Both were born in the city of Hanau (present Hessen) in the bosom of a bourgeois family. They took a year among them, Jacob being the oldest. When they had entered their youth, around the age of 20, they worked in the local library and then professors from the Universities of Kassel, Göttingen and Humboldt. His first publication was “Edda” a Finnish epic of the thirteenth century and then came the poetic texts. It was known that the Brothers Grimm were dedicated to collecting stories in their free time, when they were not in school.
Research shows that the stories that we have all probably read when we were little (such as Snow White, Hansel and Gretel or Cinderella) were compiled and changed by the Brothers Grimm, based on oral accounts from Germany, with sexual content and violence.
The stories they gathered or knew were for adults, testimony to the cruelties suffered by many men and women during the Middle Ages in their country. It is likely that some scenes from these stories have actually occurred. The first book published by them was called “Stories for childhood and home” and had two volumes.
The content was quite crude, so they had to edit them on various occasions to adapt to children, until they became how we know them today.
The spooky tales of the Grimm brothers
Below we will see a short summary of the stories compiled by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Surely many of them you already know or even have loved. With which of them would you stay once you know what the original story is like?
Hansel and Gretel
The stepmother of these children proposes to her husband to kill them, since they did not have money to feed them. This was very common in the Middle Ages, because food was scarce and women ended up killing their children. The food itself is the problem of this story, because when children escape to the forest, they run into the house of a witch, who wants to devour them.
In the story of the Grimm was the stepmother who decides to kill them, but in the original story, was the biological mother.
The real story told that the mother wanted to finish off her daughter, but unlike what happened in Hansel and Gretel it was not because of a lack of food, but because of sexual competition. The Brothers Grimm removed the character of the mother for the stepmother as well, since in the nineteenth century the image of a murderous mother was something that could not be conceived. She had her due and was forced to walk in warm iron shoes and then dance to death.
It is a censored story. The girl’s parents handed her over to a witch in exchange for food and was locked in a tower. A prince, hearing her voice, found her and visited her periodically, going up through her long braid.
The consequence of these meetings was censored since Rapunzel became pregnant with twins.
This classic also has its dark parts. For example, one of her stepsisters cut off a toe so that the little glass slipper that Cinderella had lost in the dance came in when the 12 chimes sounded. A magical bird told the prince that there was blood dripping on the floor for this action. The other stepsister cut his heel, being warned the son of the king by the same bird. The punishment for both was really cruel: the crows tore out their eyes.
Now that we have seen the reality of the most famous stories that have been very present in the childhood of many of us, we will discover some horror stories of the authorship of these two brothers.
- The twelve brothers: the king’s mother, an evil woman who had committed hundreds of cruelties, is condemned by her son to die in a jar of boiling oil while being bitten by poisonous snakes.
- The girl without hands: a miller deals with the devil in order to get out of his poverty, but in exchange he must cut off the hands of his little daughter. The devil threatens to take him to hell if he does not fulfill his promise, so the man ends up mutilating his girl.
- The singing bone: it is one of the most spooky tales. The protagonists are two brothers, who compete to see who kills the boar that is frightening the whole kingdom. The reward for whoever achieves it is to marry the princess. The younger brother is the one who manages to kill the animal, but the older one makes him drunk, kills him and throws him from a bridgeto the river. A shepherd finds a bone of this man and makes a flute. The sound that comes out of the instrument denounces the murder. The King hears this statement and condemns the murderous brother to death, putting him in a bag and burying him alive.
It is true that the Brothers Grimm softened these stories enough, like the modern versions in Disney movies. However, by analyzing each story, we have to reflect on the stepmothers and witches, the parents who change their children for food. They are not at all an activity for children before going to sleep.