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Underappreciated: Franz Xaver von Schönwerth
By Julie DiNisio
Fairy tales have their place in the past. Most children grow up hearing the same cultural stories and lore, many of which have been immortalized by Disney. But the concept of a previously unheard fairy tale is a foreign one, until now. Recently, a set of 500 fairy tales – most of them completely new – was discovered in Regensburg, Germany, a city in Bavaria.
The stories were collected and written by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, a local historian and folklorist and contemporary of and Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, arguably the most famous fairy tale icons. He lived from 1810 to 1886 and spent much of his life amongst the Bavarian locals in a place called Oberpfalz, learning about customs, traditions, and, most importantly, folklore. Von Schönwerth published these stories in three volumes called Aus der Oberpfalz, which failed to gain popularity.
German cultural curator Erika Eichenseer published many of Von Schönwerth’s stories. She argues that his stories could not compete with the Brother Grimm’s because they were written with a less literary tone. The stories are presented in a very-straightforward manner, an unfamiliar style for those accustomed to fairy tales today with the less savory details sugarcoated after years of retelling.
Due to her growing interest in the author and his life work, Eichenseer founded the Franz Xaver von Schönwerth Society which is committed to publishing his stories. Though they are not yet available in English, a translator is working on them. Thus far, “The Turnip Princess” is one of the translated stories and can be read here.
And in the meantime, fairy tale fans can relish the fact that there are more to be discovered and Von Schönwerth is finally getting the credit he deserves.