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The real Brothers Grimm were stranger than fiction

The Google homepage celebrates the 200th anniversary of the first edition of 'Grimm's Fairy Tales,' a collection of stories which transformed Western literature. Here's a quick look at the men who worked tirelessly for 50 years to assemble the tales.

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In 1825 Wilhelm married Henriette Wild, whose family had supplied the Grimm brothers with some of the best stories for their folk tale collection. Jacob never married, but apparently lived happily with the new couple -- one scholar noted that the brothers "both live[d] in the same house, and in such harmony and community that one might almost imagine the children were common property." The brothers moved to Gottingen in 1830, where they established the field of Germanic studies at the University of Gottingen and continued to publish books on mythology and linguistics, while simultaneously editing their collection of folk tales.

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The brothers' academic careers were upset in 1837, though, by some political upheaval. When King Ernest Augustus I demanded oaths of allegiance from university professors and other civil servants, Jacob and Wilhelm refused. They were fired from their posts, along with five other professors, and three of the group -- including Jacob -- were deported. He moved back to Kassel and was joined by Wilhelm, but the brothers once again found themselves impoverished, and had to rely on the financial support of friends.

In 1840 their fortunes changed when both Jacob and Wilhelm received job offers from the University of Berlin. There, they continued their research; further polished their folk tale collection, now in its third edition; and also worked on a comprehensive German language dictionary. Jacob retired from the university in 1848 to focus on his studies, and Wilhelm followed in 1852.

The two brothers continued working together for the rest of their lives. When Wilhelm died in 1859, the Grimms' collection of folk tales had reached its 7th edition and had grown to 200 tales-- including "Hansel and Gretel," "Rapunzel," and "Snow White" -- plus 10 "Children's Legends." Jacob, deeply saddened by his brother's death, became more withdrawn until his death in 1863.

The Grimm's collection of folklore had already been popular during their lifetimes, but it went on to become one of the most celebrated works of German literature and the basis for countless books and movies during the next two centuries. On the list of the best-selling authors of all time, some figures place the Grimms in third place -- preceded only by Shakespeare and the Bible.

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