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The Grimm Brothers from Germany

Updated on November 4, 2011
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Alicia has been an Author, Columnist, and Reviewer for 8 years. Her success came from perseverance plus organized goal setting.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm    (aka the Brothers Grimm or Grimm Brothers)
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (aka the Brothers Grimm or Grimm Brothers)
1000 Deutsche Mark that has the Grimm brother's likeness, first printed in 1992.
1000 Deutsche Mark that has the Grimm brother's likeness, first printed in 1992.

Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm and Wilhelm Karl Grimm, also known as the Grimm Brothers or Brothers Grimm, were from Hanau (near Frankfurt), Germany. When Jacob was eleven years of age, their father died, forcing them to move into a cramped urban residence. Their mother, as a widow, had to support and care for six children; a very daunting task for women of this period, late 18th to early 19th century. In spite of growing up in a middle class environment, both Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were well educated and studied law at the University of Marburg. It was at this esteemed college that they met Friedrich Carl Von Savigny, a well known jurist, who introduced them and instilled their passion for the past. The Grimm brothers were in their twenties when they began studying linguistics and philological studies which led them into developing what became known as "Grimm's Law" and their collected work of Germanic folk and fairy tales.

The Grimm's brothers collection of tales was a by-product of their Germanic linguistic research. They did not write these folk and fairy tales from scratch, instead jotted them down verbatim from credible sources. Their sources were primarily peasants and villagers, however, some were from the aristocratic sector. Their most famous collection is Grimm's Fairy Tales. Collecting folk and fairy tales developed an interest in folklore and Proto-Indo-European literature. Jacob Grimm wrote four research books about Teutonic Mythology.

In time their interest developed toward older languages in relation to German. Jacob Grimm began specializing in the history and structure of the German language. The relationship between the elder Germanic words and German became known as "Grimm's Law". Wilhelm and Jacob, together, compiled the data for "Grimm's Law". Jacob made certain Wilhelm received credit for assisting. In 1830, Jacob Grimm was given the posts of professor and head librarian at the University of Gottingen. Wilhelm Grimm in 1835 was accepted as a professor at the same university.

While employed by the University of Gottingen, in 1837, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm become politically active. They were members of the Gottingen Seven (those protesting against the altering, then abolishment, of the liberal constitution of the German state Hanover by King Augustus I). All seven of the Gottingen Seven were fired from the University of Gottingen and the brothers Grimm were deported. A year later (1838) the King of Prussia, Frederick William III, allowed them to settle in Berlin.

Their last years were primarily spent in collecting data and compiling a definitive etymological dictionary titled Deutches Worterbuch. The first volume was published in 1854. They managed to finish and publish the volumes comprising A through F. The G through Z volumes were completed and published by 1960 by those who had worked with them followed by future generations of German etymologists.

As residents of Berlin, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm once again took up the political torch by assisting with the organizing of the March Revolution. Frederick William III, King of Prussia, squashed their democratic movement in 1848/1849 which instigated the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in Prussia. The Grimms brothers believed in and were prepared to fight for freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to bear arms, and were against heavy taxation.

Jacob Grimm was a bachelor all of his life, but his brother Wilhelm married Henriette Dorothea Wild, a pharmacist's daughter, in 1825. They had four children, but only three survived. Jacob lived with his brother, wife, and family. Their neighbors described them as "content". Wilhelm died December 1859; Jacob in 1863. Both were buried at St. Matthaus Kirchhof Cemetery in Schoneburg, Berlin. Even today, visitors continue to pay homage to their graves.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were so well known and beloved by the German population that in 1992 their likeness was put on the 1000 Deutsche Mark. They were honored for their compilation of folk and fairy tales, their etymology dictionary, "Grimm's Law", and for their participation in the democratic movement that precipitated the March Revolution. They are regarded as national heroes for Germany.

For information about Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm please visit:

Information about the March Revolution of 1848/1849 see:

More about the Gottingen Seven can be found at:

Books by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm


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    • aliciaharrell profile image

      Alicia Rose Harrell 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Thank you Frederico for your informative comment. I appreciate you taking the time to read my hub; many thanks. :)

    • aliciaharrell profile image

      Alicia Rose Harrell 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Thank you Carolyn for sharing what you know about the Grimm Brothers. I enjoyed your positive feedback, and wonderful to know others are caring the torch for informing others of the importance of the Grimm Brothers' great pioneering works. Glad you enjoyed my hub! :D

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      Carolyn Emerick 4 years ago

      excellent! The Brothers Grimm are underrated, and most Americans don't truly understand exactly how important they and their work actually was! I actually mentioned them in my most recent article, posted only last night, discussing the Germanic goddess Ostara/Eostre. People dismiss Jacob Grimm's assertion that she was a pan-Germanic goddess, largely because they don't "get" that Grimm was not just a teller of fairytales, he was a pioneer in the field of folklore and an educated scholar! And, a librarian at one point :-)

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      frederico333 5 years ago

      very nice...

      sadly the deutschmark and thus these pictures on the bills are gone...

    • aliciaharrell profile image

      Alicia Rose Harrell 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Fabulous! Thank you for sharing this; meant a lot to receive your feedback to my hub. :D

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      Charlotte 6 years ago

      I studied this when I was in 4th grade then simply begged my dad to get me the volumes of the books!