It is not the first time that we speak here of the Grimm brothers. Who hasn’t read -or at least seen a film adaptation- one of his famous versions of popular tales? Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty forest, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel and a good handful of stories with unforgettable titles have entertained the childhood of many generations.
However, they were not his original stories and for part of them they took as references to previous authors. One of those predecessors was a now almost forgotten writer named Marie Hassenpflug.
Marie Magdalene Elisabeth Hassenpflug was born in 1788 in Altenhaßlau, a district of the municipality of Lisengericht, in the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt, which at that time was part of the still existing Holy Roman Empire and, after its dissolution in 1806, would become in the Grand Duchy of Hesse. Her father was Johannes Hassenpflug, a lawyer and administration official, and her mother was Marie Magdalena Dresen, a woman descended from Huguenot emigrants from the Dauphiné region settled in Hanau, the hometown of the Brothers Grimm.
In fact, the Hassenpflugs and the Grimms were going to marry because the marriage not only produced Marie but also five other children, four more girls and a single boy. The latter, Ludwig, would achieve prestige as Minister of Justice and the Interior of the Electorate of Hesse, the Principality Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (and his son Karl would be a famous sculptor), but most know him today for having married in 1822 with Charlotte Grimm, the only sister of the famous writers and who ran their household (despite being younger than them) when their mother died.
Some of Marie’s sisters also made a name for themselves. It was the case of Amalie, who, like her, was fond of literature and hers are three of the stories that the Grimm took advantage of: The three little men of the forest, The Godfather Y Whimsical hospitality. When her sister-in-law Charlotte died in 1833, Amalie took it upon herself to help her brother Ludwig raise the six children he had, since his brothers-in-law did not get along with him due to his conservatism. Likewise, she established a close friendship with the poet and composer Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, on whom she exerted considerable artistic influence.
Johannes, deeply conservative and Freemason, progressed and climbed the professional ladder, so that in 1789 he managed to be appointed mayor of Hanau Neustadt. The Hassenpflugs had to move there, to a half-timbered house overlooking the market square, where they stayed for a decade. The father of the Grimm brothers, Philipp Wilhelm, was a municipal secretary and thanks to this, as we saw, a friendly relationship would be established between the two families that would later lead to the marriage of Ludwig and Charlotte.
During those ten years, Marie suffered from an illness that forced her to stay in bed for long periods, which has often been interpreted as a possible origin of her love of reading and writing. Since she was still a child, she developed a special taste for fairy tales, a subject that was also liked by the two friends of the house, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who were even younger (the first was born in 1785 and the second in 1786). ). As we said, the Hassenpflugs were of French origin on her mother’s side, which suggests that perhaps there was a copy of the Hassenpflug in the home. tales of yesteryearby Charles Perrault.
In any case, it seems likely that Marie was familiar with that book, since it includes such successful stories as Sleeping Beauty forest, little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, The cat with boots Y Tom Thumb, among others. The first two were versioned by Marie, serving, as we said at the beginning, as the basis for the later rewriting made by the Grimms, which is the most widespread. In fact, Marie also wrote The girl with no hands, The princess with the louse, the thief boyfriend, the two little brothers, The adventures of Daumerling, the water siren, the frog prince, the golden key, Phoenix, The blacksmith and the devil and probably Snow Whiteall of them used by the Grimm for their Kinder und Hausmärchen (Stories of childhood and home).
In 1799, Johann was appointed Advocatus Fisci (Inspector of the Treasury) of Kessel, the state capital, where after three years he became a councilor, so the Hassenpflugs had to pack their bags again. However, she Marie she would periodically return to Hanau because there she had met Captain Friedrich von Dalwigk zu Schauenburg, a military man in the service of the prince-elector, whom she married in 1814, having a son in 1817 who was baptized Ludwig Alexander . They settled on a farm in Hoof (in the current municipality of Schauenburg), but two years later they returned to Hanau when her husband obtained the position of chamberlain of the Duchess Marie Friederike def Hesse-Kassel (daughter of Elector Wilhelm I), who incorporated Marie as a lady-in-waiting until 1824.
The friend and direct inspiration of the Brothers Grimm died in 1856 in Kessel, where her father had done so nineteen years earlier, after completing his career as district president. One of the characters in Tales of childhood and home it is called Old Marie, surely a tribute from the authors to their muse, although in reality they should have extended it to the whole family, since the book includes stories from almost everyone. We saw earlier that Amalie contributed three, but another sister, Johanna (also called Jeanette), wrote The three spinners, Table, The wondrous donkey and cane, Mr Korbes, the twelve hunters, The cat with boots, the ogre, Princess Mouseskin Y Hurleburlebutz.
And there are still a few more that Grimm themselves attribute to the Hassenpflug, noting without specifying who told them or facilitated them, such as The wolf and the seven kids, the white snake, The brave little tailor, the seven ravens, cunning hans, King Thrush Beak, The jumply dwarf (Rumpelstilskin), the golden goose, hans dumm, Blue Beard, The Carnation, Mother in law, The tailor who got rich and a snippet of the good rag.
The Brothers Grimm and Folktale (James M. McGlathery, ed.)/Fairy tales and society. Illusion, allusion, and paradigm (Ruth B. Bottigheimer)/The fairy tale. The magic mirror of the imagination (Steven Swann-Jones)/Wikipedia