December 2012 | Nate Pedersen

200th Anniversary of Grimm's Fairy Tales

Grimm's_Kinder-_und_Hausmärchen,_Erster_Theil_(1812).cover.jpgToday marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Die Kinder und Hausmärchen, better known to the world as Grimm's Fairy Tales. The original book, whose English title translates to "Children's and Household Tales," was first published by in 1812.  The future bestseller sold poorly at first, with readers confused by the shifting narratives and abundance of violent and sexual content.

The 86 stories in the first edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales included such classics as Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, and Rapunzel.  A second volume of 70 storieswas published two years later in 1814. Both were illustrated by Philipp Grot Johann, one of the premier illustrators in 19th century Germany.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were both librarians at the Ducal Library in Kassell for much of their adult lives.  Fascinated by the folklore and language of their native country, and fueled by a passion to reclaim German heritage in an era when Germany was occupied by the French, the brothers set off into the Black Forest seeking pure German folk tales.  Beginning in 1806, the brothers recorded numerous stories from the rich oral tradition in rural Hassia and Westphalia. By 1812, the Grimm brothers had collected enough tales to create their first publication.

The first edition is only rarely offered at auction.  Sotheby's sold a second issue of the first edition last year, which was the first time the book had come up for auction since 1982.  The fairy tale collection blew through its $20,000 - $30,000 estimate, climbing all the way up to a final hammer price of $206,500.

A celebratory conference kicks off this week in Kassel, where academics from around the world are gathering to discuss the myriad of subjects and themes which intersect in the study of the fairy tales.  The stories have been heralded and maligned throughout the years, especially in Germany where they are sometimes blamed for contributing to the rise of German nationalism.

Be sure to check out the interactive Doodle on Google today, which commemorates the publication anniversary.