At the age of 24, without having seen much of the world, without having spent much time studying people, I published three works within a brief period of ten months – works that were very disparate in themselves. They were reviewed, purchased, read, discussed on many occasions, and wherever I have gone, since I stepped back on to German soil, I was not unknown. Like some beast of legend, people have sought me out, marvelled at me, admired me […]
In the 19th century, Wilhelm Hauff was a kind of superstar on the literary scene. He’d become one of German literature’s classic authors. His novel “Lichtenstein” was a major hit, yet it was outperformed by his novellas “The Man in the Moon” or “From the Memoirs of Satan”. However, his fairy tales made less of a splash back then.
In the 20th century, attitudes changed. To put it in somewhat polemical terms: Wilhelm Hauff – wasn’t that the chap who wrote all those fairy tales? Swabia’s answer to the Thousand and One Nights. While his novels and novellas are only rarely read these days, most people are probably familiar with his fairy tales: The History of Caliph Stork. Little Muck. Or Long-Nose the Dwarf. The stories are about being an outsider and being different, about tolerance and respect for others. Themes that have lost none of their topical relevance.
Much like A Thousand and One Nights, Hauff’s fairy tales are embedded within a frame narrative. They were published in his Fairy Tale Almanac – a three-volume collection. Here’s what Hauff himself had to say about the almanac:
It is intended for girls or boys of twelve to fifteen years of age, and offers seven fairy tales appropriate for that age, mostly in the oriental style. I have attempted to make them as interesting as possible, while always ensuring that they observe a strictly moral attitude, yet without allowing the tales to boil down to a practical application or “fabula docet”.
As a poet, Hauff knew his target audience well. During his time as a tutor, he’d taught the sons of Ernst Eugen, Baron von Hügel, the Württemberg minister of war. Hauff fondly nicknamed his pupils “sea lions”. He wrote his first fairy tales for them.
And now? Millions of people are still enchanted by Hauff’s fairy tales, which are read almost everywhere in the world.
Foto: © Wilhelm-Hauff-Museum