Selected Tales by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

Selected Tales by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm translated by Joyce Crick got 3 stars from me. It’s very simple why: 1 for the horrifying content + 5 for importance and translation, in average is a solid 3. I was amazed to see it described as a “charming book” when it’s anything but charming.

Selected Tales by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

The tales are a mix of religion and superstition that is, at best, creepy, but it can get disturbing pretty soon. There are some brains splattered at some point, to point out a snippet. For example, in a story, God kills a child because he was naughty and his mother is happy with this, of course.
Women are either beautiful or ugly, how smart they are is not seen as important, obviously. Also, they are a lovely prize for a smart, brave, or just cunning man. It’s just the sort of thing mothers were eager to teach their daughters and sons… To top it off, a bit of anti-Semitism gave the stories the much needed “other” to hate. I imagine baby Adolf particularly loved those stories.

I think these stories are a great source for understanding the 19th century, rise of nationalism in Germany, and popular narrative through folklore, but pretty much that’s the only reason I would ever suggest to anyone to read them.

Selected Tales by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 3/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Oxford University Press
Year it was published: 2009 (first published in 1812)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): Fiction – Classic – Folklore
Pages: 344

About the author: Jacob Grimm and his younger brother Wilhelm were German intellectuals born in late 18th century. Jacob authored books including Deutsche Mythologie. Both Jacob and Wilhelm studied law and were very close.
The Grimm Brothers formed a group with five colleagues from the University of Göttingen called The Göttingen Seven to protest against the King of Hanover. All of them were fired by the king.

Joyce Crick was senior lecturer in German at University College London. In 2000 was awarded the Schlegel Tieck Prize for her translation of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams.
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8 thoughts on “Selected Tales by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm”

  • I think I have a collection of their stories on my shelf (in my children’s books), so now I feel the need to go look….

    I’ve read various reasonings on why many children’s stories and fairy tales were so dark and scary in generations past. Even the milder ones I heard as a child wouldn’t be acceptable in this day and age.

    I have to admit your comment about “Baby Adolph” made me laugh.
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    • I agree, even the mild ones are pretty off. I was very bothered by the stupidity of women. If from childhood they are told that they should be pretty and obey to get a husband… it’s not a surprise why women are doubting themselves. Same with anti-semitism, generations after generations were told that Jews were lurking in the bushes to take advantage of them and then Holocaust happened.

  • Ha! I agree with all you say about this collection, but I loved them! There were a few I didn’t enjoy, including the ones with the Jewish characters. But on the whole the gruesomeness and cruelty of them appealed nicely to my love of old horror stories. The one with the beheaded children was fun, as was the story about the cat and the mouse, and I’ve always loved The Tale of the Boy Who Set Out to learn Fear. I did feel rather sorry for poor Sensible Elsie, though… 😉

    • The ones with Jews are very creepy. I read one of them and I remembered a passage from Mein Kampf, but I don’t have the book (it was a library copy) to search for that passage and re-read it.
      I think it’s amazing these were considered appropriate childhood stories and my mother told me a few of them, including Sensible Elsie. 🙂

  • Apparently there are quite a few editions of “Grimms Fairy Tales”, some of which are a bit darker and more adult than others, as they wrote over 200 tales for their collections altogether. I can remember having a copy of one of the books as a child and my memories don’t go much further than the likes of “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” , “Rumpelstiltskin” and “Hansel and Gretel” and I can’t remember any of those being particularly scary! I have to say that this particular cover art isn’t really user friendly either and Wikipedia does state that some of their more adult themed tales can be quite frightening! Sorry you didn’t enjoy this one as much as you had hoped to and I trust that your next selection will be more to your liking. 🙂

    • I believed that they wrote the tales too, but they didn’t. These stories were collected by them, so it’s German folklore. I found it interesting because I looked at it from a historical perspective, as it was such a popular book at that time. For our modern-day values, the stories are pretty awful. Even Hansel and Gretel has its moments, at the end when the old woman burns. 🙂

      • I must admit that I only quickly scanned the article about the Grimm Brothers before I left my previous comment, so now you have me intrigued and I am on a mission to do some proper research! 🙂

        • It’s quite interesting, well worth looking into their project with the tales. This OUP copy starts with details about them and their work, so keep it in mind if you fancy a read.

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