In the mid-1800s, German local historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth spent years wandering the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz, speaking with country folk, laborers, and servants, collecting information about local habits, customs, and history, and recording on paper what had previously been oral tradition. A contemporary of the Brothers Grimm, Von Schönwerth was well regarded by his fellow folklorists. Jacob Grimm went so far as to tell King Maximilian II of Bavaria that the only person who could replace him in his and his brother’s work was Von Schönwerth.
Von Schönwerth compiled his research into a book called Aus der Oberpfalz – Sitten und Sagen, published in three volumes in 1857, 1858 and 1859 (For German readers, there is a free ebook version available for Kindle, or PDFs of all three volumes available through the Bavarian Regional Library’s Digital Archive). The book never gained prominence and faded into obscurity, where it languished for a century and a half until being uncovered in a locked archive in Regensburg, Germany.
For the past several years, Oberpfalz cultural curator Erika Eichenseer has sifted through Von Schönwerth collected works and uncovered hundreds of fairytales, many of them not seen before in other fairytale collections, as well as local versions of more common stories, such as Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin. Last year Eichenseer published a selection of fairytales from Von Schönwerth’s collection, and English translations are already in the works.