Thomas Leek, a German professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, gave a free lecture at the Portage County Public Library on Oct. 14 called “Inventing an Ancient Past: The Brothers Grimm and Romantic Philology.” Leek’s presentation focused on the linguistic, folklore and history of the Brothers Grimm.
Leek cleared up misconceptions about the brothers during his presentation. He explained that like a modern day J.R.R. Tolkien, the brothers are often thought of as writing for only entertainment and fantastical values, but it is often forgotten that some authors had missions of political activism during their times.
“The Brothers Grimm became famous for linguistics and political activism in their day,” Leek said. “I think that tends to be forgotten.”
Leek explained philology deals with the structure, historical development and relationships of a language or several languages. The Brothers Grimm collected stories from experience, history and people of the time.
“Folklore is supposed to be from the folk,” Leek said. “The brothers didn’t just walk around Germany collecting tales though. That’s simply not what happened.”
The Brothers Grimm republished their stories seven times, constantly making edition changes. It is speculated they made changes to make their stories seem more German. Cynics of the brothers agree they promoted nationalism and personal economic growth when they created their stories. Leek made it clear the brothers were unsure about their own promotion goals at the time.
“The dean asked a very good question about translation,” Leek said. “The Brothers Grimm stories entered the English speaking world very early and are still with us today.”
While a portion of the American population reminisce about the Brothers Grimm stories in their Disney alternatives, Leek pointed out the crucial changes their stories have endured throughout time.
“The most famous example is ‘Rapunzel,’” Leek said. “She gets pregnant when the prince comes to visit her in the original tale.”
Arts & Entertainment Editor