chapter
7 Pages

Introduction

ByRuth Michaelis-Jena

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm have been compared with two trees, sprung from the same root, grown together, and developing a common crown. To the majority, however, the name of Grimm becomes a household word in childhood. The folktale is probably as old as man himself. Its images express man’s hopes, anxieties and aspirations, his deepest desires and fears. Opinions about the origin and diffusion of tales differ widely, and perhaps there is no hard and fast answer. An entertainment for adults, when men were the chief storytellers, in the market place or around the camp fire, the folktale found its true home in dimly lit rooms, in the twilight, when men and women busied themselves with some household tasks, or just sat enchanted at the feet of the storyteller. The Gesta Romanorum of the Middle Ages, though consisting mainly of legends and anecdotes taken from Roman history and tradition, contained a number of folktales.