An inner purity is found in these compositions, which is why children appear so wonderful and blissful to us. They have the same bluish-white faultless shining eyes which cannot grow anymore, while the other limbs are still tender, weak, and unfit for working the soil. That is the reason why we did not wish our collection to merely serve the history of poetry and mythology. It was our aim that the poetry itself – alive within the tales – would have an influence and delight whom it can, that it could thus serve as an educational tool. For such a work, we do not seek that sort of purity which is attained through an anxious expurgation of everything that relates to certain conditions and relations, which occur daily and in no way can remain hidden. The impulse to do so relates to the illusion that what can be achieved in a printed book can also be done in life. We seek purity in the truth of a direct narrative which does not hold back anything unjustly. Therefore we have carefully removed from this new edition every expression that is unsuitable for children. Should one nonetheless object that one thing or another appears offensive to parents and embarrasses them to the point that they would not want the book to fall into the hands of children, the concern may be valid in some cases. In that case, one could easily select which tales would be appropriate. On the whole, which means for those in a healthy condition, this is entirely unnecessary. Nothing can better protect us than nature itself, which allowed these flowers and leaves to grow in the forms and colors they do. Whoever feels they are not beneficial according to certain needs cannot demand that they should therefore be colored or shaped differently. True, too, that rain and dew fall with kindness upon everything on earth; whoever cares not to put his plants outside because they are too sensitive and might be damaged and instead chooses to shut them up in a room and water them, such a person would never claim that rain and dew shouldn't exist. Everything that is natural can thrive, and that is what we should strive for. We know, incidentally, of no book which instructs the people, and that includes of course the Bible, in which such considerations are not present. The correct approach would not find evil in such things but rather, as the fine saying goes, a testimony of our heart. Children point at the stars without a thought, whereas others fear offending the angels, as the popular tradition would have it.
We have been collecting these tales for thirteen years. The first volume, which appeared in 1812, contains for the most part what we again and again found in oral traditions in Hesse, in the Main and Kinzig regions of the Earldom of Hanau, where we hail from. The second volume was completed in 1814 and came together more quickly, in part because the book itself had made friends who supported it, who understood what it was and how it was intended, and in part because of fortune, which is something that seems like coincidence but which often favors dedicated and industrious collectors. If one is used to paying attention to something, one encounters it more often than one can believe, and that is certainly the case with popular customs and peculiarities, saying and jokes. The lovely Low German tales from the Principalities of Munster and Paderborn we owe to exceptional kindness and friendship: the reliability of the dialect with all of its inner maturity shows itself here in an especially favorable light. There, in the famous old regions of German freedom, legends and fairy tales have been preserved as a regular feature of holidays and the country is still rich in inherited customs and songs. There, partly because written language is not yet disturbed by the introduction of outside influences nor overloaded until it is blunted, and partly because it assures that memory does not become careless, especially among peoples whose literature is not very significant, oral traditions prove themselves to be stronger and more unsullied replacements. Thus, Lower Saxony has also preserved itself more than other regions. How much more complete and internally rich a collection would have been in the fifteenth century, or in the sixteenth century, in the era of Hans Sachs and Fischart!