The Wild Girl

8 ratings 5 stars

One of the great untold love stories - how the Grimm brothers discovered their famous fairy tales - filled with drama and passion, and taking place during the Napoleonic Wars.

Book Setting: Hessen, Germany
The Wild Girl, Kate Forsyth

One of the great untold love stories - how the Grimm brothers discovered their famous fairy tales - filled with drama and passion, and taking place during the Napoleonic Wars.

Growing up next door to the Grimm brothers in Hesse-Cassel, a small German kingdom, Dortchen Wild told Wilhelm some of the most powerful and compelling stories in the famous fairy tale collection.

Dortchen first met the Grimm brothers in 1805, when she was twelve. One of six sisters, Dortchen lived in the medieval quarter of Cassel, a town famous for its grand royal palace, its colossal statue of Herkules, and a fairytale castle of turrets and spires built as a love nest for the Prince-Elector's mistress. Dortchen was the same age as Lotte Grimm and the two became best friends.

In 1806, Hesse-Cassel was invaded by the French. Napoleon created a new Kingdom of Westphalia, under the rule of his dissolute young brother Jérôme. The Grimm brothers began collecting fairy tales that year, wanting to save the old stories told in spinning-circles and by the fire from the domination of French culture.

Dortchen's father was cruel and autocratic, and he beat and abused her. He frowned on the friendship between his daughters and the poverty-stricken Grimm Brothers. Dortchen had to meet Wilhelm in secret to tell him her stories. All the other sisters married and moved away, but Dortchen had to stay home and care for her sick parents. Even after the death of her father, Dortchen and Wilhelm could not marry – the Grimm brothers were so poor they were surviving on a single meal a day.

After the overthrow of Napoleon and the eventual success of the fairy tale collection, Dortchen and Wilhelm were at last able to marry. They lived happily ever after with Wilhelm's elder brother Jakob for the rest of their lives.

Available Formats

  • Paperback
    $19.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9781741668506
    Published: 03/03/2014
    Imprint: Vintage Australia
    Extent: 560 pages
  • Trade Paperback
    $32.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9781741668490
    Published: 18/03/2013
    Imprint: Vintage Australia
    Extent: 560 pages
  • eBook
    ISBN: 9781742758060
    Published: 18/03/2013
    Imprint: RHA eBooks Adult
    Extent: 560 pages
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"Kate Forsyth’s stunning The Wild Girl, an imagined life of Dortchen Wild, who fed the Brothers Grimm her many tales" - Ashley Hay, The Australian

"The Wild Girl is a beautiful and often heartbreaking love story that is sure to move and captivate readers." - Booklist

"Voted as the Most Memorable Love Story by Australian voters in books of 2013 on TheReadingRoom" - TheReadingRoom

"This book captivated me from the very first scene. An historical novel with a lot of heart which will appeal to lovers of Austen and the Brontes as well as those in love with Kate Morton and Philippa Gregory." - John Purcell, Booktopia

"I found this novel very moving and I respect the writer’s personal generosity in going to such sad and emotionally painful places in order to write Dortchen’s life. Like a fairytale, The Wild Girl gives us an explosive and evocative set of truths set within a deceptively simple and delicately written story." - Folly Gleeson, Newtown Review of Books

"It is a deeply moving, personal story juxtaposed with an important period in human history about an event that is still culturally significant today. Lovers of historical novels, lovers of fairy tales and fantasy and lovers of great writing will be united by this accomplished, articulate novel." - Meredith Jaffe, Hoopla

"All you need to know this week from our children's and young adult book expert Sarah Mayor Cox, is that Kate Forsyth's fabulous book The Wild Girl about Dortchen Wild, who was married to Wilhelm Grimm and who told him over a quarter of the 'Grimm Brothers' tales, is the best book she's read in a long time!
It's a love story, historical fiction, narrative moon-fiction, and has themes of injustice, feminism, war, incest, and poverty. Sarah just loved it. It's being billed as a book for adults, but YA's will love it too, as will most people who love a good folk or fairy tale." - Mornings with Fiona Parker, 774ABC Melbourne

"In this beautifully written, and yes romantic story, Forsyth has done lovers of fairytales a great service, giving us the ultimate homage." - Chris Gordon, Readings

Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of more than thirty books, including The Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon's Ride fantasy series for adults. She completed a doctorate in fairytale retellings and the novels that have come out of this fascination include the winner of the 2015 American Libraries Association Prize for Historical Fiction, Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl and the forthcoming The Beast's Garden. Her books have been published in seventeen different countries, including Japan, Poland, Spain, Russia and Turkey. Kate has also written series for children of all ages and the contemporary novel Dancing on Knives.