The Wild Girl

THE WILD GIRL was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013 by Australian readers, and earned a starred review by the American Library Association Booklist, who called it  "a beautiful and often heartbreaking love story that is sure to move and captivate readers.' 

THE WILD GIRL tells one of the greatest untold love stories of all time – the heart-breaking romance between Wilhelm Grimm and the young woman who told him many of his most famous stories. Her name was Dortchen Wild, and she grew up next door to the Grimm family in Hessen-Cassel, a small German kingdom that was one of the first to fall to Napoleon. It was a time of war and tyranny and terror, when the collecting of a few old half-forgotten tales was all the young Grimm brothers could do to resist the oppressive rule of the French.

The True History of the Grimm tales:

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, the only girl in the Grimm family, 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 was the source of many of the tales in the Grimm brother's first collection of fairy tales, which was published in 1812, the year of Napoleon's disastrous march on Russia.

Dortchen told Wilhelm ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘Six Swans’, “Rumpelstilstkin’, ‘The Frog King’, ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’, ‘All-Kinds-of-Fur’, ‘The Singing Bone’, and many, many more.

Dortchen's own father was cruel and autocratic. 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.

The Story Behind the Story:

I first stumbled upon the beautiful love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild when I was doing the research for my novel ‘Bitter Greens.’

I knew at once I had to turn it into a book. The story had everything I love in a novel – romance, drama, heartbreak, and – most importantly, perhaps, for me – the redemptive power of storytelling.

It was possibly the most difficult and challenging book I have ever written, primarily because the Grimm brothers are so revered and so much has been written about them – the research took me forever!

Dortchen, however, was a mystery. I had only a few letters written by her, and not much written about her, and so I had to imagine what her life must have been like, with the help of letters and diaries of other women of her time. I spent so much time imagining myself into her skin she began to haunt my dreams – and not all of her life was beautiful. In the end, I felt as if writing this book was a way to help Dortchen exorcise her demons … and allow me to dream sweetly again.

I would like to share some of the beautiful images that inspired The Wild Girl with you.

Read the prologue HERE


'Like a fairytale, The Wild Girl gives us an explosive and evocative set of truths set within a deceptively simple and delicately written story.' The Newtown Review of Books

'Kate Forsyth is one of the finest writers of this generation.' Karen Brooks

'Kate Forsyth is a storyteller whose books are spun out of magic and folklore. In all her stories there are princesses and wild forests, imagined terrors and real darkness, escapes to be made and arms to fall into. She is the ultimate giver of dreams, taking a fairytale and turning it around to provide even more possibilities.' Readings

'I wholeheartedly recommend THE WILD GIRL by Kate Forsyth ... her prose is effortless to read and her tales ultimately uplifting.' Booklover Book Reviews'Against an intricately-crafted tapestry of early nineteenth-century German daily life and tumultuous, tragic historical events, the story of star-crossed lovers Dortchen Wild and Wilhelm Grimm unfolds with a kind of dreamy, haunting precision.' Sophie Masson, author of Moonshine and Ashes

THE WILD GIRL is a “richly imagined tale of the girl who gave the Grimm brothers some of their best stories … Ultimately, this novel inhabits the ground between Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel. It is both entertaining and serious-minded, but it has about it too that little touch of magic that makes Kate Forsyth's voice so distinctive, so uniquely Kate. An absolute pleasure to read.’ Kim Wilkins, author of Angel of Ruin 

‘THE WILD GIRL is in turns beautiful, deeply disturbing, evocative and of course, like any good fairy story romance, features a signature happy ending.’ InkAshling

‘Forsyth’s skill as a storyteller makes the narrative a pleasure to read through, a joy of immersive reading.’ The Bookonaut

‘I recommend THE WILD GIRL for fans of fairy tales and fantasy primarily, but also to historical fiction reader and those interested in the early 1800s and the way life was lived then. Lovers of bittersweet romance will also enjoy the book.’ Storybook Perfect

'An absolutely beautiful and much recommended read. ‘ Stephanie Gunn

Kate Forsyth’s ‘The Wild Girl’ is a remarkable tale that beautifully blends fact and fiction. It is a sweeping historical romance that will appeal to both adults and young adults, as it reminds us the power of storytelling and loving, even in the hardest of times.' Alpha Reader

'This story is not just for historical and romantic fiction readers – those who love fairy tales will also find plenty to fascinate them here. It’s certainly one of my favourite reads so far this year!’ The Oaken Bookcase

'The Wild Girl is a stunning tale of passion, love and war where history and imagination intertwine to create a wonderfully rich portrait of a woman whose contribution to the legend of the Grimm Brothers is finally acknowledged.' Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

'Whether you love fairy tales or historical fiction or romance, there is something for you in The Wild Girl.' The Great Raven

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