On this day in 1786, Wilhelm Karl Grimm, the younger of the two Brothers Grimm, is born in Hanau, Germany.
As young men, the two brothers assisted friends in compiling an important collection of folk lyrics. One of the authors, impressed by the brothers’ work, suggested they publish some of the oral folktales they’d collected. The collection appeared as Children’s and Household Tales, later known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, in several volumes between 1812 and 1822.
Tales in the Grimm collection include “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Rapunzel,” and “Rumpelstiltskin.” The brothers developed the tales by listening to storytellers and attempting to reproduce their words and techniques as faithfully as possible. Their methods helped establish the scientific approach to the documentation of folklore. The collection became a worldwide classic.
Wilhelm continued his study of German folklore and published a new edition of ancient written tales. In 1829, Jacob and Wilhelm became librarians and professors at the University of Gottingen, and Jacob published another important work, German Mythologies, exploring the beliefs of pre-Christian Germans. In 1840, King Frederick William IV of Prussia invited the brothers to Berlin, where they became members of the Royal Academy of Science. They began work on an enormous dictionary, but Wilhelm died in 1859, before entries for the letter D were completed. Jacob followed four years later, having only gotten as far as F. Subsequent researchers finished the dictionary many years later.