• 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
UK, US spies can access telecom records: report
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

UK, US spies can access telecom records: report

The US National Security Agency and British intelligence services are able to secretly access data from telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom and several other German operators, according to Der Spiegel weekly. READ  

Germany soldiers head to Iraqi Kurdistan
German soldiers on deployment in Afghanistan. Photo: DPA

Germany soldiers head to Iraqi Kurdistan

Berlin is preparing to send around 40 soldiers to northern Iraq to train Kurdish fighters battling against militants from the Islamic State, the German army said on Saturday. READ  

German LGBT activist badly beaten in Belgrade
Gay rights activists in Belgrade in 2013. Photo: DPA

German LGBT activist badly beaten in Belgrade

A German man who participated at a conference on LGBT rights was in intensive care Saturday after he was severely beaten by unknown attackers in Belgrade, a doctor said. READ  

Pharma giant Bayer in contempt: US
Photo: DPA

Pharma giant Bayer in contempt: US

The United States government accused German pharmaceutical giant Bayer of making scientifically unproven statements about the health benefits of a popular probiotic on Friday. READ  

German newspaper targeted by neo-Nazis
Photo: DPA

German newspaper targeted by neo-Nazis

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on Friday that neo-Nazi vandalism and threats against a local newspaper in eastern Germany were "unacceptable and must be stopped". READ  

Fake police steal from Berlin tourists
Photo: DPA

Fake police steal from Berlin tourists

Police arrested three men on Thursday evening for stealing from unsuspecting tourists in Berlin by pretending to be police officers conducting a search. READ  

'Shariah Police' ditch vests and change name
German Salafist convert and preacher Sven Lau. Photo: DPA

'Shariah Police' ditch vests and change name

Salafists who caused outrage by mounting patrols in western Germany as "Shariah Police" have ditched their vests and changed their name, but pledged to continue to take action. It comes as political leaders were accused of creating a "safe zone" for Islamists. READ  

Berlin spy station sees tourism boom
On top of Teufelsberg. Photo: DPA

Berlin spy station sees tourism boom

A former US listening station in Berlin is experiencing a boom in visitor numbers since the NSA spying scandal hit the headlines. The Local takes a tour of the abandoned Teufelsberg, guided by one of its former spies. READ  

Germany officially bans terror group Isis
Isis fighters (l) and Thomas de Mazière (r) Photo: DPA/EPA/ALBARAKA NEWS/HANDOUT BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE

Germany officially bans terror group Isis

UPDATE: Germany on Friday officially banned Islamic terror group Isis from any activities in the country, warning that the jihadists, who have captured swathes of Iraq and Syria, also posed a threat to Europe. READ  

Politician compares education reform to 9/11
North Rhine-Westphalia politician Angela Freimuth made the comments while wearing an USA flag scarf. Photo: DPA

Politician compares education reform to 9/11

Politicians in a German state parliament reacted furiously on Thursday when one of their members compared new university regulations to 9/11 on the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA/ESA
Tech
VIDEO: How one German astronaut sees Earth
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Frisky couple shock Berlin commuters
Photo: DPA
Society
Meet Germany's jihadists: Young, male, losers
Photo: DPA
Politics
Are Germans right to want cooler relations with USA?
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
Photo: Bayernpartei/DPA
Politics
Why some Bavarians want a Scottish 'Yes'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
12 things to do in Berlin for less than a latte
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Should you still use banned Uber?
Photo: Facebook
National
Bavarian waiter breaks beer-carrying record
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Photos: Bomb forces 14,000 from homes
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten German place names that make us giggle
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

3,285
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd