Andersen, the Grimms, and I: authors, editors, folk
Valdimar Tr. Hafstein (University of Iceland)
Paper short abstract:
Telling a tale of a couple of tales published by the Grimms and Andersen, I make a case for exploring an alternative figure for creative agency, besides the author and the folk, one that stands between the two opposite ends of the spectrum that these two occupy: the collector-editor.
Paper long abstract:
On 29 May 1873, H.C. Andersen noted in his diary a visit from he received from his upstairs neighbor in a Swiss spa: "A visit from Mr. Mai, who maintained that the story about "What the Old Man Does" was taken from Grimm. I told him it was a Danish folktale and that Grimm had never composed a fairy tale, he was only a collector. . . . I am not in a good mood." Three decades earlier, Andersen had accused the Grimms of publishing "one of my originals", namely the Princess on the Pea, from which he seems to have believed the Grimms knocked off The Pea Test in the fifth edition of their Kinder- und Hausmärchen. That Andersen elsewhere attributes both tales to oral tradition ("I heard [these tales] during childhood, in the spinning room...") seems to trouble him not one bit in this context. In this paper I try to make sense of the dichotomous relation between the figure of the author and the figure of the folk -- two contrasting models for understanding creative agency in the 19th century. Taking as a point of departure the claims of ownership and bruised egos surrounding the publication of the tales referred to above and the encounter between Andersen and the Grimm Brothers, I make a case for exploring a third figure for creative agency, one that stands between the two opposite ends of the spectrum occupied by the author and the folk: the collector-editor, i.e. the folklorist.
Meta-visions of heritage and utopia: scholarly tales on fairy tales