Clever Maids: The Secret History Of The Grimm Fairy Tales

by Valerie Paradiz

Hardcover, 2005




Basic Books (2005), Edition: First Edition, 240 pages


"The famous fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm - stories like Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and Rumplestiltskin - are known to millions of people around the world and are deeply embedded in the collective psyche. In this charming account, writer and scholar Valerie Paradiz reveals the true story of how the fairy tales came to be. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, collectors and editors of more than 200 folk stories, were major German intellects of the nineteenth century, contemporaries of Goethe and Schiller. But as Paradiz reveals here, the romantic image of the two brothers traveling the countryside, transcribing tales told to them by peasants, is a far cry from the truth. In fact, more than half the fairy tales the Grimm brothers collected were actually contributed by their educated female friends from the bourgeois and aristocratic classes. While German folkloric scholars-all of them male-fancied themselves the keepers of the cultural flame, it was a handful of women who ensured that millions would know the stories of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella by heart. Set against the backdrop of the chaotic Napoleonic wars and the years of high German romanticism, Clever Maids chronicles one of the most fascinating literary collaborations in European history and brilliantly captures the intellectual spirit of the men and women of the age. Even more, it illuminates the ways in which the Grimm tales, with their mythic portrayals of courage, sacrifice, and betrayal, still speak so powerfully to us today."--Cover.… (more)


½ (35 ratings; 3.5)

User reviews

LibraryThing member collsers
I found Paradiz's book to be pretty interesting, with an inside look at the creation of the fairy tales that children still read today, and the forgotten role women played. I did, however, feel that the writing at times left something to be desired, with awkward phrasings and a few confusing
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passages (though overall, the writing deserves much praise for its ability to present scholarly research to lay readers).
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LibraryThing member kf4vkp
This book details the contributions to the Grimm Fairy Tales by women during the period they were being collected. The Wild sisters, who lived next door, along with other female aquaintences who they knew told them the stories as they transcribed them. It also details how they got interested into
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the project in the first place.
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LibraryThing member booksandbosox
People worldwide know the tales of the Brothers Grimm. But many do not know the stories behind these tales. Paradiz has carefully researched the lives of the Grimm brothers (who even knew there were more than just Jacob and Wilhelm) and illustrates to readers that the true authors of the Grimms'
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tales are the women of their lives.

Not quite what I expected but still a decent read. It is clear that Paradiz is knowledgeable about the Grimm family's history, and most likely many things German. I was very intrigued to learn that most of the stories contributed to the Grimm anthologies were told to the brothers by neighborhood women. There were a few too many members of the Grimm social circle for me to keep them straight, but this was a short read so that wasn't so much of a problem. I would have liked to have each woman fleshed out a big more, but I was glad for the biographical information Paradiz did provide. Also not too much detail is given as to why these women are largely uncredited for their contributions or about what happens after the publication of the Grimms' books. So, I craved a little more, but still an interesting read.
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LibraryThing member LibraryCin
3.5 stars.

Clever Maids tells the story of the Brothers Grimm and how they went about gathering the fairy tales for their collection. It seems that a good portion of their stories came from women, although they weren’t credited by name.

It was good. I like biographies and this book included plenty
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of info on the entire Grimm family, as well as biographical info about the women who provided them with their stories. There was also some history in the book, giving us a picture not only of Europe at the time, but of how things were, in general, for women.
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