Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Learn More About the World’s Most Famous Children’s Stories

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

What Are 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. 

Moral of the Story

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. 

The Evolution of the Fairy Tales Over Time

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 Today

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 x Grimm’s Fairy Tales

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

The benefits of rhymes when learning to read

Childhood is marked by big discoveries and one of them is learning how to read and write. Through literacy, children start exploring a world that so far has been uncharted territory for them. This process may happen with the support of playful approaches that involve music, poems and rhymes. In order to stimulate literacy, these methods are used by many therapists and educators and have presented positive results to children’s cognitive development and learning

This article published in 2014 by Frontiers in Psychology, a journal that publishes rigorously peer-reviewed articles in the psychological sciences and clinical research fields, claims that rhymes can be effective enablers of vocabulary learning because of the way they support active predictions of the words that follow. 

In two experiments, it was tested whether rhymes, when used to help children anticipate new words, would make such words easier to learn. The children exposed to rhyming words exhibited that they learned more of them in the condition of predictive rhyming compared to children who were not. 

The researchers’ hypothesis is that the development of these new words and their predictability encourage children to be more involved with them. They may not be able to predict the exact name of a new word the first time they are reading a story, but when a new name comes at the end of the verse, children will be more capable of anticipating that something is coming — something which will sound like the ending of the song or story’s previous sentences. This anticipation can encourage attention and therefore stimulate learning. 

:: Read also: Why is reading so important? ::

All in due time and on their terms

The process of learning that involves reading and writing is very subjective and children have their own rhythms on this journey.

We talked to speech therapist Manuella Barcelos, who works at Núcleo Desenvolver at UFSC’s University Hospital since 2010 and works with a multidisciplinary team that cares for children who complain about learning disabilities regarding these processes. 

According to her, literacy, i.e. learning to read and write, involves two brain processes that are well developed by children by the time they begin school. One of them is language — since children bring resources and baggage from home — and the other is visual processing

School makes the connection between these two areas, introducing letters and their whole new universe. When children learn based on this question, it is crucial to think that there is a way to teach which is more adequate for them, which promotes reading and writing in an easier way, and, in this sense, rhymes are great allies

Phonological Awareness when learning to read 

“Phonological awareness happens when children start to manipulate their speech sounds in a conscious manner. They will know speech can be split into small units called words, smaller ones called syllables, and even smaller ones called phonemes. For literacy to happen, it is important that children learn these prerequisite skills and through a phonological method it is possible for them to learn to read and write more easily”, reports the speech therapist. 

Manuella employs rhyming in the learning to read process of the children she works with. “The literacy process involves phonological awareness. Within phonological awareness there is rhyming, one of the first signs of awareness, which is when the child starts to notice the endings of words that have the same tone. In addition to rhymes, there is also alliteration, through which the child notices that the beginning sounds can also be similar, e.g. could and cook,” she reports. 

Rhyming is one of the first signs of phonological awareness and we see this since kindergarten. Its use is very important. I use it in my work, mainly with kids with learning difficulties and disabilities such as dyslexia, spelling, or kids with auditory processing disorder (APD). It is fantastic for the process of learning to read and write. We need to stimulate phonological awareness, but even more important is to do so during preschool, even before children have properly started to learn how to read and write”, she explains. 

Rhymes as a skills development tool

Canadian researcher Ginger Muller, with a master’s degree from the University of British Columbia, developed works for 20 years using rhymes and songs in several early childhood education programs in Vancouver, Canada. 

In her work, she contextualizes specific rhymes inside domains defined by the Initial Development Tool: physical health and wellness, language and cognitive development, communication skills and general knowledge, social competence and emotional maturity. She therefore shows how rhymes can be practiced effectively with kids of different ages and their benefits to these skills

In this article written by the researcher, she shows that children learn well when surrounded by rich environments in terms of language, joy and fun. Ginger presents songs that can help to develop these skills, “centenary children’s rhymes and songs, tested and proved, support children’s general development in terms of meaning and engaging forms,” she writes. 

Using rhymes with kids, in addition to helping them learn to read, also brings them closer to our national culture. There are several rhymes that rely on cultural elements from different regions of the country as well as their folklore. This experience is enriching for children in every sense! 

Editor’s Note: Truth and Tales and rhymes

A very cool tip for kids who are learning to read is Truth and Tales, our original app!

Truth and Tales is an app for kids between the ages of 5 and 11 with interactive stories and audiobooks. All tales are told in rhymes, both in the interactive and in the audio versions. Knowing about its benefits, we made sure to adopt rhyming in every single one of our stories

We periodically conduct tests with children in which the same story is told in 2 versions: one with rhymes and one without rhymes. In addition to the benefits mentioned in this article, in our tests children are more interested in the rhymed version of the stories.

Aside from the rhymes, Truth and Tales also includes optimized fonts for people with dyslexia and a read-along tool which works as a karaoke, in which the words are highlighted as the narrator reads them. That is tremendously helpful when learning to read. Try it with the kids! 

Written by Débora Nazário

Translated by Mariana Gruber