One literary-fuelled summer week, I scouted out the German world of fairy tales on the lookout for castles with towers (where fair maidens fall into a deep sleep), enchanted forests, crafty wolves and a cottage in the woods.
I found it on the German Fairy Tale Route -- one of the country's oldest national tourist routes -- a 600-km-long trail rambling through the lives of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, collectors extraordinaire of Europe's best known fairy tales.
The story of the Brothers Grimm begins with a scholarly work and excruciatingly slow book sales, followed by a little literary massaging, some illustrations to spice things up and sales that exploded, making the Grimms' Fairy Tales one of the world's most read books . . .
Once upon a time there were two brothers who shared a fascination with the law, language (Jacob spoke 15, Wilhelm 13) and history. They loved the messages, morals, problems and conflicts of the times as told through fairy tales: Matters of life and death, good and evil, poor and rich.
"To the Grimms, language was a way to show the development of history," guide Ulrike Ortwein explains. "So they looked to fairy tales that were told from generation to generation."
The brothers would invite young, educated bourgeois ladies for tea and listen to their stories. Afterward, they would write them down -- the first time the tales made the leap from oral traditions to paper account.
Sales were, frankly, a little ho-hum when they first published the 1812 Children's and Household Tales. They then enlisted the artistic skills of their brother Ludwig, who created illustrations.
Wilhelm invoked some literary licence and reworked the endings of many tales, to make them friendlier and appealing. Enter "once upon a time" and "happily ever after."