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The Brothers Grimm

By kitten18 May 11, 2010 4502 Words
By definition from dictionaries, a fairytale is a story about fairies, told to amuse children. However, only few are actually tales about fairies. Even though all the stories have a happy ending, behind their lines we often find ideas of murder, cannibalism, mutilation, infanticide, and incest. The Grimm Brothers were collectors of folk tales and fairy tales. Apart from collecting and editing fairy tales, they wrote many articles, reviews and chapters and published numerous editions and translations. In our presentation, we will talk a bit of their history and motivation, and talk about the meaning of the stories and analysis of ones speech. Jacob Grimm was born on January 4th, 1785, and Wilhelm Grimm was born on February 24th, 1786. Both were born in Hanau, in Germany. There were 9 children in the family, but only six of them have survived infancy. The 3 have died before their father, who passed away in 1796, at the age of 44. Jacob and Wilhelm were the oldest surviving children of the six. Wilhelm liked to talk longs walks by himself through the meadows, where he’d give himself up to quiet thoughts. Later in life, he continued to enjoy his long and lonely walks, where nature affected the calm of his soul. To these moments he ascribed a feeling of great happiness and also some of his best and most unexpected ideas. The brothers first attended school in Kassel, Germany, and then they began legal studies at the University of Marburg. Jacob was the healthier of the two, and he had more taste for research work, like collecting from peasants and villagers. It was he who worked out most of their theories of language and grammar. Wilhelm was physically weaker because of a long and severe illness that has affected him as he grew up. However he was a somewhat warmer person and more interested in music and literature. He was responsible for the pleasant style of their collection of fairy tales. Jacob was more energetic and comprehensive than his brother, while Wilhelm liked music and was a gifted storyteller; Jacob was a scientist and Wilhelm a poet. Between fairy tales and society there exists a complex relationship, the nature of which is understood in radically different ways from one discipline to another and from one investigator to the next. Furthermore, the apparent relationship of fairy tales to society shifts according to whether one regards the fairy tale as a record and reflection of society, as a normative influence on its reader or listener, or as a combination of both. Within the context of fairy tales as social records, the existence of specific themes informs us that a given society recognized and addressed these topics, but not how a particular individual regarded them. Too many layers interpose themselves between the tale and us in its oral phase to allow us to infer reliably past individual or group attitudes toward these themes, though it is certainly possible to draw some rough conclusions. The Brother fought for acceptance of plain colloquial speech among some of their colleagues, even though the rise of the Romantic movement worked in their favour, a plight so similar to that of Johann Gottfried von Herder, theologian, philosopher, literary critic, and a poet, in his own right, who taught the Brothers to judge each work of folk literature on the basis of its own unique cultural merits before comparing it with others on a worldwide scale, that was not only their discovery of Nordic folk poetry and their belief in its healing power for the life of the nation but also their simultaneous quest for international folklore that lay beyond the sphere of their patriotic interests. Sharing a deep faith in the unity of mankind and an unfailing optimism in a possible resurrection of the naïve and wholesome spirit of the past, they expressed a belief in the peaceful coexistence of all men on earth. The Brothers believed that native folklore reflected the soul of the nation, that it was ancient in nature, and that its origins lay deeply embedded in the epic tradition. Naturpoesie (nature or folk poetry) told a story in a pure and simple way. It never set out to preach, or to impress the listener. Its simple style demanded fewer words than modern poetry and writing, yet it was incomparably rich in its vigorous expression. Wilhelm compared the old barbs to God-like creatures who had been capable of producing children by the mere power of thought or just by “looking at each other intensively”, whereas he compared the modern poets to clumsy amateurs who needed the whole works: embraces, ornate decorations, rational constructions, and stylistic adornments, without coming close to the old poets in terms of quality and effect. Naturpoesie was always created “from the core” of human experience, thus conveying a feeling of unity and truth. In this act of creation lay its very secret and strength. In the old days, the barbs had composed their tales intuitively by “reliving” their innermost perception of truth. Sometimes they had changed the traditional wording yet never the core of the tale itself. The intensity and inner unity of the epic songs and tales were so strong that they had never failed the listeners. As Wilhelm saw it, Naturpoesie derived its powerful vision and “eternal quality” from its quest for truth. In that sense, it was not a mere form of entertainment but a significant expression of the humanity of man. Wilhelm likened Naturpoesie’s quest for truth to the powerful current of a mighty river. In comparison, modern poems and fantasies were nothing but meandering books or shallow streams. Wilhelm Grimm perceived the greatest quality of Naturpoesie in its childlike innocence and simplicity, its naiveté. It was wiser than a man who had spent a lifetime studying the rules of composition, he wrote, even though it looked so humble and unassuming. Its wisdom really was that of a pastor’s small child speaking from the quiet faith of a pure heart. How much more convincing and touching was such a child’s talk than the learned speech of a clever theologian giving a pompous sermon during Sunday’s mass! Childlike naiveté and wisdom made Naturpoesie credible, as it touched upon an eternal truth. Wilhelm said that folktales should be read with the mind of an innocent child, not with the mind of a superstitious or prejudiced adult. Still, both he and his brother ascribed an even stronger reflection of these virtues to epic poetry and myths from which folktales supposedly had been derived. Folktales were like drew drops or diamonds sparkling in the grass, Wilhelm wrote, splinters of larger “jewels,” the myths and epics that had been forgotten with the past. As such, they were innocent reminders of another age in which mythical images had still occupied the minds and hearts of the simple folk. As reflections of an older, purer age, they deserved to be gathered like the last sheaves of wheat that had been left in the field long after the harvest. Genuine folktales reflected the truth as simply as an innocent child, one might confuse it with the lesson of moralistic or artificially constructed tales meant to enlighten or to entertain the audience. The idea that an education was needed to comprehend the naïve mind that was unconscious of itself is an intriguing one, for it is commonly believed that simple things can easily be grasped by a simple mind. Mythical and epic origins determined not only the deeper meaning of folktales but also the nature and dimensions of their characters, according to the Brothers Grimm. Folktale characters appeared in many forms, some human, some superhuman, some in the shape of birds, fish, animals, plants, trees, or even stars and stones. Creatures of land, sea, air, and the very firmament above were animated and alive, spoke with a human voice, and had a human soul. They laughed, wept, and took an active part in human thoughts and endeavours, assumed various human shapes, and ultimately returned to their original forms. A clear line of division between the animate and inanimate world did not exist among the folktale characters of long ago, for in one way or another they all shared in God’s creation. Many folktale characters themselves embodied the mythical powers of good and evil. Whereas in myths and epics there had been gods and goddesses, in folktales often these were in human shapes while the magic power of the gods was transferred to heroes or to magic objects. In that sense, magic objects in folktales were mythical too, for they aided the hero in his struggle or protected him in times of danger. Wizards, witches, magic potions, and magic spells all had their mythical counterparts in various cultures, and so did the very power capable of transformation used to perform great feats or to escape a foe. In his discussions of folktale heroes, Wilhelm Grimm drew upon many comparisons with heroes of German and Germanic myths and epics, especially while identifying forced of good and evil. In facing the human struggle against the forces of evil, he said, folktale heroes everywhere affirmed a folk belief in the universal need for justice. Naïve folktale characters became “beautiful” only when they mastered their fate without suffering damage in the purity of their souls. To qualify it was not sufficient if a character suffered abuse and ridicule or had to sleep in the ashes. Prerequisites were an inner radiance, a kind and joyous disposition, and a purity of heart. By such prerequisites, Disney’s Cinderella would not fit under this type, as she was too pretty and not radiant enough from within. What she altogether lacked was naiveté. Poverty in folktales, like cruelty and war, brought about suffering, tears, and unhappiness. Such conditions reflected the reality of life, and they belonged to the folktale world as they belonged to life because they always had been an integral part of the true experiences of mankind. Reading about such harsh life conditions would make us more humane, as it would induce us to take part in the life of others who were less fortunate than us. Folktale heroes were mostly simple fellows and young girls of humble origin. They were unspoiled, innocent, and content with the bare necessities for survival. Yet poverty never made them greedy but rather fostered their altruism. They were used to getting along on a crust of bread, asked little or nothing for themselves, and were ready to share what little they had with others. Their ancestry was unknown, they inherited nothing, and they struggled for survival from day to day. Sometimes they were poor young orphans or semi-orphans forced to wander into the wide world to earn their daily bread. Hansel and Gretel were neither bitter nor angry when their parents deserted them in the dark forest, but understood their plight and prayed for God’s help. Reminders of life’s harsh reality were ever-present in folktales, said Wilhelm Grimm. This was so because they represented a truth with which the storytellers themselves had been well familiar. Within the context of human hardship, even the character of the stepmother was realistic too, said Wilhelm Grimm. On and off, one could still hear and read reports in the newspapers about child abuse and child desertion that made one shiver. In such case, it was usually extreme poverty, not an evil nature, that drove some parents to abandon their children –unfortunately even at the present time. In that sense, the stepmother represented some realistic traits derived from adverse conditions of the life of common folk rather than the portrayal of a monster. But folktales also showed the bright side of life in terms of miracles, rich rewards, and happy endings that transformed all sadness into happiness. Hansel and Gretel would return to their father’s house with boxes full of money to last them a lifetime. Such transformations of fate were not merely wishful thinking but rather a reflection of common-folk optimism based on their faith in eternal justice. Regardless of how cruel the human condition might be, they believed that justice would come to set things right. Moreover, a struggle against the harsh reality would set the stage for the folktale character’s courageous actions. Thus it was not the background of action but rather a needed challenge that brought out the best in the protagonists. It gave rise to hope, strength, and determination but especially to the power of love, which was capable of overcoming all powers of evil. The folktale’s portrayal of such a successful struggle showed, said Wilhelm, that the storytellers had a deep faith in the resourcefulness, wit, and ingenuity of the common folk. Would some traditional folktale characters frighten children listening to the tales? Wilhelm did not think so. He emphasized that the reflection of adverse conditions of life would lead children to a strong feeling of empathy for those who were lonely, frightened, and abused and thus would humanize children in the best sense of the world. Such an effect could also be expected from listening to folktales involving evil stepmothers. Wilhelm’s views on reality undoubtedly reflected the Romantic vision of the child. With his own kindness he projected nothing but kindness into others, always believing that good would prevail. It is important to realize his own innocent and naïve perspective on the world that was far removed from the perspective of gore and evil of which some critics are still accusing him in our time. His detached mythical view of the subject seemed to tame the dark and threatening forces in folktales, for he considered them merely an antithesis to the powers of love, goodness, empathy, and justice. Who but Wilhelm Grimm would have thought that the characters of a dragon or an evil stepmother were needed to arouse the listener’s love and empathy for the suppressed? In this context, the unpleasant and potentially fearful aspects of folktale characters were not merely reflections of folk reality; they served to develop the child’s sensitivity and love for others. Children exposed to such harsh characters and events would not at all fell depressed and dejected, he wrote, but liberated and free, for in the folktale hero’s struggle against evil they would rediscover in their own soul a spark of warmth and affection for those who suffered or were lost or abandoned. These were the gentle and liberating forces of folktales that had a positive effect upon the child’s soul. Folktales had a strange yet fascinating way of blending history with the present conditions of simple life, he observed, and, even more so, of transforming the world of reality by the power of the soul. To the child, the folktale world was really a gentle world, he said, for if it seemed that “might was right” and that evil powers gained the upper hand, one should wait for the power of love and magic to take their effect. Folktales also had fail and gentle characters, those who merely smiled and transformed the world. These were the ones who won the greatest battles. The folktales most touching moments were the ones that appealed to the heart. Such was the power of love that it changed the world. In this gentle, humanizing touch lay embedded the true magic of the folktale. Such thoughts, he said, were no idle dreams of an idealist. Feeling were as much a reality as the world outside, and the feelings that a child experienced in listening to a story were a powerful reality indeed. A most humane aspect of the folktale was its power to console. In the folktale world no harsh reality would ever be present without its counterpart: hope, brotherly love, pity, empathy, or simple sharing. When, after a long and lonesome walk through the dark forest, Hansel and Gretel and both sent their prayers to God, all fear was wiped away and the listeners glowed in a feeling of warmth and affection. There was also faith in God, who would help those asking for his support, provided their hearts were innocent and pure. It was this faith that dominated the impression that a child would gain from a folktale, not the image of the harsh and cruel life conditions affecting the common man. As the protagonists struggled toward freedom, their love and resourcefulness would dominate in the end and push back the harsh reality with its powers of evil. In the focus of attention was the struggle itself, led on by hope. In that sense, folktales had much to offer to make the world gentler and more humane. Wilhelm warned readers not to make folktale characters the object of a lesson or a moralistic example. Folktales never preached. Lessons derived from folktales were lessons in poetry, not in morality. The vivid images and symbols of folktale poetry (or poetry in folktales) needs no explanation, as the listening child would instantly recognize in them his own experiences, his compassion for others, or his own true self and his soul. Such a discovery gave the reader a feeling of elation while making him rejoice in his own better self and, above all, in his newly won relationship with others. In reading folktales, he would cast off the bondages of selfishness and falsehood and commit himself to the spirit of light, truth, and freedom. The great appeal that folktales had for children proved that children needed food for the imagination, Jacob wrote. Folktales were so much richer in substance and language than those rationally constructed tales written especially for them. To be honest, hadn’t children long grown weary of barren tales that had nothing to offer to them except, as Jacob put I, “ the thin suds of an empty morality”? By contrast, folktales were endowed with a poetic spirit that provided children with a much more nutritious diet. Jacob implied that the native tradition in every land poured forth a never-ending stream of songs and tales that were sparkling and alive with the old folk imagination.

“Cinderella”:
In addition to offering a plot familiar throughout the world, “Cinderella” exists in numerous easily accessible versions it is a tale thought to have been collected by Wilhelm Grimm. The general outlines of the Grimm version of “Cinderella” belong to central and northern Europe together with the areas it influenced. Consistent with Germanic beliefs in women’s ability to conjure, these tales unite the powers of the godmother and the sufferings of the pariah in the figure of a cinder-girl able to lay spells. Cinderella is an effective conjurer, but as a daughter and sister, she remains conspicuously silent in the face of verbal abuse from her stepsisters and stepmother. When Wilhelm Grimm had edited “Cinderella” for the last Large Edition (1857), the text contained the following number of spontaneous direct statements, questions, or thoughts as defined not only by punctuation marks but also by pronoun use consistent with direct speech: Cinderella: 1; Stepsisters: 5; Stepmother: 7; Father: 3; Prince: 8. The prince, with eight direct statements, dominates the direct speech of this tale, while the stepmother’s seven speeches mark her as a woman to watch out for. The stepsisters appear as relatively undifferentiated; three of their utterances are expressed in common, while each has only a single statement of her own. The editorial reworking of the speech, are most revealing when assessed from the broader perspective of the entire editorial history of this tale, beginning with the first edition in 1812. The incidence of indirect as well as direct speech follows a pattern, not, as has been asserted, a simple pattern of replacing indirect with direct speech. Rather direct speech has tended to be transferred from women to men, and from good to bad girls and women. A closer inspection shows that Grimm used speech to define character. Thus, the stepmother’s increased frequency of speaking defines her wicked intentions, realized when she heartlessly makes her daughters mutilate their feet to fit them into the tiny royal slipper. Reduction in the number of speeches Cinderella and the stepsisters have at their disposal also contracts their range of expression. This is best seen by listing all instances of their direct speech in the 1812 and the 1857 editions.

Cinderella’s Direct Speech in the First Edition (1812):
“Oh”, she said and sighed, “how can I go, I have no dresses.” “Oh,” she said and sighed, “then I’ll have to pick til midnight and I daren’t shut my eyes, even if they hurt ever so much, if only my mother knew about that.” “Yes,” answered Cinderella: “the bad into the crop the good into the pot.” “Yes,” said Cinderella, “I saw the lights shimmering, that must have been really magnificent.” “I stood up on the dovecote.”

“Yes, -the bad into the crop, the bad into the pot.”
“Oh, my God,” she said, “how can I go in my ugly clothes? Little tree, shiver and shake throw beautiful clothes down for me.” “Little tree, shiver and shake! Take my clothes back for me.” “you probably had lots of fun last night”

“Was it perhaps the one who drove in the magnificent coach with the six black horses?” “I stood in the doorway and saw them drive past.”
“Yes, the bad into the crop the good into the pot.”
“Little tree, shiver and shake, throw beautiful clothes down for me.” -Cinderella explains, conjectures, conjures, questions, assumes, and lies in her fourteen speaking appearances in the 1812 edition.

Cinderella’s Direct Speech in the Last Large Edition (1857): -the 1857 version presents a far different picture. Here Cinderella has nearly lost he filial voice, responding only to her father’s inquiry about what he should bring her from his trip: “ ‘Father, break off for me the first branch which knocks against your hat on your way home’ ”. After this she twice conjures the birds: “You tame pigeons, you turtle doves, and all you birds beneath the sky, come and help me to pick: the good into the pot, the bad into the crop.” -and thrice the tree:

“Shiver and quiver, my little tree, silver and gold throw down over me.” -in depriving Cinderella of her voice, Grimm has further isolated her within the tale, relegating nearly all her talk with people to indirect discourse, but leaving her the unvarying incantations addressed to birds and tree.

The Stepmother’s Direct Speech (1812):
-a very different transformation is made to take place within the stepmother. In the 1812 edition the stepmother is the one who sends Cinderella off into the kitchen, who urges her daughters to maim their feet, and who denies that Cinderella might be the girl the prince seeks: “What’s that disgusting good-for-nothing doing in the parlor…out with her and into the kitchen, if she wants to eat bread, she has to earn it first, she can be our maid.” “Listen,” said the mother secretly, “here’s a knife, and if the slipper is still too tight for you, then cut a piece of your foot off, it’ll hurt a little, but what’s the harm, it’ll soon pass and one of you will become the queen.” But the mother said to the second daughter, “You take the slipper, and if it’s too short for you, cut the end of your toes off.” “No,” said the mother, “there’s only an ugly scullery maid left, she’s sitting downstairs among the ashes, the slipper can’t possibly fit her.”

The Stepmother’s Direct Speech (1857):
- in the 1857 version, malevolence concentrates and speech use expands in the stepmother as the time frame within which she speaks contracts and she fills this time by plaguing her beautiful but hapless stepdaughter. “You go, Cinderella!” said she; “covered in dust and dirt as you are, and would go to the festivities? You have no clothes and shoes, and yet would dance!” “I have emptied a dish of lentils into the ashes for you, if you have picked them out again in tow hours, you shall go with us.” “No, Cinderella, you have no clothes and you can not dance; you would only be laughed at.” “If you can pick two dishes of lentils out of the ashes for me in one hour, you shall go with us.” “All of this will not help; you cannot go with us, for you have no clothes and can not dance; we should be ashamed of you!” “Cut a bit off your heel; when you are Queen you will have no more need to go on foot.” -herself the cause of Cinderella’s destitution, the stepmother charges her with an inadequate wardrobe, and when Cinderella satisfies her senseless preconditions of picking up lentils from the ashes, the wicked women still refuses to allow her to go to the dance.

The Father’s Direct Speech (1812):
-the father’s position changes more radically than any other figure’s in “Cinderella,” for in the 1812 version he serves only to open the tale, disappearing without a trace after the first sentence. The majority of the most popular tales share a five-person list of significant characters: good girl, mother, evil figure, father or king, and suitor. Part of Grimm’s editorial concern in bringing the father into higher relief in this tale might have been to align “Cinderella” with this consistent pattern. The father’s genteel ineffectuality links him, in any case, with other father figures in popular tales such as “Hansel and Gretel”, “Snow-White”, “Rapunzel”, and “Little Briar-Rose”.

The Father’s Direct Speech (1857):
-the 1857 version of “Cinderella” opens with a mention of the father, whose relationship with daughter and stepdaughters alike is established when he asks all three (in indirect discourse) what they would like him to bring home from his journey. Although Grimm punctuates much of the girls’ direct speech indirectly, he treats the father’s recurring thoughts as direct speech: The old man thought: “Can it be Cinderella?”

The father thought: “Can it be Cinderella?”
-neutralizing him in words as his inaction has neutralized him in the plot, his spoken words confirm his paternal ignorance of his own daughter, despite previously expressed presentiments: “No,” said the man, “there is still a little stunted kitchen-wench which my late wife left behind her, but she cannot possibly be the bride.” -this statement puts him in complete agreement with his evil wife, the stepmother, who also insists that the remaining girl could not be the one sought by the prince. A general pattern of exculpating men and incriminating women permeates Grimms’ Tales. This pattern is clearly evident in the post-1819 versions of “Hansel and Gretel”, “Snow-White” and “Cinderella”, each of which provides a stepmother who assumes the burden of blame while the father, virtually absent, shoulders no share of the responsibility for his children’s fates.

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