I am filled with gratitude toward my Curtis family for providing me with the opportunity to travel, learn and grow a second time! I have so many ideas of how to better my instruction and can’t wait to share my experiences with my students. This is going to be a fun, fairytale school year! Thank you!!!
My last stop on my journey was Denmark. We spent one day in Odense, birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, and a day in Copenhagen. Both places were beautiful, enlightening and welcoming.
Andersen was born into extreme poverty. Andersen’s father was not an educated man but he valued education and wanted his son to go to school. The combination of his schooling, his artistic talent, and his perseverance led to his professional success.
He did not remain poor, his artistic talent was recognized and appreciated during his lifetime. He enjoyed friendships with wealthy and influential families in Denmark. He traveled throughout Europe entertaining people with his stories, artwork and poems. He was beloved and still is throughout Denmark and the world.
Andersen was not only a writer of fairy tales but an artist in every sense of the word. His imagination intertwined with his sense of humor mixed with a bit of melancholy were expressed in paper cuttings, drawings, picture books, collages, etc. The paper cutouts were truly impressive and I loved learning that he would gift these to friends for Christmas. Here’s some pictures of his artwork…
Andersen was a masterful storyteller that interwove his reality with the fantastical. This was cutting edge for his time and has lasted the ages. I love the whimsical but realistic feel to his writing.
The Little Mermaid is one of Andersen’s most famous tales and it is Copenhagen’s most photographed statue. (It was super crowded when we were there!) I love Andersen’s story (if you haven’t had a chance to read the original, we have a copy in our library). It’s not a happily ever after, prince rescues girl tale and I think that is where Andersen weaves reality with fantasy. Throughout his life, Andersen never got a romantic happy ever after, he was always a victim of unrequited love. This particularly shows in this tale.
“My life is a lovely fairy tale, happy and full of incident!” -H.C. Andersen
We made a quick stop at Sababurg Castle, the inspiration for the Grimm story of Sleeping Beauty. The castle had ivy growing up the side and was surrounded by rose and blackberry bushes. I could just picture a sleeping princess in the tower and princes coming to fight through thorns to rescue her.
Next stop was Trendelburg, the supposed location of Rapunzel’s tower. The tower was there, complete with hair coming down. However, the history of the tower did not offer much insight into how the story originated. It dates back to Medieval times so the story could of started then and wasn’t documented. That being said, fairy tale themes ran throughout the tower, now hotel and restaurant. I even braved through climbing some pretty narrow stairs to get the views from the top.
Hamelin and The Pied-Piper
Everywhere we looked in Hamelin there were glimpses of the famous rat catcher, even an actor of the Pied Piper himself. We also saw lots of rats… mostly of the statue variety but a few live ones too (in the museum). The earliest versions of the story actually never had rats involved. It was more about this vagabond leading children away. In the 1500s, rats came into the story and lead to Hamelin’s long-term connection to rats.
Pictured above is an actual Rat King! I didn’t know this was a thing, I thought Rat Kings just appeared in stories. Apparently, rats can get their tails so tangled they can’t separate. Other rats will bring them food to keep them alive.
Here are the musicians in all their glory, in the middle of Bremen, even though they never actually make it to Bremen in the story.
The Brothers Grimm Museum in Kassel has to be one of the most fascinating museum exhibits I have seen. Besides being famous for documenting fairy tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm spent a great deal of their professional lives working on compiling a comprehensive dictionary of the German language. The museum was setup to mimic a dictionary…
Each letter marked an exhibit space that focused on a German word that started with that letter. I spent most of my time on the fairy tale exhibits but it was worthwhile to learn about their work on the dictionary. The Grimms wanted people to be aware that language is fluid and always changing. Perhaps it is this core belief that led to the popularity of their collection of tales through the ages.
I, like most people, pictured the Grimms traveling through the countryside of Germany collecting fairy tales. However, this was not the case. The brothers worked and lived in Kassel and people brought them stories from all over the region. (The people who contributed to the story collection are pictured below.)
The Grimms cataloged and documented each story on notecards. (Pictured below.)
And, the brothers edited their work throughout the years. Pictured below is Wilhelm’s personal copy which included notes and edits.
The brothers, in particular Wilhelm, edited and added to the collection so that 17 editions were published under their name from 1812 to 1857. Wilhelm gave the texts the characteristic fairy tale tone that grew more distinct with each edition. This mastery of language is said to be why the tales have been so successful through history. The Grimms’ fairytales has been the most widespread piece of German literature and culture.
The museum also had some very interactive and fun displays of the more popular tales.
Today was a day dedicated to investigated the story of Snow White. I had the opportunity to go to Bad Wildungen which is a spa-town just outside Kassel, Germany. This is where the first traces of the story are rumored to have originated. The daughter of the count, Margaretha of Waldeck, was poisoned at a young age. This seemed to have sparked the idea of a heroine meeting a similar fate. Here is the house where young Margaretha lived….
Just outside Bad Wildungen is a small mining village called Bergfreiheit. This village was started by the brother of Margaretha and is also tied to the inspiration for the fairy tale. I stopped to visit Snow White’s cottage and just down the road were the seven dwarfs.
I may have been whistling the tune for Disney’s version of Snow White in that last picture 😂. Did you know that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Disney’s first animated feature film? It is so mind boggling that I got to venture to the place where the story started!
Here’s a link to the original Grimm version of Snow White.
Good day from Germany! I made it and my new adventure is off to a great start with a trip to Steinau an der Straße, the village where the Grimm brothers grew up. I lucked out because today they had a special Rapunzel Faire. There were lots of activities, towers with hair coming down, and women with long, braided wigs running around.
Unfortunately, I missed out on the puppet show but got to see a performance just outside the Grimm brothers’ childhood home.
Their home is now a museum dedicated to their lives and work. Sadly, I was not allowed to take any photos (I couldn’t even take my camera inside). But, I did get a picture of the outside.
Their house was actually a courthouse with living quarters upstairs. Philipp Wilhelm Grimm, their father, was the magistrate. The upstairs is now dedicated to the fairy tales the Grimm brothers are so well known for but the bottom floor had portraits and the history of the family.
My favorite part of this charming fairy tale town was a fountain depicting images from various fairy tales with Rapunzel and the prince at the top.
Here’s a link to the Grimm version of Rapunzel. Tomorrow I’m off to Kassel and to learn more about Snow White.
I was very fortunate to receive the travel grant in 2016. (Here’s a link to my past Travel Blog.) It was and continues to be a life-changing experience. I have loved incorporating story and how people tell their story into my teaching at Curtis.
I am so very lucky to be able to continue my journey this summer! My trip this August will continue to look at stories with a focus on discovering the origins of popular fairy tales. I will be venturing to the homelands of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, Germany and Denmark respectively, exploring why these stories hold such power and sway over the imaginations of adults and children today.