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Amateur Reader (Tom)

Nope, this was the hard one. Tieck and especially "Undine" will likely be smooth sailing. Neither is much like a Grimm Bros. tale, but they are not maddeningly obscure.

I would give you my opinion on the Brentano story, too, if I remembered it.

Christine Harding

Elizabeth von Arnim was a fan, but the only Goethe I've ever read is Faust, because I wanted to compare it to Marlowe. I've always thought he would be a daunting read, but you've made this sound interesting, so maybe I'll see what I can find.


I have read this years ago but Like Tom just wrote, the others in the collection are easier and I think I liked them much better. Goethe is a very complex writer, everything he writes is multi-layered and full of allusions.

Liz F

I was considering getting a copy of this as I do like fairy tales but it sounds as though the Goethe at least will be rather more difficult than I want to take on at the moment!
I remember a rather over-ambitious German teacher giving us some Goethe to attempt to translate when I was doing my O-Level - after reading your comments about it in English, it is no wonder that the original German left us all bemused!


Another very interesting project:)
I have a few books by Marion Woodman, a Jungian therapist, who has this amazing body of knowledge about motifs and meaning. The Goethe doesn't sound like an easy read though.


How very interesting! I'm not terribly familiar with fairy tales other than the Disney version movies. (I do love the TV show Once Upon a Time, which seems to be a big mash-up of many different tales with a contemporary twist.)I have a copy of some tales by the Brothers Grimm, and I've never cracked it open--perhaps I should give it a whirl.


What an interesting tale. I've never heard of this one before. Did Goethe create it or is it a retelling?


I really like the sound of your collection. A bit of old-fashioned fairy tale goodness seems pretty fine for gloomy November. I quite like Goethe, but admit I am currently fascinated by the fact that he drew on a monobrow in his youth as it was the fashion of his time. Who'd of guessed that the monobrow would EVER be in fashion? In some ways I wish I'd never learned this, because I simply can't get past it when thinking of Goethe now.


I read this one last year (as the last in the collection I was reading). Don't worry; it is very different to anything else you're likely to come across ;) I did see an analysis of this somewhere in which everything was nicely explained (something to do with the state of affairs in the Germanic lands, as I recall). Don't read that though - it just spoils the fun of wondering what on earth Goethe was talking about...

Amateur Reader (Tom)

Stefanie - Goethe's story is entirely original, from stem to stern, which is the main source of the interpretive problem. It has no connection to Grimm-style "folk" fairy tales at all.


I'm glad I'm not the only one to find that particular story challenging! I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't like any other fairy tale I've ever read before, so I'll be keeping an open mind with the other three stories. I think maybe I'll give myself more time to read the next, too, rather than waiting until Sunday thinking it'll be a piece of cake to read and write about.


I didn't know that about Elizabeth von Arnim (whose books I love!), but then since she lived in Germany am not surprised. I had not read Goethe before, but I do have at least one of his novels on my pile. It was an interesting story, though, and I think I may have to read it again and not worry so much about trying to sort out all the symbolism.


He is indeed. I had no idea, but then I had not tried his work before. I have Sorrows of Young Werther that I've always wanted to read--now I wonder if it is the same style. I'm looking forward to the other stories, though. Maybe I'll still have to pick up my copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales as well.


I'm not sure what I was expecting--maybe not a story so complex. I tend to make things harder than they need to be sometimes, though. I could have just read it as a simple story, but when I went back and read the intro I found there was lots more going on than I caught onto. I only took two years of German in college--not enough to tackle Goethe I'm afraid!


I know that fairy tales have been interpreted by psychologists, but I never did study psychology so I feel a little in the dark with stories like this. I would love to know more, but I feel a little like Goethe is just a little too far over my head at the moment. Still, I like being exposed to challenging writing--and it was only a short story. May have to give it a reread before I move on to the next story--maybe a second time around will help.


That's pretty much me, too, Kathy! When I was much younger I read the sort a child reads, and I did read Angela Carter's Saints and Strangers, though that is more folk tales. It would be fun to go back to the Grimm Brothers and read a few as well.


Check out Tom's response below--he explains it well. I knew Goethe's story was original--but the intro helped fill in details of meaning--though only briefly. Even then the editor noted how complex the story was and that even Goethe was not really forthcoming about the entire meaning of the motifs. It was interesting reading, though, and I can totally see you tackling a book like this!


Hah--imagine that! Now that is not what I would expect from a man who wrote this story! ;) I do like the idea of reading fairy tales--I think these are not really typical--at least in terms of how I think of them. I have his Elective Affinities (which I know you regard highly) and Sorrows of Young Werther, so I will certainly read more of him. This was perhaps not the best place to start with his work, but it was still interesting. I would love to know your take on it!


I'm glad to hear it is an anomaly compared to the other stories--I was wondering what I had gotten myself into! I'm still going to read the others and maybe go back and reread Goethe without worrying about the symbolic meaning. The editor went into it a little and all of a sudden I had images of me reading history books and philosophy books to get the right background to understand the story! :) I sometimes worry too much about 'not getting it' and miss the simple pleasure of the telling of the story.


Thanks Tom! I think he wasn't really writing a fairy tale at all, was he? It seems the story just had a lot of the right elements coming out of the classical movement that sort of made it a natural progression into the Romantic era (well, without him really intending that at all?). I'm not entirely sure how it/the stories in the book really fall in with fairy tales in general--or what I think of as traditional fairy tales. Somehow I think entire books have been written on this subject!

Delia (Postcards from Asia)

Intriguing review. I've only read The Sorrows of Young Werther from Goethe's work but from your description this sounds like an interesting book. Speaking of references in fairy tales, I read "Phantastes, A Faerie Romance", a book described as a "fairytale for adults" and enjoyed it a lot.


To be honest, Goethe scares me a little. Or, well, a lot. I think he might be a writer that I'm going to save for when I'm older. Nevertheless, I do like the looks of this collection. Always curious about fairytales. Even if Goethe's story seems very complex, I'm heartened by the comments that say the other ones are more easy to read.


Strangely I didn't think I was intimidated him before this story, but now I think I am just a little bit! I will definitely give his other work a try--I'll just try and be better prepared for it. :) I hadn't thought there was so much to fairy tales, but I am finding that is not the case--certainly this one was quite complex and the second story was also so, but in a different way. I think I'm going to have to do a little investigating when it comes to fairy tales now.


I love this story but I think it makes better sense when read in it's original context: Goethe's cycle of stories Conversations with German Refugees. Here is my understanding of what is going on and why I think the frame story is important:

Do you think anyone might be interested in a 2013 Goethe Reading Challenge? He has created a really amazing body of work that I think is underappreciated and well worth reading.


Thanks so much for the link--I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on the story (which I will do this weekend). I didn't realize that it was one of a cycle of stories--it must make much more sense as part of a whole. This was my introduction to Goethe--maybe not the best place to start really, but I do want to read more of his books at some point. I am sure you'll find people will read along if you throw the idea out there. I wasn't expecting anyone to want to read Camilla but was surprised when I had several people mention they'd like to read along. Do let me know as I'd like to read more of his work and it's always easier when others are reading at the same time and can discuss the author/books.

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