Busts of brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who were both devout Calvinists.
Busts of brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who were both devout Calvinists.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German brothers who in the early 19th century wrote and published a masterpiece of fantastical storytelling in their anthology "Grimms' Fairy Tales." The Grimm brothers were raised as devout Calvinists and they remained close throughout their lives in both religious devotion and in work. In biographies and scholarly papers, scholars such as Jack Zipes and G. Ronald Murphy have explored the Grimm brothers' religious upbringing as well as the differences in spirituality between Jacob and Wilhelm.

Calvinist Upbringing

The Grimm brothers were brought up in a devoutly Reformed Christian family with Calvinist beliefs. Their parents were very involved with the church, and many of Jacob's earliest memories included watching his family in religious rituals. In his autobiography, Jacob wrote that "to this day it seems as if I can only be completely devout if I am in a church furnished in Reformed style." The brothers received frequent instruction in their faith, especially from their grandfather, who warned them to "above all, fear God, who is the beginning and end of all wisdom."

Religious Ethics

A Protestant work ethic was also obvious in the brothers' commitment to their literary projects and the morals of their fairy tales, writes Jack Zipes in his book, "The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World." The strict moral character demanded by the brothers' Calvinist faith led Zipes to conclude that the Grimms "stressed diligence, industry, honesty, order and cleanliness . . . in part due to their religious beliefs and upbringing."

Grimms & Worship

God and religion were deeply ingrained in the brothers' daily lives. Wilhelm read a copy of the Greek New Testament every morning upon waking, and according to theologian G. Ronald Murphy, who has studied the Grimms' personal Bibles, Wilhelm underlined more than 70 passages he found particularly meaningful. In his own Bible, Jacob sketched a copy of the Grimm family tree on the inside cover and the correspondence between both Wilhelm and Jacob is filled with references and thanks to God.

Individuals

Although the two brothers worked on many projects together throughout their lives, they remain separate historical figures with differences in religious beliefs. Murphy says that Jacob put much more stock than his brother in the family ties to Reformed Christianity, and found immense spiritual gratification in tracing a genealogical religious tradition. Wilhelm, on the other hand, was much more inspired in his faith by Jesus' teachings of love and acceptance, a common thread throughout the dozens of underlined passages in his copy of the New Testament.