Sadhana Naithani
Justice in an Unjust World: Herman Hesse's Fairy Tales

Klipi teostus: Kikee Doma Bhutia, ZOOM 29.07.2021 120 vaatamist Folkloristika


Lecture Series "Unraveling Tales: Exploring Intersections between Folkloristics and Literature" - 8th July to 26th August 2021

Vladimir Propp divided folklore in two categories: folklore by origin, that is, lore that originates orally among the folk; and folklore by transmission, that is, lore that may have originated in literature, but becomes folklore when it is transmitted among the folk so widely that its literary origin becomes obscure. To this structural division, another category may be added: folklore by characteristics or elements, that is, literary texts that are defined by characteristics of folklore. This category concerns the art and craft of storytelling and generic elements that are typical of folklore, whether in prose or poetry. Modern European literatures, particularly after the seminal work of Brothers Grimm “Children and Household Fairy Tales”, first published in 1812 in Germany have used the elements of the folk fairy tale ever so often. Such texts have been called the Literary Fairy Tale. Over time the stylistic influence of the fairy tale on literature has been defined as ‘magical realism’, which continues to be popular and used by several authors like Salman Rushdie, Günther Grass, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Angela Carter, Italo Calvino and Marina Warner among others. One of the renowned German authors, the Nobel Laureate Hermann Hesse is relatively lesser known for his fairy tales. Yet, this is a genre in which he began his writing career and continued to practice until later. Hesse’s fairy tales are not retellings of old fairy tales, they are tales that use every possible element of the folk fairy tale and yet turn the fairy tale upside down. What concerns Hesse is not only the new tale, but also the old tale. In this paper I focus here on the element of justice and argue that justice is one of the primary elements in the folk narrative and that Hesse’s fairy tales create unnerving stories of the search for justice in a deeply flawed and unjust world.