Born in Hanau, Germany on February 24th, 1786, Wilhelm Grimm studied law at Marburg and then worked as a secretary at Kassel, where his brother Jacob was the librarian. Theirs was not an easy life. Because both of their parents had died, the brothers worked to support their four younger brothers and sisters.
In 1812, the year their fairy tales were first published, the brothers were eating only one meal each day. Their purpose in gathering these folk tales was to show that all Germans shared a similar culture, advocating for the unification of the many German kingdoms. They accepted positions at the University of Göttingen as librarians and professors, but were fired because they protested a constitutional violation by the King of Hanover. The University of Berlin quickly invited them to join their faculty.
Wilhelm married Henriette Wild, one of the people who originally told the brothers stories that were collected for Kinder und Hausmärchen, Children’s and Household Tales, their most famous work.
Unlike their predecessor Charles Perreault, they were concerned with capturing the stories of Germany as they were told in the oral tradition. They also worked on the Deutsches Wörterbuch, a German dictionary. Its first volume appeared in 1854. The work, sixteen volumes, was finished in the 1960s.
Wilhelm Grimm died in 1859, at the age of 73.