Just in case you thought the current spotlight on fairy tales in popular culture was at it’s peak, a wealth of new material is being made available to those of us who love the genre. UK newspaper The Guardian reported last year that 500 new fairy tales have been rediscovered in a collection in a German archive.
Locked away for 150 years, the tales “are part of a collection of myths, legends and fairytales, gathered by the local historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (1810–1886) in the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz at about the same time as the Grimm brothers were collecting the fairytales that have since charmed adults and children around the world.”
In 1885, Jacob Grimm said this about Von Schönwerth: “Nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear.” Grimm went so far as to tell King Maximilian II of Bavaria that the only person who could replace him in his and his brother’s work was Von Schönwerth.
Unfortunately his collection, though published in three volumes in 1857, 1858, and 1859, never caught on with the general public and eventually went out of print and out of mind. While sifting through Von Schönwerth’s work, Oberpfalz cultural curator Erika Eichenseer found 500 fairytales, many of which do not appear in other European fairy tale collections.
“For example, there is the tale of a maiden who escapes a witch by transforming herself into a pond. The witch then lies on her stomach and drinks all the water, swallowing the young girl, who uses a knife to cut her way out of the witch. However, the collection also includes local versions of the tales children all over the world have grown up with including Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin, and which appear in many different versions across Europe,” reports The Guardian.
Maria Tartar of The New Yorker reveals that while most of Grimm’s fairy tales feature young women and girls as the protagonists, Von Schönwerth’s stories feature many boy heroes who undergo difficult circumstances on the way to happily ever after.
A somewhat rough translation of one of the tales, “The Turnip Princess”, is available to read at the newspaper’s website, while The New Yorker has a translation of “King Goldenlocks”. A larger selection has been published in Germany, and are being translated into English and other languages as well. Soon we’ll have a whole new set of fairy tales to draw inspiration from in movies, television, and theater.