Grimmsí Fairy Tales illustrated by Arthur Rackham (various editions)
Grimmsí Fairy Tales illustrated
by Arthur Rackham
(various editions)

On December 20, 1812, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published a book called Children's and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen in German) and helped popularize one of the most enduring aspects of Western popular culture – the fairy tale.

Their collection of folktales contains stories that have become so well known that they have taken on lives of their own. The adventures of Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel are so famous that the original research by the Brothers Grimm has been somewhat forgotten.

The Brothers Grimm did not originate the stories. They were scholarly researchers and linguists who selected the stories from various dialects and regions, and then published them as a collection.

The Grimms collected folktales for many years before becoming a publishing phenomenon. That historic first volume of tales contained 86 stories and the second volume, published in 1814, had 70 stories. Many of those tales had been handed down in the oral tradition but some had already been published. Those early volumes pulled no punches. There was often something very nasty in the woods and villains were punished with brutal violence. The toning down process began soon after and continues to the present day with the likes of Disney and the hundreds of children’s book publishers who reprint the stories each year.

Hansel and Gretel illustrated by Kay Nielsen
Hansel and Gretel illustrated by Kay Nielsen

The brothers owe much to the French author Charles Perrault (1628-1703) who helped create fairy tales as a literary narrative with his versions of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Puss in Boots.

The Grimm tales feature almost every important storytelling theme imaginable. Good versus evil, life and death, love and hate, cleverness and stupidity, courage and cowardice, magic and adventure, and golden heroes and flawed heroes. The characters are vivid, which made the stories ideal for illustration and later for cinema.

“They take basic human situations - wife, husband, father, son, king, subject, life, death - and illustrate them with such simplicity and clarity that they can't help resonating throughout the ages,” said English author Philip Pullman in an interview with the BBC.

Notable artists who have illustrated the tales include Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane, Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, Pauline Baynes, Wanda Gag, Mervyn Peake, Maurice Sendak, Adrienne Adams, Mercer Mayer, Gordon Browne, Margot Zemach and Nancy Ekholm Burkert. The 1909 Arthur Rackham first edition is famous in the rare book world.

It was not all witches, frogs and princes for the Grimms. They also devoted years to compiling a vast German dictionary (remember Germany as a nation did not exist until 1871) but both brothers died before its completion. The Deutsches Wörterbuch is significant because it also offered origins for each word. Wilhelm died in 1859 and Jacob in 1863.

 

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A Selection of Grimmsí Fairy Tales

Grimmsí Fairy Tales illustrated by Arthur Rackham
Grimmsí Fairy Tales
Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Published by the Folio Society with text taken from the 1909 edition.
Hansel and Gretel (various editions)
Hansel and Gretel
(various editions)

Illustrated by Kay Nielsen, first published in 1925.
Grimms Fairy Tales illustrated by various artists
Grimms Fairy Tales
Illustrated by various artists

Several leather-bound editions from the Easton Press.
Grimms Fairy Tales
Grimms Fairy Tales
Various

Various leather-bound editions from the Franklin Library.
Grimmsí Fairy Tales and Household Stories
Grimmsí Fairy Tales and Household Stories
Brothers Grimm

Warne editions from the end of the 19th century
Grimmsí Fairy Tales: Twenty Stories
Grimmsí Fairy Tales: Twenty Stories
Brothers Grimm

Published by Viking in 1973 with Arthur Rackhamís illustrations.
Grimmsí Fairy Tales (4 volumes)
Grimmsí Fairy Tales
4 volumes

Published by the Limited Editions Club in 1962.
Three Gay Tales from Grimm
Three Gay Tales from Grimm
Illustrated by Wanda Gag

First printed in 1943.
The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm
The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm
Illustrated by Maurice Sendak

Published in 1973.
Grimmsí Household Tales
Grimmsí Household Tales
Mervyn Peakeís illustations

Published by Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1946.
The Brothers Grimm: Popular Folk Tales
The Brothers Grimm: Popular Folk Tales
Brothers Grimm

Illustrated by Michael Foreman. 31 tales
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Illustrated by Wanda Gag

First published in 1938 and reprinted several times
Grimmsí Fairy Tales / Babar the King by Jean De Brunhoff
Grimmsí Fairy Tales / Babar the King
by Jean De Brunhoff

Dos-a-dos style two books in one. Fairy tales illustrated by Gertrude Elliott Espenscheid.
Grimmís Fairy Tales (Junior Deluxe Edition)
Grimmís Fairy Tales
Junior Deluxe Edition

Published in 1954 and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard.
Grimmsí Fairy Tales
Grimmsí Fairy Tales
Illustrated by Pauline Ellison

With an introduction from Richard Adams.
Fairy Tales from Grimm (various publishers)
Fairy Tales from Grimm
Various Publishers

Editions illustrated by Ethel Betts, who was a student of Howard Pyle
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Illustrations by Nancy Ekholm Burkert

Farrar Straus & Giroux edition from 1972.
Rapunzel
Rapunzel
Illustrated by Paul Zelinsky

Winner of the 1998 Caldecott Medal.
The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

Taschenís 2011 edition featuring many famous illustrators.
Grimm Tales: For Young and Old by Philip Pullman
Grimm Tales: For Young and Old
by Philip Pullman

Published to celebrate the 200th anniversary.
Grimms Fairy Tales
Grimms Fairy Tales
Brothers Grimm

A 2011 edition from Penguin.
The Turnip
The Turnip
Walter de la Mare

Walter de la Mareís retelling of this Grimm tale. Illustrations by Kevin Hawkes.
Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood
Brothers Grimm

A new Harpercollins edition from 2011.
Snow White and the Red Rose
Snow White and the Red Rose
Brothers Grimm

A modern pop-up edition.
Rumpelstiltskin
Rumpelstiltskin
Brothers Grimm

Illustrated by Paul Zelinsky.

Books about the Brothers Grimm

 

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