Exploring the Brothers Grimm Museum

Earlier this year I made a trip to Kassel in central Germany to see the Documenta, an art exhibition that happens there every five years. I was also, however, keen to go to GRIMMWORLD (GRIMMWELT), a museum dedicated to the work of the philologists and scholars Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who spent large parts of their life in Kassel. The Brothers Grimm are famous for collecting and publishing fairy tales, but they also studied culture, language and the history of language.

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I am fascinated by fairy tales, but I wondered how interesting a museum about two language-focused scholars could be. I envisioned endless cabinets full of old books, notes and letters (which would have been fine, I love old books). The museum, however, turned out to be much more dynamic. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Quirks of Buying Books in Germany: Fixed Pricing and the ‘Buchpreisbindung’

I regularly receive promotional offers from a German book store chain called Thalia for discounts on their products (e.g. “12% off everything today!”). However, there’s always a little asterisk, and in the fine print you see something to the effect of:

*Not valid for use on books or ebooks due to the Buchpreisbindung.

Given this is primarily a book store, it seemed pretty strange they never sent me discount vouchers to tempt me to buy actual books.  Continue reading

The Most German Fairy Tales

Germany has long been considered a land of fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm collection of Märchen popularised the tales they collected here, and plenty of German villages, houses and forests look like they might have sprung straight out of a story book.

But having moved to Germany a little over a year ago, I’ve become more aware of the smaller ways in which the famous fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm reflect their cultural origins. For the first time, I can see evidence of the roots they sprung from in the world around me – roots I wouldn’t have noticed while in my Australian homeland. Continue reading

The Danger of Believing in Witches

Image: witch burning

In a few more days it will be Halloween, and I’d say there will be a good many witches wandering the streets. You know the look – a pointy crooked hat, a black cloak, a long warty nose, maybe even a broomstick. The kind of thing you’d see in a rendition of The Wizard of Oz or Hansel and Gretel. Fantasy stories are so often populated by witches that we barely bat an eyelid at their mention. We dress up as them, sometimes even wish we could be them, and fantasise about receiving our letter from Hogwarts. What we rarely give a thought to is that a few hundred years ago, a witch was more than just something from a fantasy story… and it was one of the last things you’d want to pretend to be.  Continue reading

Burning, Starving and Maiming: Nursery Rhymes Without Happily Ever Afters

Original Illustration from Struwwelpeter

We all know fairy tales can be a little violent and frightening, despite the fact they seem aimed at children: wolves eating people, children getting poisoned or abandoned by evil stepmothers. However, a year or two ago I was made aware of a German children’s story – a kind of nursery rhyme – that I found more disturbing and amusing than any of the fairy tales I’d heard. Continue reading