Once upon a law: the Grimm Brothers’ stories, language, and legal culture - exhibition

What is the link between the Grimm Brothers’ collection of stories, their work on language, and law? This exhibition proposes to explore how the Grimm Brothers depicted the legal culture of their time through storytelling and the study of language.

Rediscover the Grimm stories you know and discover those you do not
Once upon a law, there were two brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who cared deeply about what was right and what was wrong. Following their father’s example, the brothers studied law under the renowned jurist, Professor Friedrich Carl von Savigny. The Grimm Brothers began collecting folk stories while they were still in law school. These tales were originally intended for other scholars. The brothers searched for social rules as depicted through the fantastical scenarios of fairy tales and yes, law was omnipresent in popular culture… fairy tales were no exception. So how was the legal culture of the time reflected in the fairy tales the Brothers Grimm published?

Once upon a law: the Grimm Brothers’ stories, language, and legal culture
The Maastricht University Library, the Faculty of Law, and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences bring you an exhibition highlighting the relationship between the stories of the Brothers Grimm and their lesser-known works about language and law. The exhibition focuses on the perspective of the Grimm brothers as legal scholars, and through that lens, underlying legal customs become visible in the themes of their most famous fairy tales. In fact, the Brothers Grimm began collecting fairy tales as a way to map these customs for the benefit of other scholars; their original intention had nothing to do with telling stories to children. This exhibition marks the first ever collaboration at Maastricht University between the library’s Special Collections, the Faculty of Law, and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Rare books exhibited
Rare legal books and highly-prized illustrated fairy tales from the so-called Golden Age of Illustration (1880s-1930s) are on display, and there is an interactive panel where one can wear Little Red Riding Hood’s hooded cape and take a selfie with a custom fairy tale backdrop. The exhibit highlights the breadth of the Golden Age of Illustration collection held by Maastricht University Special Collections, a treasured assortment of more than fifty of the most beautifully illustrated children’s books from the turn of the twentieth century.

Visit exhibition
This exhibit will give visitors a new perspective on their favourite fairy tales, and can be visited from 1 September to 26 October 2022 at the Main Administrative Building of Maastricht University (Minderbroedersberg 4-6).

 Are you not able to visit the exhibition physically? No worries, the exhibition is also digitally available at onceuponalaw.org

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