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In Bavaria in the early 19th century, brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm are commissioned to write a history of the local duke's family. Wilhelm finds it difficult to concentrate on the task, however, and irritates his wife Dorothea and his brother by devoting his time to collecting and writing fairy tales. One evening he tells to his children the story of "The Dancing Princess." A king offers his daughter in marriage to any man who can discover why each night she wears out a pair of slippers. A young woodsman dons a cloak that renders him invisible, follows the princess into the woods, and watches as she joins a band of gypsies in their dancing. He also joins in, and the two fall in love. The woodsman later reveals her secret to the king, and the king commands that they marry, much to the princess' delight . Wilhelm unsuccessfully tries to convince his bookseller friend Stossel of the value of his book of fairy tales by telling the tale of "The Cobbler and the Elves" to a group of small children. An old shoemaker spends Christmas Eve carving toy elves for orphans and neglects to repair his customers' shoes. The elves come to life while he is sleeping and complete the unfinished work . A short time later, the duke sends Wilhelm to another town to research a branch of his family. Wilhelm meets Anna Richter, an old woman who lives in the forest. Though many of the townspeople regard her as a witch, children flock to her cottage to hear her stories, one of which is "The Singing Bone." A servant slays a ferocious dragon and is himself slain by his cowardly master, who takes credit for killing the beast. One of the murdered man's bones appears in the form of a musical instrument that sings of the treachery. The master confesses to his crime; the servant is magically restored to life; and the king commands the master to become his servant's servant . Wilhelm, inspired by many more of Anna's tales, leaves the forest but loses the duke's manuscript along the way. The duke dismisses him, and Jacob decides to marry his fiancée, Greta, and work independently. Wilhelm becomes gravely ill and is near death when his fairy tale characters appear and plead for his life so that he may tell their stories. Wilhelm's miraculous recovery prompts Jacob to postpone his wedding and to support his brother's family. The two brothers' work eventually wins them recognition from the Berlin Royal Academy. Wilhelm is disappointed when the Academy cites only Jacob's scholarly work and ignores his own fairy tales, which have received wide popular acclaim. His despondency is short-lived, however; they arrive in Berlin and are greeted not only by Academy officials, but by hundreds of appreciative children anxious to hear a story.