Stories for the whole world – the Brothers Grimm

With the app „Schlafgeschichten“ you can read the classic fairytales from your childhood in their original language – but with modern wording.


Long before I ever thought of learning German, I used to tell the stories of the Brothers Grimm to my children and marvel at the intense concentration on their faces. There was a good reason for their fascination. The stories are about good and evil, people and animals, beauty, cruelty, jealousy, love, hatred, revenge and all the other central themes of human life. That’s why it’s so worthwhile to try reading them in German.

The Brothers Grimm can teach you the German for many human emotions, not to mention the words for wolves, little girls in red hoods, wicked fairies, handsome princes, high-born maidens, falling in love, being beautiful (or ugly), visiting your grandmother, commenting on someone’s appearance, and so on. Since you already know many of the stories, reading them in a different language might be difficult, but not impossible. You’ll be able to guess at and figure out many of the words without using a dictionary, because of your familiarity with the stories and because the context will help you.

After all, that’s what my children did when I told them the stories, over and over again, with endless variations, in English.

The brothers Grimm actually wrote down the stories that had been passed from parent to child in Germany for hundreds of years. They were collectors who listened to ordinary people telling stories and committed what they heard to paper. Their book, „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“, became the most widely translated book ever written in German. It was translated into over 160 other languages. Once written down, the stories enthralled children the world over.

The links and vocabulary below will help you to discover the life stories of the brothers Grimm in their original language and perhaps to read the fairytales in modern German. The activities are presented in order from the most straightforward to the most difficult. If you work through them in that order, not necessarily all at once, you’ll be surprised at how much vocabulary you will absorb. I hope you’ll also download some of the „Schlafgeschichten“ in the app of that name and read the stories yourself. Or listen to them – as the Brothers Grimm did.

Kind regards from Ms Green

Links to recommended apps in which you can read the stories of the Brothers Grimm or have them read to you in German:

Schlafgeschichten – The app itself is free. The stories, some from the Brothers Grimm and some from other sources, such as Hans Christian Anderson and Aesop’s Fables, cost around 99 cents each.

Aschenputtel from Carlsen, a publisher in Germany – This app is pricy (around $9), but utterly beautiful. By tapping on the characters‘ bodies, you can get them to make a range of pithy and amusing remarks. Cinderella, for instance, comments on how she is getting really fed up with cleaning up after her stepsisters and speaks wistfully of going to the ball. The fairy godmother („die gute Fee“) has magic knitting needles. Need I say more? You can choose to have the story read out to you in clear, beautifully pronounced German. Download the free version to see if you want to outlay the extra and read/hear the whole story.

Activity 1: QUIZ from neuneinhalb

First, a simple quiz in German about the Brothers Grimm and their stories. Before tackling this quiz, read the information above, which provides some of the answers to the quiz questions. You will also find the following vocabulary helpful: 

Vocabulary to help you with the quiz questions
Nouns (brackets show the plural)♥der Esel (-) – donkey
♥der Hund (e) – dog  
♥der Hahn (die Hähne) – rooster
♥der Prinz (en) – prince
♥der Vorname (n) – first name
♥die Sammlung (en) – collection
♥die Katze (n) – cat
♥die Antwort (en) – answer
♥die Luft – air 
die Sprache (n) – language
♥das Märchen (-) – the story, fairy tale
♥das Wissen (-) – knowledge
♥das Wörterbuch (die Wörterbücher) – dictionary
Adjectives / Adverbs

  • berühmt – famous
  • weltweit – world-wide
  • bekannt – known
  • richtig – right
  • falsch – wrong

  • übersetzen – to translate 
  • erfinden (hat erfunden in the perfect tense) – to make up, think up, create
  • erzählen – to tell 
  • sich treffen – to meet
  • stammen von – to come from, derive from, originate from

Link: Quiz about the Brothers Grimm and their stories from neuneinhalb

A public domain image from


 Activity 2: PODCAST ABOUT ROTKÄPPCHEN from the podcast series Grüße aus Deutschland

This episode of the podcast (number 26 in the series) is entertaining, funny and educational. It includes a short rap-song about the little girl with the red hood: „Ein kleines Mädchen geht durch das Wäldchen“ (A little girl goes through the wood).

You’ll even get the opportunity to practise the role of the wolf-grandmother in German and say those spine-chilling words: „Damit ich dich besser fressen kann!“ These words are usually translated in English: „All the better to eat you with!“

In order to feel more confident whilst listening to this episode, you might like to read the PDF file first, available at this link.

Link to the story of Rotkäppchen from the podcast: Grüße aus Deutschland


♦ Activity 3: A SHORT VIDEO from

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, here pictured in a public domain image obtained via this link

Next, this brief video in German sums up many of the details of the Brothers Grimm that you have already read above. The voiceover in the video is very clear, but you will still find some parts hard to follow. Use the table of vocabulary below to help you, and listen for the famous quotations.

One of the phrases you will hear is from the story of Snow-White (Schneewittchen): „Spieglein, Spieglein an der Wand…“ („Mirror, mirror on the wall“). Another quotation is from the story of Little Red Riding Hood: „Großmutter, warum hast du so große Augen?“ (usually translated in English: „Grandmother, what big eyes you have!“)

 Vocabulary that will help you understand the short video from 
Nouns (plurals in brackets)

  • der Anfang – start, beginning
  • der Zuhörer (-) – listener
  • der Alltag – everyday life
  • der Bruder (die Brüder) – brother
  • die Lehre (n) – lesson, moral
  • die Erzählung (en) – narration, telling, story, tale
  • die Großmutter (die Großmütter) – grandmother
  • das Ende (n) – end
  • das Ehepaar (e) – married couple
  • das Auge (n) – eye
  • das Märchen (-)

  • ab/stammen von – derive from – e.g. dieses Wort stammt von dem alten Wort “….” ab (separable)
  • überarbeiten – here: rework, revise (not a separable verb)
  • erscheinen – to appear (past tense: erschien, ist erschienen)
  • ziehen – here: draw out; also: pull



  • typisch – ein typischer Anfang, ein typisches Ende
  • lebendig – lively, vivid
  • fröhlich – happy, merry, cheerful
  • alt – old; älter – older – note the change of vowel in the comparative form as you listen to the video
 Phrases and Expressions

  • es war einmal – there was once, once upon a time
  • von Mund zu Mund – from mouth to mouth
  • aus einem Märchen eine Lehre ziehen – draw a lesson from a story

Link to video

Two other links from this website that you might find worthwhile:

♦ Activity 4: Grimm Grammar – Thirty-six inhabitants of the Grimms‘ fairytales live together in this castle.  

Visit this castle and read about the characters of the Brothers Grimm, retold with a modern twist in both English and German. In addition to the amusing stories, there is a wealth of information about German grammar at this site.

 Activity 5: A LONGER VIDEO from neuneinhalb on the lives and stories of the Brothers Grimm – to mark 200 years since the publication of their famous book

This video is far more difficult than the other activities above. The charming presenter from neuneinhalb, Malin, rattles along pretty fast, but if you read the vocabulary in the table below, you may find that you can get the gist of what she says and pick up a great deal from the visual cues. See how you go.

Vocabulary from video podcast – neuneinhalb 
Nouns (plurals in brackets)

  • der Zwerg (e) – dwarf
  • der Schauspieler (-) – actor
  • der Eingang – entrance
  • der Wolf (die Wölfe) – wolf
  • der Wald (die Wälde) – the forest, wood
  • der Ort (e)
  • der Bergwerk – mine
  • der Schlaf – sleep

  • die Mütze – beanie
  • die Welt – world
  • die Stiefmutter (¨-er) – stepmother
  • die Prinzessin – princess
  • die Schönheit – beauty
  • die Überraschung – surprise
  • die Geschichte (n) – story
  • die Karte (n) – here: map
  • die Tracht – traditional costume
  • die Märchenstraße – the special path or road leading through the history of the Grimm fairytales
  • die Urgroßmutter – great-grandmother

  • das Märchen (-) – story or fairy tale 
  • das Denkmal (die Denkmäler) – monument, memorial
  • das Versteck (e) – hiding place
  • das Vorbild (er) – ideal, model, example, role model
  • das Bilderbuch – picture story book
  • das Schloss (die Schlösser) – castle
  • das Hotel
  • das Gästebuch – guestbook

  • PLURAL: die Gebrüder Grimm – the Brothers Grimm
Adjectives / Adverbs

  • erfolgreich – successful
  • vergiftet – poisoned
  • hübsch – pretty
  • neidisch (auf jemanden) sein
  • eng – tight, cramped
  • kalt – cold
  • lebendig – alive, vivid – etwas lebendig machen – make something come alive
  • überfreut – overjoyed
  • sorgfältig – carefully
  • stolz (auf etwas) sein – proud of something
  • tief – deep
Verbs (/ denotes separable verb)

  • heraus/finden – find out, ascertain
  • küssen – to kiss
  • schlafen – to sleep
  • fressen – to eat (refers to an animal eating)
  • um/bringen – kill
  • sammeln – to collect
  • erzählen – to tell
  • zu/hören – to listen
  • auf/schreiben – to write down
  • hin/gehen – to go to
  • veröffentlichen – to publish
  • an/fangen to begin


Names of some stories in German

  • Rotkäppchen
  • Aschenputtel
  • Schneewittchen
  • Dornröschen

  • es war einmal – there was once…
  • beim einfachem Volk – with, amongst the common people
  • das ist ja ein Ding! – that’s really something!
  • steckt in den Märchen was wahres drin? – Is there something true about the stories?

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