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Brothers Grimm

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Works and Impact

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm have attained world fame due to their collections of "Children's and Household Tales". However their sphere of activity extended far beyond securing fairytale treasures.

 Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were jurists and librarians, authors and language archaeologists, university teachers, universal scholars – and, when circumstances required, also politicians.
Apart from the philological interest, the systematic exploration of this language history has always also had a political motivation. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm wanted their "German dictionary" to be understood as an expression of a "strengthened love of the fatherland and the unredeemable desire for its solid unification". If you keep in mind that in the lifetime of the Grimms, the area of the former "Holy Roman Empire of German Nations" had disintegrated into innumerable small and mini-states, this desire had revolutionary energy. The particular interests of the ruling princes were opposed by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm with the appearance of linguistics which strives for national unity. Simultaneously, however, their thinking was shaped by a decidedly middle-class liberal attitude, which as a result of the protest of the "Göttingen Seven" against the suspension of the constitution by Ernst August the First of Hannover, which was liberal for its time, turning them into "unfavoured private scholars" for a number of years. Especially impressive is how this attitude reflects on Jacob's participation in the National Assembly in 1848 held in St. Paul's Church in Frankfurt. His proposed amendment to Article 1 of the Fundamental Rights was: "The German people are a free people, and the German lands tolerate no bondage. They free any alien unfreedom which lingers on them."

 

The Major Works
"Über den Altdeutschen Meistergesang" (About Old German Master Singing) (Jacob Grimm, 1811)
This treatise probably set the most important milestone of modern Master Song research. It would remain Jacob Grimm's only extensive literary historic study.
"Altdänische Heldenlieder, Balladen und Märchen" (Old Danish Heroic Tales, Ballads and Fairy Tales) (Wilhelm Grimm, 1811)
A collection of old Danish folk poetry translated by Wilhelm, and which he provided with a passionate advocacy for engagement with the language treasures of the past.
"Hildebrandslied und Wessobrunner Gebet" (Hildebrand Song and Wessobrunn Prayer) (published by Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm, 1812)
The Hildebrand Song and the Wessobrunn Prayer are the oldest preserved poetical texts in the German language; both come from the 9th century. Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm were the first scholarly editors. The actually anonymous text of the heroic song was given its current familiar title by the publisher.
 

"Children's and Household Tales" (collected by the Brothers Grimm, 1812)
The first edition of the "Children's and Household Tales" appeared on Advent 1812. The second volume was issued in 1815, and in 1819 the first volume was greatly revised and re-issued. The commentaries on the fairy tales of both volumes were published in 1822 as a third volume. In 1825, the "small edition" of the Children's and Household Tales was issued. The brothers were able to gain their brother Ludwig Emil as the illustrator for this task. The collection of fairy tales started its triumphal procession around the globe in this form.
 

"German Legends" (collected by the Brothers Grimm, 1816/1818)
Both volumes comprise almost 600 legends from the entire German language area.
 

"German Grammar" (Jacob Grimm, 1819)
The extensive compendium refers to all Germanic languages, their interior interrelationships and their historical development. Two additional volumes appear in 1837.

"About German Runes" (Wilhelm Grimm, 1821)
Wilhelm Grimm refers to all sources available at that time concerning the existence of rune writings by the Saxons and their role in the distribution of the runes.

"German Legal Antiquities" (Jacob Grimm, 1828)
The volume is concerned with mediaeval legal practice, legal opinion and legal symbolism. He had already collected much of the materials recorded here in his Marburg years of study.

"German Heroic Tales" (Wilhelm Grimm, 1829)
Wilhelm Grimm called "German Heroic Tales" his "major accomplishment". The volume not only contains an extensive collection of legends from the 6th to the 16th century, but also informative comments on materials, their history and their artistic treatment.
 

"German Mythology" (Jacob Grimm, 1832)
This work by Jacob Grimm from his Göttingen period was received with much applause and praise. It reconstructs the religious perceptions of the German tribes before Christianization. Volume 2 appeared in 1844, Volume 3 in 1854.

"Reinhart Fuchs" (Jacob Grimm, 1834).
This treatise forms the starting point of the exploration and interpretation of the mediaeval animal epic.
 

"German Dictionary", Volume 1 (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, 1854)
The volume contains a comprehensive preface by Jacob Grimm with important suggestions on lexicography, language history, orthography and language cultivation. The dictionary itself is not a lexicon in the popular sense, but rather an expedition to the roots of linguistic usage, including Latin, Greek, and Indo-Germanic sources. The brothers had estimated the time required for the work to be six to ten years. It was to come otherwise. Before his death in 1859, Wilhelm had just completed the letter "D"; Jacob's final entry was the word "fruit". Only in 1961 was the 33-volume work completed, 123 years after the beginning of research.

 

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