- Grimm Legacies: The Magic Spell of the Grimms’ Folk and Fairy Tales by Jack Zipes
Book reviews testifying to Jack Zipes’s prolific scholarship crowd the literary landscape. This trend isn’t likely to change any time soon. Zipes’s retirement does not appear to have checked the voluminous output of this influential scholar to whom the field of fairy tale studies owes so much. As you read this review of Grimm Legacies, critiques of Zipes’s more recent projects are already emerging in the pages of popular and scholarly publications. Those who find fault often simultaneously express genuine appreciation for the value of his research and insights. Grimm Legacies has generated similarly mixed reactions, and this review is no exception.
The collection of essays in this six-chapter book does not simply augment what we already know about the Grimms. Our understanding of the brothers and their work has evolved in recent decades, resulting in a rich and nuanced body of knowledge, for some of which we are, of course, indebted to Zipes’s previous research. Earlier publications, such as Zipes’s 1988 [End Page 415] The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World, have demythologized the Grimms, helping us to understand the men behind the collection of tales whose motifs permeate many cultures today. What we know about the brothers has now been pretty thoroughly explored, then. How we know the Brothers Grimm is Zipes’s main concern in this 2015 publication.
It is the brothers’ legacy that represents this text’s identified focus. Zipes explores the answers to the following two questions: What were the brothers’ intentions in collecting and disseminating their folk and fairy tale revisions? How were those intentions realized in Germany and elsewhere? Grimm Legacies concentrates its attention on countries whose primary languages are German and English.
This book’s focus on globalization represents a departure from Zipes’s more characteristic sociopolitical approaches, although there is nothing unusual about his engagement with the global transmission of the Grimms’ tales. Analysis that considers fairy tales’ development and influence across time and space is typical of Zipes’s prior works, and readers encounter this familiar scholarship in Grimm Legacies. Chapter 5, “How Superheroes Made Their Way into the World of Fairy Tales,” tends to adhere fairly closely to this formula. Central to this new study is an extended investigation into the global dynamics that have contributed to the appropriation and transformation of the tales, thereby complicating the brothers’ legacy.
According to Zipes, the original ambivalence of the Grimms’ project has ultimately posed challenges to its realization as an authentic legacy (xiv). Chapters 1 and 2 focus on the genesis of this ambivalence. In chapter 1, entitled “German Popular Tales” and named for the two influential children’s books featuring stories from the Grimms’ Kinder- und Hausmärchen that were published by British lawyer Edgar Taylor for English-speaking audiences, Zipes explores the rhetoric facilitating the adaptations featured in these texts. Over time, Taylor’s revisions have elicited criticism from various commentators. Zipes points out, however, that the Grimms’ exaggerations of the “sanctity of the tales” played a critical role in facilitating Taylor’s adaptations, which were oriented toward promoting the stories as historically and culturally significant artifacts (50). Indeed, Jacob Grimm’s favorable comments about Taylor’s revisions signal congruencies between Taylor’s publication and the brothers’ objectives. As Zipes points out, Taylor’s approach ultimately influenced the Grimms to change their marketing strategies in ways that have complicated their legacy.
Nonetheless, it is not until chapter 2, “Hyping the Grimms’ Fairy Tales,” and then again in chapter 3, “Americanization of the Tales,” that Zipes declares that the changes subsequently wrought by hype associated with a globalized culture would lead the brothers to “turn over in their graves” (58, 108). While acknowledging the role that the Grimms and Taylor played in the modern hyping of fairy tales, Zipes draws a distinction between their preservation-oriented focus and the commercial motivations [End Page 416] of translators such as Disney...