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Folk tales bring continuity to many folks.


Folk tales

"Lame" folk tales and enlivening ones are cultural outlets. There are also bad tales and wise tales - The enlivening and wise tales may help a culture's continuity through ideas and cultural references that are shared across generations. In many folk tales magic and mystery is told of as well.

The German word Märchen means "brief narrative", and includes both folk tales and fairy tales; that is, both Volksmärchen and Zaubermärchen (tales of magic).

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.

At ◦ are over ten thousand Austrian tales and over 300 Austrian fairy tales so far. One may suspect some overlapping of themes and motifs . . . which means such as: "Some tales may look like others from other districts."

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]

Issues and problems of folks

Many different folk tales could indicate deep issues in a folk. Granted that, many folk tales can be useful for coming to terms with deeper issues of the establishment also, although not all of them. Great issues are often approached from several angles. The British folklorist and writer Katharine Mary Briggs (1898–1980) writes in British Folk-tales and Legends (2002):

The study of Folklore covers a wide area and touches a great number of disciplines. Professor Archer Taylor, one of the great Folklore scholars, used to describe it as a central study because it dealt with so many different aspects of scholarship: Sociology, Anthropology, Literature, Linguistics, Music, Drama, History, Archaeology. All these are of importance to Folklore, and Folklore is significant to them. So it will be seen that Narrative Research covers only a small part of Folklore Studies. (2002, 2) . . .

Local anecdotes . . . sometimes throw a revealing light on historical events. (Ib., 3 . . .

Folk tradition . . . is an enormous, many-branched subject, and folklorists . . . pursuing a great variety of specialized activities, and will have a great deal to teach each other. (Ib., 3)

Interpreters, do we need them?

Interpreters are secondary; let good tales to mature on come first.

In addition to disciplines that Briggs tell of, there are also psychological schools (lines) to take into account. They look into tales and other forms of literature by putting special, filtering glasses on their noses and looking through them, so to speak. That is, they use particular concepts in attempts to get at what various tales could mean. Academic disciplines operate through sets of special words and more common words that are given special meanings.

The Austrian Dr Sigmund Freud is at the bottom of some psychoanalytical approaches. Among other things, Freud took to many sorts of tales to lock up problems he perceived in the bourgeoisie of his time - the upper and middle classes in his time, with their vain or materialistic values and conventional attitudes. He locked up Burger problems by use of ancient tales - one is about the Greek mother-marrier Oedipus, a tales that is interpreted with a Freudian twist that goes far beyond the ancient tale itself. A folly may be detected right there - unless it is made clear that the Freudian Oedipus is reinterpreted away from the ancient tale.

Followers of Freud have looked into folk tales, they too. One of them, Erich Fromm, maintains in his book The Forgotten Language (1951) that the red cap of the fairy tale figure Redcap is the first menstruation. The snag? Evidence of it is lacking. Eric Berne says this:

Fromm says: "Most of the symbolism in this fairy tale can be understood without difficulty. The 'little cap of red velvet' is a symbol of menstruation." He does not state by whom it can be understood without difficulty, or to whom it is a symbol of menstruation. (Berne 1973, 61 [note 4])

In short: "They read tales, kneads into them concepts of their 'school of thinking', and articles or whole books result, and occasionally special schools of thinking."

An early disciple of Freud, the Swiss Carl G. Jung, broke with his teacher and formed analytical psychology, also called Jungian psychology. He reached in part other and better opinions than Freud on several issues. Jungians have applied Jung's concepts to tales and other forms of literature too. See for example the books by Richard Sugg (1992) and Bettina L. Knapp (2003). The neo-Freudian Eric Berne (1910–70) makes many entertaining claims about what some fairy tales deal with too. (Ib., 213-23, 330-39, etc.)

A psychological school consists of fellows with about the same thoughts on some central issues. However, a tale may be understood in more than one way, and the one-school view may be too limited. There are many other interpreting schools or views, and some may be profitable to take into account as well.

A wider, cultural picture needs to be taken into account as well, just as Briggs pertinently tells: "The study of Folklore covers a wide area and touches a great number of disciplines", and contains "many different aspects of scholarship: Sociology, Anthropology, Literature, Linguistics, Music, Drama, History, Archaeology," besides "Folk tradition . . . is an enormous, many-branched subject." (Above)

Theodor Vernaleken
Theodor Vernaleken (1812-1907), collector of Austrian folktales etc.

These Tales

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."


Austrian Fairy Tales and Legends, Literature  

Bechstein, Ludwig, coll. Die Volkssagen, Mährchen und Legenden des Kaiserstaates Oesterreich. 1. Band. Leipsig: Polet, 1840.

Berne, Erik. What Do You Say After You Say Hello? The Psychology of Human Destiny. New York: Bantam, 1973.

Briggs, Katharine. British Folk-Tales and Legends. A Sampler. London: Routledge Classics, 2002.

Crane, Thomas Frederick. Italian Popular Tales. Cambridge, MA: The Riverside Press, 1885.

Fromm, Erich. 1952. The Forgotten Language: An Introduction to the Understanding of Dreams, Fairy Tales and Myths. London: Victor Gollancz.

Günther, Marie Alker, comtesse, coll. Tales and Legends of the Tyrol. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.

Henderson, Bernard Lionel Kinghorn. Wonder Tales of Old Tyrol. London: Philip Allan, 1925.

Knapp, Bettina L. 2003. French Fairy Tales: A Jungian Approach. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Raff, Helene. Tiroler Legenden. Innsbruck: Tyrolia, 1924.

Rusk, Rachel Harriette, coll, ed. Household Stories from the Land of Hofer, or, Popular Myths of Tirol London: Griffith and Farran, 1871. ⍽▢⍽ The main source of many of these reworked tales.

Schneller, Christian, coll. Märchen und Sagen aus Wälschtirol, Ein Beitrag zur deutschen Sagenkunde. Innsbruck: Wagner, 1867.

Sugg, Richard P., ed. 1992. Jungian Literary Criticism. Evanston, ILL: Northwestern University Press.

Vernaleken, Theodor. Alpensagen: Volksüberlieferungen aus der Schweiz, aus Vorarlberg, Kärnten, Steiermark, Salzburg, Ober- und Niederösterreich. Wien: Seidel, 1858 (Neuausgabe, Graz: Verlag für Sammler; 1993)

Vernaleken, Theodor. In the Land of Marvels: Folk-tales from Austria and Bohemia. London: S. Sonnenschein and Co., 1889.

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)

von Alpenburg, Johann Nepomuk Ritter, coll. and ed. Deutsche Alpensagen. Wien: Wilhelm Braumüller, 1861.

Zingerle, Ignaz und Joseph. Kinder- und Hausmärchen aus Süddeutschland. Regensburg: F. Pustet, 1854.

Zingerle, Ignaz Vincenz. König Laurin und der Rosegarden in Tirol. Innsbruck: Wagner, 1850.

Zingerle, Ignaz Vincenz. Sagen aus Tirol. Gesammelt und herausgegeben von Ignaz V. Zingerle. 2nd enl. ed. Innsbruck: Wagner, 1891.

Zingerle, Ignaz Vincenz. Sagen, Märchen und Gebräuche aus Tirol. Innsbruck: Wagner, 1859.

[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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