Happy New Year!!
Today, I decided not to focus on a specific story, mostly because I want to show off some photos from the Cathedral of Learning’s German room. We got to see them back on December 21st. The stained glass windows depict various characters from the Grimms’ stories. The stained-glass windows were designed by master stained glass artist Charles Connick, however they were not completed until 1953 by Connick protege Frances Van Arsdale Skinner.
Aren’t they gorgeous? Did you recognize the stories?
A little about Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm:
Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859), were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, lexicographers and authors who together collected and published folklore. They are among the most well-known storytellers of folk tales and I’ve featured many of their stories here. Their first collection of folk tales, Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen), was published in 1812.
Kinder- und Hausmärchen was not an immediate bestseller, but its popularity grew with each edition. The early editions attracted lukewarm critical reviews, generally on the basis that the stories were unappealing to children. The brothers responded with modifications and rewrites in order to increase the book’s market appeal. By the 1870s the tales had increased greatly in popularity, to the point they were added to the teaching curriculum in Prussia. In the 20th century the work has maintained status as second only to the bible as the most popular book in Germany.
The brothers spent their formative years first in the German town of Hanau. Their father’s death in 1796 caused great poverty for the family and affected the brothers for many years. They both attended the University of Marburg and at the same time developed a curiosity for folklore, which grew into a lifelong dedication to collecting German folk tales.
The rise of romanticism in the 19th century revived interest in traditional folk stories and represented a pure form of national literature and culture to the brothers. With the goal of researching a scholarly treatise on folk tales, the brothers established a methodology for collecting and recording folk stories that became the basis for folklore studies. In their research, the brothers made a science of the study of folklore, setting standards for research and analysis of stories and legends that made them pioneers in the field of folklore in the 19th century.
Twentieth century educators debated the value and influence of teaching stories that include brutality and violence, causing some of the more grim details to be sanitized. Some educators believe children should be shielded from cruelty of any form, that stories with a happy ending are fine to teach whereas those that are darker, particularly the legends, might pose more harm. On the other hand some educators and psychologists believe children easily discern the difference between what is a story and what is not and that the tales continue to have value for children. More popular stories such as “Hansel and Gretel” and “Little Red Riding Hood” have become staples of modern childhood presented in coloring books, puppet shows and cartoons. Other stories, however, have been considered too gruesome and have not made a popular transition.
Regardless of the debate, the Grimms’ stories have continued to be resilient and popular around the world. The university library at the Humboldt University of Berlin is housed in the Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Center. Among its collections is a large portion of the Grimm Brothers’ private library.
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.