Thursday, January 4, 2018

Born Today January 4: Jacob Grimm


One half of the famed Brothers Grimm Jacob Ludwig Carl (sometimes spelled Karl) Grimm, older brother of Wilhelm Grimm, was born on this day in Hanau, Hesse-Kassel (then a co-ruled province of the Holy Roman Empire), it is now Hesse district in Germany (this is the region that gives it's name to "Hessian," and the Hessian dialect of German is still spoken there).  Jacob was a name he used in study and publication only, he was known to his familiars as Ludwig Karl.  Apart from the famous works that he and his brother collected and published together, he is the brother known (and was much more famous during their lifetimes) for solo works and publications not based on fiction or folktales.   Father Philip Grimm was a prominent lawyer, that obviously left in impression on Ludwig Karl, despite that he died when he was only a child.  Grimm entered the University of Marburg in 1802, after having been in public school with younger brother Wilhelm.  He studied the law in University and became intensely interested in the history of the subject (unlike his younger brother, who followed him a year later to study the same subject).  After attending numerous lectures by the German law historian Friedrich Carl von Savigny (Karl), he became one of his students, and later joined him in Paris as a kind of literary secretary.  It was his year in France that solidified his intense curiosity concerning the languages and literature of the Middle Ages.  Jacob Grimm is credited, as a result of this interest, with more or less founding the study of linguistics; including an attempt at a comprehensive study of the origins of the Germanic languages particularly Middle German.  His work with language along with his historical research and writing are generally regarded as a bigger contribution to scientific literature, than is his work on Grimm's Fairy Tales, but, of course, it is the later that he is most famous for.  And, it is that material that has been used exclusively as source material in motion pictures.  Of course, the credits for the Tales earliest use in film mirror exactly those of his younger brother, written up here last February.  And, their work constitutes some of the earliest use of literature for film, used twice in 1897 at the dawn of the narrative film itself.  Both also represent some of the earliest films made in Germany.  One was based on Rapunzal and the other on Hansel and Gretel, both were made by Messter Film.  In all around 20 films (some animated shorts) were produced from source material provided by Jacob and Wilhelm in the silent era (some of them do not give the Grimms direct credit).  The last of these, with credit, was Hansel and Gretel  in 1923 starring little Peggy-Jean Montgomery aka Baby Peggy (who as of this writing is still with us).  [Her appearance the year before Little Red Riding Hood is a good example of a film that doesn't credit with Grimm's; neither for that matter does the recently defunct television series Grimm that was clearly inspired by the tales.]  Sleeping Beauty, in the form of Tchaikovsky's ballet, was produced as an episode of Producer's Showcase in 1955, the first time one of Brother's tales was used in a television series (unfortunately, the original color print that was produced is missing and presumed lost).  Both of the productions mentioned last year in the post of Wilhelm are still listed as announced; since then two more productions have been added.  The first of these is a little 4 minute animation from Croatia, Bremenski gradski sviraci, which curiously only credits Jacob and features late Croatian actor Zlatko Crnkovic.  The second is the live action short Snow White and the Wicked Mirror.  Jacob, along with his brother, became a member of the seven members of the important Göttingen Seven.  Both he and his brother were deeply involved in academics; but Jacob also went into politics with very mixed results; he was a constitutionalist in both philosophy and practice--in the end, however, his efforts to draft and ratify a constitution for a unified Germany while a member of the Frankfurt National Parliament were ultimately in vain.  Grimm left politics, but continued to write on the subjects of national law and government until he died.  He worked full days, in fact, up to his dying day.  He died in Berlin at the age of 78 on the 20th of September in 1863, 4 years after his younger brother.  They are buried in Berlin in a family plot.

Photo: Wiki Commons



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