Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New Book: Original Bavarian Folktales: A Schönwerth Selection: A Dual-language Book by M. Charlotte Wolf

Do you remember the media hype a few years ago about the lost German fairy tales? I posted about the story at Five Hundred New Fairytales Discovered in Germany and Maria Tatar Discusses Franz Xaver von Schönwerth if you need your memory jiggled.

Well, now 150 of the tales have been translated for your reading pleasure by Dr. M. Charlotte Wolf. Better yet, they are offered side-by-side with the original German for those of you who enjoy that sort of thing. I do. I have a few other books in the dual-language series by Dover. The other great news is that Dover is a thrifty publisher so the book is well-priced for just about everyone--no academic pricing here although the book is a fine academic tome--don't let the price let you think otherwise. It should entice you to pick up this collection since it is about the the price of a lunch at a sit-down restaurant.

I asked Dr. Wolf to share some insider information about the book with us along with her favorite tales in the collection. Thanks to her for sharing with us! I have a review copy of the book to peruse and will share more later, but wanted to share this now with you.

From M. Charlotte Wolf:

I would like to announce the upcoming publication of my book, Original Bavarian Folktales: A Schönwerth Selection: A Dual-language Book. The Kindle version is already available (March 2014) and the print version will be published in May.

The book contains 150 fairy and folk tales culled from a three-volume scholarly work by Franz von Schönwerth and published in the 1850s. In the introduction to Original Bavarian Folktales, readers will find footnoted critical material on the German and East Bavarian stories as well as Schönwerth and his legacy. The tales of giants, witches, death, mermaids, dwarfs, the wind, the sun and the moon, and other subjects are grouped thematically.

Franz Xaver von Schönwerth collected a treasure trove of material, traditions and tales, about the people of the East Bavarian region known as Upper Palatinate. In folklorist circles he is mainly known for his 3-volume work Aus der Oberpfalz: Sitten und Sagen, 1857 – 1859 (From the Upper Palatinate: Traditions and Tales, 1857-1895). Schönwerth’s famous contemporary Jacob Grimm, one half of the famous Grimm Brothers, was much impressed by Schönwerth’s work, and his all-around positive review in a letter he sent to the Bavarian folklorist in late September of 1858, may have been based on the realization that the much younger man was indeed a kindred spirit. While both the Grimm Brothers and Schönwerth collected tales during the 19th century, there is a distinct disparity between the different set of tales. This may also be because the Grimm Brothers frequently softened the message of tales they thought too violent for children, whereas Schönwerth had tried to preserve the tone and flavor of the Upper Palatinian stories along with their simplicity. These differences become most evident in tales that appear both in the Brothers Grimm and the Schönwerth collections, such as the widely known tale “The Gallant Tailor” (German, „Das tapfere Schneiderlein“), published in the 1857 edition of the Grimm Brothers' Kinder- und Hausmärchen (KHM). In Original Bavarian Folktales, Schönwerth’s version is called “The Tailor and the Giants” (German, „Der Schneider und die Riesen“).

In the Grimm version, the story begins with a detailed description of the purchase of sweet compote, tells of the flies that “landed on it in droves” (KHM 111), relates the tailor’s win over the seven flies with one stroke (as the tailor tells it!), and ends with the following words, “You are such a [tough] guy?[…] The entire world shall hear of this!” (KHM 111).

In Schönwerth’s version, the tailor is a much humbler lad who one day finds in the forest a red silk sash on which appear the words, “Seven with one stroke; who can match that?” which he picks up and ties around his waist. The two stories then follow two obviously similar threads, but the Grimm version is more refined and built on much more dialogue, whereas the Schönwerth recounts it as it may have been told by a story teller to a group or crowd of listeners, in a much more narrative style and involving little dialogue. In the Grimm version, the tailor survives by using his wits and boasting of seeminlgy heroic deeds, while in the Schönwerth version we learn of the tailor‘s acts of true heroism.

But like Schönwerth’s Sitten und Sagen, the inspiration for the publication of Jacob Grimm’s Deutsche Mythologie and the Grimm Brothers’ Kinder- und Hausmärchen, was a shared focus on the importance of folk traditions. Schönwerth and the Grimm Brothers preferred the preservation of everyday culture of rural and small-town Germans, to keep alive traditions that reflected a Germanic folk-culture reaching back into a distant past.

As a true romantic, among my favorite Schönwerth tales is the story of a wager between King Solomon and the Devil (story 145). The story ends with the words: “Those who belong together will come together, even if the Devil has to gather them in his wheelbarrow.” I found the story appealing because not only is the Devil not depicted as the “bad guy” this time, but moreover, he even appears as an, albeit reluctant, matchmaker for two young lovers.

1 comment:

  1. You may want to read the reviews posted on Amazon.com... :)