|GER 341, 342, 343 Homepage||Oregon State University|
The brothers did not collect the tales from German peasants, but rather from "wealthy, educated bourgeois and aristocratic female friends, who gathered the tales in their behalf. The brothers then reworked and revised the tales to transmit the lessons they deemed important for German parents and their children. In so doing, the brothers shaped the tales so that they defined what they blieved it meant to be German: simple yet clever, modest and industrious. 'Ordnung', 'Fleiss' and 'Sparsamkeit' were all character traits that would lead to a morally strong and healthy 'Bildungsbürgertum.'"
Why did the brothers emphasize certain themes over others? Their biographies seem to suggest "why the tales so clearly championed male domination as well as the heroic role repeatedly designated for the underdog. Influenced by their bourgeois roots and the class prejudices they endured, particuarly while at university, Jacob and Wilhelm shaped the stories to identify with the hard-working 'little folk.' Their background accordingly accounts for the plethora of characters such as millers, tailors, soldiers. . . , all of whom suffer from the ineqalities of a classbased society. Names. . . represent the German 'Jedermann', the 'little guy', who successfully engages in cunning one-upmanship to get the better of his social superiors."
What is the "redemptive lesson inherent in so many of the narratives?" ". . . the trod upon socially inferior outsider gains his rightful place in society, because he is more clever and wiser than monarchs and aristocrats. . . . The primary reward is to become a good, upstanding, contributing member of society. . . . Trials and tribulations befall the Grimms' male protagonists, but it is self-abnegation and self-discipline, traits not widely associated with the aristocracy, that ultimately result in reward. Through self-denial, the fairy tale heroes outwit their betters, thereby gaining self-determination over their own lives. While today such a narrative seems formulaic--indeed most Hollywood film follow this cliche--the Grimms originally established the standard for this preference and made a lasting contribution to how stories continue to be framed in the present day."
"While the general public may continue to view 'timeless' stories such as 'Cinderella,' particularly in its Disney incarnation, as harmless, other groups, including scholars, psychologists and feminists, have dissected the stories to reveal less than flattering interpretations. Critics in recent decades have pointed to the inherent racism and sexism in the tales, while others have implicated them in the rise of fascism."
"While the tales may not be peculiarly German . . . in the Grimms' hands, they have been transformed into a German 'Kulturgut'. . . the diligent, lower-class hero [is]. . . the prototype for the German bourgeois ideal: hardworking, diligent and upwardly mobile, much as the brothers themselves were."
K.M.N. Carpenter's review of:
Jack Zipes. "The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanged Forest to the Modern World." Second Edition. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002.
H-NET BOOK REVIEW. Published by H-German@h-net.msu.edu. Sept. 2004.