Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Grimm Nights: Reflections on the Connections between the Grimms' Household Tales and the 1001 Nights

Academic journal article Marvels & Tales

Grimm Nights: Reflections on the Connections between the Grimms' Household Tales and the 1001 Nights

Article excerpt

Modestly titled "notes" to the Grimms' Household Tales, the Anmerkungen zu den Kinderund Hausmärchen der Brüder Grimm, compiled by German scholar Johannes Boite (1858-1937) and Czech scholar Georg (Jifi) Polivka (18381933), is an impressive representative of late-nineteenthand early-twentiethcentury erudition. Contrasting with the unassuming title, the three volumes of notes to the 225 numbered tales from the Grimms' collection (taking into account all the tales published in the collection's various editions as well as fragments and unpublished items) cover an impressive 1,700 pages. To this day, the Anmerkungen constitutes an invaluable mine of information. Boite and Polivka not only discuss the Grimms' tales in relation to their historical precursors and their changing versions in the various editions of the Kinderund Hausmärchen but also present a wide array of data relating to European and international narrative tradition in general, documenting the impact of the tales on subsequent tradition. In the short preface to the first volume published in 1913 (1: iii), Boite humbly presented the Anmerkungen as an enlarged version of the notes that the Grimms themselves had compiled. These notes were first published in the appendixes to the first and second volumes (1812, 1815) of the first edition of the Kinderund Hausmärchen, and a revised version was published as a separate volume in 1856 (Grimm, Kinderund Hausmärchen, v. 3).

In addition to the three volumes of annotations proper to the Grimms' tales, in a fourth and fifth volume Boite (and his collaborators) elaborated on the Grimms' originally concise remarks on the history of the fairy tale in fourteen extensive chapters. These chapters deal with a variety of topics, ranging from a discussion of historical documents to surveys of fairy tales in various European regions and in regions whose narrative traditions are related to those of Europe. Of particular interest for the present discussion, which combines Donald Haase's dedicated interest in the Grimms' tales with my predilection for the narrative culture of the Muslim world, are a few pages in the chapter on tales in the Arabic tradition that Hungarian scholar Bernhard Heller (18711943), an expert in both Jewish and Arabic narrative traditions, contributed to the fourth volume of the Anmerkungen. On the one hand, Heller's detailed discussion speaks to the problematics of what historically constitutes scholarly knowledge and how relative the value of this knowledge may or may not prove to be in the long run; on the other hand, Heller addresses the Grimms' assumptions as collectors, adaptors, and editors that, although perfectly in line with contemporary attitudes, deprived later research of invaluable source material for the comparison of tales from literary tradition and their oral retellings.

Heller's chapter focuses on the connections between the Grimms' Kinderund Hausmärchen and the 1001 Nights, the world-renowned Arabic collection of tales better known in the English-speaking world as The Arabian Nights. (An English translation of Heller's detailed treatment of these connections is published separately in the "Texts and Translations" section of the present issue.) Although the Grimms' tales are available in various English translations (see, e.g., Grimm, Complete Fairy Tales', and Grimm, Grimm Reader), the Anmerkungen compiled and edited by Boite and Polivka has never been translated in full. Considering the tremendous wealth of concise and highly specialized information that is crammed into its pages, the Anmerkungen is, as the translated sample suggests, fairly untranslatable and should best be used in the German original. Furthermore, from today's perspective, the predominantly descriptive and enumerating character of Heller's essay risks being experienced as somewhat tiring, particularly because folkloristic research has long left behind the stage of merely amassing data in vogue in the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.