A German Fairy Tale

World Book Day is the highlight of the week for many children across the world. The world wide celebration of reading encourages literacy. It will see children dress up as their favourite book characters as well as take part in literature based activities at home and at school.

In Germany Ich schenk dir eine Geschichte is an annual activity for children in the 4th ans 5th grade. Booksellers help children get to know the joy of reading with a free book called ‘Ich schenk dir eine Geschichte’ which translates to ‘I’ll give you a story’. The book is printed for children and given for free on World Book Day. It is for many the very first book that they will own. Over 800,000 children across Germany visit their local book shop to get hold of their copy serving to introduce them not only to books but the magical world of the bookshop.

Two of the most influential sons of Germany in the world of children’s literature are the famous brothers Grimm. At the mere mention of their name iconic images of fairytale princesses and scary wolves are conjured up in your head. The German brothers influence on literature has endured through the years.

The brothers Grimm were Jakob Karl Grimm and his younger brother Wilhelm Karl Grimm.

They were born only a year apart and were wonderfully close as siblings. They spent most of their time together and although they were briefly apart for a time, they spent most of their lives together. Jakob was a keen researcher whereas Wilhelm was the more romantic of the pair loving literature and music. Jakob was the brother responsible for deciphering languages and grammar when working on the origins of many of the fairy-tales they complied.

They attended a school in Kassel,Germany. Today in Kassel the brothers are celebrated in at ‘Grimm World’ which is one of the main stops along the German Fairytale Route – a tourist attraction for book lovers. Grimm World is a purpose built museum where visitors can learn all about the brothers and some of the fairy tales they wrote.

They left Kassel to attend university in Marburg. They took legal studies but whilst there were introduced to Friedrich Von Savigny who became a major influence in their lives. He inspired in them an interest in past cultures and they began the research which would make them famous.

In 1814 Jakob became the librarian in Kassel joining Wilhelm who was already employed there. They both remained at the library where they could take advantage of the wealth of information at their fingertips, until 1830 when together they gained positions at the University of Gottingen.

Jakob worked on the origins of the German language and his work the Deutsche Grammatik (German Grammar) was published in 1819. They were the first to document the relationships between languages and the similarities they wrote about became known as Grimm’s Law. They were influential not only in literature but also in the sphere of linguistics.

They keenly researched medieval texts focusing on folklore. They published Kinder-und Hausmärchen (Tales of Children and the Home), in 1812. These tales were collected by recording stories told by peasants and villagers. They wanted to record stories which were passed down through the generations verbally before, perhaps, they were lost forever. Wilhelm put them into written form and gave them a pleasant, childlike style. This marked the beginning of the Grimm fairy-tales as we know them.

The works they compiled and wrote contain the most memorable tales known to people across the globe. The Frog King, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White are to name but a few. The tales inpart a moral message and in their original forms are quite dark and sometimes a little scary. Many of the tales have been made into movies over the years. It is unlikely that any of these tales will ever be lost thanks to the work of two dedicated brothers from a little town in Germany.

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