From Odysseus to Tom Thumb and Other Cunning Heroes

Speculations about the Entrepreneurial Spirit
  • Jack Zipes


In her introduction to the 1976 Insel edition of the Grimms’ Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales), the noted ethnologist Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann states:

The triumphal procession of the Children’s and Household Tales succeeded only because the nurseries of bourgeois homes formed the well-disposed circle of consumers. With its strong bourgeois sense of family the nineteenth century was receptive to the Grimms’ fairy tales as a book that mothers and grandmothers could read aloud and that children could read to themselves. … The possibilities for identification involved nationalist thought and German Volkstümlichkeit, and all of this was considered to be perfectly captured in the Grimms’ Children’s and Household Tales. The success of their book cannot be understood without studying the social history of the nineteenth century.1


Giant Killer Fairy Tale Protestant Ethic Male Domination Compositional Technique 
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  1. 1.
    Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann, ed., Kinder- und Hausmärchen, vol. 1 (Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1976), 14–15.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Heinz Rölleke, Die Märchen der Brüder Grimm (Munich: Artemis, 1985), 25.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Jack Zipes, Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classical Genre for Children and the Process of Civilization (New York: Methuen, 1983).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cf. Andrea Dworkin, Woman Hating (New York: Dutton, 1974);Google Scholar
  5. Heide Göttner-Abendroth, Die Göttin und ihr Heros (Munich: Frauenoffensive, 1980);Google Scholar
  6. and the various essays in Sigrid Früh and Rainer Wehse, eds. Die Frau im Märchen (Kassel: Erich Röth, 1985).Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    See Jennifer Waelti-Walters, Fairy Tales and the Female Imagination (Montreal: Eden Press, 1982);Google Scholar
  8. Jack Zipes, ed., Don’t Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England (New York: Methuen, 1986);Google Scholar
  9. Ruth B. Bottigheimer, Grimms’ Bad Girls and Bold Boys: The Moral and Social Vision of the Tales (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987);Google Scholar
  10. Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (London: Chatto & Windus, 1994).Google Scholar
  11. 6.
    For two stimulating studies on this topic, see Katalin Horn, Der aktive und der passive Märchenheld (Basel: Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Volkskunde, 1983)Google Scholar
  12. and Maria M. Tatar, “Born Yesterday: Heroes in the Grimms’ Tales,” in Fairy Tales and Society: Illusion, Allusion, and Paradigm, ed. Ruth B. Bottigheimer (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986), 95–112.Google Scholar
  13. 8.
    Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York: Seabury, 1972), 43–80.Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    Gustav Hinrichs, ed., Kleinere Schriften, vol. 1 (Berlin: Dümmlers, 1881), 356.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    See my translation in Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (New York: Bantam: 1987), 708–713.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    For a comprehensive analysis of the Polyphemus tradition and the place of the Grimms’ “The Robber and His Sons” within it, see Lutz Röhrich, “Die mittelalterichen Redaktionen des Polyphem-Märchens und ihr Verhältnis zur außerhomerischen Tradition,” in Röhrich, Sage und Märchen: Erzählforschung heute (Freiburg: Herder, 1976), 234–251.Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    Gustav Hinrichs, ed. Kleinere Schriften, vol. 4 (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1887), 428–462.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Mikhail M. Bakhtin, “The Problem of Speech Genres,” in Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, ed. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, trans. Vern W. McGee (Austin University of Texas Press, 1986), 88–89.Google Scholar

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© Jack Zipes 2002

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  • Jack Zipes

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