Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Grimms Influenced Frankenstein?

I came across a rumor that the Grimms were somehow connected with the creation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. You may have come across sites like this one that claim:

"The brothers Grimm actually told this story to the step mother of Mary Shelley, and in later years Mary Shelley visited the Frankenstein castle. She eventually used the story as the basis for her world-famous novel Frankenstein." Of course, that site also states that in addition to the castle, Frankenstein's monster itself also really existed (it's a site on haunted castles).
Frankenstein Castle, Darmstadt, Germany

In all my reading on the Grimms and their tales, I've never come across anything like this, or a version of Frankenstein they recorded.

For a more detailed explanation of why this castle most likely had no influence whatsoever on Mary Shelley, you can read this article, by Michael Mueller. Shelley's book doesn't take place in Hesse, or even in a castle. It is very unlikely Shelley would have had a chance to see the castle, as many claim.
Mary Shelley

Some say Mary Shelley could have had indirect contact with Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. The Frankenstein enthusiasts claim that Mary Jane Clairmont, Mary Shelley's stepmother, was one of the translators of their tales-but there is no evidence of her translating their tales. Although there was supposedly a letter from Jakob to Mary Jane that included a horror story never published, there is no evidence of this either (and why wouldn't they have published such a great story in their collection of legends?)

However, one thing that IS true is that the Grimms were familiar with the Castle. The Frankenstein Castle is located in Hesse, Germany-the same region the brothers Grimm came from. One of their legends, "The Lindworm at the Well," involves a knight of Frankenstein-but no scientist or monster. The name is common enough that Shelley choosing the same one was likely a coincidence.

So, a bummer for anyone who would like to believe that the story of Frankenstein was based on real events. Frankly, it's such a sad story I wouldn't want this one to be true. There are enough bizarre and scary things in the world as it is...


  1. I haven't been to Castle Frankenstein before, but a few friends have and can confirm my suspicion that the marketing caters to people who haven't read the book. A reasonable choice, as people who have read it, would know that Frankenstein was from Switzerland, not from Germany. (To make it clear: I'm not bashin people who haven' read the book.. I haven't myself, though I plan to... one day... in the far future ;)

    I wonder what inspired this rumor though... The collection of legends by the Grimm is also on my list book, I plan to read, but haven't yet. Perhaps there is a story in there close enough to Frankenstein to make people jump to cnclusions? Walking dead and scary castles are common enough elements in legends.

    What shouldn't be forgotten about Frankenstein is that the story is science fiction as much as horror. When Mary Shelley wrote her book, experiments on and dissections of dead human bodies had been officially legalized fairly recently. As it was believed that a human needed their full body to be revved whe the Apocalypse came, these experiments were only allowed on the worst of criminals. Certainly this must have heightened the perceived uncanniness of these experiments. Especially when some scientists actually did experiments that were meant to revive a corpse. Some used a method that is not from Mary Shelley's book, but was referenced in the famous 50s movie: electricity. After all it worked on frogs, didn't it? When Mary Shelley wrote down her story, a revived dead body really seemed closer to science fiction than fantasy. Which is why I find the assumption that it was ased on an old legend odd.

    1. Yes, it was, in its time, closer to science fiction than fantasy. She has even been called a mother of science fiction.

    2. I think it's just a marketing ploy...what owners of a Frankenstein Castle wouldn't try to connect it with the famous monster? I read the book in high school but have forgotten a lot of the details since then, I do remember really enjoying it. It's about more than just the shock/horror of creating a monster, I remember his loneliness being a big theme. In fact you could even stretch and compare it to Beauty and the Beast, loosely, since he longs for love and companionship but struggles with being different.

  2. I'm a big fan of Frankenstein and a big fan of the Grimms, but perhaps it's best if the two remain separate.

  3. Want to know something interesting? The House of Frankenstein (of the castle of the same name) once crossed paths with Vlad the Impaler (of Dracula fame) in a bloody battle over money.

    Here's an article for citation

    1. That is definitely interesting! Thanks for sharing

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