A visit to “The House in the Woods: Magical Tales of the Brothers Grimm” revealed the ways that Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s Children’s and Household Tales (1812) have evolved over the centuries, soaked into the very bones of our culture, and remain alive to this day.
Martha Scott, the curator of this exhibit at the Osborne Collection, generously took the time to walk me through the collection of illustrations, pop-up books, and art that she had gathered to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Children’s and Household Tales. During the tour, I appreciated Ms. Scott’s extensive knowledge of the different versions of the tales and her witty engagement with the illustrations.
For background information, Scott supplied me with a copy of the notes that rested in plastic sleeves on the display cases.
From a very young age, the phrase “The Brothers Grimm” has captivated me, and when I see it in my mind’s eye, I visualize the letters G-R-I-M-M in mahogany-inked calligraphy with extravagant loops like twisted roots for the downward swoops of the “r” and double m’s.
In addition to the distinctive twin m’s, it is possible that the romance of the name is in the word order. Whereas “the Grimm brothers” sounds like a family singing act from Nashville, The Brothers Grimm could be the title of an ancient fairy tale that stars two solemn brothers who live in a dark forest cottage and spin tales by a hearth on winter evenings.
The real Jacob and Wilhelm, scholars with an interest in preserving oral history, most likely did not sit around hearths in cottages. (Indeed, they interviewed middle-class women to collect their tales). However, the imaginative illustrations I saw in “The House in the Woods” left the mystique of the Brothers Grimm intact. If anything, the more I learned, the more enchanting the stories became.
Thank you Martha Scott, Leslie McGrath, and the Osborne Collection for an enriching afternoon in the magical company of the Brothers Grimm! Your book house is a jewel worthy of the finest scholars in the land!