The 15 most popular fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm

"Once upon a time"

Even though only about 40 percent of all fairy tales begin with this much quoted introductory formula, it reminds us of the comforting feeling from childhood that we felt when reading the famous fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm together. Free of time and place, probably the most famous collection of fairy tales in the history of literature conveys a basic understanding of the interrelationships of this world: good triumphs over evil, rich and poor do not necessarily share the same fate, but both find their happiness.

The stories of royal children, magical figures and brave heroes such as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella or Hansel and Gretel, collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, are over 200 years old. If the brothers from Hanau in Hesse had not written down these stories, which were initially passed on orally, in a first edition in 1812, they might have been forgotten long ago.

From Kassel out into the world

Sooner or later, every child encounters the fairy tale characters to whom the Brothers Grimm set a literary monument with their children's and domestic fairy tales published in 1812 and 1819. Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm collected around 200 stories during their first years of work in Kassel. A total of 50 of them made it into the lovingly illustrated Small Edition published in 1924, which has had a decisive influence on our understanding of Grimm's fairy tales today. The classics included here, such as Snow White, Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin, are equally inspiring to children and adults alike and are still suitable for reading aloud and experiencing together even two centuries after their first publication.

For a better understanding, the fantastic stories were repeatedly revised by Wilhelm Grimm and his brother, adapted to the language and reading habits of the bourgeoisie and, according to a preface from 1815, even titled as an educational book. Of course, we are far from that nowadays, as the Grimm brothers' fairy tales are more for entertainment and a pleasant horror before going to bed. We have compiled the most popular and perhaps most beautiful fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm for you.

 

The most popular fairy tales

1

Snow White

"White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony" - shortly after the birth of the beautiful king's daughter Snow White, the biological mother dies. Her stepmother watches the growing beauty of Snow White with envy. One day, as usual, when she asks her truth-telling magic mirror, the mirror does not answer, as expected, that she is the most beautiful in all the land, but her hated stepdaughter. She orders a hunter to kill Snow White in the forest. Out of pity he lets the beautiful child go. Snow White reaches the house of the seven dwarves and lives with them until her wicked stepmother tracks her down there and, in changing disguises, tries to kill her. Poisoned by an apple, Snow White seems doomed to die when the fall from her glass coffin frees her from the poisonous apple and lets her sink alive into the arms of her prince.

2

Little Red Riding Hood

Equipped by her mother with cake and wine and with the advice not to stray from the path, Little Red Riding Hood sets off for her grandmother. On her way to the forest she meets a cunning wolf, who not only describes the route to the grandmother's house, but also tempts the girl to forget time while picking flowers. The wolf poses as a beloved granddaughter, eats the grandmother and lies down in her bed. Little Red Riding Hood arrives late at the grandmother's house, is deceived by the wolf and is also eaten. With the help of a hunter, Grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood are finally rescued alive from the wolf's belly, which is now filled with stones and comes to its unhappy end.

3

Hansel and Gretel

Repeatedly left behind in the deep forest by their penniless parents, the siblings Hansel and Gretel wander through the thicket in search of food. Instead of finding their way back home, they fall into the trap of a wicked witch who lures the children with a house made of bread, cake and sugar. After the situation seems hopeless at first, Gretel manages to push the witch into the fire oven while baking bread and to free her brother Hansel from his dungeon. The siblings fill their pockets with the witch's pearls and gems and find their way back home. From their repentant father they learn that their envious stepmother has died in the meantime. Due to the captured riches the family can now live together carefree.

4

Sleeping Beauty

By stabbing a spindle, a curse is fulfilled on the 15th birthday of a king's daughter, putting herself, the entire royal family and the court into a hundred-year sleep. Several princes try unsuccessfully to overcome the deadly hedge of thorns until one day, exactly 100 years after the curse came into effect, a fearless king's son manages to penetrate the castle. The prince finds the sleeping Sleeping Beauty in her attic and releases her from her fate with a kiss. The family and court awaken, Sleeping Beauty and her prince marry and find their happiness.

5

Hans in Luck

After seven years of work, Hans is rewarded by his master craftsman with a large lump of gold. On the way home he first exchanges the gold for a horse, the horse for a cow, the cow for a pig, the pig for a goose and the goose for two grindstones. In doing so, he fights his way through life optimistically and full of hope, always finding what he needs at the moment, and finally finding his happiness in getting rid of the heavy burden on the last part of the way and returning to his mother in freedom.

6

The Bremen Town Musicians

Chased out of their owners because of their age and decreasing strength, a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster meet on their way to Bremen, where they want to spend their retirement as town musicians. During a joint rest in the forest they become aware of the light of a nearby robber's house. They approach the house with its seductively laid table and chase the robbers away by forming a quartet of animal sounds arranged one above the other. They eat whatever their hearts desire and go to sleep. When the robbers return, the cat jumps in their face, the dog bites, the donkey kicks and the cock calls. Finally frightened, the robbers leave their quarters to their animal friends.

7

Cinderella

Demoted from her wicked stepsisters to kitchen maid, Cinderella ekes out a life of privation. When the king organises a three-day festival to elect the most beautiful girl at the ball as the prince's future wife, the wicked stepmother makes the hopeless selection of lentils and peas from a pot of ashes a condition of Cinderella's participation. Pigeons and other birds rush to Cinderella's aid and a tree at her dead mother's grave gives her the most dazzling robes. In this way she conquers the heart of the prince, from whom she escapes on two evenings and who, on the third evening, retains her golden shoe. Although the stepsisters want to pose as the wearers of the shoe, Cinderella is identified as the true owner and marries the king's son.

8

Mother Holle

Two daughters, one beautiful, hardworking and yet unloved and the other ugly, lazy and preferred by her mother, share the same fate one after the other with a different outcome. When the industrious daughter, after a fall into a well, reaches a paradisiacal land and meets Frau Holle, she reveals her qualities through her conscientious work and is rewarded by Frau Holle with a shower of gold. Richly decorated she returns home. Thereupon the previously preferred daughter is also sent on her way, but she reaches Frau Holle through the well, but does not prove herself in her work. Full of calculation she expects the laburnum, which was given to her sister, but as a reward for her bad work she is only doused with bad luck.

9

The Frog Prince

When a beautiful king's daughter falls her golden ball into a deep well while playing, she receives surprising help from a talking frog. In return for diving for the beloved ball, the frog wrestles the princess's promise to take him into the castle with her and to feed him side by side and let him sleep in her bed. Although the king's daughter denies him this wish at first, the frog finds his way to her the following day. Rebuked by her father for the broken promise, the princess reluctantly allows the frog to live by her side. During an argument, the king's daughter smashes the frog against a wall, thus releasing a king's son from an evil spell.

10

Puss in Boots

After the death of a miller, his inheritance, the mill, the donkey and the tomcat are divided among the three sons. At first, the third son, who is given the tomcat, is at a disadvantage. However, it soon turns out that the cat, who is equipped with boots and acts like a human being, not only helps him to become rich but also to increase his prestige with his skill and persuasion. Initially destitute, the third son triumphs, becomes king and appoints Puss in Boots as the first minister.

By the way: at Booxli you can read this and other fairy tales for free as a picture book. 

11

The Valiant Little Tailor

After a simple tailor has killed seven flies, he sews a belt with the inscription "Seven in one stroke" and sets out into the world. With his cunning, thoughtful manner, he passes all the tests he encounters and takes on giants, unicorns and dangerous wild boars with seemingly no effort. Encouraged by these successes in his self-confidence and his reputation as an invincible hero, he marries the king's daughter and becomes king over an entire empire.

12

The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids

Before mother goat makes her way into the forest to get food, she warns her seven little goats about the wolf, which might approach as an unwelcome visitor with a rough voice and black paws. In fact the wolf comes and reveals itself by its typical characteristics. In order to deceive the little goat, the wolf refines his voice with chalk and has his paws covered with dough and flour. The little goats open the door and are eaten except for the youngest, which survives safely hidden in the watch box. After the return of the mother, the youngest goat tells about the fate of his siblings. Mother and kid overpower the sleeping wolf, free the intact kid from its belly and fill it with stones. The evil wolf falls into a well and drowns.

13

Rapunzel

Locked up in a tower in the forest without doors or stairs, Rapunzel ekes out an isolated life. Her foster mother alone, an evil sorceress, has used the formula "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!". Access the dungeon. The king's son, lured by the girl's singing, accidentally observes that Rapunzel lets down her long hair when called upon, climbs the tower and conquers her heart. When the sorceress learns of the liaison she is seeking, she sends Rapunzel into the desert and lures the prince into a trap. After falling blind into the thorns, the heartbroken king's son wanders through the foreign lands for years and finally finds Rapunzel again with her twins who have been born in the meantime. Through Rapunzel's cried tears of joy the prince is healed from his blindness.

14

Wishing table set you

Deceived by a goat, a tailor chases his three sons out of the house. Independently of each other, the brothers learn different trades. After his apprenticeship the carpenter is paid with a wooden table, which covers itself with tablecloth, dishes and the finest food. The miller receives a gold-donking donkey, the turner a cudgel in a sack. Little by little the brothers make their way home and stop at an inn on the way, whose innkeeper exchanges both the table for an ordinary wooden table and the donkey for an ordinary donkey. Back at their parents' house, the brothers are once again exposed as alleged liars. Only the third brother can use the cudgel to recover the exchanged valuables and restore peace in the family.

15

Rumpelstiltskin

A penniless miller praises his daughter to the king with the claim that she can spin gold from straw. On three successive nights, the king locks the desperate girl in a chamber - a nameless little man rushes to her aid. To do so, she must not only give her collar and ring, but also the promise to leave her first-born child with the man. After the miller's daughter marries the king and gives birth to her first child, the little man returns and out of pity grants the new queen a three-day period in which to find out his name. On the third day a messenger gives her the name Rumpelstiltskin. The queen can keep her child and Rumpelstiltskin tears herself to pieces out of anger.