Five hundred fairy tales given new life

Historian discovers the lost work of a prodigious storyteller

The Brothers Grimm were immortalised by their fairy tale collection, but all the while another Bavarian resident was industriously gathering fantastical stories, a man whose legacy has been locked away for 150 years...

Franz Xaver von Schönwerth spent decades gathering narratives from rural communities. He recorded them in a plain, unadorned style, resisting the temptation to introduce writerly flourishes. Many do not appear in other collections. In one, a maiden changes herself into a pond to escape a witch. In 'The Turnip Princess', root vegetables prove unusually important in a nimble prince's search for a beautiful maiden.

Jacob Grimm was so impressed by von Schönwerth's skill that he declared him the only person capable of continuing the enterprise of the brothers Grimm. 'Nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [fairy tales] so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear,' he said. But Grimm's admiration did not prevent the tales from slipping into obscurity. Though published in three books in the 1860s, they were forgotten, and might still be were it not for historian Erika Eichenseer, who discovered the stories in an archive in Regensberg and began publishing them. German versions are already in print, with English translations to follow.

You can now read 'The Turnip Princess', published on the Guardian website. Click here.

Explore the Folio edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales, illustrated by Arthur Rackham.

last modified: Mon, Apr 30th 2012Bookmark and Share
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