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in 1852, fairy tales were not yet considered at all suitable for the highest of the painting genres, and generally had been limited to the graphic arts and book illustrations.
Hence, his selecting so exceptional a motif was as risky as it was ambitious.
Folk poetry was considered to have survived through the ages, initially going back to an idealized, paradise-like distant past, a golden age, when men still lived in harmony with nature.
In the political and socially disturbing times in Germany during the nineteenth century, scholars of the Romantic movement such as Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829) and the brothers Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859) regarded "Naturpoesie" as the remedy for the cultural crisis—as the only way to re-unite a nation that had first been ripped apart by Napoleon I, and then socially transformed by progressing industrialization.
Scholars therefore focused their studies on Germany's ancient history, especially the Middle Ages, and its folk culture.
But even though folk tales were extremely popular with the German public in the mid-nineteenth century, the fairy tales included in Grimms' collections had been depicted only in graphic arts—in book illustrations, so-called "Bilderbogen"In nineteenth-century Germany, the catalogue of subjects suitable for history paintings—history, the Bible, Christian legends, classical mythology—had been extended with motifs of German folk sagas such as the not in a mono-scenic painting depicting the key scene of the fairy tale, but in a highly narrative way: a cycle.
because he regarded folk songs, legends and fairy tales as "Naturpoesie" (poetry of nature) preserving the so-called "Nationalgeist" (spirit of the nation).
Considered to be found in its purest form in the poetry of the Middle Ages, the "Nationalgeist" remained alive, only among the lower classes, in folk poetry, which was thought to be the literature of the childhood of mankind.
They thereby complied with the general demands of the children's literature market which required that books, above all, be illustrated.
Further revisions, edited primarily by Wilhelm Grimm, were published until 1857.
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