Jacob Ludwig Carl (1785-1863) and his brother Wilhelm Carl (1786-1859) are best known for their collection of more than 200 fairy and folk tales. These collected tales, which include such well known favourites as Hansel and Gretel, The Frog Prince, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin, are best known in the English speaking world as Grimm's Fairy Tales.
The brothers were born in Hanau, in the then independent German state of Hesse. They studied law at the University of Marburg where they became interested in German folk poetry. In 1805, two of their friends published a collection of German folk songs, together with an appeal for the gathering of popular tales from the people while they were still remembered. The brothers began collecting such tales the following year, and in 1812 they published the first volume of their Kinder- und Hausmarchen or Household and Nursery Tales. The second volume appeared in 1814. A second edition of both volumes with illustrations by their brother Ludwig was issued in 1819, and some new material came out in 1822.
The Kinder-und Hausmarchen made the Grimms famous, though they were always conscious of the criticism that fairytales was a serious enough subject for scholars to pursue. They also worked on a book of German grammar, and a German dictionary. When Wilhelm died, the dictionary had reached as far as D. Four years later, at Jacob's death, the dictionary had progressed to F. The dictionary was not completed till a hundred years later.
The Grimm brothers collected their tales from various sources - from friends and neighbours and old men and women in the villages. Their collected tales included a few stories from written sources, but it was oral tales that the brothers considered crucial to collect and write down. Their work was translated into other languages, and became so popular that collectors in other countries came across the Grimms' own stories, read by the people in cheap translations and quickly absorbed into their own folklore.