This December marks the 200th anniversary of the first edition of fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Nursery and Household Tales). In celebration, we decked out our display area here at Nowra Library with an enchanted forest, Rapunzel’s tower and yes, a real gingerbread house.
The display is getting plenty of attention from our borrowers (particularly children, which is a bit creepy, considering the purpose of the original gingerbread house) and the fairy tale based fiction and non-fiction displayed there has been seeing plenty of borrowing action. It’s no wonder, really. Fairy tales, ever enduring, have nonetheless been enjoying a resurgence in popular culture of late, as the 2011 Red Riding Hood film, soon to be released Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and the two Snow White films released this year demonstrate. Just last month Philip Pullman’s re-telling of Grimm’s fairy tales hit the shelves, and you only have to browse the catalogue here at the library to see the range of fairy tale based books we keep in our children’s, young adult and adult collections. 200 years later, the Brothers Grimm live on…happily ever after, you could say.
Meet the Brothers Grimm…
Jakob (Ludwig Karl) (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1786–1859) were born in Hanau, Germany. They studied law at the University of Marburg and it was there that their interest in folk tales first began. They collected folk tales from storytellers and print sources in the years following university and in 1812 they published Kinder- und Hausmärchen, now more often known as Grimms’ Fairy Tales. The second edition of the tales was published in 1816. The collection includes tales such as ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Rapunzel’, ‘Snow White,’ ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ and ‘Hansel & Gretel’, among many other classic fairy stories. Up until 1857 the brothers continued to polish and refine the collection, ultimately releasing seven editions in all. The brothers also co-wrote a German dictionary, and Jacob, who was a professor of philology, wrote Deutsche Grammatick (German Grammar) in 1819. It was the first historical study of German languages.
… and Mrs Grimm
In 1825 Wilhelm married Dortchen Wild, a family friend. Dortchen (along with other female friends and acquaintances) was responsible for introducing the brothers to such tales as ‘Rumpelstiltskin’, ‘Hansel & Gretel’ and ‘The Singing Bone’. In her book, Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales, Valerie Paradiz explores the role upper class German women had in helping the brothers compile their fairy tale collection. According to Paradiz, more than half of the fairy tales were contributed by women such as writer Bettina von Arnim, Dorothea Viehmann, Annette von Droste- Hulshoff and, of course, Dortchen Wild.
Dortchen is the focus of Australian fantasy author Kate Forsyth’s next novel, The Wild Girl. History and fairy tale merged beautifully in Forsyth’s 2012 novel Bitter Greens, a luminous re-telling of ‘Rapunzel’, and fairy tale devotees will no doubt be looking forward to The Wild Girl’s April 2013 release.
And, while we’re on the subject…
Kate Forsyth will be speaking about her take on fairy tales at the Fairy Tales Re-Imagined: Enchantment, Beastly Tales and Dark Mothers symposium at the University of Technology in Sydney this month.
Forsyth will be joined by fellow Australian writer Margo Lanagan (award winning author of Sea Hearts, a captivating selkie tale, and Tender Morsels, which is based on ‘Snow White, Rose Red’) as well as artists, academics, educators and media arts practitioners to examine the relevance of traditional fairy tales in contemporary culture and the motifs, themes and meanings within them.
The symposium has been initiated by media artist Sarah Gibson. Check out Sarah’s interactive online fairy tale project ‘Re- enchantment’ at www.abc.net.au/re-enchantment
Fairy Tales Re-imagined will be held on Saturday October 13th at UTS.
See you there!