Wilhelm Carl Grimm (1786-1859) was born in Hanau, Germany, the second oldest of six siblings. He and elder brother Jacob both studied law, expecting to take over their father’s practice, but in fact both of them were ultimately employed at a royal library in Kassel, Germany, and later at the library of the University of Göttingen.
The brothers developed a fascination with the folklore of their region and a passion for collecting and documenting the oral stories, as the tradition of oral storytelling was vanishing with the advent of widespread book printing. Their first collection was Kinder-und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales.) The collection would later come to be known as Grimms’ Fairy Tales and included such famous stories as “Snow White”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “Red Riding Hood” and “Cinderella.”
Despite the emphasis on village oral traditions, the stories were in fact an amalgamation of oral and previously printed fairy tales, as well as information shared by friends, family members and acquaintances, with non-German influences. For instance, French writer Charles Perrault had earlier written a version of “The Sleeping Beauty”, that was included as “Briar Rose” in the Grimm collection.
In spite of controversy over the years about the violence and adult themes in the original stories, the Grimm legacy continues to be celebrated. Marking the 200th anniversary of the brothers' historical collection, 2012 saw a number of special tie-in publications and special events, including the release of a bicentennial edition of The Annotated Brothers Grimm, edited by Harvard mythology scholar Maria Tatar, and a retelling of the brothers' classic tales by Philip Pullman, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm.