In most countries, the Tales of the brothers Grimm become known by degrees, beginning with one or two stories or a small selection. The situation in Denmark is not typical for a variety of reasons: the Grimms had close personal contacts with prominent Danes. Culturally their Tales belonged to a distant pangermanic tradition common to Danes and Germans. Therefore the first volume of tales (1812) was soon translated into Danish. The initial high esteem is felt to this day as a strong tradition of 'respectable and faithful translations'. Yet changes in market forces and reading audiences have created two more strata in the translational heritage of the Grimm
Tales in Danish. The Grimm tradition has also responded to changes in Danish middle-class perception of Germany.
Outside Germany, it was in Denmark that the Tales of the brothers Grimm
(Kinder- und Hausmärchen) first had an impact, and, to this very day, Grimm tales are the foreign works most frequently translated into Danish. Many Danes are, indeed, under the impression that the Grimm tales are of Danish origin. The present article discusses how historical, personal and [ p. 192 ]cultural factors contributed to this state of affairs. Although it is based on many snippets of information which are found in Grimm scholarship, in general European history, in the books lining the shelves of the Royal Library in Copenhagen and elsewhere, as well as in the history and general development of Denmark in the last century, the pieces in the mosaic presented here have yet to form a coherent picture of the complex relationship between the brothers Grimm, their Tales and the Danish response. The references are therefore few.
In addition to my own research, snippets of information derive from:
ADB—Allgemeine Deutsche Bibliographie
1875–1912Berlin: Duncker and Humblot. (Rpt 1967–1971.)