Die Märchen

Es war einmal ein … is the opening phrase to a refuge in a land of charms, curses, and spells consistent within cultures where fairy tales perpetually exist.

Die Brüder Grimm

German brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, are notorious for their contribution to the world of fairytales, arguably the two most important contributors to the genre of all time. Jacob Karl was born to the Grimm family on January 4, 1785. Wilhelm Karl was born on February 24, 1786. Both were born in Hanau, Deutschland (“Brothers Grimm Biography”). Through their nationalistic passions, the die Brüder Grimm sought to revive the “spiritual heritage of the past” (David and David 181). With the help of the literature and folklores of earlier German people, the die Brüder Grimm were able to begin their quest to make not only their generation but future generations aware of the national soul that was embedded within the words of the stories they were analyzing. This restoration could not have manifested itself at a better time.

Global Issues

Die Brüder Grimm commenced their research during a time period in German history where the various principalities, who previously had the freedom to enjoy cultural aspects of life, had been overthrown by Napoleon of France. With this removal of German officiants, the new rulers were insistent on subduing any and all culture in the German territories (O’Neill). This idea of the removal and disappearance of early German oral tradition and stories, frightened die Brüder Grimm. At this time, Germany was not unified. Therefore, Jacob and Wilhelm decided they would devote their time and energy to “the restoration of the German literary past” (David and David 181) as a way to bring the country together and share a common cultural identification.

Romanticism

The Romantic Movement mesmerized several renown literary artists, die Brüder Grimm being amongst those individuals. As Romanticists, die Brüder Grimm focused heavily on nature and its influence on the spirit (David and David 182). Living closely with nature, the characteristics of nature inevitably found their way into the storybook pages of die Märchen. The presence of nature in the tales is undeniable. It is branded into the ink on the pages of Kinder-und Hausmärchen (Chavez, Guy, and Lovik 390). Through the incorporation of ancient folklores, die Brüder Grimm attempted to utilize nature and its attributes to promote a feeling of nationalism, almost as if the people reading the story had come from nature itself, and the preservation of nature was not only benefiting entities that grow out of the land, but was saving one’s native culture (David and David 183-184). Forests are employed as the location where “heroes confront their enemies and triumph over fear and injustice” (O’Neill). In Germany, farmers relied on the forest as their way of life. Traditionally, the forest held together the fabric of small, rural German towns (O’Neill). The inclusion of this into die Märchen was a way for die Brüder Grimm to relate to their audience and make the characters appear more down-to-earth, all the while keeping with a Romantic mindset about the importance of nature. The appreciation for ancient German folklores and nature went together perfectly for die Brüder Grimm, as the beauty of both needed preservation and recognition (David and David 182-184).

Aspects of Die Märchen

The tales adapted by die Brüder Grimm embodied many of the same messages. Die Brüder Grimm craved to connect to the audience to their inner childhood and the importance family (David and David 181). However, the depth of their stories did not reside in child tales, but rather the morals and patriotic ideals that made the stories accessible for all ages, not simply children. Capturing a childlike sensation of purity in their works, die Brüder Grimm sought to illustrate family values and help establish morals for children (David and David 180). In observing the way in which humans behave and acknowledging that this behavior is prevalent to all humans, die Brüder Grimm were able to create inspiring tales that fostered certain emotions readers could only hope to feel. Happiness is a feeling that is difficult to understand and even more complex to describe, yet through the sheer genius and ingenuity of die Brüder Grimm, they not only captivated the feeling of happiness but presented it in such a way that the reader starts to feel hopeful that happiness does truly exist, even if in a land far, far away (O’Neill). The flexibility of their tales grab the reader, speaking to him or her personally with every fear, hope, dream, curiosity, and tragedy that could ever be imagined. This unique literary quality is precisely why die Märchen of die Brüder Grimm can weave tales that are timeless. The personal identification with the characters in the tales have a “raw emotional power” (Tatar 58) that can neither be replaced nor forgotten.

Influences on Modern Culture

The significance of die Märchen can be seen around the world. The collection of works by die Brüder Grimm is widely appreciated. There are over 160 different translations (O’Neill). Walt Disney was especially enthralled with these tales. Although, the content had to be revised in order to be less frightening and more child friendly. In 1937, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (Schneewittchen) was released to the public (O’Neill). “Cinderella” (Aschenputtel) (Chavez, Guy, and Lovik 385), “Sleeping Beauty” (Dornröschen), and “Little Red Riding Hood” (Rotkäppchen) are all tales by die Brüder Grimm (O’Neill). These stories have been taken, modified, and expanded to meet the demands of the audience. It is crucial to comprehend the gravity to which these fairy tales have impacted modern culture today. Theme parks, movies, games, television shows, toys, and literature have been generated in response to die Märchen. This never-ending representation of spells and enchantment is the fundamental component that allows these stories to continue to be classics two-hundred years after they were re-evaluated by die Brüder Grimm.

If the stories did not demonstrate the pure skill and talent die Brüder Grimm had, their final tale does. Entitled “The Golden Key,” the short tale details a boy out in “a wintry forest” (O’Neill). The boy discovered a box and beside the box was a key. Die Brüder Grimm accented the boy’s actions of placing the key in the box, turning the key, and lifting the lid of the box. However, that is where the tale ends (O’Neill). Not only does this story encompass the Romantic view of nature and the boy going out into a forest, but that in nature there is imagination and curiosity. The way this final tale is left, open-ended, forces the audience to let their mind wander about the contents in the box. This question leaves the reader intrigued and wanting more, the perfect way to conclude an epic collection of tales that will live on as timeless classics.

                                                           Works Cited

“Brothers Grimm Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. Advameg, Inc., n. d. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. Chavez, Monika, J. Douglas Guy, and Thomas A. Lovik. Vorsprung: A Communicative Introduction to German Language and Culture, Enhanced Second Edition. Boston: Heinle, Cengage Learning, 2012. Print. David, Alfred, and Mary Elizabeth David. “A Literary Approach to the Brothers Grimm.” Journal of the Folklore Institute 1.3 (1964): 180-196. Web. 28 Sept. 2012. O’Neill, Thomas. “Guardians of the Fairy Tale.” National Geographic 196.6 (1999): n. pag. Web. 4 Oct. 2012. Tatar, Maria. “Why Fairy Tales Matter.” Western Folklore 69.1 (2010): 55-64. Web. 3 Oct. 2012.

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