The German word Märchen means "brief narrative", and includes both folk tales and fairy tales: both Volksmärchen and Zaubermärchen.
Folk tales reflect the world of the audience, how persons were allowed to relate and not to relate. Folk tales are the oldest of the two. Some folk tales are thousands of years old.
In the first half of the 1800s, fairy tales joined folk tales as a story form that came to be revered among Germans. In such more recent fairy tales, wicked ones are driven away or executed. Non-rational German Romantics demonstrated a deep sympathy for the genre and produced tales too.
Many simplified tales that were hoped to suit children, were published in Germany from the 1750s-60s and far into the 1800s. Many collected and retold the folk and fairy tales. The most famous of these are the Grimm brothers. They collected, edited, and published their Hausmärchen - or Household Tales - in the early half of the 1800s. But the first one to make tales profitable, was Ludwig Bechstein. His Deutsches Märchenbuch (German [Fairy] Tale Book 1845 was later read far and wide.
Folk and fairy tales remain a formidable part of German culture and have given rise to the "Europäische Märchengesellschaft" (European Folk and Fairy Tale Society), which is a large one. [F1]
I think many different folk tales indicate deep issues in a folk. In my experience, folk tales are especially useful for coming to terms with deeper issues of the establishment.
Myths and folktales are stories of human passion and adventure, a deposit of a very old tradition where humans are found to deal with supernatural matters and beings, just like ancient Greeks of Homer. The influence of the poor man's wishes on the creative fancy is very marked in all the folktales.
The following folktales were either recorded in Austria or told by an Austrian. There are many similar tales in other countries of Central Europe. One collection that is made use of in the following, is Kinder- und Hausmärchen in den Alpenländern by Theodor Vernaleken (1812-1907). He wrote them down from word of mouth. An English translation exists too, and another collection by him, Alpensagen, first published in 1858.
Another collection is by the comtesse Marie Alker Günther, Tales and Legends of the Tyrol, and still another is a large collection by Ignaz Zingerle, Sagen aus Tirol.
Folktales talk of the human spirit along with impressions of nature. They are mingled tragedy, pathos, and humour of many common enough experiences, and some of them have what it takes to influence human minds deeply.
Also, some of these tales from Central Europe contain messages like, "Keep your humanity" and "Braggart ways are not good enough."
Bechstein, Ludwig, coll. Die Volkssagen, Mährchen und Legenden des Kaiserstaates Oesterreich. 1. Band. Leipsig: Polet, 1840.
Günther, Marie Alker, coll. Tales and Legends of the Tyrol. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.
Vernaleken, Theodor, coll. In the Land of Marvels: Folktales from Austria and Bohemia. London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co, 1889.
Vernaleken, Theodor, coll. Alpensagen: Volksüberlieferungen aus der Schweiz, aus Vorarlberg, Kärnten, Steiermark, Salzburg, Ober- und Niederösterreich. Wien: L. W. Seidel, 1868.
Vernaleken, Theodor. Kinder- und Hausmärchen dem Volke treu nacherzählt: Aus Österreich, Böhmen und Mähren. 3. Auflage, Wien/Leipzig, 1896. (Nachdruck Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1980) ◦Link]
von Alpenburg, Johann Nepomuk Ritter, coll. and ed. Deutsche Alpensagen. Wien: Wilhelm Braumüller, 1861.
Zingerle, Ignaz V., coll. Sagen aus Tirol. Innsbruck: Wagner, 1891.
[F1] Ruth B. Bottigheimer, Stony Brook University, "German Fairy
Tales" in The Literary Encyclopedia [online database]. Profile first published 10/11/2004
[cited 10 Dec. 2005]; available from World Wide Web
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