Illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
On September 28, 1983, the front page story of the New York Times was the discovery of a new tale by Wilhelm Grimm.
Wilhelm was born in Germany in 1796. He was only 9 years old when he and his brother Jacob began collecting folktales, and was 16 when their first collection was published. Over the next few years, they published many hundreds of found and collected stories.
While they were enjoying their success, the story goes that in 1816 – when Wilhelm would have been 20 – he wrote a letter to a young girl named Mili. Strangely, I couldn’t find anything about who this Mili was. Was her identity intentionally kept private, or is it truly an unknown? Regardless, within the letter was a story he had written. It was not, so far as I can tell, a retelling of a folktale which he had collected, but an original piece from his own imagination.
It begins thus:
The young girl is helped on her return journey by a mysterious young girl who could be her identical twin. They have the same pigtails, the same nightshirt, the same blue ribbons. The doppelganger leads the young girl to the edge of the forest, then points the rest of the way.
All evening they sat happily together. Then they went to bed calmly and cheerfully, and next morning the neighbors found them dead. They had fallen happily asleep, and between them lay Saint Joseph’s rose in full bloom.