaturist, for Cruikshank's illustrations were in keeping with Taylor's adaptations, which he depicted with levity and made Taylor's texts appear even more humorous than they actually were. (Cruikshank could not read German and based his illustrations on Taylor's adaptations.) In this regard, the diverse and serious implications of the German texts were discarded in favor of droll satire to foster amusement. The tales were visually homogenized to emphasize quaintness and community. Cruikshank's illustrations provoke laughter, not reflection and moral education, two goals that the Grimms had sought to achieve, something that the sentimental illustrations of their brother Ludwig were to show later in the German editions.

As a consequence of all the changes, German Popular Stories is revolutionary and extraordinary, for the book prompted the Brothers Grimm to revise their publishing strategy and seek a broader readership for their collected stories in Germany. Initially, when they published their first edition in two volumes with scholarly notes in 1812 and 1815, they did not have children in mind as their primary audience. It is also the case with their second edition of 1819, two volumes containing 170 tales (along with a third volume filled with comprehensive notes, published separately in 1822). It is true that, in the second edition, the Grimms modified many of the tales to please potential young readers or auditors and their parents. New tales were added; some that were overly violent were eliminated. However, the Grimms were still more inclined to favor the philological and historical qualities of the tales, and it was this scholarly 1819 edition on which Taylor, along with Jardine, based his so-called translation of 31 tales in 1823, and 24 in 1826.

Thanks to the success of Taylor's work more directed at children in England, the Grimms decided in 1825 to create a smaller edition of fifty tales taken from their large collection of 1819, and they intended this Small Edition to appeal more to family audiences. Referred to as the Kleine Ausgabe, it was issued periodically along with the Large Edition (Grosse Ausgabe) until 1858. So, it was under Taylor's influence that Wilhelm, who was fully in charge of both the small and large editions after 1819, began editing the German tales for the benefit of children, keenly aware that parents of solid bourgeois families might object to scatological topics, irreverent language, and provocative inferences. The Grimms did not believe this kind of editing compromised their goal of recovering "pure" folk tales. Therefore, Wilhelm shaped the tales in all editions according to an idealistic concept of the Protestant ethic and folk poetry. He reinforced what the Grimms considered to be the natural virtues of the stories that were to serve as exemplary lessons without didactic morals. Together, the Brothers, who had already begun to "revolutionize" the study of ancient and medieval literature and to lay the groundwork for the study of folklore in Europe and North America, were stimulated by Taylor to make changes that resulted in the transformation of their collection into one of the great classics of children's literature worldwide.

To understand the revolutionary and extraordinary qualities of Edgar Taylor's German Popular Tales, its broad international and intercultural impact, and the ironies and coincidences of history that contributed to the success of his books as well as the reputation of the Grimms' original collection in German, I want to recount and analyze the Grimms' intentions in collecting and publishing the two volumes of the first edition of their tales in 1812 and 1815 as well as the second edition of 1819. Then I want to review the history of how Taylor came upon their tales in the early 1820s and why he decided to "translate" them into English. Finally, I want to conclude this chapter by discussing how Taylor participated in the romantic antiquarian movement, what we would today call folklore, to recapture neglected relics of the past, and to defend the imagination against rationalism. Taylor belonged to a group of British writers and intellectuals who confronted a general trend among English educators, religious groups, writers, and publishers who questioned whether fairy tales were appropriate literature for children. In some respects, it was through Taylor that the Grimms made the fairy tale more respectable and paved the way for the translation of Hans Christian Andersen's stories and the remarkable rise of experimental literary fairy and folk tales in Victorian England in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The Daring Quest of the Brothers Grimm

Interestingly, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm did not demonstrate a particular interest in folk tales during their youth in the small towns of Hanau and Steinau where they were raised. Both of them were precocious students, and when they were sent to study at the Lyzeum in Kassel after their father had died in 1797, they made every effort to succeed in a classical curriculum at school, to prepare themselves to study law at the University of Marburg, and to find employment as civil servants to help support their family. Folklore was not on their minds. Their father, Philip Wilhelm Grimm, a prominent district magistrate in Steinau, had died suddenly and had left the large family in difficult circumstances. Jacob and Wilhelm had three younger brothers and a sister, and their mother had to depend on financial support from her father and relatives to keep the family together. Socially disadvantaged, the Grimms sought to compensate by achieving recognition in their studies at school and at the university. They wanted to follow diligently in their father's footsteps. However, neither became a lawyer or magistrate.

While studying at the University of Marburg from 1802 to 1806, the Grimms were inspired and mentored by Friedrich Carl von Savigny, a young professor of jurisprudence, who opened their eyes to the historical and philosophical aspects of law as well as literature. It was Savigny's historical approach to jurisprudence, his belief in the organic connection of all cultural creations of the Volk (understood as an entire ethnic group) to the historical development of this Volk, that drew the attention of the Grimms. Furthermore, Savigny stressed that the present could only be fully grasped and appreciated by studying the past. He insisted that the legal system had to be studied through an interdisciplinary method to explore and grasp the mediations between the customs, beliefs, values, and laws of a people. For Savigny— and also for the Grimms— culture was originally the common property of all members of a Volk. The Germanic culture had become divided over the years into different realms such as religion, law, literature, and so on, and its cohesion could be restored only through historical investigation. The Brothers felt that language rather than law was the ultimate bond that united the German people and were thus drawn to the study of old German literature—though they were in agreement with Savigny's methods and desire to create a stronger sense of community among the German people.

The Grimms, who had always been voracious readers and had digested popular courtly romances during their teenage years, turned more and more to a serious study of medieval and ancient literature during their university years. Since literature and philology were not recognized fields at German universities, however, they set their sight on becoming librarians and independent scholars of German literature. They began collecting old books, tracts, calendars, newspapers, and manuscripts; wrote about medieval literature; and even debated with formidable professors and researchers of old Germanic and Nordic texts. They had concluded a pact to remain and work together for the rest of their lives, and together they cultivated a passion for recovering what they called the true essence of the German people. Yet, these were difficult times, and their plans were not easily realized.

By 1805 the entire family had moved to Kassel, and as I mentioned in the introduction, the Brothers were constantly plagued by money problems and concerns about their siblings. Their situation was further aggravated by the rampant Napoleonic Wars. Jacob interrupted his studies to serve the Hessian War Commission in 1806. Meanwhile, Wilhelm passed his law exams, enabling him to become a civil servant and to find work as a librarian in the royal library with a meager salary. In 1807 Jacob lost his position with the War Commission, when the French occupied Kassel, but he was later hired as a librarian for the new King Jérome, Napoleon's brother, who now ruled Westphalia. Amid all the upheavals, their mother died in 1808, and Jacob and Wilhelm became fully responsible for their brothers and sister. None of the brothers attended the university. Ludwig studied painting and received financial assistance from friends of the family. Carl became a bank manager. Ferdinand was unable to hold a job for a long time and caused strife within the family. Lotte took care of the household duties until she married in 1822. Despite the loss of their mother and difficult personal and financial circumstances from 1805 to 1812, the Brothers managed to prove themselves to be innovative scholars in the new field of German philology and literature—and it should be noted that Jacob and Wilhelm were still in their early twenties.

Thanks to Savigny, who remained a good friend and mentor for the rest of their lives, the Grimms made the acquaintance of Clemens Brentano, one of the most gifted if not most eccentric German romantic poets, in 1803, and three years later, Achim von Arnim, one of the foremost German romantic novelists. These encounters had a profound impact on their lives, for Brentano and Arnim had already begun collecting old songs, tales, and manuscripts and shared the Grimms' interest in reviving ancient and medieval German literature. In the fall of 1805 Arnim and Brentano published the first volume of Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy's Wonder Horn), a collection of old German folk songs, and they wanted to continue publishing more songs and folk tales in additional volumes. Since they were aware of the Grimms' remarkable talents as scholars of old German literature, they requested help from them in 1807, and the Brothers made a major contribution to the final two volumes of The Boy's Wonder Horn, published in 1808. At the same time, Brentano enlisted them to collect folk tales, fables, and other stories for a new project. The Grimms responded by gathering tales from old books and recruiting friends and acquaintances in and around Kassel to tell them tales or to gather them from whatever source they might find. In this initial phase, the Grimms were unable to devote all their energies to their research and did not have a clear idea about the significance of collecting folk tales. However, they were totally devoted to uncovering the "natural poetry" (Naturpoesie) of the German people, and all of their research was geared toward exploring the epics, sagas, and tales that contained what they thought were essential truths about the German cultural heritage. Underlying their work was a pronounced "patriotic" urge to excavate and preserve German cultural contributions made by the common people before they became extinct. In this respect their collecting "Germanic" tales was a gesture of protest against French occupation and a gesture of solidarity with those people who wanted to forge a unified German nation. In short, they wanted to contribute to the German cultural memory by excavating neglected works that they thought stemmed from oral traditions.


Excerpted from Grimm Legacies by Jack Zipes. Copyright © 2015 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Table of Contents

List of Figures ix
Preface: Legacies and Cultural Heritage xi
Introduction The Vibrant Body of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales, Which Do Not Belong to the Grimms 1
Chapter One German Popular Stories as Revolutionary Book 33
Chapter Two Hyping the Grimms' Fairy Tales 58
Chapter Three Americanization of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales: Twists and Turns of History 78
Chapter Four Two Hundred Years after Once Upon a Time: The Legacy of the Brothers Grimm and Their Tales in Germany 109
Chapter Five How Superheroes Made Their Way into the World of Fairy Tales: The Appeal of Cooperation and Collective Action from the Greek Myths to the Grimms' Tales and Beyond 131
Chapter Six The Grimmness of Contemporary Fairy Tales: Exploring the Legacy of the Brothers Grimm in the Twenty-First Century 152
Epilogue A Curious Legacy: Ernst Bloch's Enlightened View of the Fairy Tale and Utopian Longing, or Why the Grimms' Tales Will Always Be Relevant 187
Appendix: "About Pincaruolo's Good Feat," by Giovanni Sercambi 197
Notes 205
Bibliography 219
Filmography 247
Index 255

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