Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New Book: The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth, translated by Maria Tatar

The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales (Penguin Classics) by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth (Author), Erika Eichenseer (Editor), Engelbert Suss (Illustrator), Maria Tatar (Translator) is released this week. I received a review copy in the mail last week but I have been felled by a cold and haven't had a chance to peruse it without the influence of fever and meds. Such as it is. No one wishes more than me that I was healthy! But enough about me.

This is not the first English translation of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's fairy tales, Original Bavarian Folktales: A Schönwerth Selection: Original bayerische Volksmärchen – Ausgewählte Schönwerth-Geschichten (Dover Dual Language German) translated by M. Charlotte Wolf Ph.D. was released last year. That said, even if you already own that edition, this one is of value (and vice versa) because the art and science of translation is such a complicated one. Even the tale titles offered between these two books are different, making cross referencing them a challenge. Wolf's edition provides the German text for cross referencing, this one does not.

That said, this new book is translated by Maria Tatar, one of the current top scholars in the field of fairy tales and folklore. She brings her Germanic expertise and fairy tale knowledge to this translation. As lovely as the tales themselves are, of most value to me in this edition are the 28 pages of endnotes about the tales by Tatar. Utterly fantastic! There is another bonus of "Notes on Sources and Tale Types" by Nicola Schaffler. So you can look for common tale types here, such as easily discovering that "Ashfeathers" is ATU 510A, a Cinderella tale. And if you have a little experience at this, you will discover that "The Howling of the Wind" is ATU 425E, a rare Beauty and the Beast/East of the Moon and West of the Sun variant. Overall, most of the tales represented are lesser known tale types, meaning not the most common top 20 (i.e. ones I would edit e a SurLaLune book compilation for). But you can easily learn that with the extra materials provided.

And did I mention there is a fine introduction by Tatar, too?

So, yes, this is a great book to add to your personal folklore library, offered at an affordable price. Which is what happens when you have a name like Tatar's on the book, too. I know over and over so many of you are confounded by the academic books that are priced high. Right now, this is a bestseller and is 38% off the list price of $17.00 on Amazon and well-priced at other retailers, too. For less than the price of a lunch out--and haven't you missed some of those with all this year's snow?--you can add a great book to your library. I'm saying this because I get comments from you readers about how cost prohibitive many of the nonfiction titles you want are. Here's one that isn't!

Finally, here's an article from Salon that explains the book's background better than I can right now: Down and dirty fairy tales: How this rediscovered stash of darker-than-Grimm stories destroys our Prince Charming myths: The translator of a newly discovered trove of 150-year-old tales on the gender-bending surprises found there by LAURA MILLER.

Book description:

A rare discovery in the world of fairy tales - now for the first time in English. With this volume, the holy trinity of fairy tales - the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen - becomes a quartet. In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth traversed the forests, lowlands, and mountains of northern Bavaria to record fairy tales, gaining the admiration of even the Brothers Grimm. Most of Schönwerth's work was lost - until a few years ago, when thirty boxes of manu­scripts were uncovered in a German municipal archive. Now, for the first time, Schönwerth's lost fairy tales are available in English. Violent, dark, and full of action, and upending the relationship between damsels in distress and their dragon-slaying heroes, these more than seventy stories bring us closer than ever to the unadorned oral tradition in which fairy tales are rooted, revolutionizing our understanding of a hallowed genre. 'Schönwerth's tales have a compositional fierceness and energy rarely seen in stories gathered by the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault' -The New Yorker 'Schönwerth's legacy counts as the most significant collection in the German-speaking world in the nineteenth century' - Daniel Drascek, University of Regensburg Franz Xanver von Schönwerth (1810-1886) was born in Bavaria and had a successful career in law and the Bavarian royal court before devoting himself to researching the customs of his homeland and preserving its fairy tales and folklore. Maria Tatar chairs the program in folklore and mythology at Harvard, and has edited and translated many collections of fairy tales. Eeika Eichenseer is a historian and preservationist working for the Bavarian government and the director of the Franz Xaver von Schönwerth Society.

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