By Ruth B. Bottigheimer
Overturns conventional perspectives of the origins of fairy stories and files their genuine origins and transmission.
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Extra resources for Fairy Tales: A New History
This description of Wilhelm’s musings on the history of fairy tales reflects the preface he wrote for Volume 1 of the 1812 First Edition, whose direct contributors, I’ll mention once again, were principally bourgeois acquaintances and fellow intellectuals. When, in Volume 2, he referred to his genuine folk source, the fifty-year-old Dorothea Viehmann from the nearby village of Zwehrn, his enthusiasm was boundless and his convictions were even stronger. 25 More remarkable was her uncanny memory.
Thus, in and of itself, Rölleke’s discovery of Old Marie’s real identity changed little. Additional information to support a revision of the old history was needed before the traditional oralist history of fairy tales could be changed. In the last third of the twentieth century, social historians and historians of book and publishing history began investigating overarching subjects, one of which was German literacy in historical perspective. Literacy was coming to be seen as characterizing the populations of all German cities, Protestant as well as Catholic.
Socially unequal marriages like this had taken place in one or two medieval religious legends, but the motivation for those stories was a desire to show that if God willed it, even an outright impossibility—such as a poor commoner marrying royalty—could be brought about through divine intervention. Straparola’s plot line, however, eschewed religious miracles and turned, instead to secular magic to bring a poor girl or boy together with a royal spouse. The difficulties of achieving a union between a noble and a commoner were compounded in Straparola’s Venice, because in addition to being improbable, it was also illegal.
Fairy Tales: A New History by Ruth B. Bottigheimer