Ruth B. Bottigheimer: Ludwig Bechstein´s Fairy Tales: Nineteenth Century Bestsellers and Bürgerlichkeit

    Ludwig Bechstein (1801-1860), commentator on German life and letters and collector of fairy and folk tales, dazzles his contemporaries with a remarkably large and varied literary output. His Deutsches Märchenbuch was a publishing success from its first appearance in 1845, far outselling the Grimms´ Kinder- und Hausmärchen for most of the nineteenth century. Bechstein´s fairy tales expressed and exemplified a set of behavioral norms and ideals consistent with the Bürgerlichkeit of his contemporaries, while the Grimms´ collection incorporated a system of values paralleling that of a proletarian Volkstümlichkeit. The publishing history of the two collections suggests that Bechstein´s Bürgerlichkeit was considered more appropriate for growing children in the nineteenth century than the Grimm´s Volkstümlichkeit; it also suggests that Bechstein´s bourgeois values were broadly recognized by non-bourgeois segments of nineteenth century German society, and that conversely the Grimm´s folk values came to be considered appropriate for children of all social classes in the twentieth century. The dimensions and significance of this reversal become clear in a comparison of the two collections´ opposing portrayals of evil, family relationships, and social attitudes.

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