Monday, February 6, 2012

The sin-complex : a critical study of English versions of the Grimms' Kinder- und Hausmärchen in the nineteenth century

This is an odd place to start my coverage of Grimm Legacies, but one of the questions during Jack Zipes' Q&A Friday night brought up The Sin Complex by Martin James Sutton. I wanted to dedicate an entry to it since it is a great resource--and for now--it is available for free online. (I say for now since I have seen files like this disappear over and over again over the years, either removed or put behind firewalls.)

The Sin Complex was Sutton's thesis and is available for reading in PDF format on the University of Auckland's website. It is very much copyrighted and the published edition is long out of print (and quite expensive usually if you can find it). According to WorldCat, only 42 libraries in the US have a copy in their holdings, so getting a copy of it to study may be a challenge otherwise.


This thesis investigates the English versions of the Grimms’ Kinder- und Hausmärchen (= KHM) published between the years 1823 and 1884, i.e. from the first translation by Edgar Taylor and David Jardine, German Popular Stories (1823 and 1826), to the first complete edition of the Grimms’ collection of stories and notes by Margaret Hunt, Grimm’s Household Tales (1884). Each of the first eleven chapters deals with a specific English edition and gives an analysis of one or more stories from that edition together with the texts of the German original. The two versions, German and English, are placed alongside each other in parallel columns to facilitate comparison. The twelfth chapter takes the final paragraph of one story, ‘Sneewittchen’ (KHM 53), and examines the seven different English versions of it in the editions discussed in the previous chapters. The final chapter compares the quality of English translations of the KHM in the nineteenth century with that of the Grimms’ sole venture in translating tales in the English language into German, viz. Wilhelm Grimm’s Irische Elfenmärchen (1826). Included as an appendix is a tabulated concordance of the contents of the twelve major editions discussed in this thesis. The investigation shows that the areas deemed to be sensitive ones by English translators were those which had to do with what Darton (Children’s Books in England, 1982, p.99) has singled out as ‘a deep-rooted sin-complex’ in England. Any story that touched on the issues of religious belief and superstition, the human body and its physical nature, violence and evil, and the intense emotions felt by human beings which prompt them to commit violent and destructive acts, was inevitably viewed with concern and mistrust, especially by purveyors of children’s literature in the nineteenth century. All these issues, as well as the element of fantasy which so readily admits and entertains them, were prone to considerable revision by successive translators of the KHM.

Later published (in shorter form) as Sutton, Martin James (1996). The sin-complex : a critical study of English versions of the Grimm's Kinder- und Hausmärchen in the nineteenth century. Kassel Germany: Brüder Grimm-Gesellschaft.
So go get your copy while you can if this topic interests you. The editing of Grimms (by themselves and others) is a fascinating topic and one that arose again and again at the symposium.

1 comment:

  1. Good read, I will be roaming a lot on your blog since I started my Art and Fairy Tales blog and I want to look for all the different perspectives on fairy tales. You can see my blog at:

    Keep up the good work!