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The year 2012 will see countless celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the first edition of the Brothers Grimm’s first collection of fairy tales, published as Children’s and Household Tales.

But would Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm have been pleased by all the conferences, books and papers that will honour their work? Actually, they are more likely to be turning in their graves, if they weren’t already, at the mass-mediated hype of fairy tales. Were they alive today, they would surely be concerned that the tales of the folk are being turned into trivial pulp for the masses by the globalised culture industry.

The brothers revered fairy tales, especially the oral “wonder tales”, or märchen, which they saw as innocent expressions and representations of the divine nature of the world. For them, the simplicity of the pristine spoken tales was historically profound, and the Grimms saw themselves as cultivators of lost relics whose essence had to be conserved and disseminated before the tales vanished. The wondrous fairy tales, they firmly believed, enabled people to get in touch with both their inner selves and the outside world. It was because “genuine” fairy tales ran counter to the real world that they served as moral correctives and introduced unique learning processes through exquisite metaphor.

The Grimms promoted the collecting of all sorts of folk tales, and they were certain that if other educated men and women began gathering tales from the common people, these stories, especially fairy tales, would resonate among the young and old in all countries of the world.

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