In March of 2012, the Guardian announced a major literary and cultural discovery: more than 500 new fairy tales had been unearthed in Germany. The haul of stories was vast, impressively so. It contained in its pages a new world of enchanted animals, magic and romance, legend, otherworldly creatures, parables about nature, and wild exaggeration. But there was something else. These tales had been collecting dust in a bunch of old boxes for more than 150 years. This dating is significant: it confirms that the tales are roughly contemporaneous with those of the Brothers Grimm. To be sure, this was an historic and unprecedented discovery. The woman who made it, a cultural curator and folklorist named Erika Eichenseer, compared the collection to “buried treasure.”
But before Eichenseer found this treasure, before she undertook the truly invaluable work of reading, sorting, and transcribing these tales, she had to discover them in a municipal archive in Regensburg, Germany. And before they were placed in this archive, they were the property of one Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, a high-ranking government official and amateur folklorist of the mid-nineteenth century, who, inspired by the Brothers Grimm, took it upon himself to travel around the Upper Palatinate region of Bavaria, to collect and interview and record the stories he heard from the people there. Schönwerth’s hard work did not go unnoticed. Jacob Grimm, in 1885, declared that “Nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear.”
The fruits of this labor of love, of Schönwerth’s (and later Eichenseer’s) hard work, have now been expertly translated, introduced, and commented upon by Maria Tatar in a volume titled The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales.