What makes a fairy tale interesting

Grimm's Fairytales
Why are they so popular?

Exhibition "Fairy Tale Worlds" in Kiev | Photo: Goethe-Institut Ukraine

10 questions and answers about the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm by Alla Paslawska.

To whom do we owe the publication of the “Children's and Household Tales”?

We have the German linguists and fairy tale collectors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm to thank for the collection, writing and thus also the storage of the best German-language fairy tales and legends. In 1812 and 1815 they haveChildren's and Household Tales published, which introduced a broad circle of readers to the intellectual treasure trove of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The first “big” editions contained 211 fairy tales and legends. In 1825 a “small” edition, comprising 50 fairy tales, was published that was specially selected and edited for children. Over time the book has been translated into many languages. As a result, German-language fairy tales became known all over the world and are still read 200 years later.

What made the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales a bestseller?

The roots of the fairy tale as a literary genre go back a long way and are represented orally alongside myths and legends in various cultures. The first to collect folk tales and put them into writing were the Italian Giambattista Basile, who was born in 1634Fairy tale of fairy tales(also asThe pentameron known), and later the French Charles Perrault, who in 1697 the collection of theStories of my mother goose issued. But it was only the Brothers Grimm who not only systematized the collected fairy tales, edited them literarily and adapted them for the children, but also founded fairy tale research as a scientific discipline.

What topics do the “Children's and Household Tales” deal with?

One of the peculiarities of fairy tales is their common theme in the folklore of different peoples of the world. The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm touch on the eternal themes - the struggle of good against evil, family relationships, upbringing, everyday life and culture. God, positive fairy tale heroes, animals and birds embody the good, witches, stepmothers, evil brothers or sisters serve evil. In the Children's and Household Tales These themes are also present: the golden-haired Rapunzel and the capable Cinderella finally find their princes, from whom they have separated the angry fairy and the wicked stepmother, the good hunter rescues Little Red Riding Hood and his grandmother from the wolf's belly, the homeless Bremen town musicians get their house, etc. The main thing is that good always wins.

What is the secret of the success of Grimm's fairy tales?

Everyone loves fairy tales, whether children or adults, because in fairy tales dreams become reality and justice wins. Simple people can fly and the animals can speak, the poor get rich and the weak get strong. Brothers Grimm have adapted the "authentic" stories for children, which are quite cruel or erotic in some places, simplified the content and selected 50 most interesting fairy tales. The children and their parents liked the fairy tales so much that they had 10 editions in Grimm's lifetime.

What is the difference between fairy tales and other genres?

One recognizes a fairy tale immediately. It usually begins with similar, formulaic words: “Once upon a time there was a king's daughter (“ The Frog King or the Iron Henry ”). Typical of the fairy tale is the action of three parts - a conflict, the progress of its solution and the resolution of the conflict. In contrast to sagas and legends, fairy tales are temporal (once, before ancient times, in summer) and locally (in front of a large forest, at a well) indefinite. The style of fairy tales is clear, pictorial and loves contrasts. A happy ending is almost mandatory.

Are Grimm's fairy tales and Ukrainian folk tales similar?

The fairy tales of every people accumulate their traditions, customs, values ​​and stereotypes. These develop geographically, historically, socially and culturally. Not everything that is important to one people is valuable to another people. In German culture, virtues such as hard work, thrift, rationality, and piety have always been valued. The Ukrainian is credited with hard work, free spirit, emotionality, hospitality and humor.

Who translated the “Children's and Household Tales” into Ukrainian?

1919 published by Vernyhora (Kyjiw – Wien)Children's and Household Tales in four volumes with 180 images. In the same year two collections of fairy tales were published in Leipzig. The first people who made Grimm's fairy tales "settled" in the Ukraine were M. Chartschenko, F. Suprun, and D. Korzun. The translations by S. Sakydon and J. Popowytsch are also very popular with Ukrainian readers. Further translators of Grimm's fairy tales into Ukrainian are M. Taran’ko, O. Ihnashchenko, W. News’ka, W. Lanja, H. Zachartschuk and others. The translations differ from one another in terms of the title and names of the characters involved. This is the name of Frau Holle in Ukrainian: Frau and Grandma Holle. The golden bird appears sometimes as a male, sometimes as a female person. Doctor omniscient is translated as omniscient or all adviser, etc.

Does the translation of fairy tales cause great difficulties?

Although fairy tales are very simple in structure and the “fairy tale language” is not particularly overloaded with stylistic characters, translating fairy tales requires not only a thorough knowledge of the language but also a deep knowledge of the culture of the people who created these fairy tales. The fairy tales contain many nationally tinged realities, dialectisms, phraseologisms. They are quite indefinite temporally, locally and personally. The action takes place sometime and somewhere; the protagonists have typical character traits. The translator has to take all special features into account and reproduce them correctly in terms of language, style and culture.

Why do fairy tales remain so popular?

Parents read fairy tales to their children, children grow up and read fairy tales to their children again. Fortunately, processes of globalization have not affected this ancient tradition. In order to teach the child something good, one does not necessarily have to come up with something new every time - it is enough to read him a fairy tale that always teaches the reader or listener. Fairy tales develop thinking and feed the imagination. They give everyone what they lack in real life - magical power, eternal youth, unearthly beauty or the feeling of calm and security.

How do fairy tales get a new life?

New versions of fairy tales are emerging thanks to television and computer technologies. The texts of fairy tales are brought to mind, characters are dressed in chic clothes, realities are modernized. The scriptwriters modify the content or provide a completely new text for the fairy tale. Although the followers of tradition sound the alarm, it must be admitted that modern film adaptations of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, such as B.There was once (engl.Once Upon a Time) do not harm the original, but rather the other way around: they help us to remember the content, the people involved and our children's feelings after reading our favorite fairy tales.


Alla Paslawska is Chair of Intercultural Communication and Translation Studies at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv

Copyright: Goethe-Institut Ukraine
October 2014