Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Forgotten Fairytales

An article in The Guardian last month described the exciting discovery of 500 new fairytales, originally collected by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth in Bavaria over 150 years ago. Von Schönwerth was a local historian, and though he published some of his research in the 1850s, it never became popular and much of the material he amassed over the years remained unseen until recently cultural curator Erika Eichenseer began to sift through it. The stories were gathered firsthand from country villagers, laborers, and servants, and many are not found in any other European collections. Von Schönwerth was a contemporary of the famous Grimm brothers, and was known for his faithful and authentic recordings of the material he collected. Eichenseer prizes Von Schönwerth's work most for its unpolished nature; his writing lacks the "literary gloss" of other fairytale collections. Even Jacob Grimm is said to have praised Von Schönwerth with the comment that "nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly, and with such a sensitive ear."

Dan Szabo has begun to translate some of the stories into English, and The Guardian currently has one of them, The Turnip Princess, available online. In its current state it's a bit fragmented, and it doesn't read in the straightforward style of the fairytales that we are used to. But it's neat to read it and imagine how it might have been told to children hundreds of years ago. I hope that in time the whole collection will be available for English readers. And I can't help but think with a smile of all the new potential material that this discovery provides for Disney.

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