Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: The Turnip Princess by Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth

The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth edited by Erika Eichenseer and Maria Tartar is a new collection of some tales from old northern Bavaria.

In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth traversed the forests, lowlands, and mountains of northern Bavaria to record fairy tales, gaining the admiration of even the Brothers Grimm. Most of Schönwerth's work was lost - until a few years ago, when thirty boxes of manu­scripts were uncovered in a German municipal archive. Now, for the first time, Schönwerth's lost fairy tales are available in English. Violent, dark, and full of action, and upending the relationship between damsels in distress and their dragon-slaying heroes, these more than seventy stories bring us closer than ever to the unadorned oral tradition in which fairy tales are rooted, revolutionizing our understanding of a hallowed genre.

A collection like this is always a treasure. What makes it more so is that he recorded them as they were told to him and not prettied up or changed to make them sound better or more moral. The tales are told in plain language. Maria Tartar, one of the best-known scholars in folklore and fairy tales, writes an informative introduction to the tales.

According to Maria Tartar, Erika Eichenseer was the first person to translate the stories into English. She has kept faithful to the way the stories were told in German. There is quite a variety of the tales as well. "Prince Goldenlocks" is one example and is the first story in the book. The tale holds elements that are similar to several different tales, but in the end, it reminds me most of a combination of Snow White, Donkey Skin, and Cinderella. I would have to add that some of the tales are also not for the faint of heart involving things like biting off a pinkie or substituting animal parts for human parts.

If you are really into fairy tales and folklore, this book is worth a read. The tales are from upper Bavaria which is different from the Grimm's tales. They are told in simple straight forward language. Because some of the content can be considered violent, parents might want to share the book with their children rather than simply pass the book onto them. 

Einstein says, "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." These tales are an interesting addition to the pantheon of fairy tales. 

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars because it has a good introduction and other resources are listed. The tales themselves are in a plain language and are of good, interesting quality. If you are looking for something a little different to add to your fairy tale shelf, consider this book.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

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