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Telling Tales

David Blamires

10. The Fairytales of the Brothers Grimm

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1Without a shadow of doubt the single most important German contribution to world literature is the collection of traditional tales made by the Brothers Grimm and first published in two small volumes in 1812-15. It outshines Goethe’s Faust and such twentieth-century classics as Mann’s Death in Venice or Kafka’s The Trial by virtue of an infinitely greater readership. Not only have the tales been translated in whole or in part into virtually every major language in the world, but they have generated countless new editions and adaptations and become the cornerstone of the study of folktales not only in Germany, but throughout the world. Many individual tales, such as ’Snow-White’, ’Rumpelstiltskin’, ’Hansel and Gretel’ and ’Rapunzel’, have become a firm part of popular culture. The collection has been the inspiration of some of the finest artists and illustrators from George Cruikshank and Walter Crane to Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Maurice Sendak and David Hockney, to mention only those who are especially famous in the English-speaking world.

  • 1 Heinz Rölleke, Die älteste Märchensammlung der Brüder Grimm. Synopse der handschriftlichen Urfassu (...)

2Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1785-1863 and 1786-1859) did not set out to produce a children’s book that would be unflaggingly popular for nearly two hundred years. Their enterprise was originally a scholarly one: to make a collection of traditional oral tales before they disappeared in the face of increasing literacy. It was all of a piece with the rediscovery of the Middle Ages that was a general western European phenomenon from the latter part of the eighteenth century onwards and particularly among the German Romantics. They did not collect all the tales directly from peasant or local storytellers, but relied on a variety of largely middle-class informants, some of their own acquaintance in the town of Kassel, where they lived, and the surrounding area of Hessen, others from further afield in Westphalia and other parts of Germany. At the outset they received a couple of tales in Low German from the painter Philipp Otto Runge – ’The Fisherman and his Wife’ and ’The Juniper Tree’ – which seem to have provided a narrative model for the collection as a whole. A small proportion of tales were taken from literary sources. Clearly, the stories were not reproduced verbatim from the mouth of a storyteller; the collectors made summaries that were as accurate as possible, but did not include every word and phrase of what they heard. When the stories were prepared for publication, these summaries were expanded and stylistically improved. For about sixty of the tales included in the volume published in 1812 it is possible to compare the Grimms’ original manuscript with the printed text and see the editorial process at work.1 In half a dozen tales quite significant alterations of content were made, but elsewhere the changes are more to do with presentation, a smoother and livelier style and occasional embellishment. The Grimms’ original intention had been to keep more closely to their sources, but as they collected more material they found themselves combining features from different versions of the same tale. In this way they can be said to have created the standard form of many tales.

3The two brothers worked together on the first edition of what they called Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales), and there is no difference in editorial practice or style between them. They also included a few pages of notes in this first edition. But it is little known among English readers that the Grimms went on to produce six further editions of the tales – the second in 1819-22, the third in 1837, the fourth in 1840, the fifth in 1843, the sixth in 1850 and the seventh in 1857. Each of these editions is different from the rest. The major change occurred between the first and second editions, when a large number of tales were eliminated, others added and considerable stylistic and verbal changes were made. Wilhelm Grimm, who bore the responsibility alone for the later editions, continued to make alterations, additions, subtractions and improvements to the collection right to the end. The notes swelled to form a separate volume in 1822, and they too were added to until a third edition appeared in 1856. Under Wilhelm’s editorship the tales achieved classic status and eventually overtook the rival collection of Ludwig Bechstein in popularity. Most people nowadays tend to think of the fairytale as the kind of traditional story that the Grimms presented, not perhaps realizing that it is the product of its time and its editors. The Grimms’ tales are the epitome of small-town middle-class central Germany, where the values of hard work, thrift, modesty, enterprise and orderliness are underpinned by a simple Protestant faith. They were easy to transpose to Britain, though we shall see that some modifications were necessary for them to acclimatize completely.

4When Edgar Taylor made the first translation of the Grimms into English as German Popular Stories, translated from the Kinder und Haus Märchen, collected by M.M. Grimm, from oral tradition (London: C. Baldwyn, 1823), the fairytale as a genre was very much in the grip of the French. Of course, such truly English fairytales as ’Jack the Giant-killer’, ’Whittington and his Cat’, ’Tom Hickathrift’, ’Tom Thumb’ and ’Jack and the Beanstalk’ had circulated in chapbooks, but English tales were not systematically collected until later. It was the fairytales of Charles Perrault, Madame d’Aulnoy and Madame Leprince de Beaumont that dominated the scene. Perrault’s ’Little Red Riding-hood’, ’Cinderella’, ’Bluebeard’, ’The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood’ and ’Puss-in-Boots’ had already become renowned. Madame d’Aulnoy was probably even better known with such tales as ’Graciosa and Percinet’, ’The Yellow Dwarf’, ’The White Cat’ and ’The Blue Bird’, while Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s fame was to have written the classic version of ’Beauty and the Beast’. In addition, the Arabian Nights, introduced to Europe in a French translation by Antoine Galland in the early eighteenth century, had also provided favourites such as ’Aladdin’, ’Sindbad the Sailor’ and ’Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’. But it was now the turn of Germany, which was currently enjoying a vogue of novels, stories and plays in English translation, to inject a new range of material into the realm of the fairytale

5German Popular Stories (1823), to which a second volume was added in 1826 (London: James Robins & Co.; Dublin: Joseph Robins Junr. & Co.), has several important claims to fame. Not only did it introduce the Grimms to the English-speaking public, but it also set the pattern for fairytales to be copiously illustrated. The Grimms’ German original had had no illustrations, but George Cruikshank’s twenty-two etchings for the two English volumes were crucial to the books’ early popularity and even led to the publication of a German small edition (a selection of fifty tales) illustrated by Ludwig Emil Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm’s younger brother. Ludwig Emil had already provided frontispieces for the two volumes of the 1819 edition, of which the portrait of Dorothea Viehmann, the Grimms’ chief informant from the Kassel area, has been much reproduced and imitated in many later editions. Cruikshank’s illustrations, brimful of vitality and movement and delighting in the comic and the grotesque, have proved enduringly popular with British readers, so much so that they are still reproduced today, usually with Edgar Taylor’s translation.

  • 2 Most of what follows on the translations of Edgar Taylor and John Edward Taylor and that issued by (...)

6What kind of picture of the Grimms’ collection did Edgar Taylor give?2 His principal source, the 1819 edition of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen, contains 161 tales and nine children’s legends, from which Taylor took fifty-seven plus one further tale (’The Nose’) that he extracted from the notes in the third volume of 1822. That is about a third of the total then available. Most of these correspond to single tales in the translation, but he combined ’Das Lumpengesindel’, ’Herr Korbes’ and ’Von dem Tod des Hühnchens’ into the one sequence of ’Chanticleer and Partlet’ (incidentally taking the names from Chaucer), and ’Der junge Riese’and ’Das tapfere Schneiderlein’ were joined to make ’The Young Giant and the Tailor’. Similarly, ’Das kluge Grethel’, ’Der gescheidte Hans’ and ’Die faule Spinnerin’ were turned into ’Hans and his Wife’, while ’Vom Fundevogel’, ’Der Liebste Roland’ and ’Hänsel und Grethel’ were transformed into the one story ’Roland and May-bird’. The first volume contained ’The Grateful Beasts’, a translation of a story that retained its place in the German editions up to 1850, but was then relegated to the Appendix as no.18 in the 1857 edition. In this same first volume only one of the three tales that form ’Die Wichtelmänner’ is retained in ’The Elves and the Shoemaker’.

7Taylor’s second volume is distinguished from the first in that it contains four tales that do not belong to the Grimms’ collection at all. Two of these were taken from J. G. Büsching’s Volks-Sagen, Märchen und Legenden (1812), namely, ’Pee-wit’ and ’Cherry, or the Frog-bride’. ’Peter the Goatherd’ is taken from Otmar’s Volcks-Sagen, probably prompted by the recent publication of Washington Irving’s Rip van Winkle (1819), which Taylor refers to in his notes and which is a version of the same tale-type. Finally, with ’The Elfin Grove’ Taylor provided a much abridged adaptation of Tieck’s mysterious tale ’Die Elfen’ (1811). In some ways this could be considered an odd procedure, as there were plenty more of the Grimms’ tales that could have been included by Taylor. As it was, it drew attention to the fact that the Grimms were not ploughing a lonely furrow, but had many compatriots working along similar lines or with similar interests. ’Peter the Goatherd’ in fact circulated later in the century in another translation by Madame de Chatelain.

8It is noticeable that Taylor zealously avoided using any of the Grimms’ tales with a religious dimension, so there is no ’Marienkind’, no ’Der Schneider im Himmel’, no ’Der Gevatter Tod’, no ’Bruder Lustig’ – the list could be extended. The prevalence of the Devil in the German tales caused Taylor worry, so these tales also were omitted or the Devil was converted into a giant, as in ’The Giant with the Three Golden Hairs’. ’The Fisherman and his Wife’had to be modified slightly at the end. Where in the original the fisherman’s wife declares finally that she wants to be ’like God’, Taylor tells us that he has ’softened the boldness of the lady’s ambition’ by indicating that she wants to be ’lord of the sun and moon’. It perhaps hardly needs to be stated that Taylor did not translate any of the children’s legends. He probably omitted the ’Märchen von einem, der auszog, das Fürchten zu lernen’ on account of its inclusion of ghosts and other beliefs about the dead. Similarly, ’Der singende Knochen’ would have seemed unacceptably superstitious.

9Violence and cruelty was generally reduced. It is surprising that Taylor actually included ’The Robber Bridegroom’ in his selection, though he eliminated the cannibalistic intentions of the robbers, their deliberate murder of the captured maiden, and their chopping off of her finger. These horrifying details are some of the most memorable features of the original German story, and similar ones are to be found in several other tales. ’Aschenputtel’ (the Grimms’ version of ’Cinderella’) ends with the doves picking out the eyes of the wicked stepsisters as the heroine goes to her wedding, but this final paragraph of the German version is excised by Taylor so that the story ends on a happier note. Taylor’s second volume ends with ’The Juniper Tree’, which he translated rather freely, perhaps because the Low German text was difficult for him, but he cut out the cannibalistic episode in which the father is served up the flesh of his murdered son in a stew. Taylor simply has the father given ’a large dish of black soup’ with no implication as to its content. This entails an alteration to the second line of the famous song of the bird – the song that Gretchen sings in Goethe’s Faust – so that instead of ’my father ate me’ we have the much milder ’my father thought me lost and gone’. There is still plenty of violence left in the tale, especially at the end where the bird drops the millstone on the stepmother’s head and crushes her to pieces, but it is clear that Taylor took pains to reduce the elements of terror and cruelty that he found in the original German.

10This first of the translators of the Grimms into English is very concerned about the impact of the stories on his readers. In his introduction he alludes to ’many stories of great merit, and tending highly to the elucidation of ancient mythology, customs, and opinions, which the scrupulous fastidiousness of modern taste, especially in works likely to attract the attention of youth, warned [the translators] to pass by’. This ’scrupulous fastidiousness of modern taste’, an expression which may be linked with the growth of Evangelicalism and of prudery that is characteristic of the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century, accounts for Taylor’s alterations of religious and other features mentioned earlier, but there are a few others that should be noted too. The original of ’The Fisherman and his Wife’ has the couple initially living in a ’Pispott’ (chamber-pot), which Taylor changed to a ’ditch’, while in his 1839 revision of the text (which I shall come to in due course) he altered it again to a ’pig-stye’. Several later translators settled for a ’hovel’.

11There were other places where sexuality was the issue. ’Rapunzel’, with its unavoidable implication that the girl and the prince have made love in the tower, was not translated at all. Then there was ’The Frog Prince’, the ending of which Taylor drastically altered. Exceptionally here, Taylor was translating from the 1812 text of the story, not the 1819 edition that was the source for all his other tales. This is the opening tale in all seven German editions, and it seems likely that Taylor first encountered the Grimms’ collection in the first edition and made at that time a translation of the first tale. When he later got down to serious work on the tales, he then followed the more recent second edition.

12In the German original the frog is supposed to sleep with the princess in her bed, but she cannot bring herself to do this, despite the king’s insistence that she must fulfil her promise to the frog. This, in translation, is what the 1812 edition says:

It was no use, she had to do as her father wanted, but in her heart she was bitterly angry. She grasped the frog with two fingers and took him up to her room, got into bed and instead of placing him beside her flung him smash against the wall. ’Now you’ll leave me in peace, you nasty frog!’
But the frog did not fall down dead, but when he came down on to the bed, it was a handsome young prince. He was now her dear companion, and she esteemed him as she had promised, and they fell contentedly asleep together.

13Taylor’s version – it cannot be called a translation – tells a different set of events:

... the princess took him up in her hand and put him upon the pillow of her own little bed, where he slept all night long. As soon as it was light he jumped up, hopped down stairs, and went out of the house. ’Now’, thought the princess, ’he is gone, and I shall be troubled with him no more’.
But she was mistaken; for when night came again, she heard the same tapping at the door, and when she opened it, the frog came in and slept upon her pillow as before till the morning broke; and the third night he did the same: but when the princess awoke on the following morning, she was astonished to see, instead of the frog, a handsome prince gazing on her with the most beautiful eyes that ever were seen, and standing at the head of her bed.
He told her that he had been enchanted by a malicious fairy, who had changed him into the form of a frog, in which he was fated to remain till some princess should take him out of the spring and let him sleep upon her bed for three nights.

14In Taylor’s adaptation there is nothing of the prince and princess sleeping together in human form, though he allows the frog to sleep on the princess’s pillow for three nights running. He obviously cannot countenance the princess’s attempt to kill the frog by hurling it against the wall. The transformation takes place as it were unconsciously, while the princess is asleep, but the transformed frog is not in her bed, as one might have expected from its lying on her pillow, but is ’standing at the head of her bed’. One detail Taylor may have taken from the 1819 text, and that is the emphasis on the fact that the prince has ’the most beautiful eyes that ever were seen’. The 1812 edition has no comparable comment here. In making his alterations Taylor has rendered the princess passive and obedient to her father’s commands and thus deprived her of taking her own initiative and responsibility for what follows. In the German original she confronts her own distaste and causes, however unwittingly, the prince’s transformation; she does not simply submit to male authority as embodied in the king, her father.

15Taylor was an inveterate softener of harsh details that he found in the Grimms’ tales. In the story of ’Rumpelstilzchen’ the 1819 text has a disturbing conclusion: ’”The Devil’s told you that! The Devil’s told you that!” cried the little man and dashed his right foot with anger so deep into the ground that he went in up to his body, then in a rage he seized his left foot with both hands and tore himself apart in the middle’ (my translation). This horrifying ending Taylor modifies and renders harmlessly absurd: ’”Some witch told you that! Some witch told you that!” cried the little man, and dashed his right foot in a rage so deep into the floor, that he was forced to lay hold of it with both hands to pull it out. Then he made the best of his way off, while every body laughed at him for having all his trouble for nothing’. With Taylor this has become a childish temper tantrum, whereas the German ending can be seen as an act of self-destruction that removes the threat of Rumpelstilzchen for ever from the queen’s life.

16Taylor’s interferences with the German texts are too extensive to deal with fully here, but they can be characterized as tending to make the stories more reassuring and less disturbing to the children whom he envisaged as readers. This first English translation thus has a markedly different tone from that of the Grimms’ text. Yet we must remember that this is a commonplace occurrence in the transmission of fairytales, whether orally or in printed form. Every storyteller puts his or her own mark on the tale told. There is no perfect, uncontaminated ’original’ form. The Grimms’ own texts were subject to the same process, as a comparison of the manuscript with the printed forms of the seven editions readily demonstrates. Where they used printed texts from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries, the same kind of adaptation and homogenization is also to be seen.

17One irritating feature of Taylor’s translation is the fact that he gave a few tales titles that are quite different from their German originals. The most misleading is his ’Hansel and Grettel’, which is in fact a translation of ’Brüderchen und Schwesterchen’ (Little Brother and Little Sister). What he calls ’Snow-drop’ is later usually called ’Snow-White’, while his ’Rose-bud’ appears as ’Briar Rose’ or ’Thorn Rose’ (the Grimms’ version of ’Sleeping Beauty’). ’Die zertanzten Schuhe’ (The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces) is renamed ’The Twelve Dancing Princesses’. The translation of titles is a general problem with the transmission of the Grimms’ tales, as subsequent translators have often rendered them very differently. At times it can be quite tricky to identify just which tale is being dealt with.

18Taylor’s two volumes were well received and quickly reissued, but in 1839 the translations, together with preface and notes, made a second appearance with the new title Gammer Grethel; or German Fairy Tales, and Popular Stories, from the Collection of M.M. Grimm, and Other Sources (London: John Green). This was a quite new book, as the translation was heavily revised and recast and contained a lot of additions in the nature of asides specifically addressed to a child audience. A number of the originally anonymous protagonists of the stories were given names, and some of the titles of the stories were changed. ’The Grateful Beasts’, for example, becomes ’Fritz and his Friends’, while Otmar’s ’Peter the Goatherd’ is renamed ’Karl Katz’. Eighteen of the originally translated stories were omitted, and a new one was added – ’The Bear and the Skrattel’. This latter tale, based on a medieval German verse tale, was taken from the third volume of Thomas Crofton Croker’s Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (London: John Murray, 1828). Croker had himself got it from the Grimms, who had included the tale in the preface to their translation of Croker’s first volume of Fairy Legends, published as Irische Elfenmärchen (Leipzig, 1826). The tales in Gammer Grethel were arranged in a completely different sequence from German Popular Stories and designed to be read over a dozen evenings, with three or four tales per evening. Cruikshank’s etchings were replaced by wood-engravings by John Byfield after Cruikshank’s designs. This revised text was reprinted in 1849 (Bohn’s Illustrated Library), 1888 and 1897 (George Bell & Sons) and possibly at other times as well.

19Meanwhile, the original translation continued to be reprinted. It appeared with stereotype reproductions of Cruikshank’s illustrations, issued by John Camden Hotten in 1869, the original two volumes being printed together as one. This contained a ten-page introduction by Ruskin. Chatto and Windus, who purchased Hotten’s business on his death in 1873, did another edition in 1884. Taylor’s original translation continued to be used for a large number of subsequent editions, right into the twentieth century, though almost always without any indication of his name. In any case his authorship and that of his friend David Jardine was not known until 1898. Further reprints of the 1823-26 translation up to the end of the twentieth century make it, with all its mistakes of translation and manhandling of the texts, the most influential of all English translations of the Grimms’ tales. Certainly, it has charm and reads well, but it is a pity that Taylor and Jardine took so many liberties with the German text.

20The majority of British translators of the Grimms concentrate on the true fairytales, the tales of magic, and tend to neglect the other kinds of traditional tales that they collected. While Edgar Taylor provides thirty-four tales of magic (well over half the total), he does give eleven animal tales and eight comic tales. The animal tales are mostly of the fable type, but the three making up ’The Adventures of Chanticleer and Partlet’, could equally be thought of as nursery tales. ’The Travelling Musicians, or the Waits of Bremen’ is the most ingenious and elaborate of the animal tales translated here. The comic tales mainly have foolish peasants as the butt of their humour, but ’Hans in Luck’, which Taylor placed first in his selection, is a tale that can prompt reflection as well as laughter. Hans, having taken his wages from his master, returns home to his mother and on the way makes a series of exchanges of what he has for something more attractive and immediately desirable to him, but less valuable in monetary terms. When he finally gets home he has lost everything, but reaches home happy and free of all his troubles. We laugh at Hans’s naivety and may feel some sadness at the way in which he so thoughtlessly loses what he had worked seven years to earn, but are we not also invited to see a simple heart, free of the burden of possessions, as worthy of respect?

17. Title-page and frontispiece of Unlucky John and his Lump of Silver. A Juvenile Comic Tale (c. 1825).

21’Hans in Luck’ was one of the earliest of Grimms’ tales to be versified in English and published separately. It bore the title Unlucky John and his Lump of Silver and was translated from the German into easy verse by Madame Leinstein (London: Dean and Munday, c. 1825). Like many other children’s chapbooks of the period it was embellished with hand-coloured engravings. Other editions are known by A. K. Newman and Co. of London and J. Rosewarne of Belper. In the original German Hans has a lump of gold, so Madame Leinstein was obviously using Taylor, who has a lump of silver, as her source. She follows the broad outline of the story, but omits the final episode in which Hans loses the grindstone in a pond and has John return to his ’Granny’ rather than his mother. The poem then ends with a moral:

Good stock of money at command,
May oft a joy impart,
Yet, squandered by a thoughtless hand,
As oft afflicts the heart.

22Meanwhile, poor John has had to return to work. The light-hearted spirit of the German tale has been turned into a moral lesson in the English poem. Dean and Munday also published around the same date another versified story from the Grimms – Wishing; or, the Fisherman and his Wife; a Juvenile Poem – credited only to ’a lady’. It hardly seems surprising that this is another very moral tale.

23A dozen or so years later a versified form of ’The Wolf and the Seven Kids’ was made by George Nicol (using the initials G. N.) and published along with ’The Three Bears’ and ’The Vizier and the Woodman’ (London: W. Wright, 1841). It had appeared separately in 1839 as a second edition, so the original may go back as far as 1837, the date of the preface to ’The Three Bears’. No English translation of the Grimms’ original story had been published by this date, so Nicol must have worked from a German text. He follows the original closely in thirty-eight six-line stanzas and appends a satirical discussion by the Three Bears on the story’s lack of an obvious moral. A further ironic touch is to be found in the episode describing the wolf’s punishment at the end of the story:

The wolf, ’tis very strange to say,
During the operation lay
In slumber deep and still.
He did not the incision feel,
The scissors were of such sharp steel,
And handled with such skill.

18. An Hour at Bearwood. The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids (1839). Illustration by George Nicol.

24These versifications assimilated a few individual Grimm tales to models of nursery rhymes and tales that were common in England in the early nineteenth century. But by the mid century it became the norm for such individual tales to be in prose. Among them we can note The Charmed Roe; or, the Little Brother and Little Sister (London: John Murray, 1847), which had illustrations by the famous German illustrator Otto Speckter (1807-71), and a series of separate tales edited by Madame de Chatelain and published by Darton and Co. c. 1850, which included The Story of the Charmed Fawn and Peter the Goatherd.

  • 3 For information about Cunningham and Thoms I am greatly indebted to Martin Sutton, The Sin-Complex (...)

25Meanwhile, a number of Grimm tales had been included in collections of German materials published between Taylor’s German Popular Stories and Gammer Grethel.3 The first of these was George G. Cunningham’s Foreign Tales & Traditions Chiefly Selected from the Fugitive Literature of Germany (Glasgow: Blackie, Fullarton & Co.; Edinburgh: A. Fullarton & Co., 1828). This included new translations of five tales that had already appeared in Taylor, so it did not introduce new material to the British public. Indeed, Cunningham frequently used Taylor in creating his own, generally more elaborate adaptation of Grimm. More new material was provided by W. J. Thoms in Lays and Legends of Germany (London: George Cowie, 1834), which presented fourteen prose tales plus a versified version of ’De Spielhansl’ under the title ’The Smith of Apolda’. Of these only two had been translated by Taylor. The others included ’Of One that went forth to Learn to be Afraid’, ’The Maiden without Hands’, ’Doctor All-wise’ and ’The Green Robe’ (later entitled ’Der Bärenhäuter’ by the Grimms). Thoms also translated two tales about death – ’Gaffer Death’ and ’The Little Shroud’ – and a tale that presented an awkward treatment of religious matters for some Protestant sensibilities – ’Brother Merry’. Thoms, however, being an antiquary and folklore scholar, was not aiming his work at children, but rather at readers like himself who were interested in different cultural beliefs and practices. Valuable though his work was – and it was carefully translated rather than adapted – it did not have any impact on children. The area of myth, legend, folktale and folklore represents an important aspect of interest in Germany where scholarship and children’s literature overlap. It was so for the Grimms themselves, and Edgar Taylor shows in his notes and preface to German Popular Stories that he recognized this too. The fascination of legend for both adults and children is clearly demonstrated in the travel books about Germany, and particularly the Rhineland, that were written during most of the nineteenth century.

  • 4 Sutton, pp. 111-36.

26Edgar Taylor’s translations were also used in an extended collection entitled Household Tales and Traditions of England, Germany, France, Scotland, etc. etc. (London: James Burns, 2 vols. 1843-45), as Martin Sutton has shown.4 Burns rarely gave credit to his translators and seems often to have reprinted material with a small number of changes, especially in the opening paragraphs, in order to disguise their origin, as he did here. In this collection he printed forty of the Grimms’ tales, only two being additions to the corpus already available in English. These are ’The Old Widow’ (one of the children’s legends) and ’Little Red Cap; or Little Red Riding-Hood’. Charles Perrault’s version of the latter had been current in English and popular since 1729, but the Grimms’ version, which contaminates the plot with that of ’The Wolf and the Seven Kids’ and provides a happy ending, now began to compete with it. However, what we have in Burns’s edition is not a faithful rendering of the Grimms’ tale, but one that attempts to make this very odd story more logical and consistent and in the process creates further problems for the thoughtful reader. Little Red Cap is not eaten by the wolf, because just as he springs out of bed to do so a passing huntsman shoots and kills him with an arrow. He then takes her home and admonishes her: ’See that you never run away from the road again, all your life, nor do what your mother has forbidden you’. The grandmother, however, has been devoured by the wolf and in this version, contrary to the Grimms’ text, is not rescued. All the same, Burns’s edition does go on to give the repeat story included by the Grimms, in which Little Red Cap encounters the wolf a second time and the wolf falls into a trough and drowns. But since the grandmother is dead, this repeat episode has to replace her with an aunt.

  • 5 Jeremy Maas, Pamela White Trimpe, Charlotte Gere and others, Victorian Fairy Painting (London: Mer (...)

27Edgar Taylor’s translation was made in the early stages of the development of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen, before it had reached its full growth. The next English translation to be made, following Taylor, Cunningham and Thoms, had the advantage of some additions and changes to the collection, though it was still not complete. In 1846 John Edward Taylor published an additional selection of tales under the title of The Fairy Ring: A New Collection of Popular Tales, translated from the German of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (London: John Murray). It contained twelve illustrations by the up-and-coming artist Richard Doyle (1824-83), who was a regular contributor to Punch from 1843 to 1850 and also illustrated The King of the Golden River (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1851), the fairytale that Ruskin composed on the German model. J. E. Taylor’s title, The Fairy Ring, is symptomatic of the intense interest in fairies that characterized the 1840s and 1850s in Britain, especially in paintings and book illustrations, but also in music and the theatre.5

28John Edward Taylor was actually a cousin of Edgar Taylor. He was a printer, but also translated eight other books during the period 1840-55. Most important in the context of The Fairy Ring is the fact that he translated into English thirty tales from Giambattista Basile’s Pentamerone, an extraordinary collection of Neapolitan fairytales first published in 1634-36. Taylor’s translation appeared in 1848, a couple of years after Felix Liebrecht had first translated Basile into German. Five of the other books he translated were also by German writers and deal with current affairs and foreign travel. The Fairy Ring proved popular enough to go into a revised and enlarged edition in 1847, which was then republished by John Murray in 1857. There were also various American editions between 1851 and 1858.

29John Edward Taylor used the Grimms’ fifth edition of 1843 for his translation, including a number of tales that made their first appearance in print in that edition. These were ’The Nix in the Mill-pond’, ’The Hedgehog and the Hare’, ’The Goose-girl at the Well’, ’The Spindle, the Shuttle and the Needle’, ’The Drummer’, ’The True Bride’ and ’The Giant and the Tailor’. He also made the first translation of ’Rapunzel’, though he gave the heroine the name Violet, with the consequent alteration in the type of plant that the pregnant mother longs for. ’Rapunzel’ had given the Grimms problems, as in the first edition the heroine had betrayed the fact that she was pregnant as a result of the prince’s visits by asking her guardian why it was that her clothes no longer fitted her. This had caused dismay among adult readers, so from the second edition onwards this detail was changed, and the girl thoughtlessly incriminates herself by remarking that her guardian is much heavier to pull up to the high window than the young prince. It is unfortunately this latter, badly motivated version that has become the standard form of ’Rapunzel’ in both German and English.

30There are, of course, additional problems for English translators of this story, beginning with the title. While ’rampion’ is the dictionary translation of Rapunzel, hardly anybody has the least idea what rampion is or looks like, though it is clearly some kind of salad vegetable. It is not surprising, therefore, that most nineteenth-century translators leave the German name as it stands. J. E. Taylor opted for Violet and thus has the mother longing for sweet-smelling flowers rather than craving something to eat. He follows the standard form of the girl’s self-betrayal, but the fact that Violet has given birth to twins is deferred to the very end of the story. Like most nineteenth-century translators he is unable to deal straightforwardly with pregnancy and childbirth. Of course in the Grimms’originals the birth of a child often occurs apparently through some supernatural agency, with the child then being subject to some strange requirement or taboo – he may also be half-human like Hans my Hedgehog, or wholly an animal like the donkey in the fairytale of that name – but the Germans did not have quite the same squeamishness about the natural function of the body as the Victorians.

31’Rapunzel’ is a story that derives its power from sexual desire expressed in a whole spectrum of ways, beginning with the irrational longings of the pregnant mother that lead the couple into a kind of slavery to the fairy. But the fairy herself is a mother-figure in disguise whose only function appears to be to guard her foster-daughter against sexual contact with the opposite sex. Rapunzel is imprisoned in a tower with no entrance apart from a very high window. But as the nature of the tower defies all reason, so does the length of Rapunzel’s hair – an unbelievable twenty yards long. Her sexual attractiveness lies not only in these golden tresses, but also in her beautiful singing voice – its power reminds one of the sirens’ song that Odysseus, to escape it, had to have himself bound to the mast of his ship. Similarly, Rapunzel’s songs draws the prince day after day back to the tower, and he discovers how to climb up to the window through observing the fairy. It is Rapunzel’s voice also that leads the blinded prince back to her, and it is her tears that, falling on his eyes, restores his sight. The disembodied voice represents Rapunzel more powerfully than her hair, since it still attracts the prince after she has lost her hair to the fairy’s scissors. However much the English translator tries not to speak about that most female of bodily experiences, pregnancy, the story works against him. As is also the case with ’Briar Rose’, no parent can control the sexual maturation of their offspring. Briar Rose’s father orders all the spindles in his kingdom to be destroyed, but there is still at the top of an old tower an old lady on whose spindle the princess receives the wound that marks her transition to adulthood. The comparable story for the male protagonist is ’Iron Hans’, which was not translated into English until 1853. There it is the hero’s mother who has the care of the key that he has to steal in order to regain his golden ball that has rolled into the wild man’s imprisoned cage. The wild man then carries the boy away and sets him a series of tests that lead to his acquiring golden hair, a sexual attractiveness that first causes him embarrassment and only much later leads to sexual success. These three stories typify the ways in which the process of growing from childhood to adulthood is dealt with in the Grimms’ fairytales. It is one of their most important themes, and their many stories explore it with a wealth of reverberant imagery and motifs.

32By the mid nineteenth century the Grimms had become favourites with the reading public, though no edition had printed even a third of what was known in Germany. But in the wake of the two Taylors, Cunningham and Thoms it was now possible to produce a much more comprehensive translation. This began with a new two-volume edition entitled Household Stories (London: Addey & Co., 1853). No translators’ names are given, but the book has two hundred and forty illustrations by Edward H. Wehnert and proved one of the most popular nineteenth-century editions of the Grimms, being taken over by other publishers and reprinted in various guises up to the present day. It provided translations of 190 tales and six children’s legends and was thus much more wide-ranging than anything previously attempted, but it still found it prudent to omit thirteen tales, mainly of a religious character. Yet it is not the religious element as such that caused any given tale to be excluded, since five children’s legends are actually incorporated in the translation. It seems to be the element of religious superstition or perceived contravention of Biblical teaching that leads to the omission. The preface in fact states quite baldly: ’The mixture of sacred subjects with profane, though frequent in Germany, would not meet with favour in an English book’.

  • 6 Brian Alderson, Grimm Tales in English (London: The British Library, 1985).

33The quality of the translations is uneven, probably because more than one person was involved. Some occasional awkwardness in word-order may be due to a translator having German as a first language, and Brian Alderson has suggested the anonymous translators may have been members of the illustrator Wehnert’s own family, since he had German parents.6 The translators tend to reduce the amount of violence they found in the original and make other changes as well. Several of the titles they give to individual tales are oddly different from those given in other editions. ’Marienkind’ becomes ’The Woodcutter’s Child’, ’Frau Holle’ is turned into ’Old Mother Frost’, ’Von dem Machandelboom’ is ’The Almond Tree’, ’Fundevogel’ is called ’Fir-Apple’, while ’Allerleirauh’ is left as in German but followed in brackets by ’The Coat of All Colours’. ’Die klare Sonne bringt’s an den Tag’ is mistranslated as ’The Bright Sun brings on the Day’, while the Devil is reduced in offensiveness in ’The Evil Spirit and his Grandmother’. Several of the Grimms’ titles do present real problems for translators, and those given here reflect prickliness about subject-matter as well as problems raised by the strangeness of personal names or dialect words. As far as the protagonists of individual stories are concerned, the Addey and Co. edition has a mixture of German and English. The name Hans is generally retained, but in the translation of ’Die kluge Else’ the German Else becomes the English Alice. However, every English translator except Matilda Davis has ’Faithful John’ for ’Der treue Johannes’. Then, apart from Edgar Taylor and Lucy Crane, every English translator gives ’Aschenputtel’ as ’Cinderella’, thereby aligning the Grimms’ story with the much better known one by Perrault.

19. Brothers Grimm, Household Stories. Newly Translated (1853). Illustration to ’The Musicians of Bremen’ by Edward Wehnert.

  • 7 Sutton, p. 183.

34Addey and Co.’s edition, the most extensive collection of the Grimms’ tales up to that point, though still not complete, was reissued in a revised version by David Bogue in 1857. An American edition of Addey and Co. was published with the title German Popular Tales and Household Stories (New York: Francis, 1853) and reissued by Crosby, Nichols, Lee and Co. of Boston in 1861. But the translation and illustrations achieved their greatest success through being taken over by George Routledge and Co. in 1862. Wehnert’s full-page illustrations were made more attractive by the addition of colour printing, and the stories were republished both as a single large volume and as a series of small selections at various dates up to the beginning of the twentieth century. As Routledge had an office in New York as well as London, the book was assured of a wide circulation. From about 1890 the translation was issued by other publishers – George G. Harrap, John F. Shaw, E. P. Dutton and Co., William Collins and Grosset and Dunlap – and it has continued to be used in further reprints up to the end of the twentieth century.7

  • 8 For much information on Matilda Davis, the Ward and Lock edition, Mrs Paull, Lucy Crane and Margar (...)

35In the decade between 1853 and 1862 four different translations of the Grimms’ fairytales were published. In addition to that issued by Addey and Co. in 1853 and George Routledge in 1862, there were three others of very different kinds. None of them presented more than roughly two fifths of the complete corpus of tales, but clearly a variety of publishers wanted to cash in on the popularity that the Grimms now enjoyed. The first of the three was Matilda Davis’s Home Stories (London and New York: George Routledge & Co., 1855), the second the anonymous Grimms’ Goblins (London: George Vickers, [1861]), the third Household Tales and Popular Stories (London: Ward & Lock, 1862).8

36Matilda Davis provides new translations of eighty-eight tales from the Grimms, divided into ninety-one in the English. They are presented in the same sequence as in the Grimms’ 1850 edition, which makes it look as if she was aiming at a translation of the full corpus, but when Routledge, her publisher, took over the Addey and Co. edition her translation lost out, though it was reissued in 1866 and 1876. Despite this, selections from Davis have been included in several mainly early twentieth-century editions of Grimm. Martin Sutton regards Davis’s work as important on two counts: she is the first woman to be named on a title-page as translator of the Grimms, and her translation actually sets new standards of fidelity to her source texts. Although her translations display some of the mid century’s tendency to verbosity, she aims at an accurate rendering rather than an adaptation. She is the first person to give accurate translations of the violent details to be found in ’Little Red Cap’, ’The Robber Bridegroom’ and ’Fitcher’s Bird’, and she is the first translator at all to venture a rendering of ’Der Schneider im Himmel’, entitling it ’The Tailor in Olympus’. She solves the problem of treating religious matters in a humorous way by transposing the figures of God and St. Peter into Jupiter and Mercury. It seems a pity that Davis’s translation was not better received. George Thompson’s illustrations did nothing to help. Her work was not the commercial success that Routledge obviously found with the Addey and Co. edition. Publishers are not much interested in accuracy or fidelity as values in themselves, if they have something else that they don’t have to pay for and sells better.

37There are a number of books entitled Grimms’ Goblins, and they vary a lot in content and presentation. What George Vickers published under this title, probably in 1861, after it had appeared in instalments in magazine format, was a collection of fairytales that included material not only from the Grimms, but also from Perrault, Madame d’Aulnoy, Madame Leprince de Beaumont and Wilhelm Hauff, among others. None of the tales is credited to a particular author, and no translator’s name is given. The titles often appear to be chosen to disguise the tales’ origins. Of the eighty-four items in the collection, however, sixty-four are from the Grimms, using either the sixth or seventh edition of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen. In addition to numerous black and white engravings the book contains forty-two coloured illustrations designed by ’Phiz’, i.e. Hablot K. Browne (1815-1882), who is renowned for his illustrations of Dickens. These vigorous illustrations are early examples of the colour printing of Edmund Evans, who became one of the great masters of this art. Phiz concentrates on key moments in the stories and produces splendidly resonant pictures for, among others, ’The Goblin’s Gifts’, ’Faithful John’, ’Jack in Luck’, ’The Miller and the Water-Sprite’ and ’The Giant Suckling’ (’The Young Giant’).

38In comparison with the source texts the translations are long-winded and full of amplifications and asides. If we compare the opening of ’Faithful John’ with the same passage in the Ward and Lock edition of 1862, the difference is immediately obvious:

Once upon a time, there was a King, who, being old, and happening to fall ill, took it very much to heart, as old gentlemen do, and made up his mind to die, – which, my dear children, you must always remember, is half-way towards doing so. So, impressed with this notion, he ordered his attendants to summon to his presence his Faithful John, a favourite servant and friend, whom he kept always about his person, as one who loved him for himself, and not for his grandeur, and could, therefore, be relied upon, whatever might betide. He was called Faithful John, because, all through his life, he had been faithful to his master (Grimms’ Goblins).

There was once an old king who fell sick – and he thought: ’This bed on which I am lying, will most likely be my death-bed;’ so he said, ’send faithful John to me. Faithful John was his favourite servant; and had earned his name from being faithful all his life’ (Ward & Lock, 1862).

39In reading Grimms’ Goblins one is always aware of the tiresome narrator, who never ceases to nudge the reader with comments on socially desirable conduct.

40The story ends, of course, with the king’s son being required to cut off the heads of his twin sons in order to bring Faithful John, now turned to stone as a result of his care for his master, back to life. The king does this, and Faithful John is then able to set the heads back on the princes’ shoulders and restore them to life. This gruesome episode exemplifying a belief in the magical power of innocent children’s blood is not shirked in either translation, but an earlier incident causes problems. In the German the young king’s wife falls into a coma from which she is released by Faithful John sucking three drops of blood from her right breast. This is too indelicate for the translators to follow. Grimms’ Goblins changes the place on the queen’s body to her right shoulder, while the Ward and Lock translation substitutes her finger. No translator before Margaret Hunt (1884) translated this incident completely accurately.

41Household Tales and Popular Stories (Ward & Lock, 1862), as we have seen, presents a simpler and more accurate picture of the Grimms’ tales than Grimms’ Goblins. It is thus surprising that the ’advertisement’ is inaccurate in its claim about providing certain new stories and that the list of contents omits the titles of several tales included in the selection. What is interesting about this selection is the fact that so many short moral and religious tales are included, so that the emphasis is not overwhelmingly on the tales of magic. Oddly, one tale by Hans Christian Andersen has slipped in – ’The Princess and the Pea’– which was probably taken from a German translation of Andersen and not from the rather different form that Wilhelm Grimm included only in the fifth (1843) edition of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen, as Sutton makes clear.

42The Ward and Lock editions (1862, 1881 and 1884) contain 35 illustrations (plus two repeats) by the Parisian artist, Bertall, the pseudonym of Charles-Albert d’Arnoux (1820-82), and this gives a clue to the possible origin of this collection. Bertall in fact made forty vignettes for a French edition, viz. Contes choisis des Frères Grimm, translated from the German by Frédéric Baudry (Paris: L. Hachette et Cie, 1855), and the Ward and Lock editions print almost all of them from stereotypes. But it is also the case that Grimms’ Goblins includes thirty from the same set of illustrations by Bertall, though they are not credited to him by name. The two collections have a considerable overlap in their choice of tales, though the actual translations are very different in character from each other. The Contes choisis des Frères Grimm is divided into four categories of tale – moral tales, children’s legends, tales of magic and comic tales. Grimms’ Goblins concentrates on the tales of magic, while Household Tales and Popular Stories has a particularly large number of moral tales and children’s legends. The sequence of tales is different in the two collections, but despite the overlap there is no connexion between them. It was not uncommon at the time for publishers to buy and sell stereotypes of illustrations, Bertall’s work certainly being subject to this procedure. His illustrations to Dumas’ adaptation of Hoffmann’s Nutcracker can be found in French, German and English editions printed at various times in the mid to late nineteenth century.

43Interest in the Grimms continued unabated. Not only were old editions reprinted, but new translations were made and stories from the Grimms appeared in miscellaneous collections of fairytales. The next new translation to be published was Grimm’s Fairy Tales, translated by Mrs H. B. Paull (London and New York: Frederick Warne & Co., 1868). Mrs Paull was responsible for translations of The Swiss Family Robinson and Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales as well as many other works, and her practice, like that of many of her predecessors, was to adapt details of the text of the Grimms where it offended British social and religious norms. She thus changes the figure of the Virgin Mary in ’Marienkind’ to the good Fairy Tell True. With ’The Fisherman and his Wife’ she has the couple living in a little hut near a lake rather than a chamber pot close by the sea, while at the conclusion of the story the wife wants to be ’equal to the Creator, and make the sun rise’ rather than simply be like God. Many stories are given titles that are arbitrarily different from what would be obvious. ’The Golden Goose’ is renamed ’The Little Grey Man’, ’Snow-white’is called ’The Magic Mirror’, ’Rumpelstiltskin’is ’The Gold Spinner’. She calls ’Rapunzel’’The Garden of the Sorceress’, but this is because she has had the bright idea of translating Rapunzeln as ’lettuces’ and thus calling the girl Letitia or Lettice. With the similarly difficult ’Fundevogel’ she gives the boy the name of Birdie, which is more appropriate and adventurous than Bird-Foundling (Burns), Fir-Apple (Addey & Co.) or leaving it untranslated (Davis, Hunt).

44Mrs Paull is peculiarly sensitive about relations between the sexes. In what she calls ’The False Bride’ (generally known as ’The Goose-girl’) the boy who accompanies the heroine in looking after the geese and wants to pull out her hair is changed into a girl, while at the same time being left the name Kürdchen, the diminutive form of Konrad. Clearly, for Mrs Paull it did not do for a boy and girl to be left alone like this, but in making her change she destroyed the significance of the episode as a demonstration of the heroine’s gradual recovery of sexual self-confidence and power. Similarly, in ’The Twin Brothers’ (the longest of the Grimms’ tales by far) Mrs Paull could not countenance the episode in which one twin sleeps in his sister-in-law’s bed, being taken as her genuine husband, even though separated from her by a two-edged sword. She mentions nothing at all about the bed or the sword, but says simply that the princess ’thought he was very cold and distant to her’. Again, the point of the episode – the extent of the brother’s faithfulness to his twin – is lost. Mrs Paull is not as faithful herself to the Grimms and in the case of ’May Blossom’ (her version of ’Briar Rose’) she contaminates it with details from Perrault’s ’Sleeping Beauty’.

45Mrs Paull’s edition was printed at least seven times between 1868 and 1888, but in 1893 Warne published a further two-volume complete edition with the titles Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Household Stories and Grimms’ Wonder Tales respectively. The translation was credited to Mrs Paull and Mr L. A. Wheatley, the revisions presumably being the latter’s work. In 1893 also a selection of 62 tales from this work was issued by Warne with the title Grimms’ Household Stories. In this selection the story that Mrs Paull, misreading the German Gothic type, called ’The Clever Elfe’ (instead of ’Else’) was corrected to ’Clever Bess’, and various improvements were made to the text.

46Meanwhile, other new translations offered competition. Lucy Crane’s Household Stories from the Collection of the Bros: Grimm (London: Macmillan & Co., 1882) provided fifty-two stories, all familiar from previous collections and taken from nos. 1-93 in the Grimms’ complete editions. To her credit she leaves out the two anti-Semitic stories, ’The Good Bargain’ and ’The Jew in the Bush’ (the latter only omitted by Thoms and J. E. Taylor among previous translators). She makes a blunder in translating Geißlein as ’goslings’ rather than the correct ’kids’ in ’The Wolf and the Seven Kids’, and she also wrongly translates ’Von dem Machandelboom’ as ’The Almond Tree’ instead of ’The Juniper Tree’. But generally her translation is straightforward, lively and true to the tone of the original. Lucy Crane took considerable trouble with the verses to be found in many of the stories. The oddly unrhyming lines in the German original of ’The Frog Prince’ she renders very aptly as

’Youngest King’s daughter,
Open to me!
By the well water
What promised you me?
Youngest King’s daughter
Now open to me!’

47When Aschenputtel calls for help in the task her stepmother has set her, she calls:

’O gentle doves, O turtle doves,
And all the birds that be,
The lentils that in ashes lie
Come and pick up for me!
The good must be put in the dish,
The bad you may eat if you wish.

48However, this edition is noted not so much for Lucy Crane’s translation as for her brother Walter’s illustrations. Walter Crane (1845-1915) had already made himself quite a reputation with his colour illustrations to children’s picture books from about 1865, but he did only black and white illustrations for Household Stories. There were head- and tail-pieces for each story and in addition full-page pictures for ’The Sleeping Beauty’, ’The Goose Girl’, ’Faithful John’, ’Rapunzel’, ’The White Snake’, ’Mother Hulda’, ’The Robber Bridegroom’, ’The Almond Tree’, ’The Six Swans’, ’Snow-white’ and ’The Golden Bird’. Of these full-page pictures only that for ’Faithful John’ does not depict a slim young girl, and only the stories of ’Faithful John’ and ’The Golden Bird’ have a male protagonist. Although Lucy Crane does have about a dozen fairytales with a male protagonist, they are outweighed by those with females. The disproportion is increased with Walter Crane’s pictures, and it is this kind of privileging of tales with heroines that has led to the common perception that fairytales are more for girls than for boys. Certainly, Walter Crane’s attention focusses on the more romantic aspects of the tales. Household Stories was revised (the goslings were turned back into kids) and reissued in 1886 then again in 1893, 1894, 1923 and 1926. There have also been American reprints, and in 1979 Macmillan issued a facsimile reprint of the 1882 edition.

49Two years after the first edition of Household Stories came Margaret Hunt’s Grimm’s Household Tales (London: George Bell & Sons, 2 vols., 1884). This was noteworthy on several counts. In the first place, it was the first translation of the full corpus of the Grimms’ tales that had been available in German since 1857. Secondly, Hunt aimed at accuracy and fidelity to her sources and only ’slightly softened one or two passages’, as she writes in her preface. She does not engage in the kind of adaptations typical of most of her predecessors. Thirdly, she provided a translation of the Grimms’ extensive annotations to each individual tale. This feature, together with the scholarly introduction by Andrew Lang, one of the leading folklorists of the day, and the fact that the work contained no illustrations, makes clear the serious nature of Hunt’s undertaking. Although Edgar Taylor had used the Grimms’ notes in making his own, his principal concern seems to have been with children. With Hunt it was the other way round. Her translation was reissued in Bohn’s Standard Library in 1885, then again by Bell in 1892 and 1910. When it was published again in 1944 in one volume (New York: Pantheon Books), the text was revised by James Stern and the notes were removed. Further reprints were published in London by Routledge and Kegan Paul in 1959 and 1975. The loss of the notes in these later editions was probably a marketing strategy and intended to return Hunt’s translation to the field of children’s books. Hunt’s translation had its faults, mainly in an occasional clumsiness of style, but it was indubitably the most faithful of nineteenth-century English renderings of the Grimms.

50The 1890s saw a multitude of editions competing for the attention of children and their parents. In addition to Hunt’s scholarly translation there were several new editions from Routledge of the Addey and Co. translation with Wehnert’s illustrations. Wells Gardner, Darton and Co. also used the Addey and Co. translation, unacknowledged as always, in their Fairy Tales from Grimm, first published in 1894 and reaching a fourth edition in 1908. This was plentifully illustrated with lively drawings by Gordon Browne (1858-1932) and equipped with a learned preface on folktales by S. Baring-Gould. Then there was the Paull and Wheatley translation from Warne, and a new edition of Edgar Taylor’s Gammer Grethel from George Bell and Sons (1897). These were all reissues of translations that had proved themselves in the market. Two more publishers now sought to take advantage of the Grimms’ popularity. First came Ernest Nister, whose main contribution was in the field of large-size illustrated books with superbly printed colour illustrations done in Germany. Then Ward, Lock and Co. entered the field with another ’complete’ edition of the tales, translated by Beatrice Marshall (1900). From this point on publishers tend to be far more interested in what illustration can do to sell their books; the matter of translation becomes secondary.

51The Nister edition of 1898 (published in New York by E. P. Dutton & Co.) was entitled simply Grimm’s Fairy Tales (the singular form of the possessive is a commonplace of editions of this period). It was illustrated with numerous black and white drawings by E. Stuart Hardy and others, but its chief attraction was in the ten colour plates by Ada Dennis. These are of the prettily sentimental kind typical of the period, with little girls dressed in pink and white and with long blond hair. Despite the horror that is rarely far to seek in many of the stories, the pictures barely hint at such things. The picture of ’Snow-White, Rose-Red, and the Angel’ slips rather easily into sickly religiosity, while that of ’The Princess and the Beggar-Man’ from ’King Thrush-Beard’ looks more like a pastoral idyll than a punishment for a haughty princess.

52This edition contains just thirty-two stories. Nister also published the stories with the same illustrations and colour plates in two separate volumes, one entitled Hop o’my Thumb’s Wanderings and other Fairy Tales from Grimm’ (no date). Another, larger edition with fifty-six stories, again simply called Grimm’s Fairy Tales, was issued in 1910, this time with illustrations by Charles Robinson (1870-1937). Each tale has a head-piece or decorated initial in a kind of post-Beardsley style (probably not by Robinson). The book contains four full-page pictures in rich, subtle colours, two of which focus on brownies in what is here called ’The Cobbler and the Brownies’ (more usually ’The Elves and the Shoemaker’. The other two deal with ’The Man of Iron’ (’Iron Hans’) and ’Mother Hulda’ (’Mother Holle’). There is a world of difference between these art nouveau illustrations and those of Ada Dennis.

53The edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales translated by Beatrice Marshall (London, New York and Melbourne: Ward, Lock & Co., Limited, 1900) is more ambitious in scope than their previous editions, but the format closely resembles that of the Routledge and Warne editions with which it was competing. Unfortunately, the illustrations are monochrome rather than in colour, and those taken over from Doré lose impact through being reduced in size. The translation claims to be complete, but Sutton points out that it actually omits ’The Death of the Hen’ and ’Going Travelling’, while also containing the Andersen tale of ’The Princess and the Pea’. Marshall follows Addey and Co. and Lucy Crane in having ’The Almond Tree’ as a title for ’The Juniper Tree’, but she is probably the only translator to call ’Herr Korbes’ ’Mr Basket’ and so provide English readers with a semantically linked name. Elsewhere she dares to break the taboo about the louse by giving ’The Wood-louse and the Flea’ as the title of ’Läuschen und Flöhchen’. Margaret Hunt had translated this as ’The Louse and the Flea’, but all previous translators had baulked at the term, giving ’spider’ or ’ladybird’ instead. Marshall had problems with some of the colloquial expressions in, for example, ’Clever Hans’, but in general her translation can be called good, though not excellent. In 1912 a selection of 115 tales was issued with the same title and a single monochrome illustration by Henry Austin as a frontispiece. The emphasis lies chiefly on the tales in the second half of the Grimm’s collection.

54The period between 1900 and 1914 is marked by a great variety of presentations of the Grimms. In addition to the large comprehensive editions already mentioned, there are substantial selections in both new and old translations, alongside which very brief selections were made for small children. John F. Shaw published seventy-four tales c. 1901, using a slightly modified form of the Addey and Co. translation, accompanied by fifty line drawings and a coloured frontispiece. This was an unpretentious book aimed at the lower end of the market. In 1906 Dent issued the first edition of Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm in their long-lasting ’Everyman’s Library’. This selection of sixty-six tales gave no indication of the provenance of the translations, but a substantial number were taken from Gammer Grethel. The illustrations were by Robert Anning Bell (1863-1933). Edgar Taylor was used again by Blackie for their edition illustrated in colour and black and white by Helen Stratton (1903), but this time the text was taken from German Poplar Stories with occasional slight changes. This edition had fifty-four stories. In 1909 Grant Richards published another edition consisting of sixty-four tales selected and retold by Githa Sowerby and with twelve illustrations in colour by Millicent Sowerby (1878-1967). Some of the story titles point to Mrs Paull as a source, and the term ’retold’ makes it clear that we are not dealing with a new translation.

55Among these substantial new selections one in particular stands out – Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, translated by Mrs Edgar Lucas (London: Constable & Co., 1909). The significant feature of the book is indicated by the illustrator’s name preceding the translator’s. Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) produced his forty evocative colour illustrations over the same period as he did those for Fouqué’s Undine, and those for Wagner’s The Rhinegold and The Valkyrie and Siegfried and The Twilight of the Gods came in 1910 and 1911 respectively. The Grimm book has fifty-five vigorous black and white drawings too, but it is the colour illustrations that make this edition a collector’s piece. Many of them display Rackham’s delight in the scenery and picturesque old towns of Germany that he visited frequently between the 1890s and 1930. There are some wonderful studies of birds and animals, for example, the screech owl for ’Jorinda and Joringel’, the ducks for ’The Queen Bee’ and the goat and kids for ’The Wolf and the Seven Kids’. Rackham is often thought of as a master of the grotesque, but such pictures should be set alongside such delicate portraits as the two illustrations for ’The Goosegirl’ to keep them in proportion. But it is the dangerous and suspenseful episodes in fairytales that clamour to be illustrated, and Rackham provides them in plenty. No one else has achieved Rackham’s power in suggesting the immense height of the tower inside which Rapunzel was imprisoned. While these colour pictures are the highpoint of this book, the black and white drawings are also immensely skilful. If I draw attention only to one, it would be the illustration to ’The Twelve Dancing Princesses’, which with great economy depicts the illuminated castle and, in front of it, the lake gleaming as the boats row their way towards it.

56This edition with Rackham’s colour illustrations consisted of sixty tales in a new translation by Mrs Edgar Lucas. There was also another edition, undated, in which these illustrations were reproduced in black and white along with those originally done in black and white. This contained three additional tales – ’Faithful John’, ’The Three Sluggards’ and ’The Three Brothers’. The translation occasionally takes its cue from previous versions, as when the couple in ’The Fisherman and his Wife’ live in ’a hovel’ and the wife finally desires to be ’Lord of the Universe’ rather than simply ’God’. In ’Rapunzel’ Mrs Lucas chooses to have ’corn-salad’ rather than ’rampion’ or ’lettuce’. Elsewhere she makes a straightforward, idiomatic rendering of the tales, though the selection confines itself to the familiar and does not attempt to introduce new stories to the reader.

57By the beginning of the twentieth century the Grimms have become such a firm part of the landscape of children’s books that much smaller selections and adaptations are being made for younger children and, perhaps, a readership that goes beyond the middle class. Edric Vredenburg edited sixteen tales for Raphael Tuck and Sons in 1900. From this edition we can pretty reliably see what are the most popular tales – ’Hansel and Grethel’, ’The Frog Prince’, ’Little Red-cap’, ’Thumbling’, ’The Six Swans’, ’The Table, the Ass and the Stick’, ’Briar Rose’, ’The Valiant Little Tailor’, ’Cinderella’, ’The Musicians of Bremen’, ’Rumpelstiltskin’, ’The Goose-Girl’, ’The Water of Life’, ’Little Snow-White’, ’The Little Brother and Sister’and ’The King of the Golden Mountain’. Of these tales only ’Little Red-cap’, ’The Six Swans’ and ’The Table, the Ass and the Stick’ were not included in Edgar Taylor’s German Popular Stories. The eight colour plates by Eddie J. Andrews are sugar and spice and all things nice, but the black and white drawings by S. Jacobs display more individual character. Vredenburg edited another collection that was illustrated by Mabel Lucie Attwell c. 1914. There was an overlap of eleven tales between the two editions, but the later one included ’The Step-sisters and the Dwarfs’ (’Die drei Männlein im Walde’), ’Snow-White and Rose-Red’, ’The Travels of Tom Thumb’ (replacing ’Thumbling’), ’Dummling and the Three Feathers’, ’The Golden Goose’, ’The Nose’ and ’The Fairy Folk’ (’Die Wichtelmänner’). Of these, again, only ’The Step-sisters and the Dwarfs’ and ’Dummling and the Three Feathers’ were not in Edgar Taylor’s collection. Attwell’s colour plates feature small, vulnerable children, spindly legged goblins and the odd tiny fairy flitting irrelevantly in the corners of the scene, but her colours are stronger than those of Andrews. Her female figures always look as though they have been taken unawares and are about to burst into tears, if they haven’t already done so. Attwell is the epitome of tweeness.

58Another selection of comparable size was aimed at older children. Favourite Stories from Grimm, re-told by Edward Shirley (London, Edinburgh and New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, no date) contained fourteen stories, but the ’Cinderella’ is by Perrault, not the Grimms. The other tales are ’Hansel and Grethel’, ’Rumpelstiltskin’, ’The Goose-Girl’, ’Little Snow-White, or the Magic Mirror’, ’The Golden Goose’, ’Briar Rose’, ’Hans in Luck’, ’The Iron Chest’ (’Der Eisenofen’, an unusual choice), ’Little Primrose’ (an unusually titled form of ’Rapunzel’), ’The Magic Key’ (’Fitchers Vogel’, another uncommon choice), ’Little Red Riding Hood’. ’The Frog Prince’ and ’The Fisherman and his Wife’. The twelve colour plates by W. H. Margetson (1861-1940) depict older figures than Attwell and do so in a more realistic and complex style. In comparison with Rackham they are very old-fashioned.

59Over this same period we find a number of even more compact selections. The well-known ’Told to the Children’ series published in Britain by T. C. & E. C. Jack and in America by E. P. Dutton & Co. issued Stories from Grimm (c. 1906), told to the children by Amy Steedman and with eight colour pictures by Harry Rowntree (1878-1950). (The artist’s name is usually spelt ’Rountree’, but here it is as stated.) This contained just ten tales, while Blackie’s comparable volume (c. 1912), excerpted from the larger collection illustrated by Helen Stratton, has a mere eight. There is no overlap between the two books. Stratton’s illustrations are printed with much more subtle colours than is the case in the large collection.

60These developments during the Edwardian period show Grimms’ fairytales being presented to the most diverse kinds of reader – the bibliophile, the person interested in folklore, the reader who wants to devour the whole of the Grimms’ collection, the whole age-range of children and young people. But alongside faithful translations and careful adaptations in books specifically labelled with the Grimms’ name individual tales were also included in general collections of fairytales. Routledge’s Household Tales and Fairy Stories (1877) included ’The Wolf and the Man’, ’Squire Korbes’and ’The Fox and the Cat’ among traditional English and French fairytales. Mrs Valentine had ’The Three Soldiers and the Dwarf’ (’The Nose’), ’Snowdrop’ (’Snow-white’) and ’The Giant with the Golden hairs’ sandwiched between Perrault and other French literary tellers of fairytales in her Old Old Fairy Tales (Frederick Warne & Co., no date). Andrew Lang incorporated a few other items from the Grimms in his Blue, Red, Green, Yellow and Grey Fairy Books (1889, 1890, 1892, 1894 and 1900 respectively) in translations made by his female collaborators. Finally, W. T. Stead included a few Grimm tales in a number of his Books for the Bairns (nos. 7, 123, 144, 153 and 162). This is not an exhaustive list, but it demonstrates clearly enough how thoroughly acclimatized the Grimms had become. In the anthologies the provenance of their tales is generally unacknowledged; they are taken for granted and hardly even thought of as German tales.

61The picture of the Grimms that British readers had over nearly a century is extremely varied. It began with Edgar Taylor’s renderings, not exact translations, but creative adaptations designed to fit in with the different religious, moral and social preconceptions of the British, and Taylor’s choices and stance were still influential at the time of the First World War. Apart from ’Rapunzel’, the most popular tales in the period 1900-1914 were all tales that Taylor had included in some form in his 1823-26 collection. Most popular was ’The Frog Prince’, then ’Snow-White’ and ’Rumpelstiltskin’, followed by ’Hansel and Grethel’, ’Cinderella’ and ’The Elves and the Shoemaker’. After them came ’Faithful John’, ’Rapunzel’, ’Briar Rose’, ’The Golden Goose’, ’The King of the Golden Mountain’, ’The Golden Bird’ and ’The Musicians of Bremen’. All except the last are fairytales in the narrower sense, that is, tales of magic.

62By the mid nineteenth century, with the Addey and Co. edition, almost the whole of the Grimms’ collection was available in English. Margaret Hunt, Paull and Wheatley and Beatrice Marshall delivered complete or virtually complete translations in the latter part of the century, though they varied in accuracy and readability. Medium-sized selections were to hand from Edgar Taylor onwards and kept being added to. But it was not until the turn of the century that brief selections began to be made, and then there were several within a decade or so. Single tales, occasionally versified and always with illustrations, came from the mid 1820s and probably reached their apogee with Walter Crane’s marvellously designed colour ’toy book’ version of ’The Frog Prince’ (1874). Thomas de la Rue and Co. published a Rumpel-stilts-kin illustrated by George R. Halkett in 1882 and a Clever Hans illustrated by J. Lawson c. 1884, and during much of the century there were manifold editions of ’Little Red Riding Hood’, in which Perrault was often combined with or replaced by Grimm. There was thus something of Grimm to offer every kind of reader, and this range was available from as early as the 1850s.

63To an extraordinary extent the image of the Grimms up to the early twentieth century was fixed by Edgar Taylor. It was not simply that his versions continued to be reprinted throughout the period, but that he singled out so many deeply resonant tales for inclusion in his original two volumes. Even where he altered elements of the story he did not undermine their emotional power. Later translators sometimes corrected Taylor’s aberrations, but they often also took them over with the result that the commonly accepted English version of the Grimms is rather more proper than the German. The English Grimm tends to focus more strongly on the tales of magic than is the case with the German original. The animal tales, comic, religious and moral tales figure less often in the English selections, though they are of course present in the complete editions. But even among the tales of magic there are some that very rarely appear in the selections. ’The Singing Bone’, ’The Girl without Hands’, ’Fitcher’s Bird’ and ’Hans my Hedgehog’ are cases in point. Perhaps the cruelty or human distortions that they contain militated against them. The religious tales also had little appeal, reflecting practices and presuppositions alien to the British Protestant mind.

64The German edition contains a considerable number of fine tales with male protagonists – ’The Tale of the Boy who set out to Learn about Fear’, ’The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs’, ’The Knapsack, the Hat and the Horn’, ’Bearskin’, ’Iron Hans’, ’The Master Thief’ are just a few – but in the English imagination it is the tales with female protagonists that are most memorable. This may be due to the fact that girls are the more typical readers of fairytales, but it may also be the result of the exclusion of tales more likely to appeal to boys. Several of the tales with female protagonists are famous – ’Briar Rose’, ’Ashputtel’, ’Little Red Riding Hood’, ’Rapunzel’, ’The Frog Prince’, ’Snow-White’, ’The Goose-Girl’ – but they tend to be of the beautiful, passive, obedient, long-suffering kind that was the ideal of patriarchal Victorian society. Extreme physical and emotional sufferings may be inflicted on them, ranging from endurance of pointless menial tasks, enforced separation from the family, mutilation, imprisonment, years of enforced silence, the prohibition of laughter, slanderous imputations of wickedness, and so on. Male protagonists may have their courage and physical strength tested, but they do not suffer the degree of pain inflicted on the hapless females. Yet there is always a happy ending: the heroine is rescued and marries the prince of her dreams. The hero too wins his bride and becomes a king, if he is not one already. Yet a story like ’The Robber Bridegroom’ contains a second young woman who does not escape from the robber band: she is drugged and killed and has her finger chopped off, so the female reader or listener has an alternative ending to haunt her imagination.

65The Grimms’ collection as a whole has a striking number of stories featuring siblings of both genders. The most famous are ’Hansel and Gretel’, ’Little Brother and Little Sister’ and ’Fundevogel’, in which a brother and sister (or foster-sister) are abandoned by their parents, undergo a terrible adventure and finally re-establish a supportive family. In these stories the brother first shows initiative, but it is the sister who finally oversees the rescue. Hansel drops the pebbles that guide the children back home, then he drops the crumbs that the birds eat, but Gretel pushes the witch into the oven and makes sure that the siblings ride singly on the duck’s back rather than weighing her down with both of them together, as Hansel had wanted. ’The Twelve Brothers’, ’The Six Swans’ and ’The Seven Ravens’ are also crucially concerned with the relationship of siblings and the sacrifices that the sister is prepared to make for her brothers. These stories emphasize the importance of the family unit and of the need for siblings to pull together in mutual support. One can also view Snow-White’s housekeeping for the seven dwarfs as part of this pattern. This is a fascinating variation on the negative relationship that siblings of the same gender have with each other. The male protagonist is often the youngest of three and regarded as stupid, while the female protagonist may have older step-sisters. In either case they are faced with victimization or competition rather than getting help. There are thus a number of different patterns to be seen in the tales of magic; they do not all tell the same basic story.

66The Grimms’ collection is an extraordinary treasure-house. The range of tales is both large and extremely varied. Clearly, the stories came from a pre-industrial society and were rewritten to conform to the bourgeois values of small-town Germany, but they nonetheless transcend their origins. They have a core that is capable of appealing, across historical periods and national affiliations, to the deepest reaches of human experience. It is in the nature of fairytales that they are continually retold and thus refashioned. The Grimms themselves participated in this process, and it continued with the huge number of British translations, adaptations, illustrations and reprints that were issued during the nineteenth century and beyond. During this period the major focus of interpretation had to do with folklore and myth, but what is perhaps most apparent to twentieth-century readers about the tales of magic is their concern with patterns of human maturation. How does the child learn to become an adult? How do girls and boys deal with their feelings about their parents? What do they feel about their siblings? Where does help come from when they feel despair? How does sex relate to love and marriage? What sort of image of themselves do the protagonists of any story have? What fears or anxieties do they have? Each tale tackles questions of this kind. The patterns are inexhaustible.

67Note: Since this chapter was first written a virtually unknown collection of German fairytales from the mid nineteenth century has resurfaced, viz. Papa’s Present of Household Stories, from the German (Darton & Co., 1851). Of the seventeen tales twelve are taken from the Grimms, from either the 1837 or the 1840 or 1843 editions of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen. The Grimms’ name, however, is not mentioned anywhere in the book. Lawrence Darton, in The Dartons (2004), lists an edition under the title Household Stories as H722, without any reference to Papa’s Present or to the Grimms. This translation was not known to Martin Sutton in The Sin-Complex (Kassel, 1996). The anonymous translator adds only one new tale to those already published in English by Edgar Taylor in 1823-26, but he or she gives almost all the tales a different title. The translator’s command of German vocabulary and idiom is insecure, at times remaining close to the German while at others being quite free and often misunderstanding the original. I propose writing about this collection in more detail elsewhere.


1 Heinz Rölleke, Die älteste Märchensammlung der Brüder Grimm. Synopse der handschriftlichen Urfassung von 1810 und der Erstdrucke von 1812 (Cologny-Genève: Fondation Martin Bodmer, 1975).

2 Most of what follows on the translations of Edgar Taylor and John Edward Taylor and that issued by Addey and Co. is taken from David Blamires, ’The Early Reception of the Grimms’ Kinder- und Hausmärchen in England’. Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 71, 3 (Autumn 1989), pp. 69-77.

3 For information about Cunningham and Thoms I am greatly indebted to Martin Sutton, The Sin-Complex. A Critical Study of English Versions of the Grimms’ Kinder- und Hausmärchen in the Nineteenth Century (Kassel: Brüder Grimm-Gesellschaft, 1996).

4 Sutton, pp. 111-36.

5 Jeremy Maas, Pamela White Trimpe, Charlotte Gere and others, Victorian Fairy Painting (London: Merrell Holberton, 1998).

6 Brian Alderson, Grimm Tales in English (London: The British Library, 1985).

7 Sutton, p. 183.

8 For much information on Matilda Davis, the Ward and Lock edition, Mrs Paull, Lucy Crane and Margaret Hunt I am again indebted to Martin Sutton.

Table des illustrations

Légende 17. Title-page and frontispiece of Unlucky John and his Lump of Silver. A Juvenile Comic Tale (c. 1825).
Fichier image/jpeg, 643k
Légende 18. An Hour at Bearwood. The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids (1839). Illustration by George Nicol.
Fichier image/jpeg, 889k
Légende 19. Brothers Grimm, Household Stories. Newly Translated (1853). Illustration to ’The Musicians of Bremen’ by Edward Wehnert.
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,0M


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