I saved the best for last in my fairy tale seminar this semester and during the last week of classes, we are discussing Allerleirauh, Koenig Drosselbart, Fitchers Vogel, and Der Raeuberbraeutigam. Allerleirauh is called “Thousandfurs” in English sometimes, if it is translated or discussed at all. Since it has to do with incest, you can imagine how often that is. Fitchers Vogel (Fitchers Bird) and Der Raeuberbraeutigam (The Robber Bride-groom) both tell tales of girls tricked or betrayed into marrying men who are not what they appear to be. Angela Carter wrote a collection of fairy-tale-inspired short stories titled The Bloody Chamber in which the title tale pulls heavily from The Robber Bride-Groom. Margaret Atwood has used the material, too, both in Bluebeard’s Egg and in The Robber Bride. It is good stuff–all about the secrets that lie behind closed doors and what young girls are supposed to not know or be curious about (or get caught doing) before their time.
An astute student pointed out, in our comparison of these tales to the better-known Cinderella, Briar Rose, and Snow White, that these less-familiar (to American readers, anyway) tales begin, rather than end, with a betrothal or marriage, and portray a pretty rare glimpse of the life of a girl after she has found her mate. Fitchers Vogel and Der Raeuberbraeutigam can serve as warnings against marrying the first best thing to cross your path, warnings not to take men at their face value, and warnings to not get caught doing that which you oh-so-dearly want to do.
Although it has not been the focus of the seminar, Carter and Atwood’s modern fairy tales based on the Grimms’ classics are a real treat. I love them all and they helped convince me that a sophisticated seminar could be created out of the same volume of texts that brought us Haensel und Gretel–(not to imply that HuG isn’t very sophisticated, or anything.) Later this week, we’ll be watching a movie based upon Angela Carter’s re-working of the Little Red Riding Hood tale, called In the Company of Wolves. I fear the film won’t live up to my mental image of Alice, the girl in Carter’s tale, and how she is the animalistic figure, the one whose desires control the show. I’ll let you know how it goes.