Thursday, April 23, 2015
The Turnip Princess And Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth
Most people are familiar with the Brothers Grimm and the fairy tales they collected and made available. Others have heard of Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault and their work. Far fewer have ever heard of Franz Xaver von Schonwerth, although he is a contemporary of the others. He traveled the rural areas of Bavaria in the 1850's, collecting oral versions of fairy tales told by the people from one generation to the next. His work, however, was lost, so he never gained the fame of the other individuals who worked in this field.
Jump ahead to 2009. A researcher, Erika Eichenseer, was astonished to find thirty boxes of von Schonwerth's source material, buried in the archives of a German municipality. There were over five hundred previously unknown fairy tales. Now, Maria Tatar, who chairs the program in mythology and folklore at Harvard, has been hired by Penguin Classics to translate these newly discovered tales. The result is The Turnip Princess.
Readers of these tales will notice several things. First, they tend to be very short stories, starting and ending abruptly in comparison with a Grimm fairy tale. The emphasis is much less on princesses and other female protagonists, with males being the focus of the tale just as often as a female. The tales are dark and violent and have not been rewritten for current sensibilities. Readers interested in fairy tales and the evolution of the oral tradition will find a treasure trove of new material in this anthology.