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The first volume of Grimm’s Fairy Tales was not written for children. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected and edited the fairy tales as a way to preserve German culture and heritage in the face of the French takeover of the German state of
The initial collection of 86 stories had a lengthy introduction, many footnotes and no illustrations--not very appealing to children. When critics pointed out that the stories were inappropriate for children, Jacob Grimm said that they were not intended for children “though it fills a need for them.” He believed the book, Children’s and Household Tales edited by him and his brother, was more important as “a source of poetry, mythology, and history.”
Wilhelm Grimm saw the value of making the Fairy Tales more appropriate for children although he opposed cutting out depictions of violence and sexual matters, stating “you can fool yourself into thinking that what can be removed from a book can also be removed from real life.” In 1823, Edward Taylor translated the fairy tales into English and published the book, German Popular Stories, with illustrations by the famous English cartoonist, George Cruikshank. The success of this book encouraged the Grimms to publish a softer, shorter version with illustrations by their younger brother, Ludwig Grimm.
The debate about the child appropriateness of the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales continues to this day. Middle and high school students and adults are invited to Grimm Night at the Wauwatosa Public Library on Monday, October 19, 2009 from 6:30 – 7:15 pm to hear a few of the real Grimm’s Fairy Tales with all their gruesome detail. To register or for more information, please call the Children’s Library: 414-471-8486.