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Preface to the Second Edition of the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1819)

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We wanted to incorporate everything that we have collected up until now into the second edition of the book. For that reason, the first volume has been almost completely reworked. Everything that was incomplete has been expanded, much of the narrative has been simplified and purified, and there are few sections which have not been improved. Everything that appeared questionable has been examined again, which means that everything has been excised which might have been of foreign origin or distorted through later additions. New pieces have been added, including contributions from Austria and German Bohemia, so that one may discover previously unknown things. In the previous edition, there was only very limited space for notes. In this expanded form, we could dedicate a separate third volume to notes. This made it possible to not only relate what had previously been held back, but also to furnish new sections which we hope will make the scholarly value of these traditions more visible.

Concerning our methods of collecting material, it was faithfulness and truthfulness which mattered most to us. We did not add anything of our own, nor did we embellish any circumstance or feature of the tales. We simply reproduced their content just as we had received it. It is self-evident that the expression and execution of the details is in large part ours, yet we have sought to keep every unique feature that we noticed, so that in this way, too, the collection could be given over to nature's diversity. Anyone occupied with similar work will grasp that this can in no way be termed a carefree and inattentive interpretation. On the contrary, attentiveness and tact is necessary, the sort of thing that can only be acquired with time, in order to discern the simple, pure, and perfect from the adulterated. Where they complemented each other and no contradictions were there to be eliminated, we combined several tales into one. If there were discrepancies in the different versions, we selected the best and preserved the others in the notes. We were more curious about these sorts of discrepancies than about those which were mere changes or distortions of an earlier prototype, because these may very well be only attempts, some of the many and inexhaustible, to approach such a prototypical image, present only in spirit. Repetitions of single sentences, features, and introductions should be considered as lines in an epic which, as soon as the opening tone begins, always repeat, and, in another sense, these cannot be understood at all.

We have happily preserved a resolute dialect. If that could have been the case everywhere, the narrative certainly would have profited. Here we have a case where all of the education, refinement, and art a language has achieved is as nothing and one feels that a purified written language, as adroit as it may otherwise be, may be clearer and more transparent, but also less flavorful and less able to grasp the crux of things. It is a shame that the Low Hessian dialect in the Kassel region is an indefinite and not purely comprehensible mixture of Low Saxon and High German, as in the border areas of the old Saxon and Frankish districts of Hesse.

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