Sunday, March 18, 2012

Maria Tatar Discusses Franz Xaver von Schönwerth

Eisermann's Sleeping Beauty

Remember my post a few weeks ago about the "newly discovered" fairy tales? And my slight exasperation with the media for portraying the find as brand new instead of forgotten since most of the tales have been on the internet for years? Well, Maria Tatar has chimed in and is better informed and even provides some analysis of the tales for all of our benefits. Thanks, Maria! Here are the first two paragraphs from Cinderfellas: The Long-Lost Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar at The New Yorker:

Bavarian fairy tales going viral? Last week, the Guardian reported that five hundred unknown fairy tales, languishing for over a century in the municipal archive of Regensburg, Germany, have come to light. The news sent a flutter through the world of fairy-tale enthusiasts, their interest further piqued by the detail that the tales—which had been compiled in the mid-nineteenth century by an antiquarian named Franz Xaver von Schönwerth—had been kept under lock and key. How astonishing then to discover that many of those “five hundred new tales” are already in print and on the shelves at Widener Library at Harvard (where I teach literature, folklore and mythology) and at Yale, Stanford, and Berkeley.

Schönwerth—a man whom the Grimm brothers praised for his “fine ear” and accuracy as a collector—published three volumes of folk customs and legends in the mid-nineteenth century, but the books soon began gathering dust on library shelves. In 2010, over a hundred of the fairy tales culled from the archive were published by the Schönwerth champion Erika Eichenseer, under the title Prinz Rosszwifl. So the Guardian’s news wasn’t exactly new. To be sure, those tales have not yet been translated into English, and many stories remain in manuscript form. But there are enough of them available now to satisfy our curiosity: are they radically different from the fairy tales we know?
As always, click through to read the rest....


  1. Of course that I remember the material! I even wrote an informative post in my blog, so that more people knew about the new fairytales. "Old" or not "that old" - the fact is that they are still unknown to a lot of readers...
    Last night I found Maria Tatar's article via here - And I must update my post now...
    Thank you, Heidi, for your marvellous blog, giving us so much precious information about the world of children's literature!
    Have a sunny, lovely Spring!

  2. Discovered, undiscovered, internet, not on the internet. Whatever. I'd still like to get an English language hard copy of them.

  3. It is not true that most of the tales have been on the internet for years. The volumes Sitten und Sagen contain only a handful of tales. The 500 "new" tales are mostly drawn from 30 boxes of manuscripts in the archives. Although a few historians have sorted through the material, it was Eichenseer who recognized the value of the tales and published over 100 of them in her book Prinz Roßwifl. Many of the tales she published are new forms of old tales we all know and some of them are unkown. I think Tatar was referring in her article to the fact that Eichenseer's book, Prinz Roßwifl, was in the university libraries. The article never claimed that the find was new. But the news of the find is new to the English-speaking world.

    1. Re: "The volumes Sitten und Sagen contain only a handful of tales."
      The Sitten und Sagen contain more than 400 tales of various length and in a variety of styles. My new book, Original Bavarian Folktales (Kindle version is available since March 2014 and the print version will be available in May), contains 150 of these, in dual-language (English and German).