On the genealogy of fairy tales and the Brothers Grimm

Since the beginning of the nineteenth century folklorists, and the general public in their wake, have assumed the orality of fairy tales. This book takes an extreme position in that debate: as far as Tales of magic is concerned, the initial transmission proceded exclusively through prints. It displays the conception, ancestry and offspring of the Golden Bird dwells on the construction of the story type, the way the story found its way into the Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's Kinder- und Hausmärchen. In the book Magician and His Pupil in which superficially magic is conquered by magic, moreover provides a counterbalance to the, at least within Europe, much more widespread warning about the dangers of occult knowledge. The possibility of a connection between Jack and the Beanstalk and a shamanistic World Tree had occurred because of the Dutch story of a Great Ship with a mast reaching into a never-never land. The Sky High Tree offers not only an example of a post-Grimm fairy tale recorded from oral presentations, it also serves the purpose of tackling the question of the age of fairy tales from a slightly different angle. The book also discusses the main problems of fairy tale research: variation, orality and, in the story's reincarnation as The Healing Fruits, the concept of the conglomerate tale. A historical approach to fairy tales has profound consequences for the organisation of one of folklore's main methodological tools, the tale-type index.

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A late eighteenth-century Dutch witch doctor and his clients
Willem de Blécourt

In eighteenth-century Drenthe witchcraft was punishable in three ways: for publicly identifying suspected witches, for consulting specialists in the field of unwitching, and for practising as a fortune-teller or witch doctor. This chapter utilizes a local case study to chart the complex of expressions and actions concerning witchcraft and, through the reconstruction of the social, economical and political backgrounds of those involved. The name of the methodological trap is 'superstition' and its character is an often undeclared but determining element in the history of witchcraft studies. The self-educated Dutch folklorist, Tiesing, writing in 1913, tackled the problem openly. Evil people belonged to 'strange folks', people whom one could meet outside, 'outside the door' and to whom entrance could be refused. For judicial verdicts people had to rely on the Etstoel, which was established in Assen. Nevertheless, citizenships were sold in Meppel for five guilders and twelve stivers a person.

in Beyond the witch trials
witchcraft in the western Netherlands, 1850–1925
Willem de Blécourt

This chapter shows what thinking and acting in terms of witchcraft, in short the witchcraft discourse, implied for the way people dealt with space and to a lesser extent with time, as well as for what they thought about the body. This analysis is embedded in a discussion about the bewitched, the people they suspected of bewitchments, and the people they called in to help them. In the nineteenth century boiling a black chicken alive was, in fact, rather popular, especially in mid and western areas of the Netherlands. In some way the boiling chicken was connected to the witch and would draw her to the house. Numerous stories show a similar connection between witches and cats. The newspaper reports show that the diagnosis of a bewitchment and an unwitchment ritual were not individual events; family members and neighbours were actively consulted.

in Witchcraft Continued
Angela Carter’s werewolves in historical perspective
Willem de Blécourt

The film The Company of Wolves, was directed by Neil Jordan from a script he co-wrote with Angela Carter. It is necessary to frame the discussion by engaging with the discourse surrounding Neil Jordan's and, especially, Angela Carter's work. When Carter published her werewolf stories, folklorists were debating how to categorise 'Little Red Riding Hood'. The story 'Peau d'âne' resembles werewolf stories because of the shared animal skin. Female werewolves were very hard to find in Western European folklore texts, with their overwhelming majority of male werewolves. The medieval incest stories seem to stand apart from the werewolf stories. There is a transgression in the other main incest story cluster: the Maiden Without Hands, where the father-daughter union is first consummated and later avoided. Father-daughter incest was a theme in many medieval narratives and its history reaches back into the thirteenth century, to the French poem La Manekine.

in She-wolf
Willem de Blécourt

A magical contest is present in the prose version of the Carolingian epic Malegijs, dating from 1556, without, however, any metamorphosis. During the nineteenth century the retelling of Maestro Lattantio evolved around a limited set of elements, mostly taken from other tales concerned with the acquisition of magical learning. This chapter discusses the tale's appearance in the Kinder- und Hausmärchen (KHM) and some nineteenth-century folklore notations. The popularity of the Finnish School has dwindled and folklore classification has acquired a life of its own. In other words, a re-examination of the Magician and His Pupil becomes opportune. A tour through its tradition necessarily starts in Gian Francesco Straparola's Venice and proceeds to the Middle East and India. The chapter examines the story's wanderings through the Islamic world before a final return to the theory of Indian origin.

in Tales of magic, tales in print
Willem de Blécourt

This chapter examines the different stories that have contributed to its late nineteenth- and twentieth-century shapes. It focuses on the Princess on the Glass Mountain, the Shepherd in the Service of a Witch, the Ogre's Heart in the Egg and finally the Sky High Tree. During the course of the twentieth century, the shamanistic characteristics of the Sky High Tree were put forward by a number of Hungarian scholars, among them Sándor Solymossy. In the 1980s notions of the enormous age and orality of fairy tales not only resurfaced in certain feminst circles, they were also given a new life by connecting them to shamanism, primarily a male preserve. From the folklore perspective, fairy tales and 'folk belief' were usually separated: 'the properties and functions of the characters in fairy tales and their authenticity do not tally exactly with the characters figuring in folk beliefs'.

in Tales of magic, tales in print
Willem de Blécourt

The practice of recording stories related orally started with the Brothers Grimm. In the Kinder- und Hausmärchen the story type of the Magic Flight (ATU 313) is overrepresented and thus serves as an appropriate case to examine the tension between orality and literacy. Most folklorists assume an oral provenance of the Magic Flight cluster. Apart from the problem whether fairy tales are recognizable in or behind stories dating from before the establishment of an international genre of fairy tales, it is possible to trace the ancestry of Magic Flight tales. The most that can be concluded about the magical flight stories is that their various female tellers may have been ever so subtly expressing their romantic interest in Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Magical elements were already present in the medieval renderings of the Argonauts' quest.

in Tales of magic, tales in print
Willem de Blécourt

This chapter debates the orality of the Russian roots and their nationalistic content, especially in the light of claims pertaining to the main story's Flemish history. During most of the twentieth century Russian fairy tale research was never completely free of political directives: structuralism was one of the ways to decontextualize fairy tales and to make their study more politically acceptable. The chapter retraces Albert Wesselski's quest and includes nineteenth-century texts, starting with Russian ones. Most of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts of the Quest for the Bird undoubtedly belong to the progeny of the Dedushkiny progulki tale of Ivan and the Grey Wolf, or the Faithful Fox or the Kinder- und Hausmärchen (KHM) Golden Bird. The parameters for mapping out the wolf versions of the Quest for the Bird, then, are presented by a handful of texts which are very close to the early prints.

in Tales of magic, tales in print
A prologue
Willem de Blécourt

Fairy tales were communicated mainly in bourgeois households where religion was interwoven with romanticism. The popular notions of fairy tale history, current during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ever since Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm composed their Kinder- und Hausmärchen (KHM), suffer from one major handicap: they are built on assertions rather than on evidence. The Magic Flight cluster demanded attention because it appeared to be the one story theme most represented in the KHM, with versions by Friederike Mannel, Dortchen Wild, Jeannette and Marie Hassenpflug and Ludowine von Haxthausen. Over the last few years fairy tale research has made great strides, although most of it is better available in German than in English, as is witnessed by standard works such as the multi-authored Enzyklopädie des Märchens and Walter Scherf's two-volume Märchenlexikon.

in Tales of magic, tales in print
Willem de Blécourt

The story of the quest for the devil's hairs is an early nineteenth century invention; it is only speculation that it ever existed in this form at some point during the Middle Ages, where fairy tales are generally situated. The story about the quest for the bird's feathers, or the devil's hairs, was included in the index under number ATU 461, more so because of its occurrence in the Kinder- und Hausmärchen (KHM) than because of its French ancestry. In the context of a discussion about the Three Hairs of the Devil's Head, a brief excursion into the genre characteristics of those tales of magic with the devil as prime opponent may be elucidating. In eastern and northern Europe the printed presence of the Quest for the Three Feathers can be attested for the whole of the nineteenth century.

in Tales of magic, tales in print