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What I've Learned
In the mid-1800s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (Pronounced Shern-vert, sort of) traveled about the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz, Germany, collecting fairytales, myths, and legends. This was about the same time that Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were traveling around Germany doing the same thing.
The Grimm brothers polished up the tales they collected and published them. Von Schönwerth didn't. In fact, his collection of nearly 500 stories remained undiscovered until recently.
In 2011, Erika Eichenseer, of Oberpfalz, published a selection of fairytales from von Schönwerth's collection. Her book, not available in English yet, is called Sagen und Märchen aus der Oberpfalz (Legends and tales from the Oberpfalz.)
Somewhere a Disney executive is salivating.
These tales are in rougher form than those of the Grimm brothers, but still, it's a fascinating collection.
Let me tell you one of the stories, the Turnip Princess. This is not a translation, just my own poor retelling, but it should give you the flavor (ignore the pun).
A prince becomes lost in a forest, finds a cave, and falls asleep. When he awakes, there is an old witch, a bear, and a dog there with him.
The witch wants to prince to marry her, but he refuses. He is unable to leave the cave.
One day when the prince and the bear are alone, the bear tells him to pull a rusty nail from the wall of the cave, which will free him, then go to a field and place the nail under a turnip. If he does this, he'll be rewarded with a beautiful wife.
Pulling the nail out is not easy. When at last the prince manages it, there is a clap of thunder and the bear turns into a bearded man with a crown on his head.
The prince, free from the cave, hurries to a field and is about to put the nail under a turnip, when a monster appears. The prince is so startled, he drops the nail, and in his retreat, scratches his hand on a thorn bush. The wound bleeds fiercely, and the prince soon falls unconscious.
When he awakes, he is no longer in the turnip field and much time has passed, for he now has a blond beard. He sets off in search of the turnip field, but can't find it.
One evening, he sits down to rest beneath a flowering blackthorn bush, one branch of which has red blossoms. The prince breaks off the branch and sticks it into a large turnip that is on the ground nearby. (Who can account for the strange things princes do or the random appearance of large turnips?) The prince then falls asleep.
When he awakes, the turnip is no longer a turnip, but a large nutshell in which sits the rusty nail. Engraven on the kernel of the nut is the image of a beautiful girl.
The prince grabs the nail and goes in search of the cave. He finds it and sticks the nail into the wall. The old witch and the bear appear.
"Tell me," demands the prince, "where is the beautiful girl?"
The old witch cackles. "You have ME, that should be enough."
The bear looks pointedly at the nail in the wall, but the prince is having none of it. "The old woman fooled me once, but not a second time," he says. (Princes were slower on the uptake in those days.)
"Pull the nail out," growls the bear.
The prince cautiously puts his hand on the nail and pulls it halfway out. The bear turns halfway into a man, and the witch, halfway into a beautiful girl. The prince pulls the nail all the way out, breaking an enchantment that had held the girl and her father captive. The nail bursts into flames and disappears.
The prince travels with the girl, who is a princess, and with her father, the king, to their kingdom, where the two young people are married and live--well you know.
This disjointed tale could use some Brothers Grimm attention. Don't worry. Disney will take care of it.