Sunday, November 24, 2002

A brief introduction to Brothers Grimm

24 Nov 2002 The Brothers Grimm

The young Brothers Grimm were born in a world suppressed by Napoleonic politics. Jacob and Wilhelm were born in the mid 1780's in the small village of Hanau, about a day's journey from Frankfurt. Like other boys, they grew up, collecting the normal things that interest boys: bugs and butterflies. In 1791, the family relocated to Steinau where their father took the position of a district magistrate, living in a house that served as the local courthouse. The town was too small to support a city hall. In 1796, their father suddenly died, leaving their mother alone with six children without a flat, since the quarters they inhabited were attached to the official title. In spite of this terrible calamity, Dorothea was able to procure means for educating her two sons, Jacob and Wilhelm, through the aid of her sister-in-law. They were sent to the Lyzeum in Kassel where they shared the same bed and room during their studies. Letters survive from this period of their lives, reflecting the hardship and poverty the the young men endured. Happily, they received quick recognition and admiration from their professors and colleagues for their intellectual appetite, gaining a friend in Frederich Carl von Savigny, who taught law. He generously opened his heart, home and library to the young men.

The boys, interested in literature, collected German folklore avidly as a means of personal rebellion against the oppressive Napoleonic regime. In 1808, their mother died. Jacob became employed as a librarian under the local French authority. The collecting of German folklore became a distraction from the bitter daily realities of supporting his extended family and despised French domination. His brother, Wilhelm, was frequently ill, but socially active counterbalancing his reclusive nature. The two complemented each other in their abilities. Annotating their stories carefully, they collaborated on a scholarly work that was targeted for a critical literary audience, restless with German nationalism. They published the first collection in 1812 with the intention of presenting the oral tradition of Germany and establishing a national identity for folk literature.

More than 40 contributors are incorporated in what became the Children's and Household Tales in 1812. Dorethea Viehmann, a peasant lady, who sold produce in the Kassel market, supplied the brothers with tales and Marie Hassenpflug was another chief contributor. 35 stories of the original edition originated from "die Viehmnnin" of the total 86 stories compiled. Brother, Ludwig Grimm provided the original illustrations. The annotations and footnotes amassed used more space than the actual stories. This work became popularly known as, Grimm's Fairy Tales, although eventually there were seven different editions—some having variant readings of the same story. And although the intention of the original work was purely scholastic, the public interest forced revision so that eventually, the brothers targeted the children's audience.

The tales invite critical interpretations and have been the subject of study from high school students to Carl Jung. Popular among children and adults, both, they have been manipulated for sickening moralistic fables among Victorian Literature and listed on the "banned books list" by public schools. Allegory, easy to twist for perverse purposes, has also served for Nazi propaganda, yet the stories still survive and are studied in academic settings in university programs. Criticised for violence and deluding youth to bad ends, the stories persist in popularity and can be found in full text German-English versions on the Internet. Compared to the violence that is frequently offered in children's programs and computer games, or heard and read on the evening news, the stories are rather tame, set in a world of imagination.

The 7th Edition appeared in 1857. Two years later, Wilhelm died, closing the development of the collection of German folklore. By this time, their love for exploring their oral heritage had crossed the Channel and influenced great literary minds, including, Lady Wilde, W B Yeats and many others, becoming absorbed into the PreRaphaelite movement and the nationalist Irish awakening.

Guardians of the Fairy Tale:
The Brothers Grimm
By Thomas O’Neill
A storybook collection of Grimms' stories with additional biographical information

19th Century German Stories
Department of Foreign Languages, Virginnia Commonwealth University
direct link to the Grimm Brothers:
Kinder- und Hausmärchen
bi-lingual version English-Deutsch

an academic collection of original Grimms' stories in bi-lingual versions with annotations for the origin of translations and mode of loading the material. Original illustrations are loaded with their editions German texts are taken from the 1857 edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen. English translations are by Margaret Hunt from Grimm's Household Tales (London: G. Bell, 1884)

Jacob (Ludwig Carl) Grimm (1785-1863)
a brief biography of Jacob Grimm with annotations and footnotes.

Trail of Grimm Discoveries
Kevin Pilley follows the Fairy Tale Road
Saturday December 23, 2000
The Guardian,7451,423674,00.html

Histroy of the Grimm Brothers at Fraganard

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Sleeping Beauty: A brief look

3 Nov 2002 Sleeping Beauty: A Brief Look

Controversial in nature, fairytales invite literary criticism and interpretation that vary from one reader to another. Written frequently as allegorical, they invite closer investigation for the different possibilities of interpretation. Although Sleeping Beauty is regarded as a children's story, it offers much to adults. Everyone knows the tale about a king and queen, who said everyday of their lives would but they had a child. The Grimms brothers presented the story in different versions. First it was a crab tht crawled out of the water to prophesy, but later it was the famous frog. Frogs are generally perceived as harbingers of good in stories, wheras toads, are products of evil as evidenced in the story about the wicked stepsister whose mouth produced toads and other slimy creatures.

Already the story is strewn with symbols as we enter the magical world of the fairytale that can be interpreted many different ways. The King represents the ultimate authority over life and death in this world, having the control over social and political life. Often nobility had the authority to dispense not only land and social privileges, but also marriages and penalties, including death. However, it is the Queen who yearns for the child, perhaps representing an unspoken desire or goal in life. If the King and Queen are combined to be a single person, then the King might be the conscious, and the Queen; the subconscious. The frog, then, is only the projection of this longing. Where does he meet her? In the family water closet? Although memorized from childhood, the setting begs question. The Queen is bathing in the woods and along comes a talking frog. Robert Graves would happily comment that the Queen is the White Goddess or a version of Artemis, the barren goddess of the hunt. In an early English translation, the frog speaks using "thee" and "thy" which is meticulously translated. What's the difference between you and thee?

That of "Sie" und "Du". "Du" breaking through the rigid rules of class formality and etiquette to address the Queen on an intimate level of personal friendship. Strange, is it not? But the frog does not come out of a lake, but a well: symbolizing deep longing toward a goal or an ideal that can not be easily quenched. Water is universally the symbol of the subconscious thought, dreams and goals. The goal is a baby.

But a baby, itself is symbolic: Athena was begotten from Zeus head. Any product of thought, any project undertaken is quite frequently referred to as somebody's baby. The story sketches itself nicely into allegory. Variables can be put into the different symbols to discover different meanings. A business application might be derived from it.

Having lived his life in unchallenged authority, the King is none too bright, assuming that he has authority over life and death. He has 12 gold plates and enough money to cast the 13th, but refuses because he's cheap. He doesn't want to invite the thirteenth guest. the reason is easily guessed as thirteen in the Tarot is represented by Death, and supertitious people view it as bad luck. He erroneously thinks that he can avoid death by not inviting it, because he is deluded regarding own authority. In reality, he does not have ultimate power over life and death, but rather a power higher than him has control over destiny. In his turn, he will die also. Glibly taken, a simple warning is issued, that death is inevitable: it is better to confront and accept it, than to ignore it. However, he refuses to invite the thirteenth wise woman to the christening.

Why does he have the big party and whom does he invite? He invites his family, friends and acquaintances in that order. He is a politician. Although he really despises his cousin the Duke of Saxony, he knows that he cannot afford a political quarrel. Not only that, but it is a girl. What do you do with girl babies? Ask the Hapsburgs how they consolidated an Empire. Girl babies are great for politics, making alliances even between enemies, marrying a marie Antoinette off to the threatening French. There are ulterior motives hidden within the simple lines. His self-interest dominates and imperils the life of the new-born child. It's an easy form of corporate abuse. The project becomes the tool by which the company or manager accrues more power, and the project itself is only a vehicle whereby to gain it.

In neglecting the thirteenth and considering himself the ultimate authority in the situation, the King makes a fatal blunder that destroys his scheming. The thirteenth arrives in an undue time and takes revenge. Had he invited her and placated her with goblets of wine, he would have had a familiar drunken companion instead of an enemy; but instead he deliberately snubbed her. Death is bestowed on the sleeping child, only deferred by the eleventh as a hundred years sleep, incurred on her fifteenth year upon pricking a spindle.

Why the fifteenth year? Fifteen is the age of maturity. Consider what calamity would happen if a project was struck with sudden death just as it was coming of age? Consider, Enron or Arthur Anderson, all ripe for the picking. The allegory fits the hidden motives and greed of the corporate leaders well. But a spindle? Instead of spindle, use paperclip. Is it possible to ban all the paperclips in the world? Espcially when Microsoft implants ones on your sceen every time you write a letter? Yet, the rash King is so deluded in his thinking, that he assumes that he can even thwart destiny by his own decree. Is it possible to impose a complete ban of a book-title? How many institutions have tried this? How many polictical essays from Plato's Republic to More's Utopia have discussed this? Were the Communists successful? The rabid self-appointed guardians of literature? True D.H. Lawrence died of tuberculosis, but in spite of postal restrictions, book burnings and official censorship, today he is taught in universities across the world.

Lacking the ability to see his own limitations, the King, created a destructive situation. Wise leadership evaluates the risks of a project, but confronts them rather than blindly ignores them, acknowledging limitations and authority or powers beyond its control. Consider again the recent demise of Enron with the vaunted egos involved that simply refused to acknowledge personal greed or legal limitations.

Sleeping Beauty isn't just a nice sleepy-time fairytale to put the squalling childie into bed, but a reflection of society. The interpretation is open according to the variables that are employed and the interpretations are as numerous as the readers.

Sur la Lune
by Heidi Anne Heiner

a well-developed collection of illustrated children's classics concentrating chiefly on European fairytales, but has links to related sites. Author, translator, illustrator are noted and author/illustrator can be retrieved by themselves as representing a corpus of work.

Marvellously well-organized and beautiful, containing interpretations, historical summaries and bibliographies.

Sleeping Beauty Page, Georgetown University
an academic collection of students' papers on he interpretation of Sleeping Beauty with external links

The Sleeping Beauty and other Fairy Tales
from the Old French by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
the Quiller-Couch edition,
New York, George H. Doran, 1910, with its illustrations
© 2000 Copyright, Inc.

Sleeping Beauty, tales of Aarne-Thompson type 410
Dr. Ashlimann's Collection, University of Pittsburgh

Although the fulltext versions of Sleeping Beauty from 1812 Grimms Edition is loaded, the site is not updated.