Handbuch zu den "Kinder- und Hausmärchen" der Brüder Grimm: Entstehung-Wirkung-Interpretation. By Hans-förg Uther. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008. 526 pp.
The Handbuch zu den "Kinder- und Hausmärchen" der Brüder Grimm: Entstehung-Wirkung-Interpretation (Handbook of the Grimm Brothers' "Children's and Household Tales": Origin-Impact-Interpretation) is a useful work of reference for students and scholars of fairy tales that provides critical and illuminating encyclopedia-style entries for each of the 250-some tales the Grimms published in their collections of Kinder- und Hausmärchen (KHM). The reference book was developed out of Hans-Jörg Uther's 1996 critically annotated edition of the KHM and demonstrates the author's extensive knowledge of the Grimms' tales, their history, reception, and interpretation. Uther, recipient of the 2005 Europäischer Märchenpreis, an award for scholars and organizations that have made significant contributions to the field and preservation of European fairy tales and folklore, accompanies the handbook's entries with a concise chapter on the tales' history, a select bibliography, and several indexes. The bibliography, instead of listing several thousand works, contains editions as well as critical texts chosen because they present new findings or important elaborations on older criticism. The exhaustive indexes enable the reader to quickly find entries based on sources, contributors, titles, locations, motifs, and themes of the tales.
The entries on individual tales, though succinct, provide sketches of each tale's literary and publication history, folkloric classification, descriptions of popular illustrations associated with the tale, and a select bibliography. The entries also contain details about the narratives' possible sources and their significance as well as thematic interconnectedness within the Grimms' complete works. The tales are, moreover, fully cross-referenced with other stories collected by the brothers. Characteristic illustrations of the narratives, though unfortunately not in color, can be found throughout, and the book even includes reproductions of two pages handwritten by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm.
An invaluable feature of this handbook is that Uther documents and comments on all fairy tales published in the KHM editions, including the ten children's legends (Kinderlegenden) and those forty-six narratives that the Grimms excised over the course of the KHM's printing history in their lifetimes. The entries on excised tales provide reasons for the brothers' decision to exclude, for example, the popular tales "Blaubart" (Bluebeard) and "Der gestiefelte Kater" (Puss in Boots) from KHM editions after their first publication in 1812; they also cross-reference other narratives that share similar motifs or plots.
These cross-references allow readers to easily locate connected texts, such as "Blaubart," "Der Räuberbräutigam" (The Robber Bridegroom), and "Fitchers Vogel" (Fitcher's Bird). Uther discusses, in appropriate detail, the tales' similarities and differences and provides background information on the development of variations within the same tale type, accounting also for rewritings by the Grimms and later adaptations. For example, Uther points out that KHM 40, "Der Räuberbräutigam," first published in 1812 based on the narration by Marie Hassenpflug and deemed incomplete, was significantly changed for the 1819 edition and replaced by the conjunction of two texts from Niederhessen. …