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The Brothers Grimm

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 05 February 2009

Melvyn Bragg discusses the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm with Juliette Wood, Marina Warner and Tony Phelan. The German siblings who in 1812 published a collection of fairy tales including Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin. But the Grimm versions are surprisingly, sometimes shockingly, different. Cinderella has no fairy godmother, her ugly sisters are not ugly but they do have their eyes pecked out by pigeons. Sleeping Beauty does not have an evil stepmother, Rapunzel is pregnant and Frog Princes do not get kissed but thrown against walls. They may not be the fairy tales as we know them, but without the Brothers Grimm we might not know them at all.

But why did two respectable German linguists go chasing after fairy stories, what do the stories tell us about German culture and romantic nationalism at the time and why do these ever-evolving tales of horror, wonder and fantasy continue to hold us in thrall?

With Juliette Wood, Associate Lecturer in Folklore at Cardiff University; Marina Warner, Professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex; Tony Phelan, Professor in German at Keble College, Oxford.

  • Further Reading

    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm - Selected Tales translated and edited by Joyce Crick (Oxford World’s Classics, 2005)

    The Grimms' Bad Girls and Bold Boys: The Social and Moral Vision of the Tales by Ruth Bottigheimer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987)

    ‘Peasants Tell Tales’ in The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes by Robert Darnton (Vintage, l984)

    The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter (Vintage, 1979)

    From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers by Marina Warner (Vintage, l994)

    No Go the Bogeyman: On Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock by Marina Warner (Vintage, l998)

    The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forest to the Modern world by Jack Zipes (Palgrave MacMillan, 2002)

    The Annotated Brothers Grimm by Maria Tatar (W.W.Noton & Co, 2004)

    The Brothers Grimm and Folktale edited by James M. McGlathery (University of Illinois, 1988)

    German Romantics in Context by Roger Cardinal (Studio Vista, 1975)

    Introducing Romanticism by Duncan Heath and Judy Boreham (Icon Books, 1999)

    The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar (Princeton, 2003)

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