GER20190 Grimms' Tales and Adaptations

Academic Year 2023/2024

The two volumes of Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm’s "Kinder- und Hausmärchen" were first published in 1812 and 1815. In the volumes, the brothers Grimm collated more than 150 fairy tales, many of which have become familiar stories in households all over the world. Extended and revised by the Grimms themselves, translated into many languages, adapted and rewritten for stage, screen and opera house, parodied and modernised, tales like those of "Hänsel and Gretel", "Rotkäppchen", "Schneewittchen" and "Dornröschen" are known to millions of children and adults. However, even German speakers will today most likely not come into contact with the original Grimm tales (which themselves were already a collation and adaptation from different sources) but instead with abbreviated, adapted or ‘disneyfied’ versions.
The module introduces students to the theoretical concept of adaptation. We will examine a selection of the Grimms' fairy tales and consider their afterlife: looking at the tales as adaptations of pre-existing and often orally transmitted sources, at aspects of their editorial history and rewriting and at some examples of translations into English as well as their ‘Disneyfication’. We will also look at operatic adaptation: the opera "Hänsel und Gretel" from 1896 by Engelbert Humperdinck continues to delight audiences in Germany and far beyond. Issues of production and interpretation will be to the fore here. The module is also aimed at helping students to develop their close reading and analytical skills.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Identify and describe some basic features of the fairy-tale genre
Set the Grimms' fairy tales into their historical context
Demonstrate a basic understanding of the concept of adaptation
Discuss different forms of adaptation, such as different editions, translations, films, literary adaptations, operatic adaptations
Engage in close analysis to interpret aspects of different forms of adaptation of selected fairy tales
Research, organise and write an essay analysing an topic relating to the libretto and a production of Humperdinck's opera "Hänsel und Gretel"
Demonstrate ongoing personal engagement with module content

Indicative Module Content:

The module is divided into 3 blocks:
Weeks 1 and 2: Issues of genre, historical context, adaptation theory
Weeks 3-7: Grimms’ "Kinder- und Hausmärchen" – editorial history, English translations, adaptations and Disneyfication
Weeks 8-12: Operatic “translation” and adaptation – case study of "Hänsel und Gretel" from Grimms' tale via Bechstein to the operatic stage at the end of the 19th century, taking in a selection of productions.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The classes will include mini-lectures (where lecture slides will be made available on Brightspace), and students will participate in class discussions and group work, practising their critical and analytical skills. Directed homework tasks prompt independent learning and journal activities provide the opportunity for individual engagement with particular aspects of the module. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Requirements:

Students must be able to read literary texts in German.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Class Test: Close analysis and contextualisation of excerpts. Week 7 n/a Graded No


Essay: Essay of 1,500-max. 2,000 words (in English) on a topic that discusses an aspect of the "Hänsel und Gretel" libretto in relation to a particular production. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Journal: Three entries in total (week 3, week 6, week 10), which answer specific questions on engagement with and response to the material. Short answers of ca. 200 words each. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Individual feedback will be given on the assignments. Students will be encouraged to submit an overview/structure of the essay in order to get feedback.

This will be made available at the start of the module.
Name Role
Dr Siobhan Donovan Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Gillian Pye Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Sabine Strumper-Krobb Lecturer / Co-Lecturer