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Fairies in Brother's Grimm Stories

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I saw on a different thread that there are a lot of fairy experts on here, so hopefully you can help.  I am brewing an idea for a story that deals with several of the Grimm's Fairy Tales.  Very few of the tales are actually about fairies, and when there is a fairy in a story, they play more of a supportive role than anything else.  There don't seem to be many rules concerning these fairies, they just sort of show up when the plot calls for them.  Everything I have read so far says basically the same thing.

I know that there is a vast amount of fairy lore, but it seems to be a different line of folklore altogether from the Grimm Fairy Tales.  Am I understanding that correctly? 

I don't know how much of the plot I want to devote to any sort of a fairy character, but if I did, it would be a secondary story line where the MC rescues a fairy and is later rewarded in some way for doing so.  Do I need to look into all of the "rules" for fairies, or are the Brother's Grimm another Beast entirely?

Thanks in advance for your help.
#1 - May 29, 2012, 01:12 PM
THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC (Boyds Mills Press, Fall 2018)

Danyelle

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I'm of the opinion that the more research you do, the better grounded you'll be. The better grounded you are, the better your world building will be. The better your world building is, the more real it will feel to your reader.

Also, the more you research, the more information you'll have to work with--which means you'll have more choices/options in deciding how you want fairy/faerie lore to work in your world. Personally, I think the rules by which magic operates in any given world is important. It provides stability and resonance with your reader. (Depending on the reader.)

If I were to do this, I would research different fairy creatures to see what the rules are for specific creatures and which ones seem to be general to all (or most) fairy creatures. (For some, fairy means a small person with wings. For others, fairy is more synonymous with fae or as a species--hobgoblins, brownies, etc.) It just depends on how you've built your world.

Even the spelling fairy vs faerie connotes different things.  :cupcake
#2 - May 29, 2012, 02:07 PM

Danyelle

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Just remembered. Neil Gaiman wrote a beautiful poem that has been turned into a picture book (or maybe it was the either way around?) about some of the larger rules of magic gleaned from fairy tales like the Brothers Grimm. You can hear him read it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bi2pBZGJqj8.
#3 - May 29, 2012, 02:12 PM

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Here are the words to the poem :  http://www.endicott-studio.com/cofhs/cofinstr.html
#4 - May 29, 2012, 02:31 PM

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The Brothers Grimm were linguists and folklorists who went around Germany to write down as many fairy tales as possible; if they found slightly different versions, they would combine them into one story. Depending on which collection of Grimm fairy tales you read, you will see big differences in terms of number of stories and their translations. So if you really want to research Grimm fairies, I would look for a more academic collection of fairy tales, and also look into 19th century German folklore.

But you can always do what the Grimms did and combine many beliefs into one story!
Karen

P.S. I spent a few weeks in Germany researching the Brothers Grimm while studying abroad. Fascinating stuff!
#5 - May 29, 2012, 02:36 PM
Out now: DEADLY DELICIOUS

www.karenkincy.com
Twitter: @karenkincy

The word 'fairy' as we use it is translated from various words in various languages with various 'fairy' traditions. It can be used for anything from goblins to daemons to beautiful beings to creatures that don't have bodies to things like Tolkien's elves....

Which means, writing today, that you have to choose *your* definition and make it clear to the reader. 

So...pick a folklore tradition, research it (a lot) make your own twists and have fun!
#6 - May 29, 2012, 02:57 PM

Awesome poem!  Thanks guys!
#7 - May 29, 2012, 03:46 PM
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From what I can recall from my mum's readings of Grimms' stories there are no fairies. In Cinderella there's no fairy godmother for eg. And they're not called fairy tales either but marchen (that should have an umlaut on the a but I can't find it on my iPad!). So if you want to be true to the original stories you might have to cut them out altogether!
#8 - May 29, 2012, 06:11 PM

I think you might be right Franzilla, I have read quite a few of them, but the only one so far that specifically mentions fairies (that I can remember) is the story of Briar Rose(Sleeping Beauty).  I will keep reading, because I want to try and weave in as much as I can.  I am just trying to get a sense of the magic.
#9 - May 29, 2012, 06:19 PM
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I'm not sure they were even fairies, were they? They're described as wise women (weisen Frauen) not feen (German for fairies). I think the fairy aspect may have just evolved over time, along with all kinds of other stuff. Does your story have to be true to the original stories? Or can it be true to the public perception of the stories today?

The original stories are quite different from what we know now. Rapunzel, for eg, was pregnant from the guy climbing her tower each day - and she was beginning to show! You don't get that in the modern-day versions!
#10 - May 29, 2012, 06:27 PM

No it definitely doesn't have to be completely true, I am throwing in some twists and changing some of the situations.  More of showing how it really happened and how it might have evolved into the fairy tale sort of thing.  I'm excited.  I think I better start cracking on my anthology reading!
#11 - May 30, 2012, 07:46 AM
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When I taught fairy tales (which are different than stories of "faeries"), I used The Classic Fairy Tales (Norton Critical Editions) by Maria Tatar. It's a great overview of a few of the "biggies." 

From the book jacket: "This Norton Critical Edition collects forty-four fairy tales, from the fifth century to the present. The Classic Fairy Tales focuses on six tale types: 'Little Red Riding Hood,' 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'Snow White,' 'Cinderella,' 'Bluebeard,' and 'Hansel and Gretel,' and presents multicultural variants and sophisticated literary rescriptings. Also reprinted are tales by Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde. 'Criticism' gathers twelve essays that interpret aspects of fairy tales, including their social origins, historical evolution, psychological drama, gender issues, and national identities."

Märchen is the German term used by folklorists to refer to folklore/tall tales/fairy tales.  It is often translated into English as "fairy tale." 

Faery or Faerie is a term used by folklorists to refer to the creatures of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, or English lore.

Most fairy tales have no faeries.

If you're seeking critical data, you might also look to Jack Zipes Why Fairy Tales Stick OR his Happily Ever After: Children, Fairy Tales, & the Culture Industry.  They're both a little older (mid-to-late 90s), but very very good.   His Radical Theories book was a bit less readable (and quite controversial in its reception).  He has a new book out (last month) on the evolution of Fairy Tales, but I haven't read it yet.

The Grimm's collection process AND their conflation AND their editing are all quite problematic when looking at the idea of cultural and textual integrity. That said, what they did isn't so different from today. The tales that we associate with "fairy tales" are largely sanitized by continued revisionism and packaging by folks like Disney.  As to whether or not that's an issue . . . the jury is very divided.  These were often oral tales that varied by region. (There are also cultural variations of many of the well know ones.) Continuing to revise & modify is what we have been doing with folklore & fairy tales for centuries. I'd suggest researching the tale you want to use to see where it fits & what its variations are.   Then, tweak for your purposes. That's my vote.

IF instead you want to write about "faeries," there is another wealth of information on those.  Grimm is dealing more with the German cultural collective tales, whereas faeries are another region. (Although, admittedly, German lore does overlap with both the Irish/Scottish traditional lore AND the Scandinavian lore, most markedly in the stories and creatures associated with the Wild Hunt.)

/lore geekery endeth here
#12 - June 01, 2012, 09:25 PM

Danyelle

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*loves the lore geekery*  :love4:
#13 - June 02, 2012, 10:18 AM

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Fascinating conversation. Thanks for sharing you lore geekery Melissa.
#14 - June 02, 2012, 11:37 AM
The Mermaid's Gift, Pelican, 2015
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Rest in Peace RaShawn, Creative Medicine, 2017

Exactly what I was looking for Melissa!  Thanks!  You rock!   :hairdude
#15 - June 02, 2012, 12:18 PM
THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC (Boyds Mills Press, Fall 2018)

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