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  • Es war einmal . . . : Die wahren Märchen der Brüder Grimm und wer sie ihnen erzählte ed. by Heinz Rölleke
  • Jack Zipes (bio)
Es war einmal... : Die wahren Märchen der Brüder Grimm und wer sie ihnen erzählte. Edited by Heinz Rölleke. Illustrated by Albert Schindehütte. Frankfurt am Main: Eichorn, 2011.

Anyone who studies the Grimms’ folktales and fairy tales anywhere owes a great debt to Heinz Rölleke. A retired professor of German philology and folklore at the University of Wuppertal, Rölleke is fortunately anything but retired, as his most recent book demonstrates. He began to make a name for himself as the most eminent scholar of the Grimms’ tales when he published Die älteste Märchensammlung der Brüder Grimm (The Oldest Tale Collection of the Brothers Grimm) in 1975, the first and most thorough annotated edition of the Grimms’ written manuscript of 1810, usually referred to as the Oelenberg Manuscript. This work enabled scholars to examine how the Grimms vastly changed the tales before they went into print in the first edition of 1812–1815. Rölleke followed this book with Märchen aus dem Nachlass der Brüder Grimm (Tales from the Posthumous Papers of the Brothers Grimm, 1977); Wo das Wünschen noch geholfen hat (Where Wishing Still Helped, 1985), a collection of his shorter essays; and Die Märchen der Brüder Grimm (The Tales of the Brothers Grimm, 1985; rev. 2004), an exceedingly informative introduction to the Grimms’ tales. Altogether Rölleke has published well over sixty books that deal with the Grimms’ tales, and he has also edited reprints of the first, second, third, and seventh editions of Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales) and the Grimms’ correspondence. In short, Rölleke’s careful philological work has laid the basis for most of the important [End Page 132] scholarly work on the Grimms’ tales in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first.

The present book, whose title in English reads “Once Upon a Time . . . : The True Tales of the Brothers Grimm and Who Told Them to Them,” is a collaboration with the talented German illustrator Albert Schindehütte, a notable Grimm specialist in his own right who has published two significant books on Johann Friedrich Krause and Marie Hassenpflug, two of the Grimms’ important informants. Es war einmal is filled with Schindehütte’s unique illustrations of the Grimms themselves, twenty-five illustrations of their different contributors and several friends, and thirty-five illustrations for each of the tales in this collection. The purpose of this edition—and to a certain extent Rölleke has come full circle in his research—is to uncover and pay tribute to the people who provided the Grimms with different kinds of tales in their earliest versions before they were changed and honed, largely by Wilhelm Grimm. It is commonly known that the Grimms did not provide detailed information about their informants and exactly when, where, and how they passed on the stories that they either told to the Grimms or wrote down for them. Even when the Grimms did indicate the sources of the tales, some of their information was misleading.

Rölleke has made it his mission over the past thirty-five years or so to trace the history of the informants. During the course of these years, his voluminous essays have clarified how the Grimms obtained their tales and what their sources were. Finally, in Es war einmal Rölleke has published selected tales from twenty-five informants that can be found in the Oelenberg Manuscript or the 1812–1815 edition. These tales are truer to the authentic storytelling tradition of their time and are quite different from the same tales that the Grimms gradually edited until they reached their polished form in the seventh edition of 1857. Rölleke’s plan is to let the informants speak for themselves, true to the present methods of modern folklorists, who generally take care to provide biographical information of the storytellers and the context in which the tales are recorded.

In Es war einmal we now gain a more comprehensive understanding of...


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pp. 132-135
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