Both were born in the city of Hanau (now Hessen) in a bourgeois family. They had been between them for a year, Jacob being the oldest. When they had entered their youth, around 20 years old, they worked in the local library and later professors at the Universities of Kassel, Göttingen and Humboldt. His first publication was “Edda” a Finnish epic of the thirteenth century and then came the poetic texts. The Brothers Grimm were known to collect stories in their spare time, when they were not in school.
Research shows that the stories we have all probably read when we were little (such as Snow White, Hansel and Gretel or Cinderella) were collected and changed by the Brothers Grimm, based on oral accounts from Germany, with sexual content and violence.
The stories they gathered or knew were for adults, testimony to the cruelties suffered by many men and women during the Middle Ages in their country. Some scenes in these accounts may have actually occurred. The first book published by them was called “Tales for childhood and home” and had two volumes.
The content was quite raw, so they had to edit them on various occasions to suit children, until they became how we know them today.
The creepy tales of the Brothers Grimm
Next we are going to see a small summary of the stories compiled by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Surely many of them you already know or even loved. Which of them would you choose once you know what the original story is like?
Hansel and Gretel
The stepmother of these children proposes to her husband to kill them, since they did not have money to feed them. This was very common in the Middle Ages, because food was scarce and women ended up killing their children. The food itself is the problem in this story, because when the children escape to the forest, they come across a witch’s house, who wants to devour them.
In the Grimm story it was the stepmother who decides to kill them, but in the original story, it was the biological mother.
The true story told that the mother wanted to kill her daughter, but unlike what happened in Hansel and Gretel it was not because of food shortages, but because of sexual competition. The Grimm brothers removed the character of the mother for that of the stepmother as well, since in the 19th century the image of a murderous mother was something that could not be conceived. She got what she deserved and was forced to walk in hot iron shoes and then dance to death.
It is a censored account. The girl’s parents gave her to a witch in exchange for food and she was locked in a tower. A prince, hearing her voice found her and visited her periodically, climbing through her long braid.
The consequence of these encounters was censored as Rapunzel became pregnant with twins.
This classic also has its dark parts. For example, one of her stepsisters cut her toe to get the glass slipper that Cinderella had lost at the ball when the 12 chimes rang out. A magic bird made the prince notice that there was blood dripping on the floor from this action. The other stepsister cut her heel, the king’s son being warned by the same bird. The punishment for both was truly cruel: the crows gouged out their eyes.
More Brothers Grimm Horror Tales
Now that we have seen the reality of the most famous stories that have been very present in the childhood of many of us, we are going to discover some horror stories of the authorship of these two brothers.
- The twelve brothers: the king’s mother, an evil woman who had committed hundreds of cruelties, is sentenced by her son to die in a jar of boiling oil while being bitten by poisonous snakes.
- The girl without hands: a miller deals with the devil in order to get out of his poverty, but in return he must cut off the hands of his little daughter. The devil threatens to take him to hell if he does not fulfill his promise, so the man ends up mutilating his girl.
- The Singing Bone : It is one of the creepiest tales. The protagonists are two brothers, who compete to see who kills the wild boar that is terrorizing the entire kingdom. The reward for the one who succeeds is to marry the princess. The younger brother is the one who manages to kill the animal, but the older brother intoxicates it, kills it and throws it from a bridge into the river. A shepherd finds a bone of this man and makes a flute. The sound that comes out of the instrument denounces the murder. The King hears this statement and condemns the murderous brother to death, putting him in a bag and burying him alive.
It’s true that the Brothers Grimm softened these tales quite a bit, as did the modern versions in Disney movies. However, when we start to analyze each story, we have to reflect on the stepmothers and witches, the parents who trade their children for food. They are not at all an activity for children before going to sleep.