The Grimmwelt Kassel (Grimm World) is a modern museum that pays tribute to the influential work of the Brothers Grimm, from their frequently dark fairy tales to their vast dictionary of the German language.
It’s hard to overestimate the influence of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, known collectively as the Brothers Grimm. Without them, many traditional German and European folk tales may have been lost completely, including stories such as “Cinderella,” “The Frog Prince,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Snow White.”
These and other stories—86 in total—were published in Grimms’ Fairy Tales in 1812. By the seventh edition, published in 1857, there were 211 fairytales, many of which were so dark and disturbing that they terrified adults and children alike.
While the Brothers Grimm are today most famous for their fairytales, they also started the largest and most comprehensive dictionary of the German language. They began the immense dictionary, known as the Deutsches Wörterbuch, in 1838 and published the first volumes in 1854. By the time of their deaths, however, they had only completed the dictionary as far as the word frucht (fruit). It was finished by a succession of later academics.
Much of their work was carried out in the city of Kassel in northern Hesse, Germany. And it was in Kassel that a new museum dedicated to the work of the Brothers Grimm opened in 2015. Called the Grimmwelt Kassel (Grimm World Kassel), the museum highlights the influence of the brothers, including their fairytale collections, dictionary, and other works, in a modern space set over five split levels.
The Grimmwelt could have been a simple exhibition of literary and archival materials. Or perhaps a dark, haunted house-like experience aimed primarily at children. But instead, it manages to combine elements of both in a modern and minimalist space with interactive and multimedia exhibits, providing a playful but respectful journey into the lives and work of the Brothers Grimm.
The museum has more than 20 exhibition rooms. Some contain important artifacts, such as original copies of Children’s and Household Tales (the original title of Grimms’ Fairy Tales) dating back to 1812 and 1815, with the authors’ handwritten comments inside.
One of the main interactive exhibits is “Into the Dark Woods,” in which 18 powerful projectors and a series of loudspeakers are used to turn more than 3,3550 square feet of exhibition space into a fairy tale forest—with typically dark elements, of course. Also keep an eye out for the swear word generator, into which visitors can shout modern curse words (in German) and receive an older version in reply.
There’s art on display, too. The whole building is a sculpture of sorts, with the wide exterior stairway running up one side of the building and continuing upwards along the roof, offering excellent views of Kassel.
Works of art on permanent display include a series of colorful tree roots by acclaimed Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, and 14 paper dioramas by Ukrainian artist Alexej Tchernyi, which depict the history of the German dictionary.