Grimms’ Fairy Tales: An Influence on Collection of Bengali Folktales

Grimms’ Fairy Tales (originally called Children’s and Household Tales) , a collection of fairy tales first published in 1812 by the Grimm brothers play an integral role in
inspiring the collection of folklore all around the world. Although the retelling of folk stories in Europe date back to 16 th century Italy and 17 th century French parlors,
the collection by Grimm Brothers’ was the one which introduced folk stories widely to the European masses. The legacy of the Grimm Brothers’ on nineteenth-
century Bengal was the subject of the paper ‘The Grimm Brothers’ Legacy’ presented by Prof. Amrita Chakraborty.
Prof. Chakraborty starts her presentation by stating that there have been several myths surrounding this collection, the major being that the brothers went to
collect folk tales from the peasant community themselves. This idea arises from the notion that folklore is generally associated with the lower members of the
society. These people who keep the tradition of folk tales of any region alive can be represented through the mythical picture of the ‘peasant woman’. The fact that
the Grimm brothers chose to disclose only one name of the oral informants because the majority of them could not be associated with the picture of the ‘peasant
woman’ is to be taken into account.
The legacy that the collection inspired in nineteenth century Bengal can be shown through the collection of folk tales named ‘Thakumar Jhuli’ by Dakshinaranjan
Mitra Majumdar. This era saw many attempts at collecting folk tales from all around the region of Bengal and making them accessible to the public. The efforts were
primarily taken by British colonial administrators, Christian missionaries and British indologists, none of whom could do justice in maintaining the authenticity of the
folktales as it was almost impossible to achieve a true and idiomatic translation of the folklore of the country. Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumder was the first to
successfully publish a collection by following the Grimm brothers footsteps in the historic tradition of adapting authentic folktales from the oral tradition into the
literary format, with the memories of his childhood (his cultural memory) serving as a judgment for authenticity of the folk tales.
A tinge of romantic nationalism found in the tales of the Grimm brothers can be read as a political act in response to the Napoleonic occupation of German states,
with the stories acting as romantic wishful tales necessary to bind the people and the culture of Germany. Prof. Chakraborty also states that the same romantic
nationalism is important in the context of nineteenth century Bengal where fairy tales act as the ‘mother’s milk’ in the growth of a ‘national’ child as asserted by
Tagore in his introduction to ‘Thakumar Jhuli’.
Thus the method of collecting folk tales and editing the orally transmitted stories into a literary format by the Grimm brothers acted as a canon for the collection of
folk tales all around the world, the influence of which can be seen in the collection of folk tales of Bengal.


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