“Tales of Courage”

Reinhardtswald bei Kassel Enlarge image (© picture-alliance / dpa) This was the name chosen by a Berlin initiative which, over twenty years ago, sought to overcome the division of Germany’s capital, using “tales of courage” to unite people across borders. Fairy tale heroes, although they might feel small, are brave enough to fight for and win their freedom. This courageous initiative gave rise to the “Berlin Fairy Tale Festival”, the largest of its kind in the world, which since then has regarded itself as a forum for intercultural encounter. True to its motto of “the world comes to Berlin”, each year’s Festival features tales which spellbind a broad and international audience. The aim is to bring fairy tales to life and read or retell them in a vivid way. In doing so the Festival upholds the oral tradition which has sustained fairy tales for centuries and creates links across cultural borders, as myths and legends are prevalent in all civilizations and are a language understood by everyone.

Brüder Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm Enlarge image (© picture-alliance / dpa) Fairy tales have a long tradition in Germany. One of the best-known and best-loved storytellers to this day is Jacob Grimm, who was born 225 years ago this January. Together with his brother Wilhelm, they began their career by intensively researching Germany’s wealth of myths and legends. These 19th-century German linguists, who later began work on the “Deutsches Wörterbuch”, the largest and most comprehensive German dictionary, were the first to collect, write down and adapt fairy tales handed down orally in their home country. They also translated foreign stories, such as the “Irish Elf Tales”, into German. The places where they found the stories for their book of “Children’s and Household Tales”, better known as “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”, can be visited by travelling along the “Deutsche Märchenstrasse”, the “Fairy Tale Route” linking Hanau, where the Brothers Grimm were born, and Bremen in northern Germany. Modern German literature also has some marvellous storytellers, most prominent among them the successful authoress Cornelia Funke. Her fantasy books aimed at children and young people, such as “Dragon Rider”, “The Thief Lord” and the “Inkheart” trilogy, enthuse readers of all ages and cultures, and have been translated into 40 languages and been made into successful films. Ms Funke’s enthralling style takes the reader into her realm of heroes and mythical figures, into courageous and adventurous tales of goblins, dragons and other fabulous creatures. That talent brought her this year’s Jacob Grimm Award. Unendliche Geschichte Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Her next novel will feature magical elements of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as did the fantasy works of Michael Ende, in which the linguistic and thematic barriers between children’s and adult literature were constantly fluid. In his most famous children’s book “Momo”, fairy tales comfort the heroine and give her courage. Since it was first published over thirty years ago, his bestseller “The Neverending Story”, a collage of mythical images aimed at guarding against the loss of imagination, has been one of the best-known and most-read modern fairy-tale novels.