National Dreams: The Remaking of Fairy Tales in Nineteenth-Century England

By Jennifer Schacker | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
The Household Tales
in the Household Library:
Edgar Taylor’s German Popular Stories

In rhetoric that is nothing short of revolutionary, Grimms’ fairy tales have been described as a “landmark” both in writing and illustration for children,1 ending “the fairy tale war” in England and marking the moment when fairy tales “emerged unassailable” as reading for children,2 ushering “a new era of imagination into English juvenile literature,”3 acting as “a challenge to the anti-fairy tale movement in Britain,” or even instigating “the revolt of the fairies and elves.”4 In fact, such descriptions refer not to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s own Kinder- und Hausmärchen [Children’s and Household Tales] but to the first English version of their work: German Popular Stories, translated, edited, and adapted by Edgar Taylor and illustrated by George Cruikshank.

By the time this little volume appeared in 1823, English readers with established amateur interest in “popular tales” were aware of the Grimms’ research in Germany; those who read German were likely to have read the Grimms’ Kinder- und Hausmärchen, in either its first edition (1812–14) or the second (1819). For the majority of English readers, however, publisher Charles Baldwyn’s German Popular Stories was an introduction to what would come to be known as “Grimms’ fairy tales.”

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm had hoped that the tales they collected in the early nineteenth century, first published in 1812 as Kinder- und Hausmärchen, would have some popular appeal; they frequently had this end in mind as they experimented with content and style in successive editions of the collection, as we will see. But it is Taylor and Cruikshank’s German Popular Stories that fully transformed the tales into a popular and commercially viable form of reading material—influencing the publishing history of the Grimms’ tales in German, their legacy as “classics” of international children’s literature, and the genre of the popular tale collection.

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