Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born into a prosperous family and lived near Kassel being educated at home. However, when their father died there was no more money and it was hard work getting through law school. Soon after leaving University, the brothers began a completely different project which culminated in 'Nursery and Household Tales' being published in two volumes, the first in 1812 and the second in 1815.
The brothers loved working together and, even when Wilhelm got married, his wife moved in with them and became, to all intents and purposes, their housekeeper.
The stories were collected from the oral traditions of the region between just north of Frankfurt all the way up to Bremen on the coast and the people who supplied these tales were largely middle class, not peasants as has been suggested. The originals are very different from the Disney versions that children all know and love. For example, Rapunzel was actually pregnant after being imprisoned by the prince, and the evil queen in Snow White was actually the girl's mother. Many of the stories involve hunger, murder, jealousy and, in Cinderella, the stepsisters actually cut off parts of their feet to get the slipper to fit.
The brothers published seven editions, making each one more child-friendly, the last one - the best known - being issued in 1857. They became more detailed, elegant and Christian and some of them almost doubled in length.
The brothers were also serious philologists and members of the German civil parliament. They worked together, as always, on 'The History of the German Language' and began the German Dictionary - their last project. Wilhelm died at age 73 and Jacob carried on for 4 years taking the entries up to 'F'. They are both buried in the Schoneberg Cemetary in Berlin.
Many people believe that the original stories should be re-published and it is time to stop 'dumbing' down the tales. However Disney has a hold on our hearts with the colourful scenes, music and all-family entertainment package.