A previously lost treasure trove of fairytales has, after 150 years, been uncovered. Here, take an exclusive first look at one of the collection's stories, involving an enchantment, a series of clever tricks, and a crow who is not quite what he seems.
In 1850, around the time when the Grimm brothers were working on their own collection of fairytales, a Bavarian lawyer Franz Xaver Von Schönwerth was traveling the countryside to collect and write down the region's popular stories and folklore.
While a few of those stories made it into a published collection, the majority of Schönwerth's tales were lost. More than 150 years later, his collection of over 500 fairytales was discovered in a local archive in Germany by Erika Eichenseer.
Now, those tales have been written in English for the first time ever by Maria Tatar, chair of Harvard University's folklore department, and published in a compilation, The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairytales.
Tomorrow, Tatar will be joining us from noon - 1:00 p.m. PT to answer questions about the newly discovered collection. You can read one of the first stories, The Enchanted Quill, right now.
THE ENCHANTED QUILL
A man on horseback fell fast asleep while riding, and the horse began grazing in a meadow. A crow flew down from a tree and pecked the horse so that it reared up suddenly and woke the rider up. "Why did you peck at my horse?" the rider asked angrily.
"So that you would finally wake up!" the crow said. "You've been asleep for three years now!" The rider looked at his beard, which was several feet long, and realized that the crow had spoken the truth.
"Tell me, how can I thank you?"
"By giving me one of your three sisters in marriage. Take this picture of me with you." The crow gave the rider a little picture of himself and flew off into the distance.
When the man returned home on horseback, he told his sisters about the crow and its request, and then he showed them the picture of the bird. The eldest of the three sisters wrinkled her nose, the second shrieked, "No way!" and the youngest just blushed. She took the picture and went to her room.
The next day a splendid carriage drawn by four horses appeared. The sisters were filled with curiosity, for they imagined a prince might be calling, and they raced to the door. A black crow stepped out of the carriage, and two of the sisters went right back in the house. Only the youngest of the three invited him in. Still, the crow asked all three sisters to visit his castle.
Together they traveled through a dark, gloomy forest. They were all convinced that they must be traveling on the road to hell. After a while it grew light, and the path took them through a forest of lemon trees and then on to a beautiful castle. The crow said to the two sisters: "Just watch out, and don't get too curious about things." The two sisters tiptoed toward the door and peeked through the keyhole. They saw a handsome young man sitting at a table, having a cozy conversation with their sister.
All at once, everything changed: The castle and the carriage disappeared, and the three young women were standing under a fir tree. The crow was up in the branches, scolding them: "Now only the youngest can save me. She must walk to the city in rags and accept whatever work she is offered."
And so the youngest walked to the city in rags and was about to be turned back by the constable when a tailor appeared to ask if she could do some cooking and cleaning for the prince living there. She assured the tailor, somewhat haltingly, that she could do all those things, and he walked over with her to the place where she would be employed.
Before long it became obvious that she had none of the skills she claimed to have. The food was constantly burned; the silver was dirtier than ever. Gardeners, huntsmen, and servants all made fun of her, insulting her and calling her names. She wept bitter tears. Suddenly the crow appeared at the window, turned his wing to her, and said: "Pull out one of my feathers, and if you use it to write down a wish, the wish will come true." With a heavy heart she pulled a feather out. Before the noonday meal, she wrote down the names of the very finest dishes with the quill. The food appeared on the table in bowls that sparkled and glowed.
The prince and the princess were thrilled, and the servant girl was given beautiful garments to wear. She had such an exquisite face and figure that the caretaker was soon enamored of her and wanted her to be his. He tiptoed to her room and peeked in. When she didn't order him to leave, he ran over to her. "Shut the door!" she said. And just as he was turning around, she wrote with her quill: "Let him spend all night opening and closing the door." And that is exactly what happened. In the morning the caretaker, deeply humiliated, could be seen slinking away.
The next evening the huntsman came to the girl's room while she was lying in bed. He bent over to take his boots off. She wrote: "Let him spend all night taking his boots off and putting them back on." And that's exactly what he did. At daybreak, he left in a huff. On the third morning one of the servants appeared. He had a strange neck, twisted from constantly watching doves, and the fool looked deep into her eyes. While he was asking for her favors, he suddenly remembered that he had left the door to the dovecote open and asked if he could go back to close it. The girl nodded with a laugh and wrote down the words: "Let him spend all night opening and closing the door to the dovecote."
That's how she got the suitors off her back. But they were determined to have their revenge, and they made three whips that they planned to use on the cook. When she caught on, she wrote down the following words: "Let them whip each other with those devilish switches!" And that's exactly what happened. The prince and the princess tried to help them, but they ended up receiving more lashes than anyone else.
The time had come. The crow arrived, and now he had turned into a prince. He rode with the beautiful cook to his magnificent castle.
From The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, published on February 24, 2015 by Penguin Classics, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Selection and foreword copyright by Erika Eichenseer, 2015. Translation, introduction and commentary copyright by Maria Tatar, 2015.