• Germany edition
 
German(s) of the Week
'Red Riding Hood and the wolf is an erotic story'
Photo: Die Brüder Grimm, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Nationalgalerie

'Red Riding Hood and the wolf is an erotic story'

Published: 20 Dec 2012 16:56 GMT+01:00
Updated: 20 Dec 2012 16:56 GMT+01:00

On December 20, 1812, the first edition of the Grimm brothers' Children's and Household Tales was published. Since that day, Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel and all the other characters have taken over the world - they were translated into 170 languages, and turned into five treacly Disney cartoons. And that original book, housed in the Brothers Grimm Museum in Kassel, Hesse, was declared a World Heritage document in 2005.

But why are these old folk tales about magic frogs and pumpkin coaches so popular? "Fairytales are the old stories of humanity," said Holger Ehrhardt, a professor who specializes in the Brothers Grimm at Kassel University. "Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm tried to collect everything that relates to the old Germanic culture, and these stories reach back to the beginnings of our time. For example, you can find themes in the Grimm fairytales from old first-century Indian fables."

He added that most of the stories point to a deeper meaning. "People have always told their children stories or myths for pedagogic reasons," said Ehrhardt. "And often they offered adults an explanation for natural phenomena like thunder. Someone must have made that."

The Grimm brothers, born in Hanau, Hesse, began their work in 1806 - though they didn't start by roaming the countryside and eavesdropping on peasants' talk. They simply wrote down the stories told by acquaintances. The first edition contains stories from the Wild and Hassenpflug families, while stories told to them by Dorothea Viehmann, a local tailor's wife, were included in the second edition.

"The Grimms then changed these stories, and that's how the Grimm fairytales came about," said Ehrhardt.

But the original book was not a success. Horrific graphic details, combined with pedantic academic footnotes, did not exactly endear the books to younger readers. While Jacob was more interested in linguistic, political, and religious analysis, Wilhelm then re-worked the tales and gave them their characteristic sentimental style. "That was his most significant contribution," said Bernhard Lauer, director of the Grimm museum.

"Evil mothers became evil step-mothers, naked princes were dressed up in fine clothes, and Rapunzel's pregnancy was kept from both the evil witch and the well-disposed reader," the website dedicated to the "Grimm Year" 2013 points out.

Some, like actor Ilja Richter, think the Grimms took too many of the double meanings out of the original folk tales. "Look at Red Riding Hood and the evil wolf," he said. "That is a very erotic story. Or The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats. That's just all exclusively about sex." Also, Germany's Family Minister Kristina Schröder this week dismissed some of the Grimm stories as "often sexist."

Despite this year's anniversary of the original book, 2013 has been dedicated as the "Grimm Year," partly because it includes the 150th anniversaries of the deaths of Jacob (September 20) and the painter brother Ludwig Emil Grimm (April 4), who illustrated the second edition of the fairytales.

But, as Ehrhardt said, the brothers were also major linguists. "Compared to Goethe and Schiller, the Grimms get little attention," he said, arguing that they initiated the study of Germanic culture, and pointing out that they began a German dictionary - even if they only made it to the word Frucht (fruit).

But they will forever be associated with the timeless tales that bear their name - even if only half of them, incidentally, begin with the phrase "Once upon a time..."

The Local/DPA/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

09:53 December 21, 2012 by Englishted
Would they have thought of themselves as Germans? as the country did not unite until later .

No offence intended in this question so please don't take any ,I think they have made a major contribution to childhood and thank them .
Today's headlines
German Muslims rally against extremism
Muslims pray in Kreuzberg, Berlin, on Friday outside a mosque which was damaged in an arson attack. Photo: DPA

German Muslims rally against extremism

Muslims across Germany held a day of prayers and rallies on Friday to condemn both Islamic extremism and a backlash against their faith that has seen arson attacks on mosques. READ  

German military flight to Iraq starts with a hiccup
The trainers on the air strip in Hohn, Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: Bundeswehr.

German military flight to Iraq starts with a hiccup

Military trainers flew to northern Iraq from Germany on Friday, ahead of a huge delivery of weapons from the German military, but things didn’t initially go as planned. READ  

Munich gets four Euro 2020 matches
Photo: DPA

Munich gets four Euro 2020 matches

UPDATE: Munich will play host to four Euro 2020 games, European football’s governing body Uefa announced in Geneva on Friday, but London was the real winner. READ  

Driver, 18, ploughs into school pupils
The scene by the bus stop outside the school in Diepholz. Photo: DPA

Driver, 18, ploughs into school pupils

An 18-year-old drove into a group of students outside a school in western Germany on Friday morning, injuring several. READ  

View from Germany
'In a globalized world we don't need more loners'
'No' campaign supporters celebrate in Edinburgh after the results were announced. Photo: DPA

'In a globalized world we don't need more loners'

UPDATE: The German government welcomed the result of the Scottish independence referendum on Friday, with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier calling it the "right decision". READ  

Oktoberfest 2014
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's beer
Photo: DPA

Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's beer

The Local's Oktoberfest guide chugs some of the Bavarian tipple fueling this whole shindig. READ  

Berlin squat ripped apart by fire
Kreuzberg's Cuvrybrache. Photo: DPA

Berlin squat ripped apart by fire

UPDATE: One of Berlin’s biggest squats was torn apart by a fire on Thursday night following an argument. READ  

Sterilized woman gets pregnant, sues doctors
Photo: DPA

Sterilized woman gets pregnant, sues doctors

A woman who gave birth after becoming sterilized has tried and failed to sue the hospital which carried out the operation. READ  

Thousands queue for Apple's iPhone 6
Queues outside the Apple Store in Dresden. Photo: DPA

Thousands queue for Apple's iPhone 6

UPDATE: Apple’s new iPhone 6 went on sale on Friday morning, leading to long queues outside stores across Germany. Berlin's Apple Store sold out of the iPhone 6 Plus in an hour. READ  

Blitzmarathon
Pupils catch teacher and mum speeding
A camouflaged speed camera in Schleswig-Holstein on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Pupils catch teacher and mum speeding

UPDATE: A nationwide operation against speeding drivers ended on Friday morning, with police hailing their "Blitzmarathon" as a success. One child in Düsseldorf caught his own mother driving too fast, while another driver hit 238 km/h. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Culture
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest's tents
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
Drunk teachers ruin school trip to Hamburg
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Oktoberfest 2014: The best and worst in dirndl fashion
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten German words you'll never want to hear again
Photo: DPA
Education
German universities tumble in global rankings
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
The three types of firms hiring foreigners
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Frisky couple shock Berlin commuters
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,367
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd