CE – Anthropology

Das europäische Volksmärchen: Form und Wesen [The European Folktale: Form and Essence]. Max Lüthi. 11th, unrev. ed. Tübingen [et al.]: Francke, 2005. 144 p. 19 cm. (UTB, 312: Literaturwissenschaft). ISBN 3-7720-8110-X (Francke); ISBN 3-8252-2693-X (UTB): EUR 9.90 [07-1-203]

This classic, groundbreaking study of the European folktale or fairy tale (Märchen) by the Swiss literary scholar Max Lüthi (1909-1991), which first appeared in 1947, has appeared in numerous editions and translated into several languages, including English in 1981. In the preface to his 1981 German edition, the author calls it a “complete work that should not be changed,” and in accordance with his wishes, this new 11th edition is republished in its 1981 form. In it, Lüthi offered a definitive system for the literary analysis of the folktale, which he expanded in further books, but this and his Märchen (1962) in the popular Metzler series have proved to be his most durable works. The 10th edition of the latter, revised by Heinz Rölleke, appeared in 2004 (see IFB 07-1-204]).

Lüthi maintained that the folktale was an art form, and his aim was to discover the essence, basic forms, and defining characteristics of the European Märchen. He believed that the latter were fundamentally different from non-European folktales in their nature and structure. In an admirable display of the breadth of his knowledge, he analyzes folktales from 15 language areas of Europe, identifies their stylistic characteristics, explores the origins of recurring folktale themes, and attempts to explain the role of folktales in their social/psychological context. A concluding section about folktale scholarship describes publications up to 1959. Included is a detailed summary of Vladimir Propp’s structural analysis approach to the folktale (in Morphologie des Märchens, 1972), which Lüthi saw as an extension and counterpart to his own scholarship. There is no bibliography as such; sources are cited in footnotes. [wh/akb]

Lexikon der germanischen Mythologie [Lexicon of Germanic Mythology]. Rudolf Simek. 3d rev. ed. Stuttgart: Kröner, 2006. xvii, 573 p. 18 cm. (Kröners Taschenausgabe, 368). ISBN 978-3-520-36803-4: EUR 22 [07-2-554]

The author of this substantially expanded edition of a work first published in 1984 is an eminent and prolific scholar, Professor of Medieval German and Scandinavian Literature at the University of Bonn, and author of numerous books and articles, including the Lexikon der altnordischen Literatur (see RREA 13:118). The understanding of the concept of ‘mythology’ in this work is a broad one, embracing the belief and thought systems of Germanic pagan antiquity in general. Chronological coverage is from 1500 BC to around 1100 AD. The perennial problem of the ideologically tinged nature of historical scholarship in the field of Germanic mythology is handled well by Simek, thanks to his cautious and objective approach to earlier scholars’ contributions. The work includes a comprehensive bibliography (p. 507-73) of around 1925 sources (both monographs and articles); of these, 53 percent are in German, 20 percent in English, and 24 percent in the Scandinavian languages. The bibliography complements the articles in the lexicon, and as such facilitates further research on topics addressed in the text. Simek’s lexicon, here in its 3d edition, retains its position as the most authoritative scholarly reference source in the field of Germanic mythology. [wh/cjm]

Die Märchen der Brüder Grimm: Quellen und Studien; gesammelte Aufsätze [The Folktales of the Brothers Grimm: Sources and Studies; Collected Essays]. Heinz Rölleke. 2d ed. Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2004. 290 p. 21 cm. (Schriftenreihe Literaturwissenschaft, 50). ISBN 3-88476-667-8: EUR 25 [07-1-207]

Alt wie der Wald: Reden und Aufsätze zu den Märchen der Brüder Grimm [Older than God: Lectures and Essays about the Folktales of the Brothers Grimm]. Heinz Rölleke. Trier: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2006. 284 p. 21 cm. (Schriftenreihe Literaturwissenschaft, 70). ISBN 978-3-88476-857-0: EUR 26.50 [07-1-208]

In these volumes, Heinz Rölleke, a literary scholar with impressive academic credentials, has collected 53 of his essays and lectures–a mere one-fifth the total number of his published essays. In the preface to the first of the two works, Rölleke maintains that scholars have still neglected aspects of one of the biggest bestsellers of all time, Grimm’s Fairy Tales. He has tried to rectify this neglect here and in two earlier publications: Nebeninschriften: Brüder Grimm [Secondary Inscriptions: The Brothers Grimm] (Bonn, 1980) and “Wo das Wünschen noch geholfen hat!” [When Wishes Still Came True!] (Bonn, 1985). All the essays included here appeared elsewhere, including four in the earlier volumes. Rölleke is often preoccupied with questions of textual authenticity and integrity. In one well-known essay, he unmasks an important informant of the Grimm brothers, “die Alte Marie,” as a fiction. Elsewhere, he demonstrates how some of the folktales have been “contaminated” by story lines from other tales. Still other essays attack the work of other scholars and point out flaws in their approaches and scholarship.

In the second volume, Rölleke analyzes the reworking of the folktale texts by Wilhelm Grimm and shows how they became more literal and sentimental from one edition to the next. His studies form part of an ongoing discussion around the question: how many stylistic liberties can one take in changing the wording of folktales from the oral tradition without altering their essential nature? Rölleke is on the side of the purists. He also criticizes scholars who have too readily offered psychoanalytical and sociological interpretations of fairy tales without a deeper understanding of their philological origins. Other essays examine aspects of the fairy tale such as laughter, death, magic, time and numbers, women, and kings and rulers. One broader topic examined is the influence of the Grimm Brothers folktales on world literature and vice versa. Rölleke’s two volumes offer a wealth of insights into Grimm’s fairy tales, although in a somewhat fragmented manner, due to the essay form. [wh/akb]

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Last update: October 2010 [LC]
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