Tales From Germania
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This volume, Tales From Germania covers stories originating in the broadly Germanic world.
German folklore shares many characteristics with Scandinavian folklore and English folklore based on their common origins in Germanic mythology. The Germanic tradition reflects a similar mix of influences, such as a pre-Christian pantheon and supernatural beings equivalent to those of Norse mythology.
Equally, there are magical characters associated with Christian festivals, and various regional character stories and elements.
As in Scandinavia, when belief in the old gods disappeared, remnants of the myths persisted, such as the Lorelei, a dangerous Rhine siren, or the giant Rübezahl. Character folklore includes the stories of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, the trickster hero Till Eulenspiegel, and the Town Musicians of Bremen and Faust.
Documentation of folklore in the states that formally united as Germany in 1871 emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries. As early as 1851, author Bernhard Baader published a collection of folklore research obtained through oral history-telling, which he titled Volkssagen aus dem Lande Baden und den angrenzenden Gegenden. The Saxon author Johann Karl August Musäus was another early collector.
Study was further promoted by the Prussian poet-philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder. His belief in the role of folklore in ethnic nationalism - a folklore of Germany as a nation rather than of disunited German-speaking peoples - inspired Goethe and others. Folklore, such as the
Rhine Maidens and the Grimms' The Story of a Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear, formed part of the source material for Richard Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen.
For most of us the key to reading and wondering at the depth of Germanic folklore is the work of The Brothers Grimm, and their history is fascinating. Their first book, Children’s and Household Tales, was published in 1812, and they soon began their second volume, German Legends, which was published in 1818. The book that actually started their international success was not one of their collections of tales, however, but rather Jacob’s publication of German Grammar in 1819.
In 1825, the Brothers published their Kleine Ausgabe or "small edition", a selection of 50 tales designed for child readers. This children's version went through ten editions between 1825 and 1858.
In 1830, Jacob became a professor at University of Göttingen and shortly after, in 1835, Wilhelm also became a professor there. During these years Jacob wrote a third volume of German Grammar and Wilhelm prepared the third revision of the Children’s and Household Tales.
After leaving Göttingen in 1837 following a brief political struggle with the absolutist King Ernst August II, both Jacob and Wilhelm returned to their previous home in Kassel. Here the Grimms devoted themselves to researching and studying, before being invited by the King of Prussia to teach and work at the University of Berlin in 1841. It was while in Berlin that the brothers began work on their great but unfinished German dictionary.
Tales From Germania, as with the collection of stories from France, Tales From Gallia, concentrates on those lesser-known stories from the Brothers Grimm alongside other collectors such as Andrew Lang, Margaret Arndt and Logan Marshall. I also found some interesting but unattributed tales to add to the mix.