Grimms' Fairy Tales Analysis

Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Grimm’s Fairy Tales as the collection is known today is the Grimms’ seventh and final edition, published in 1857. It contains 210 tales, excluding 32 from previous editions. All 242 tales appear in numbered sequence in Jack Zipes’s English translation, The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1987). The tales vary in length and complexity. Wilhelm Grimm improved them over the years by adding more dialogue, which brings the tales to life. Many of the characters and creatures also speak in catchy rhymes that are easily remembered.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, known as the Brothers Grimm, collected the tales from acquaintances and from previous collections in German and other languages, most notably Charles Perrault’s Histoires: Ou, Contes du temps passé, avec des moralités (1697; Histories: Or, Tales of Past Times, 1729), commonly known in French as Contes des fées or Contes de ma mère l’oye and in English as Perrault’s Fairy Tales or Tales of Mother Goose. Therefore, it was inevitable that they would find different versions of the same tale. Where the variations are substantial, they appear as separate tales but are grouped together.

Some elements common to many of the tales are recognizable as standard fairy-tale formulae. Protagonists are apprenticed or locked in towers for seven years, and they must accomplish three tasks to break a spell. They are...

(The entire section is 492 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Bottigheimer, Ruth B. Grimm’s Bad Girls and Bold Boys. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987. Attempts to explain the tales in terms of their nineteenth century context.

Ellis, John M. One Fairy Story Too Many. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983. A needed but perhaps overly harsh reappraisal of the Grimms’ methods and intentions.

Kudszus, W. G. Terrors of Childhood in Grimms’ Fairy Tales. New York: Peter Lang, 2005. Kudszus has translated four of the tales, and these translations are published here. She also analyzes the stories from a linguistic perspective, describing how their plots often cover up a “deeply rooted violence.”

Mallet, Carl-Heinz. Fairy Tales and Children. Translated by Joachim Neugroschel. New York: Schocken Books, 1984. A psychological approach to several of the tales, with special emphasis on the interaction between children and parents.

Murphy, G. Ronald. The Owl, the Raven, and the Dove: The Religious Meaning of the Grimms’ Magic Fairy Tales. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. A close examination of five of the fairy tales: “Hansel and Gretel,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Cinderella,” “Snow White,” and “Sleeping Beauty.” Murphy demonstrates how these stories are Christian fables.

Sexton, Anne. Transformations. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971. A verse adaption of a number of the tales in modern idiom. Sexton brings the tales into the twentieth century idiom without losing any of the Grimms’ magic or wonder.

Tatar, Maria. The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. 2d ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003. Tatar’s interpretation focuses on the “dark side” of the tales, examining such elements as murder, mutilation, cannibalism, infanticide, and incest.

Zipes, Jack. The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World. New York: Routledge, 1989. A traditional discussion of the Brothers Grimm and their tales.