If you follow me for a while, you will have discovered my deep love for fairytales and Folklore from all over the world. I am one of those weird people who support the obligatory teaching of fairytales in schools and their inclusion in the curriculum. The reason is simple and obvious: they are faithful mirrors not only of the specific country where the tale was born but bright lighthouses of values, principles, and convictions that are universal and always relevant to the nature of every human being regardless of their land of origin or their religion.
Motivated by a beautiful fairytale collection I’ve recently read, I decided to dedicate a small corner in my blog to fairytales from around the globe. So, every Friday we visit a country and a lesser-known tale or myth that have been included in collections, school textbooks (don’t you just love the old ones?), even in Classics Illustrated. The sources are many and there is always the need to find time and space for fairytales. They are, possibly, our only way out of this paranoid mess our world is in.
So, first stop in #FairytaleFriday is beautiful Germany with a folk tale whose origins can be traced in the Southern part of the country during the mid-1800s. Τhe hero of this funny and bittersweet tale is Hans, a kind, simple villager that is a little too naive and a little too prone to being deceived. Grete, his wife, has had enough of his clumsiness and she gives him an ultimatum:
-I’ve decided, Hans. Tomorrow you are going back to school.
First grade, primary school. Poor Hans…Complete with a school bag, a portable blackboard, chalk, and sponge. Dressed in a tailor-made, blue school uniform and a white collar. And homework. Obviously. But nothing can stop Hans’ imagination or imprison his incessant dreaming. Especially when a chest full of gold comes his way…
This lovely, sad story is rich in German Folklore and myths. Full of the lively conversations in the inns and the voices that sing a schunkeln in unison during Oktoberfest. The joy of the Kartoffelfestival. The anticipation of the feast of Sankt Nikolaus. The myths of Schwarzwald, the legendary Black Forest, where elves, fairies, witches, and dwarves are waiting. Τhe ”angel hair” phenomenon during summer, the atmospheric descriptions of Munich and Nuremberg, the alluring song of Lorelei, brushing her hair, sitting on the banks of the Rhine. An eerie, ominous moment comes when the storyteller of the village narrates Lorelei’s dark song of a future ruled by a mad man who would kill millions of people, turning countries into ashes, breaking a land into two pieces. This is obviously a modern addition but it is so effective and poignant…
Hans uses his wild imagination to justify his clumsiness and appease Grete. But it is his kindness and childish (in a good way…) nature and Grete’s resilience and determination that give them a new life. And, still, despite their newly-found wealth, they remain as hard-working and honest as before…
”The villagers’ children were given a week off from school to help their parents gather the crops from the fields. And this was one of the most beautiful days in Germany. Especially in the dusk, when the sun went to sleep, when the farmers lit bonfires to burn the weeds and the children ran and threw potatoes, fresh from the earth, in the fire and the perfume of the roasted potato filled the air, mixed with the effort of the people, weaved in the mist of the German autumn. It became a song that spoke of the beauty of the human who tastes the gifts of the earth by the warmth of the fire.”
*I first read this tale in 1993 (yeah for my grandma’s habit to write the dates on every single book she bought) in a beautiful Greek translation by Maro Loizou. These are a few pictures of the 1988 edition, illustrated by Nikos Maroulakis.*
*The extract is translated by me.*