Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Release Day: Schönwerth's "The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales"

There are two books I have been extremely excited about the last few months. 

One of them is Jack Zipes' recent translation (and commentary) of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, that is, the first edition they ever put together, in English, so we can finally read it in total for the first time (I'm using the present tense with regard to my excitement because I am still reading it and very much enjoying it). I plan on doing a special post just for that book when I'm done but I can tell you without doubt that if you're really interested in fairy tales, how they are told, recorded and the influence of the Grimms, then you need this book. Yes. Need.

The second is the one being released today: Franz Xaver Von Schönwerth's newly-translated-into-English collection, The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales. We've heard a lot about how "raw and unsanitized" they are, and how devoid of editing the transcription of these tales was in general but unless you've read a lot of old tales (and even if you have), you're probably in for more than a few surprises.

Thanks to an interview with Maria Tatar, care of Salon.com, I can give you an idea of what you'll be in for if you join me in adding it to your library (Thank you Kate for posting the link). I'm including just a few short excerpts, despite that the whole article is fascinating:
Tatar: What we have here are stories that are less mediated than most of the more familiar fairy tales and folktales. There’s a primary process of storytelling going on. They’re less heavily edited and they’re uncensored. The Grimms took great liberties with the stories they collected. The genius of the Grimms was to create this compact, standardized form of the fairy tale. They almost invented the genre of tale that is part of an oral storytelling tradition but also in the literary culture. Schönwerth, on the other hand, was not interested in readership as much as in just capturing the tales as they were told to him.
(Edit FTNH: Re the underlined portion above - which is my emphasis - I just wanted to mention here that I am a HUGE fan of the Grimm's work. Although I don't always agree with the details they left out and those they added or altered, they effectively popularized tales that were rapidly going the way of the dinosaur and difficult to find intact in people's memories - even those who practiced storytelling. Schönwerth's collections won't ever replace the Grimm's, nor should they, but they can add a lot to our understanding of tales - and of people and our own history too.)
One example in this book is a version of the well-known story of “The Valiant Little Tailor,” the guy who kills seven flies with one blow. The Grimms’ version has the flies hovering over a sandwich that the fellow has made. In Schönwerth, the flies are hovering over a dung heap. So that gives you a sense of the raw energy of the stories and the way that Schönwerth decided he was going to tell it straight up, tell it like it was. 
King Golden Hair
Salon: ... You mean that he’s interested in recording these as accurately as possible, not in creating a bestselling book, like (the Grimms)?Tatar: Or (creating) a standardized form for the fairy tale itself. I think you have it exactly right, that is, it’s more of an anthropological, folkloristic model. Schönwerth just refuses to homogenize the stories, and so you find that there’s a lot more gender bending in Schönwerth. There isn’t that strict division of gendered labor that you find in the Grimms. The Grimms don’t have a male Snow White, for example, whereas Schönwerth does. Schönwerth has a male Cinderella. He has a boy who wears out iron shoes while searching for the woman he loves, a figure who is a girl in “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” He has a prince who gets under the bedcovers with a frog so she can be turned into a beautiful princess. You just don’t find that in the Grimms at all. 
And in summary regarding fairy tales in general, Tatar says:
What I really love about fairy tales is that they get us talking about matters that are just so vital to us. I think about the story of Little Red Riding Hood and how originally it was about the predator-prey relationship, and then it becomes a story about innocence and seduction for us. We use that story again and again to work out these very tough issues that we have to face. My hope is that this volume will get people talking about not just the stories and the plot but the underlying issues.
There is so much more in this article I'd love to point out and discuss - you can read the whole of it HERE -  but for now, let's just get our copies and read it first. Discuss later!
Prince Dung Beetle
There is also another Schönwerth  book recently printed I wanted to draw your attention to as well and I'll include it with a recent relevant comment left by Jungian Analyst, Lara Newton, since it hasn't had much attention at all:
For the past several months I have been working on interpretations of some tales from another translation of some of Schönwerth's collection. This volume is translated by M. Charlotte Wolf (Dover publication 2014) and is titled, "Original Bavarian Folktales: A Schönwerth Selection." There are 150 tales in this dual-language edition. In the recent hoopla about the translation coming out by Maria Tatar, this volume published last year seems to never be mentioned. I am happy to see that Tatar is translating more of the tales, and I do love reading and working with the stories from Schönwerth's collection, but I just want to say that the translations of Wolf are really finely done and deserve attention! In her introduction, she gives a very thorough account of the manuscripts ("thousands of handwritten pages in 30 ungainly boxes"), their discovery in 2010, the publication of "Prince Dung Beetle," etc. The volume is worth looking at, for those of you who want to have the whole story!
As for the rawness, I do find Schönwerth's collections to be very raw and exciting to work with. As a psychological interpreter, I find the archetypal images to be amazingly close to the bone, so to speak, and I have been gaining so much from the work I am doing with these tales! 
You can read her whole comment HERE.

Note: For additional reference, HERE is the link to an earlier article from The Guardian, focusing on Erika Eichenseer, (pictured below), who is largely responsible for the revival the Schönwerth collection. It's a good read too.

There's also the New Yorker article from 2012 HERE, focusing on the "rediscovery" of those lost "Cinderfellas" that's worth a re-read as well.
Erika Eichenseer, a retired teacher who has dedicated herself to exploring Franz Xaver von Schonwerth’s work since the 1990s, on fairytale trail in woodland outside Regensburg, in Bavaria (source: The Guardian)
Fairy tale bonus of the day:
I have been unsuccessfully attempting to track down information online, on the newly opened (September 2014) Schönwerth Fairytale Road (yes, Fairytale is apparently one word - perhaps because it's translated from German Märchen which only needs the single word?), in which contemporary artists have created works based on his collected tales. 

Here are some excerpts from the Schönwerth Society website, explaining the objectives and implementation of the Fairytale Road project (autotranslation used):
The Dwarf King
The largest project of our relatively young organization is the "localization" by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth in a "Schönwerth fairytale path"...  
In Schönwerth fairytale path... seven Schönwerth tales are presented on forests, nature and environmental focus. Here visitors will primarily come to rest and feel the forest as a place of silence, meditation, relaxation, inspiration and motivation, as well as teaching values ​​and philosophy of life, enjoy, experience, comprehend with all their senses. 
Playful, are given an insight into the myth of "Upper Palatinate fairy tales and legends" children and adults. The imagination should be encouraged, and still carry on emotional-mental recognizing, understanding, interpreting to own creative work, ie for self-telling yourself writing, DIY Painting, DIY-crafts, games etc. The practical application of from fairy tales won lessons to their own lives are more overarching objectives. Ultimately, should be expanded by Schönwerth Wonderland path of awareness and appreciation of Schönwerth and his work in the general population and sustainable deepened. 
One of Schoenberg Werth's most beautiful fairy tale prince Roßzwifl (dung beetle, Scarabaeus sacer, scarab). Since this beetle with his egg-ball also lives in the forest experience center, he stands at the entrance to the monumental tale path. The ball is security, home, Ward, safety, but also maturation, transformation, which wants to convey the Schönwerth Society with this device as well. Local artists exhibit the above tale is symbolic and artistic value, to improve the motivation to think and put the imagination of the individual no limits.
The Singing Tree
Sounds interesting doesn't it? And I'm curious about the children's aspect... we've been given reason to believe these tales are anything but child friendly (but that doesn't mean children can't be told them in the correct context, in a suitable manner). Perhaps it's because I don't read German well enough to be able to find the right links or perhaps there just isn't record of it and I need to contact The Schönwerth Society directly to find out more, but I'm especially curious about this: What do the works look like in context? What inspired the artists? How will it practically serve to help keep these "newly discovered" tales in people's consciousness?

In case you're as curious as I was, below is a summary of the installations, the tales they reference and the artists who created them.

Clicking on the tale titles will take you to a transcription of the tale, along with photos of the artist at work on the installations:

The artists of the objects for the eight forest fairy tales are:
Korbinian Huber, Duggendorf
Florian Zeitler, Teublitz
The dwarf king  
crystal dome on the
dwarf Palace
Engelbert Sweet, Pfreimd
Korbinian Huber, Duggendorf

Renate Christin, Sinzing
Herta Wimmer-Knorr
Helmut Wolf, Regensburg
Heribert Schneider, Nittenau
Jakob Zeitler, Teublitz
Prince Dung Beetle


  1. I'm currently reading the Zipes first edition too! Can't wait to get my hands on the Turnip Princess, and wish I could visit the Fairytale Road. Great post:)

  2. I already preordered the Schonwerth book.

    I still haven't bought the first edition Grimm by Zipes. Mainly because . . . I kind of don't want to. Look, I love many of the Grimm tales. I just don't want to spend money on another copy read the Grimm tales again unless there are really, really significant differences. The only things I've heard is that the language is less flowery and the step-mothers in the later volumes are in fact birth mothers in the earlier versions (not shocking, considering that's how it is in many of the cross-cultural variants of those tales). Also, I'll be honest, as someone who sees himself more as a fan and entertainer rather than a scholar, I don't see the polishing up and sometimes softening of folk and fairy tales as a huge deal. I find I often give the tales a decent spit polish when I'm telling them in front of an audience. (Note: You may have noticed that I often poke fun at Disney on my blog, but almost never for the "Disneyfication" of tales. For me, it's more about letting people know that a corporate entity can't be the "boss" of fairy tales).

    So, I have to ask a few questions regarding the Zipes book. Is it really worth it? Are the changes and variations significant or am I going to have to read it and my later edition of Grimm side-by-side in order to tell what the differences are?

    1. I suppose this first edition is not for everyone. There are some tales in this one that don't appear in later versions, so that might be of interest. There's a bit more sex (at least implied) in some of the tales, and, as you said, more birth mothers and fewer stepmothers. I would say the differences are pretty subtle, but that's the kind of thing I tend to obsess over, so I'm enjoying that. Although for many of the tales, yes, you probably would need to do a side by side comparison. But there have been some really interesting details here and there that got left out or changed in later versions that have made it worth it for me to read. For instance, Zipes' translation of All Fur makes sense and left me with a satisfaction I have never had before with that story. It is also quite different from Maria Tatar's first edition translation of that same story which appears in Grimm's Grimmest. I'd love to get the two of them in a room together to discuss it! Hope this is helpful:)

  3. Well, I found a solution. I requested it from the library. Usually, when I'm looking for new folk/fairy tale books, I'm looking for new storytelling material. I also often look for stories from new places and because reading folk tales is my little way of travelling the world without purchasing a plane ticket.

    The funny thing is that on occasion I have bought (or downloaded) two copies of a book when I've loved it enough. For example, I have both a digital copy and a physical copy of English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs. And while I used to love the Grimm collection, I think I've kind of soured on it a little. Mainly because all anyone seems interested in is the darker side of the stories. I'm really not that interested in all that. My fascination is with the amazing fantastical elements that so many people seem to take for granted when reading fairy tales.