Fairytales aren’t exactly new to the world and it isn’t too much of a secret anymore that much of Disney’s inspiration for their famous animated films came from the works of the Grimm Brothers. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German academics, cultural researchers, and authors who spent much of their life collecting and publishing folklore during the nineteenth century. Their most famous book Children’s and Household Tales is a collection of German fairy tales which was first published in 1812. The first edition contains 86 stories and each edition after just had more and more tales, until the seventh edition featured 211 stories in 1857.
Now, we all love a good Disney film even though there’s that classic scene of the evil witch or bad guy wreaking havoc on the happy little village or beautiful princess. Well, the Grimm brothers went into even more gory and scary detail. In fact, the first edition was criticized for not being suitable for children, so a lot of editing had to take place to get to those happily ever afters we all wait for.
The Western world has always loved these tales and held them in high esteem throughout the ages. Much inspiration is drawn from fairy tales, from interior design to the world famous attraction of Disney World. It is hard to pass up the magic of a fairy tale, especially in the form a beautiful name for a baby.
There are many names inspired from fairy tale stories and these names have a resonance of beauty and mystery about them. Check out some interesting and unique names that you didn’t know were inspired by the works of the Grimm brothers.
26 Conrad – The Goose Girl
The name Conrad has a long history around Germany and Western Europe, hence its appearance in the Grimm Brothers’ tales. The name is originally derived from the Proto-Germanic version which is spelled Konrad. Although this name was super popular back in post-medieval France and England, it is regaining popularity and coming back into fashion as of the late 19th century.
As for its ties to the Grimm Brothers’ tales, Conrad comes from the fable The Goose Girl. This one was first published in 1851. In this tale, a little boy gets mixed up with the business of an unfortunate princess bridegroom, her magical talking horse Falada, and an evil maid trying to steal the princess from the classically handsome prince. This little Conrad is a little troublesome, but also knows right from wrong in the story, eventually helping to save the bridegroom. A little boy with good morals, it’s got to be a good name choice!
25 Elsie – Clever Elsie
A sweet name and a cute variation on the currently extremely popular name Elsa, Elsie is an old fashioned name that just rolls of the tongue so smoothly. It is hard to not picture an angelic little girl with a ribbon in her hand when this name is called out. Elsie is originally a Scottish name that means ‘my god is bountiful’ and was a common nickname of the Scottish name Elspeth. It was more popular back in the 19th and 20th centuries, but there is no reason why it won’t make a comeback.
The Grimm Brothers’ featured this name alongside a desired trait of a child in the fable Clever Elsie. In her self-titled tale, Elsie is in a classic position of many girls back in the day of the Grimm Tales where her parents want to get her married. Along comes Hans, handsome and all but not really Elsie’s type as it were. Elsie sees her future with him and doesn’t like it, her cleverness giving her foresight. This Elsie knew when to run when the time was right (literally ran out of the village) because sometimes leaving is better than staying in a situation you don’t like.
24 Roland – Sweetheart Roland
Everyone loves a champion and that is exactly what Roland is - the name of champion. Most famously associated with the French medieval epic La Chanson de Roland, the name has also been used across the Western world after the Normans introduced it to England. The character Roland was the revered nephew of Charlemagne and did some pretty epic things on the battlefield.
The Grimm Brothers adopted this name for their tale Sweetheart Roland, which doesn’t give off the same chivalrous vibes but does make Roland sound like a quality guy nonetheless. This tale starts off like many others, with a wicked witch, an evil daughter, and a good stepdaughter. You know the drill. The witch kills her own daughter for various crazy witch reasons, then the stepdaughter goes crying to her beloved sweetheart Roland. Like all good sweethearts, he saves the day for his damsel in distress along the way. What a champ!
23 Hazel – The Hazel Branch
This beautiful girl’s name is a popular one in the English speaking world and it comes from the name of the color of hazel trees. The late 19th and early 20th century saw a rise in the popularity of name meanings derived from plants and trees, and Hazel certainly soared up high with this rise.
However, Hazel was cool long before your friend named her daughter with it 10 years ago. The Grimm Brothers used it in their tale The Hazel Branch. This is a short but sweet tale featuring the God-child, sometimes known as Jesus. In this story, the hazel branch is used to protect the little resting baby. His mother finds protection from the hazel branch while foraging in the forest for strawberries. Along come those classic fairytale baddies, but she is able to hide behind a hazel bush, thus not being harmed. Hazel is therefore used as a name which inspires safety and protection.
22 Henry – Lazy Henry
With strong roots in England, France, and Germany, the name Henry (or Henri or Heinrich) is generally linked to a ruler, king, or someone in a position of power. It all started with the 10th century king of England Henry I the Fowler and escalated from there, with Henrys ruling all over the place.
Yet, according to the Grimm Brothers, Henry was a bit on the lazy side in the fable Lazy Henry. This guy Henry doesn’t have much going for him. He has some goats that herd from pasture and he is married to Fat Trina. But he’s such a lazy guy that the only reason he married Fat Trina was so that she would herd both her goats and his (and maybe lose some weight?). Henry is so lazy in this tale that he isn’t even open to new ideas, not even when Trina wants to trade a goat for a gosling. You know, the excitement of the fable days.
21 Cleo – Pinocchio
This is a really sweet and feminine name that isn't too girly. It is often short for Cleopatra or Cleophus, but can be just Cleo, or Clio, on its own. The name is obviously quite Greek, with ‘cleo’ being a prefix that is translated to mean ‘pride’ or ‘glory’.
So how did a Greek name end up in the Grimm Brothers tale of Pinocchio, which we all know is stereotypically Italian? Those familiar with the Disney animation of Pinocchio will recognise Cleo as the sweet little goldfish who gives wise advice throughout the movie. However, even though the Disney cartoon has it’s dark moments, the Grimm tales were a lot more, well grim. The original tale of Pinocchio features characters hitting others over the head with mallets, a bunch of bandits, and a shark not a whale. Cleo the fish was never actually named, so we’ve got to thank Disney for this one.
20 Griffin – The Singing, Springing Lark
This name has Welsh roots as well as those stemmed in Latin spelling (Griffinus) and Greek spelling (Gryphon). The meaning, however, from all its origins, comes back to a mythical creature or a dragon of sorts. The mythical bird like griffin is well known in folklore and fairy tales so the name has that edgy magical ring to it.
The Grimm Brothers used Griffin in their tale The Singing, Springing Lark, not as a name but as a creature. In the story, there’s this dedicated father looking for a singing, springing lark for his beautiful daughter. He sets off on a journey, but no journey is easy in a fairy tale. So there are a bunch of animals blocking his pathway to the lark, and of course they are the talking, riddle-asking type. The griffin is one of these animals that sets a riddle challenge for the father to find the lark.
19 Anne – The Maid Of Brakel
This Hebrew name which means ‘favor’ or ‘grace’ is one that has stood the test of time like no others. Whether it is used in the classic form Anne, or variations such as Annie, Annabelle, or Anna, it is certainly a popular name that always sounds graceful and elegant.
In the Grimm Brothers The Maid of Brakel Anne actually isn’t the maid, but rather a statue of Saint Anne which the story revolves around. Basically, there is a poor old maid who is unmarried but desperately wants to wed, because that was the done thing back in those days. So she goes to a chapel everyday where there is a statue of Saint Anne and the Virgin Mary as a child. Saint Anne was the patron saint of unmarried women, even though she herself was said to have been married at least three times. A little bit ironic, but that’s history, nonetheless.
18 Taylor – The Valiant Little Tailor
A name that is popular for both boys and girls, especially thanks to Taylor Swift and Taylor Launter, it is derived from the profession of someone who is a tailor and was most commonly seen as an English surname. It also has ties to the French translation of tailor, tailleur, which is where it is thought to have originated.
In this tale by the Grimm Brothers, The Valiant Little Tailor is about a little tailor boy who starts off just looking out his window and watching the world pass by. From buying some jam to befriending a giant, the tailor’s life gets more and more interesting with adventures laid on. There’s soldiers, there’s horsemen, and there is a king offering a reward. This story is one of the Grimm Brothers’ longer ones, with details of the little tailor’s epic journey to earning the title of being valiant. Who knows what adventures your little Taylor is going to take you on!
17 Katrinelje – Fair Katrinelje And Pif-Paf-Poltrie
A mystical twist on the girl’s name Katrina or Katharina, this is a name that could only be out of a fairy tale. Katrinelje is a very German name, hence why it features in the Grimm Brothers tales. In fact, this is probably where the name originated as it is hard to find another meaning of the name anywhere else.
In this tale with the tongue twister title, Pif-Paf-Poltrie wants to marry Fair Katrinelje so he asks her father’s permission. Of course, no hand in marriage is passed over that easily so Katrinelje’s father sets Pif-Paf-Poltrie on a mission to obtain “her mother milk cow, her brother high pride, and her sister cheese love”, whatever on earth they are! You sure have to jump through some obscure hoops to win the affection of this fair Katrinelje. A daughter with this name might be a headstrong one with plenty of determination going round!
16 Finn – The Snow Queen/Snow White
Here is a really sweet and simple boy’s name that is inspired by a fairy tale without being too obviously inspired by a fairy tale. This is traditionally an Irish name that means ‘fair’. It comes somewhere from a guy named Finn Mac Cumhail who was a legendary Irish hero in the 3rd century, following a story along the lines of Robin Hood.
Finn appears in the Grimm Brothers tale of Snow White which shares many similarities of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. In some versions of these tales, Finn is the name given to the hunstman, although sometimes he is left unnamed. Although no one really likes to be called a hunstman, keep in mind that the hunstman in Snow White is too kindhearted to deliver the evil Queen’s orders, so really this name has only positive associations. A sweet little kindhearted Finn is a wonderful boy’s name.
15 Islebill – The Fisherman And His Wife
This is a quirky take on the ever-popular a la mode name Isabelle, or its various variations of Isabella or Isabel. Islebill has that real fairy tale ring to it and just sounds like a little girl living in the 18th or 19th century. Islebill has the same meaning as Isabel, or whatever spelling you like, which is the Spanish medieval version of the name Elizabeth.
This unique name appears in the Grimm Brothers’ story of The Fisherman And His Wife in which, you guessed it, a fisherman and his wife are living together. The fisherman’s wife has the name Islebill. They are rather poor, but one day the fisherman catches a talking fish which is actually a prince turned fish. Lo and behold, the fish grants them wishes in return for his release and things get fairy tale weird as the fisherman and his wife get greedy with their wishes.
14 Figaro – Pinocchio
Another gorgeous name from Pinocchio, Figaro is a really sweet name for a little boy. Although the name doesn’t appear in the Grimm Brothers’ version of Pinocchio, the Disney animation movie where it does appear was certainly inspired from the original tale. And who can resist that adorable black and white cat named Figaro in the animation?
The name Figaro, although sounding very Italian, is actually based on French history. This name was created by a French playwright Beaumarchais for his 1775 famous play The Barber of Seville and went on to be the central character in laters plays, The Marriage of Figaro in 1784 and The Guilty Mother in 1792. The name may have been based on the French phrase fils Caron which means ‘son of Caron’ , which is used as a nickname. In modern French the word figaro is used to mean ‘barber’, which reflects the characters profession in the play.
13 Catherine – Frederik And Catherine
This lovely name has certainly cemented itself throughout history, from Catherine the Great to all those wives of King Henry of England named Catherine. Little do people realise that Catherine also appeared throughout the Grimm Brother’s fairy tales, including the story Frederik and Catherine.
The name Catherine is somewhere derived from Greek origins and it means ‘pure’. The tale of Frederick and Catherine revolves around the named pair, who are husband and wife. You know, it’s about their daily lives of Frederik going out while Catherine cooks at home (long before the days of feminist waves). Then there’s a rampart dog and a pastor who thinks that Catherine is the devil. Life is tough for this one. Poor Catherine has many bumbling errors through the story, but that doesn’t mean that your Catherine will constantly mess up. After all, society is much more equal for women these days (comparatively to an 18th century fairy tale anyway!).
12 Heinrich – The Frog King
A beautifully classic German name that is more commonly associated with kings and princes than it is with fairy tales, but Heinrich does have roots in fables and folklore nonetheless. Although it isn’t heard much these days, Heinrich has an elegant spin to it and can sound quite formal. The nickname of Heinrich is typically Henry which is an easy transition.
Heinrich makes his appearance in the tales The Frog King by the Grimm Brothers. This one might sound a little familiar of a prince been cursed to turn into a frog and a princesses kiss setting him free. Yeah, Disney had their take on this one with the movie The Princess and The Frog. The plot line of the Grimm Brothers’ tale is very much the same: an evil witch, a spell cast, prince becomes a frog, princess kisses frog after all the drama is done and dusted, they live in that delightful happily ever after.
11 Maleen – Maid Maleen
This is quite a unique name with a lovely sound to it. It’s a bit like Melanie or Melina but has that distinct fairy tale charm to it thanks to the Grimm Brothers’ tale of Maid Maleen. This name is mostly used for girls but can be for boys as well, it is fairly gender neutral in its sound.
The actual tale of Maleen goes along the lines of Maleen the maid falling in love with a prince, as they always do. Of course, Mr King didn’t want princey-boy marrying a maid so Maleen gets locked in the tower. Unfortunate. But Maleen was resilient enough to break out of the tower, track down her lover boy Prince, and essentially trick him into marrying her. She definitely had that fighting spirit. Be careful with this name, you wouldn’t want to have your little girl Maleen breaking out of her room now!
10 Tom – Tom Thumb
Although this name isn’t exactly unique, it is a unique to know that it was inspired by a Grimm Brothers’ tale. The story of Tom Thumb is relatively well know but often overlooked, especially since it hasn’t been made into a Disney animation as of yet. But the story goes of a boy the size of a thumb, named Tom, who brightens up the lonely lives of a wood cutter and his wife living in a little woodland cottage.
The name Tom, or Thomas, has a different meaning in just about every language group it is derived from. From English, French, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Greek roots, the name Tom also seeks meaning from the Bible where it is the name of an apostle in the New Testament. Tom is no doubt a lovely name, sounding gentle and kind. And with plenty of nicknames, ranging from Tommy to Tommo, this name is versatile enough to suit any personality of a little boy.
9 Rosamund – Little Briar Rose
This name of Germanic roots has a very elegant and formal tone to it, but can easily be shortened to the cute name Rosie for casual occasions. Rosamund means ‘horse’ or ‘protection’ in its rough German translations, so it is a fierce name for a strong girl growing into a lovely young lady
The tale of Little Briar Rose is more well known as Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, but the Grimm Brothers certainly had the idea first. While Disney names the princess Aurora throughout the film, the Grimm Brothers had a different name and that name was Rosamund. She is referred to by this name throughout the original tale of the castle town that gets cast into a deep sleep by an evil witch. This is the princess the world has come to know as Sleeping Beauty, truly a beauty with a beautiful name (and a better name to be called by her prince in the end!).
8 Fitch – Fitcher’s Bird
Typically a surname of French origin, like many other names this one is slowly making its way to the front. It has loose connections to the French word fissel which means ‘iron pointed implemented’. Following in the footsteps of Harlen and Hudson, Fitch is taking the center stage and becoming a boy’s first name, thanks to the inspiration from the Grimm Brothers.
The name Fitch is often inspired by the tale Fitcher’s Bird. This is a tale that gets dark and grim real fast, with sorcerers abducting brides-to-be and transforming himself into a beggar with some good old dark magic. Things get weirder when the girl is trying to escape and chooses the option of covering herself in honey and feathers to look like a bird. You know, the standard stuff that happens in the fairy tale forests. But at least a cool and chipper sounding name like Fitch comes out of it all!
7 Gretel - Hansel And Gretel
Things don’t get much more German than Hansel and Gretel and the very German name Gretel. This name is actually an abbreviation of Margaret and in German it means ‘pearl’. It is a very lovely name for a little girl, as is its variated counterpart, the name Greta.
The Grimm Brothers first published Hansel and Gretel in 1812. The story is now extremely well known, of the two little tackers who get lost in the woods and encounter a cannibalistic witch. The Grimm Brothers left out the details of the house made of the candy, but whoever thought of that was on to something as the original tale definitely does need sugar coating (the Grimm version gets gruesome!). The details vary from version to version, and sometimes there is a stepmother and other times she is the biological mother. It doesn’t matter too much, with the beautiful name of Gretel being consistent throughout the versions.
6 Hans – The Poor Miller’s Boy And The Cat
It’s lovely and German sounding and has a classic fairy tale ring to it. The name Hans in German means ‘gift of God’ so it has to be a good one, right? Hans also has roots in other cultures, such as Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian languages where it was commonly short for the name Johannes. Hansel is another German variant, which means ‘little Hans’ and brings to mind immediately the tale of Hansel and Gretel.
As for Hans, he appears in the Grimm Brothers’ tale of The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Cat. In this story, an old miller lives in a mill with his three apprentice boys. For various fairy tale reasons, the three boys are sent to some dark and dingy cave, but Hans is smart enough to haul out that bad situations. He then embarks on adventures through a mystical forest woodland of course, and along the way finds a cat. That cat must be pretty important if it made it the title, hey.
5 Kai – The Snow Queen/Snow White
This name comes with all the culture and sounds great for a boy or a girl. It has origins and meanings in many different languages, including ‘strong’ in Burmese ‘pier of a harbour’ in Basque. It is a simple and cool name that can suit just about any ethnicity.
As for the name in fairy tales, it was used in the Grimm Brothers’ version of Snow White, which is really similar to Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. Kai is a little boy who is the main character’s play mate in the The Snow Queen. It is hard to say whether or not Snow White inspired the Snow Queen or vice versa between these top fairy tale orders back in the day, but either way the beautiful name Kai was brought to life. Now it is a name you may commonly hear in the playground for gorgeous boys and girls.
4 Marli – The Seven Swabians
Suitable for boys and girls, the name Marli has an edgy yet cute ring to it. There are other variations of the spelling such as Marley, and it originally comes from the English name Marilyn. For that reason it is more of a nickname or pet name, but one that is becoming a cool first name in its own right.
The name Marli was used in the Grimm Brothers’ tale The Seven Swabians. The term Swabians refers to a group of people in Germany and these seven in the story go off wandering the world in search of adventures, Marli amongst them. Although not too well known in the English speaking world, this tale is really popular in Germany. In fact, there is a celebration in the German town of Ravensburg each year which celebrates the story. If you want your kid Marli to feel popular, bring him along to this celebration!
3 Ivana – Puss In Boots
A gorgeously Slavic name, the name Ivana is fierce and elegant, as well as having the potential to be shorted to the sweet name Ivy. It is the feminine version of the name Ivan, which immediately rustles up images of strong Slavic battle men. This name actually has a celebration day, which is April 4, where all the Ivanas (or Ivankas, Ivas, or Ivys of the world celebrate their cool name).
Although Puss in Boots is most famously thought of in the Shrek cartoon series of movies with his big, adorable eyes, the Grimm Brothers actually brought this story to life many moons ago. In the original story, there’s a miller and a cat and a mangy old donkey, and a Princess named Ivana. All this does take place in Spain, hence the most well known Puss in Boots having that irresistible voicing of Antonio Banderas and his smooth Spanish accent.
2 Reginer – The White Bride And The Black One
This one is a like a male take on the Regina, with a different articulation of the letters at the end. Regina means ‘queen’ in Latin and this male counterpart does indeed mean king. It is a name with Christian roots back in Medieval Europe and was later revived in the 19th century to be a name used again.
As for the Grimm Brothers' tale, the character Reginer appears in the The White Bride and The Black One as the brother of the main character, who is a step daughter to a lady. Of course, there is the favored biological daughter and the step daughter is often outcast. The tale is a long one and there are various plot twists from God and the King sending the characters on different missions. The most important thing to know, especially if you take a liking to this name, is that Reginer is a good guy and his character has an astute moral compass throughout the story.
1 Briar Rose – Little Briar Rose
Going back to the tale that is better known as Sleeping Beauty thanks to Disney, the Grimm Brothers had an original title that really is a beautiful girls’ name. Before Charles Perrault adapted the story to Sleeping Beauty, it was better known as Little Briar Rose across Germany. Briar Rose has a lovely sound to it and is very elegant.
Briar is thought to be an English word that means ‘thorned shrub’, and well, most people out there are familiar with what a rose is. The meaning behind this name for the fairy tale is because sleeping princess in the tale was trapped in a castle encased with briar, or thorny shrubs, and she represents the rose with her beauty and grace. The tale of Briar Rose has inpsired other beautiful girls names, such as Rosamund as the princess is named in the Grimm Brothers’ tale, and Aurora which is the name given to her in the Disney animation film.
Sources: Babycenter.com, Babynamemeaning.com, Biography.com