The problem with Fairy Tales is that with the passage of time they were changed in order to become more politically correct. Which version of the Grimms' fairy tales was least affected by "political correctness"?

I read that lots of the Grimms' tales were actually translations from a French book. What is the name of this book?

  • 4
    Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. Are you asking which version of Grimm's fairy tales was least affected by "political correctness"? Opening up this question to all fairy tale collections across all languages would make this question impossibly broad, so I strongly recommend that you narrow it down.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 16, 2020 at 15:20
  • @Tsundoku I edited the question
    – Roland
    Sep 25, 2020 at 13:11
  • 1
    You need to define "politically correct". FYI the collection of Kinder- und Hausmärchen was sanitized long before "political correctness" was a concept. If you are suggesting "Rape and incest are just political correctness" then you need to make your definition of "political correctness" clear.
    – Eddie Kal
    Sep 25, 2020 at 18:30
  • @EddieKal IMHO political correctness was always a concept even if named differently. Of course what is considered politically correct varies in time and space.
    – Roland
    Sep 26, 2020 at 10:26
  • 1
    @EddieKal We might be talking past each other. I mean political correctness is "rape and incest are so horrible that they should not be present in stories for children."
    – Roland
    Sep 27, 2020 at 11:49

2 Answers 2


Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first edition of their fairy tale collection in 1812 (first volume) and 1815 (second volume). This collection was republished in 1819, 1837, 1840, 1843, 1850 and 1857. This collection eventually contained 211 fairy tales and is known as the "big edition" (große Ausgabe). In addition, there was a "small edition" (kleine Ausgabe) containing 50 fairy tales, which was printed in 1825, 1833, 1836, 1841, 1844, 1847, 1850, 1853 and 1858.

The idea to collect fairy tales had been suggested by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim, but when the brothers Grimm sent their manuscript to Brentano in 1810, Brentano didn't do anything with it and the manuscript disappeared, only to be rediscovered in the 20th century. Fortunately, the brothers Grimm had made a copy of the manuscript, so the could proceed to publish the collection.

Especially Jacob was interested in publishing the fairy tales as faithfully as they had been recorded, without embellishments. Even though the fairy tales had been collected in Hessen, later research has shown that some fairy tales indirectly derived from texts published by Charles Perrault, Madame d'Aulnoy or Mademoiselle de La Force. One of the brothers Grimms' sources was Marie Hassenpflug, who descended from Huguenots who had once fled France. The fairy tales she told the brothers Grimm include Little Brother and Little Sister (Brüderchen und Schwesterchen), Briar Rose (Dornröschen; collected by Perrault in France) and The Girl Without Hands (Das Mädchen ohne Hände). In addition to oral sources, the brothers Grimm also used manuscripts and books dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries.

Whereas Jacob Grimm emphasised faithfulness, his brother Wilhelm, who was the main editor starting with the second volume, tended to amplify. For example, Wilhelm tended to replace the present tense with the preterite, indirect speech with direct speech and foreign words with German or Germanic words. He also liked proverbs, archaic expressions, diminutive forms and emotion words.

From the second edition onwards, Wilhelm Grimm increasingly fashioned the fairy tale collection as a children's book and some of his modifications can be explained by this: he removed objectionable passages or euphemised them to make them compatible with bourgeois decency. The "small edition" was even more strongly conceived as children's literature, both in its selection (a preference for fairy tales involving children) and in it style.

Those who wish to read the fairy tales in versions that come closest to what the brothers Grimm recorded should consult reprints or facsimiles of the first edition:

  • Heinz Rölleke (editor): Die älteste Märchensammlung der Brüder Grimm. Synopse der Urfassung von 1810 and der Erstdrucke von 1812. Cologny-Genève, 1975.
  • Friedrich Panzer (editor): Die KHM der Brüder Grimm. 1913.
  • Heinz Rölleke and Ulrike Marquardt (editors): KHM, Faksimile der Erstauflage (1812/1815) mit den hs. Nachträgen der Brüder Grimm (Transkription, Kommentar, Nachwort). 3 volumes. 1986.

(KHM = Kinder- und Hausmärchen. hs. = handschriftlich, manuscript (adjective))

Source: Max Lüthi: Märchen. 8th edition, revised by Heinz Rölleke. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1990.


The Grimm brothers were the first writers to actually try to collect and preserve fairy tales as such, and not as raw material to make literary works out of. Nevertheless they did modify the tales for various reasons, for instance, thinking they were reconstructing an original tale from a defective copy. After their first edition, they also made alterations because of complaints that their "Household and Children's Tales" were not, in fact, suited for children.

The first edition has the fewest changes. I believe there are surviving notes for some stories -- for instance, I have run across discussions of how in the notes Snow White was abandoned by her mother in the woods, where in the first edition, the mother used the huntsman (and of course, in the second and later, became a stepmother) -- but I have never run across them in book form.

The French tales were not, in fact, translations from a French book. They were told by French Huguenots living in Germany, but were clearly and obviously based on Charles Perrault's tales from Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé, and so obviously that the brothers purged many, such as "Bluebeard," from the second edition.

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