Jacob Grimm was born in Hanau, Germany, in the year 1785. His father, a lawyer, died when Jacob was just a small boy, and left his mother with no real means to support herself and her two boys, Jacob and Wilhelm, ( born 1786 ). Because of a lack of funds Jacob and Wilhelm had to go to a public school at first, but Jacob's aunt, his mother's sister, was well off enough to help support their family as well, and with her help, in 1802, Jacob went to the University of Marburg, to study the profession of his father, and become a lawyer. From the lectures of Friedrich Karl Von Savigny, Jacob and Wilhelm learned to love to study history and the history of language . Later, when Savigny and Jacob became friends, Jacob gained access to Savigny's immense library, which contained texts written in Old German, and through this his love of the study of language and grammar. He also gained a desire to understand these texts in greater detail, and this later became his life's work.
In 1805, Jacob was invited by Savigny to Paris to work with him on his literary pursuits. Here he improved his knowledge of Middle Age literature. By the end of that year, however, Jacob moved back to Kassel, Germany, to live with his mother and his brother. It was here in 1806 that he received an appointment to the war office, which gave him time for his studies, though it is said that he did not like wearing a military uniform. In 1808, the King of Westphalia, Jerome Bonaparte, appointed Jacob as his personal superintendent of his library. In 1813, Jacob was appointed Secretary of Legation, and a year later was sent to Paris to demand the return of the books that were stolen from their libraries during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1816, he was appointed as second librarian under a man named Volkel, but after Volkel's death he was not moved up in position so both he, and his loyal brother Wilhelm, who also held a position there left and went to Gottinger. There in Gottinger Jacob was appointed professor and librarian, while his brother was appointed as under - librarian. Here he remained until 1837 when he and seven other professors signed a pettion of protest against the King of Hanover and were expelled. They then returned to Kassel.
In 1840, Jacob and Wilhelm, were invited by the King of Prussia, to Berlin, where both he and his brothers were given professorships, and made members of the Academy of Science. In 1848, Jacob was elected to the Frankfurt National Parliament where he tried his hand at politics. His speeches, which tended to be nationalistic, included demanding the Danish possession, Holstein, to be handed over to German control. He worked tirelessly on his linguistic projects up until his death in 1864.
I haven't said much about their works up until now because I wanted everyone to see that Jacob, and his brother Wilhelm, were much, much more, than just " Those guys who wrote those fairy tales." Which by the way they technically did not write. They adapted them, very well mind you, from Germanic folklore. Their first work, a periodical, was actually condemned by a man named August Wilhelm Von Schlegel. This severe criticism influenced the Grimm brothers studies from that point on. His most famous works, " Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache", ( I hope I got that right ), or the, "History of the German Language", and
"Deutsche Grammatik", or " German Grammar", were attempts to show the origins of the German languages, and contain elements of Old High German, Gothic, West Germanic, Low Saxon, Middle High German, English, and Scandinavian. I am no etymologist, or philogist, by any means, but I do fully understand that his books had a profound influence on later understanding of the ancient Germans, and their languages. This in turn helped, in part, to bring about a sense of Germanic Nationalism. He is also credited with what is known as the "Rask - Grimm rule", which has to do with sound change, and sound correspondence. His other great work of note of course is on "Teutonic Mythology", which I mentioned earlier. It is a masterpiece of German mythology, and contains so many languages it is dizzying. The man was truly an academic ! You can still get them on - line as used books, but I paid a small fortune for mine !
When I started reading about Jacob Grimm, and his brother Wilhelm, I was stunned by how little I actually knew about these two great men. I was curious to know how they were remembered in their native Germany to this day. Unfortunately the only two native Germans I ever knew were my grandmother Eva, and my German teacher in college Frau Driver, both who have passed away . Then I remembered my new friend from Odin's gift, ( Frankfurt, Germany ), Michaela Macha, and e - mailed her the question. She graciously e - mailed me back this response :
" Yes, it is my definite impression that the brothers Grimm are first and foremost remembered for their fairy tales, and I guess not so many people are aware that they were collecting and adapting these tales rather than writing them from scratch" She went on to say : " The etymology work goes largely unremembered, I am afraid. I did not learn any facts about the Grimms in school, nor can I ever remember seeing a film documentary on T. V. "
Thank You Michaela ! This response saddens me, and is the reason I started writing Scandinavian / Germanic Cultural Heritage stories. How could they not teach, especially in their native Germany about the Grimm brothers ? Well, I hope I have "righted", at least a part of their legacy here in this article. Jacob Grimm, and his brother Wilhelm, are a fine addittion to our cultural heritage, and should be remembered for all of their accomplishments, not just the fairy tales that they adapted, and have come down to us. Jacob Grimm was an intellectual who directed his energies into dissecting and understanding the Germanic languages much in the same way that Albert Einstein studied the laws of the universe. I am not ashamed to say that I little understand the methods, or science that was used by either of these men, but I assure you I understand that they were both possibly the greatest in their fields at the time.
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