500 New Fairytales!

(Photo credit: tori wright)

Oh look! More fairytales for Disney to destroy!

Historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (1810-1886) was collecting fairytales in the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz at about the same time as the Grimm brothers collected the ones that we all know and love today. Those that Von Schönweth collected, however, have been locked away in an archive in Regensburg for over 150 years!

Erika Eichenseer, the cultural curator at Oberpfalz published some of these 500 new stories in a book called “Prinz Roßzwifl” – “scarab beetle” in the local dialect. Why? The scarab beetle rolls up its precious eggs in dung and hides them away, which is how Eichenseer sees these fairytales: hidden treasures that were hidden away, representing the ancient knowledge and wisdom of human development.

So why did we hear all about the brother’s Grimm and not Von Schönwerth’s work? Schönwerth did publish his research in a book called “Aus der Oberpfalz – Sitten und Sagen” published in three parts in 1857, 1858 and 1859 but it never became popular. This might have had to do with the fact that, unlike the Grimms, Schönwerth added no literary flair to his works: he recorded stories exactly as he heard them.

This historian’s account of local legends and folk tales lends a truth and authenticity to the stories, even if they do make for a bit of a dry read. That said, the Grimm brothers did have contact with, and respect for, Von Schönwerth, with Jacab Grimm in 1885 saying about him, “Nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear.”

Since 2008 Eichenseer has been working to study and publicise Franz Xaver von Schönwerth’s work through a society in his name. Work is currently underway by Dan Szabo, a Munich-based translator, to get them converted into English.

When it sometimes seems that original ideas are sorely lacking in today’s world, it would seem that inspiration can be rejuvenated by artefacts that history has tucked away. Gold does not always glitter, and princesses may yet be born from turnips.

Perhaps there are many books and movies in the future of these old, rediscovered tales.

[Via The Guardian]

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