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Hyping the Grimms' Tales

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In the year 2012 there were many celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the first edition of the Grimms’ fairy tales, published under the title Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen). There were conferences, books, papers, and a mass-mediated hype of the Grimms’ fairy tales that have frequently been turned into trivial pulp for the masses by the globalized culture industry. Yet, perhaps the Grimms are to blame for the hype. There is a fascinating, somewhat ironic tale that needs to be told here, for the Grimms, aided by their first English translator Edgar Taylor, helped pave the way for the modern hyping of the fairy tales. And it all began with the Grimms’ total commitment to salvaging the genuine essence of folk tales, their oral authenticity and historical significance. Moreover, children were not the designated audience of their books when they began their project of collecting tales. Yet, the Grimms were gradually persuaded to appeal to them until publishers and readers dismissed the Grimms’ original intentions and branded their collection as children’s literature. In his lecture, Professor Zipes will endeavour to explain how and why this transformation came about.


Jack Zipes is professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. In addition to his scholarly work, he is an active storyteller in public schools and has worked with children’s theaters in Europe and the United States. Some of his major publications include Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales (1979), Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion (rev. ed. 2006), The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World (1988), Hans Christian Andersen: The Misunderstood Storyteller (2005), and Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a Genre (2006). He has also edited The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (2000), and The Great Fairy Tale Tradition (2001) and is editor-in-chief of the series Oddly Modern Fairy Tales published by Princeton University Press. Most recently he has published The Enchanted Screen: the Unknown History of Fairy-Tale Films (2010) and The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre (2012).

This talk is part of the Centre for Research in Children's Literature at Cambridge series.

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