Both brothers were linguists who specialized in historical linguistics, primarily investigating the language of Old High German. The brothers were affected by German Romanticism and its interest in mythology, folklore and dreams.Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm argued that folktales should be collected from oral sources, which aimed at genuine reproduction of the original story. Their method became model for other scholars. However, in practice their tales were modified. In later editions of the fairytales, Wilhelm's editing and literary aspiration were more prominent. He continued to reshape the tales up to the final seventh edition of 1857 - he also removed any hint of sexual activity (especially of incest or pre-marital), such as the premarital couplings of Rapunzel and the prince who climbed into her tower, and toned down the violence a little, such as the fate of the Queen in Snow White. However, the cores of the stories were left untouched.
They lived at Kassel until 1829, when, perhaps motivated political necessity, they moved to the nearby University of Göttingen, where they were given appointments as librarians and professors. During this period in 1835, Jacob Grimm wrote German Mythology, which was widely acclaimed. Jacob Grimm attempted to use peasant poetry, fairy tales, and mythology to reconstruct the pre-Christian religion o[f the Germanic people. The Grimm brothers were dismissed from their positions at Göttingen when Ernest Augustus, duke of Cumberland, became king of Hanover in 1837. Feeling that the constitution of 1833 was too liberal, the new King repealed it and dismissed the Grimms after they (along with five other professors later called the "Göttingen Seven") sent him a note explaining their loyalty to the old constitution. In 1840, after a number of years in exile, they accepted an invitation from the king of Prussia, Frederick William IV, to go to Berlin and became members of the Royal Academy of Sciences. While there they started the German Dictionary, a guide for the user of the written and spoken word as well as a scholarly reference work. Such an ambitious endeavor, the work was never completed during their lifetime. During what later were called the Berlin years, the brothers were very productive, writing many of their influential works.
Lang is best known, however, for his twelve Colored Fairy Books, beginning with The Blue Fairy Book in 1889, most of which were illustrated by H.J. Ford. Lang drew on folktales from a large number of countries (Germany, India, Iceland, Turkey, Greece, France, Denmark, and Russia. Ironically, he did not write the stories in his Coloured Fairy Books series, but rather oversaw the gathering of the work of others, in particular, his wife Leonora Blanche Alleyne Lang, who gathered, translated tales and revised tales from many cultures. It should be noted that he heavily editted the tales to remove what he considered offensive elements for children. The immense popularity of each volume seemed to demand another. And as the books increased, harder-to-locate tales were sought out. Unfortunately he does not give information regarding his sources. Dover Press has kept the twelve Fairy books in print.
In 1900 he went to the United States to edit a revision of The Jewish Encyclopedia. He was later a teacher at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City and editor of the American Hebrew. His major contributions to Jewish history include Jews of Angevin England (1893), An Inquiry into the Sources of the History of the Jews in Spain (1894), and Jewish Contributions to Civilization (1919), an incomplete fragment. His Story of Geographical Discovery (1899) went through a number of editions.
It was Aleksandr Pushkin (1799-1837) who first realized the artistic value of these prose tales - though he knew the tales thoroughly and recorded many of them, he turned to the Arabian Nights, Grimm or Washington Irving for his poetry. But it was Afanas'ev who would created the primary written collection of Russian folklore, and along with it some controversy. Mostly self educated---as a youngster he would sneak into the family library inherited from his grandfather for hours of secret reading. Trained as a lawyer at Moscow University he was removed from a teaching position there in 1848, when he argued with an inspector of the Ministry of Education over a lecture he gave. Finding a archival position in the Ministry of Foriegn Affairs, in 1850, he began to have an interest in Slavic and Russian Mythology and folklore. Between 1855 and 1866, Afanas'ev, who is often referred to as the Russian equivalent of the brothers Grimm, combed the collections of the Russian Geographical Society and the ethnographical work of Vladimir Dahl for 640 folktales, which were published in eight installments between 1855 and 1866. His collection would inspire writers---Tolstoy, Dostoevskiy, and Ostrovskiy; and composers---Stavinsky, Tchaikovsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov. One of the best known illustrators of his tales is Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942).
The controversies were over Afanas'ev's methods of recording, study and classification of popular narratives. He sometimes constructed a single text from several varients, didn't always record sources, and paid scant attention to from whom and from where a story orginated, and had romantic theories of language and lore. But he believed in fidelity to exact words, pronunciations and the manner of speech of individual storytellers. Then too, some of the material he recorded was banned as too bawdy or erotic, or considered inappropriate because it ridiculed the Tsar or the Russian orthodox clergy to be openly published. Nevertheless, the collection is a rich source of stories which has been further explored in translations by Arthur Ransome, James Riordan and others, with The Frog Princess, Marya Moryena, The Swan Geese, The Snow Maiden, The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship and A Feather of Finist the Bright Falcon.
Many of Burton's stories were on sexual themes. Burton was the principal translator of several works which, in order to sidestep obscenity laws, he issued "privately" and, ostensibly, abroad. Among these were : "The Kama Sutra of Vatsayana", 1883 (the classic Hindu sex manual); "The Book of the Thousands Nights and a Night", 1883-1888; "The Perfumed Garden"; "A Manual of Arabian Erotology", 1886: and other works, all of which bore imprints such as : "Printed for the Karma Shastra Society for Private Subscribers Only, Benares." Upon his death, his widow Lady Isabel Burton, destroyed all his remaining private diaries and most of his everyday journals, many private letters and papers, and the notes for a revised edition of "The Perfumed Garden", which he referred to as "The Second Garden."
As Asbjørnsen and Moe traveled from village to village in the 1840s, in every place they stopped they would ask one of the locals to tell a fairy tale, and then the two writers would write down the story. But they encountered a problem: The stories had been told in a local dialect. Should they write it in Danish or in the dialect that it was told? Writing it in a dialect would make it incomprehensible to anyone who was accustomed to Danish. The solution the two gentlemen came up with was this: They wrote the stories in a rather radical form of Danish, using simple language, making the sentence structure more Norwegian and keeping culture specific words. Their work soon became a huge part of the work to Norwegianize the Danish. Keeping the culture-specific words was also important to rebuild Norwegian's cultural identity - of which after 400 years of Danish rule there was little left. Erik Werenskjold's and Theodor Kittelsen's illustrations of trolls were memorable in creating the atmosphere of the tales. John Bauer's illustrations of Tomte and Trolls are also wonderful.
Scriptorium has available images by various folktale illustrators.
The SurLaLune Fairy Tale Illustration Gallery
Bud Plant Illustrators pages
For more collections of stories see Eldrbarry's The Golden Age of Literary Tales or Myths and Legends or Tall Tale America
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