You’ve certainly already heard the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and Thumbling. Many of them have become classical kids movies that charmed different generations and remain present in children’s lives. These stories, among many others, are part of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Since we have already talked about Aesop’s Fables, today we are going to discuss other popular kids stories: the Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
The Grimm’s Fairy Tales are composed of fairy tales, fables and other stories published by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. There are 2 collections: the first, with 86 stories, was published in 1812; the second, with 70 stories, was published in 1814. Both collections had several editions and in each one some stories were added, while others were removed. In addition to these two volumes of short stories, the Brothers Grimm also published a small selection of 50 short kids stories in 1825.
Initially, the Brothers Grimm published the stories with the intention of preserving the oral culture of the popular stories they heard in Germany, the country where they lived. Therefore, many stories weren’t appropriate for kids: there were evil characters, violence and sexual undertones.
But all the stories were part of Germany’s collective imagination of the 19th Century and the oral culture that had survived until then. The stories helped people face challenges and transmitted the wisdom of that culture.
The Brothers Grimm also recorded these stories with the purpose of organizing all the linguistic elements that would ground the philological studies of the German language. To sum it up, they wanted the German traditions, culture and language to be recorded and preserved, since back then the lands that today are part of Germany were constantly threatened by the Napoleonic wars.
The most common tales that contain moral lessons are the Aesop’s Fables. The Grimm’s Fairy Tales don’t present moral lessons as openly, despite having something to teach. However, many adaptations of these stories add a moral lesson in order to make the teaching they are transmitting very clear.
As we explained in detail in the article about Greek Fables, we believe that giving a moral lesson to stories limits their teachings and what we can learn from them. After all, a story can yield countless interpretations and each person can see and absorb different wisdoms from the same tales.
Jacob and Wilhelm weren’t very concerned with the contents of the stories they were recording, after all, the purpose there was to keep the culture alive. It was common to find scenes of mutilation, mothers as villains, violent vengeances, terrorizing endings and a lot of tragedy.
The problem is that the first edition was published in 1812 as “the Children’s and Household Tales”, and it wasn’t an immediate success – you can imagine why. In the last editions published by the brothers, they adapted and modified the plots in order to make the stories more appropriate for kids.
The Grimm’s Fairy Tales remained part of Germany’s cultural imagery and crossed borders by charming the whole world. Walt Disney’s classic films are adaptations of Grimm’s Fairy Tales; the theaters of many countries welcome plays and musicals based on the brothers’ stories, and many different books adapting or reinterpreting the stories were published.
The fairy tales from today are different from the originals and even from the adapted versions created by the Brothers Grimm themselves. The stories underwent several changes over time in order to fit the historical and cultural context of each period and country.
In spite of that, Jacob and Wilhem managed to accomplish their initial goal: that the German oral tradition continue alive through generations.
Teaching Stories are also ancient tales, just like the ones from the Brothers Grimm. However, while Teaching Stories pass on wisdom from one culture and people, the Grimm’s Fairy Tales aimed to disseminate the social customs and rules. This isn’t the only difference between the Teaching Stories and the Grimm’s Fairy Tales – as they have many.
The main one is the need to adapt. Teaching Stories travel through generations without needing major adaptations, since the wisdom transmitted is connected to the structure of the story. In the Teaching Stories, it’s possible to switch the characters’ genders and change the animals in the stories, for example, without it losing its essence. The Teaching Stories’ adaptation need is in the details, since the transmission of wisdom transcends the characters and narrative details, making them more adequate throughout generations.
The Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales, on the other hand, need more and more adaptations in order to adjust to each generation. The need to adapt is becoming necessary increasingly fast due to the changes in paradigms regarding misogyny, racism, and the search for equality, for example. It’s difficult to find an old tale that doesn’t require any adaptation for today’s kids, but the Grimm’s Fairy Tales are structured in a way that they lose their meaning in the face of too many narrative changes.
Many elements of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales are tied: from the characters and their physical and personality traits to the narrative and its structure. This makes it harder for the main goal of the tales to remain after the necessary tweaks have been made to adjust them to future generations, since the social customs and rules have changed a lot since the publication of these stories.
The Truth and Tales app has Teaching Stories for kids! They’re offered in two formats: interactive stories and audio books. In the interactive stories, kids can listen and read the story at the same time – and even have fun with the interactive aspects and mini games; the audio books, by contrast, allows kids to only listen to the story, which can be used in moments that require more peace and quiet, such as before going to bed or during car trips.
Text: Luisa Scherer
Translation: Mariana Gruber