The Queen's Mirror: Fairy Tales by German Women, 1780-1900

The Queen's Mirror: Fairy Tales by German Women, 1780-1900

The Queen's Mirror: Fairy Tales by German Women, 1780-1900

The Queen's Mirror: Fairy Tales by German Women, 1780-1900

Synopsis

This exciting and comprehensive anthology- the first anthology of German women's fairy tales in English- presents a variety of published and archival fairy tales from 1780 to 1900. These authors of these stories used fairy tales to explain their own lives, to teach children, to examine history, and to critique society and the status quo. Powerful and conflicted females are queens, girls on quests, mothers, daughters, magical wisewomen, and midwives to the fairies; they love, hate, murder, save children, fight tyranny, overcome cannibals, and rescue the working poor. Jeannine Blackwell's introduction places the tales in their historical, social, and critical context, and Shawn C. Jarvis's afterword presents a thematic analysis of the texts and approaches to reading them in conjunction with other European and American tales.

Excerpt

Jeannine Blackwell

WHEN AND WHY did women in Europe start writing down the fairy and folk tales of their cultures? And why have modern readers heard so little about them? Since there is almost no lasting historical record of that moment of writing and its justification, we might think that women actually did not compose such tales until the late Victorian era of popular children’s literature.

Yet the magnificent examples in the 1690s of the French women writers associated with Charles Perrault give us a clue that there is much to be discovered. Investigations about the sources and methods of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm have revealed that more than fifty women and girls contributed tales and tale variants to the Grimms’ storehouse of stories from 1808 to the 1830s. These clues to women’s participation in narrative culture have been confirmed by our research: German-speaking women not only told but also recorded and wrote fairy tales, and their stories are different from those of their male counterparts.

We expand on previous research by presenting a cross-section of tales by German-speaking women. Some of our choices were associated with the famous tale-gathering projects, for women often had more access than their male friends and relatives to the Volk through the marketplace, the small shop, servants, and consumer providers such as tailors, shoemakers, and laundresses. Other writers we have chosen operated in different spheres: the Weimar court, German Romantic circles, children’s educational establishments, the literary salon, the Kindergarten movement, and the women’s emancipation movement.

The Queen’s Mirror begins with the first known fairy tale written in German by a woman and moves on through each decade until 1900. To our surprise and even consternation, that first author was not a woman of the Volk, disenfranchised and powerless; she was Catherine the Great, empress of Russia. Why did she write her tales? If we are to believe her dedication . . .

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