Images of Jews and Sinti and Rom in Ludwig Beschsteins’ Folktale Collections

[This article is part of the  Open Peer Review-Publication series “Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitism in International Perspective”]

von Tuvia Singer

Nineteenth century Germany knew an unprecedented blossoming of folk-narrative publications. The folk-narratives were gathered by ethnographers, philologists, folklore scholars and others according to national or regional criteria and were published in approximately 500 collections comprising more than 20,000 folk-narratives.[1]  In this period the folk-narrative emerges as a meaningful element in the perception of the past and the identity of the group narrating it and preserving it within its tradition. The folk-narrative’s uniqueness lies, among others, in its collective nature and continuous reworking that articulates stratified world views and a co-existing of different and sometimes clashing ideologies.[2]

Minorities and foreigners, such as Jews and Sinti and Rom, appear in hundreds of these folk-narratives. In this article, I will focus on the figures of these minorities in two of the main collections of Ludwig Bechstein (1801-1860), a librarian in the court of the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. Although Bechstein is a forgotten figure in contemporary western culture, his folk-narrative collections dominated the market in terms of book sales during the nineteenth century.[3]

In 1845 he published the “Deutsches Märchenbuch” (DMB), a German folktale collection that became an immediate commercial success, even more than the Grimm Brothers’ “Kinder- und Hausmärchen”.  70,000 copies were sold within eight years in eleven printings and by 1896, it reached 45 printings.[4] The anthology contains one tale that includes the figure of a Jew and one that includes a woman from the Sinti and Rom.  As I will try to show, the figure of the Jew, in this collection and in “Neues Deutsches Märchenbuch” (NDMB) – another major collection published in 1856 by Bechstein, is presented positively as an innocent victim. On the other hand, The “Zigeunerin”, as she is named in Bechsteins’ tales, is portrayed in a negative manner.

I wish to argue that this presentation of Jews and Sinti and Rom is consistent with the bourgeois ideology or state of mind that influenced Bechstein in collecting and editing his anthology – a world-view that corresponded with the outlook of his readers.  Hence, the differences of approach towards minorities between two ideologies that are closely related to one another – the national ideology and the bourgeois world view – are made apparent.

Good Jews and bad “Zigeunerin”

“Das Rebhuhn” (“The Partridge”, DMB 12, 1845 edition) is about a rich Jew who was carrying a large amount of money and who had to pass through a forest. He gave the king a present (“ein Geschenk”) and asked him for his patronage.  The king instructed the royal cupbearer (“Der Schenke”) to accompany the Jew to the forest and give him protection.  When they arrived at the forest, the cupbearer coveted the fortune and murdered the Jew.  Before he died, the Jew cried out to the cupbearer that the birds flying above in the sky will reveal the murder (“Und ob heimlicher Mord von allen Menschen ungesehen vollzogen wird, so werden ihn die Vögel offenbaren, die unter dem Himmel fliegen”). A year passed, and the king received a gift of partridges. When the cupbearer saw the roasted partridges placed on the king’s table, he broke out in laughter.  The king was surprised at his laughter and asked him why he laughed, but the cupbearer gave him a false answer. Four weeks passed before the cupbearer, who became intoxicated with wine at a party for the royal court administrative staff, revealed that he had murdered the Jew. He was judged and hung, according to the tale, for disobeying the word of the king and murdering a man under his patronage, as the king described the cupbearer’s sin to the court and his secret councils: “Was hat Der(!) verschuldet, der von des Königs wegen einen durch das Reich sicher geleiten sollte, und hat denselben selbst ermordet und beraubet?.[5]

The play on words used in the tale, the gift (“ein Geschenk”) that the king received from the Jew as well as the gift of the partridges, and the cupbearer (“der Schenke”), who became drunk and subsequently incriminated himself – alludes to the irony of the shared destiny of the Jew and the cupbearer and the fact that what was to have guaranteed their security or livelihood, was instead the cause of their death. According to Bechstein’s comment on this tale, it goes back to a thirteenth century manuscript found in the Leipzig University library and published in the contemporary periodical “Altdeutche Blätter” of 1836.[6] The “Altdeutche Blätter” refers to a later version (which may be the reason why Bechstein did not use or mention it) found in the popular collection of 1342, “Der Edelstein” (“The Diamond”), by the Swiss Dominican monk, Ulrich Boner.[7]  Boner’s version is one of many modifications that evolved during the Middle Ages to Plutarchs’ tale from first century A.C about the poet Ibycus (sixth century B.C.E.) and the cranes.  Among the many modifications through the ages was the transformation of Ibycus into a Jew, due to the association of Jews with wealth.[8] While other versions justify the cupbearer’s execution due to his violation of the king’s command, Boner’s version justifies the execution as a punishment for the evil deed of murdering a human being. Yet, even this version reinforces the negative stereotype about Jewish richness.[9] Nonetheless, the overall narrative deals with a divine punishment for killing a Jew thus validating his last words, and is far from being anti-Jewish.

In the course of the nineteenth century, the medieval tale appeared in number of adaptations, besides “Das Rebhuhn”. One of the versions appears in another folk tale collection of Bechstein – the “Neues Deutsches Märchenbuch” mentioned above. The title of the tale is “Sonnenkringel” (“Wavy Sunlight”, NDMB 5) as the position of bringing the truth to light is filled by the rays of the sun.  Here the Jew is not portrayed as a rich man, but a poor man, who happens to meet his murderer in the forest and as a Jew, was stereotypically thought to be rich. The last words of the Jew before he died were: “Die klare Sonne soll an den Tag bringen deine Missetat, das allsehende Auge des Firmamentes”. These words caused him severe mental stress and he couldn’t bear the sun anymore. However, time passed and life moved on: the murderer found a respectable job and was happily married. One morning as his wife was serving him coffee, he saw the sunlight reflected in the coffee and dancing on the ceiling in circles. He mocked the sun for trying to reveal the truth, but which alas had no tongue. The wife heard his words and asked him what he meant. After constant pressure and promises that she would keep his secret, he revealed it to her. The wife became emotionally stressed and told the secret to her closest friend. Shortly thereafter all the people of the town knew about the murder. The killer was led to trial and executed. The tale ends with the murderer feeling relieved that he didn’t have secrets anymore and his “schwarzhafte” (talkative) wife hanging herself in the balcony of their house.[10]

The main difference, regarding our theme, between this version and the prior one (DMB12) is the refutation of the “rich Jew” stereotype. As indicated by Bechstein, this tale under the title “Die Klare Sonne Bringt’s an den Tag” appeared in the Grimm Brothers’ “Kinder- und Hausmärchen” (KHM115) from the 1815 first edition onward without any significant editing in later editions.[11] Grimms’ version is similar to NDMB5 in portraying the Jew as poor and penniless. In their comments on the tale, the Grimm Brothers wrote that this tale is a “bürgerlich” (in the meaning of civic) for a deep and noble idea of Gods heavenly eye – the sun – power.[12]

In their third and last edition of their comments, the Grimms add references to two parallels of this tale.[13] The first appeared in “Deutsche Volksmärchen aus Schwaben” collected and published by the orientalist Ernst Meier in 1852. The second appeared in “Märchen für die Jugend” collected and published in 1854 by Heinrich Pröhle – a pedagogue and the most important folk narrative collector in northern Germany.

Meiers’ version is entitled: “Die Sonne wird dich verrathen” (“The Sun will betray you”). This proverb is a reversal of the proverb “Die Sonne bringt es an den Tag” in NDMB5 and in KHM115. Instead of being a representation of divine justice, the sun represents, ironically, betrayal: self-betrayal of one whose own words lead to self conviction and the betrayal of his wife, who hands him over directly to the authorities out of hate and fear. It is not clear if the use of this specific proverb is connected to the fact that the victim is a Jew and therefore the tale reveals anti-Jewish tendencies. However, Meier himself did not relate at all in his comments to the difference between “Die Sonne bringt es an den Tag” and “Die Sonne wird dich verrathen” and he saw the last as another example, besides Grimms’ version, to the divine nature of the sun. It should also be noted, that this version omits any depiction of the Jew as rich or poor and therefore is missing the refutation of the ‘rich Jew’ stereotype.[14]

Two years after Meiers’ publication, Pröhle published his collection which was aimed specifically to children, as evident by its name. In this version, a clearly anti-Jewish one, the Jew is not the victim but rather the murderer of an emissary who carried money. In contrast with other versions, where the murderer rebuilds his life due to his talents and diligence, in this version the Jew is not a respectable citizen but a rich man who owes his success to the murder. His wife too, is not depicted as one who is bothered morally and emotionally from the secret crime but as one who screams the secret out unintentionally in the midst of a fight with her husband.[15]

To Meiers’ and Pröhles’ versions mentioned by Grimm, one should add a version by the Bavarian official, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth in his Bavarian collection of legends and manners published between 1857 and 1859. Schönwerth testifies that the legend with all its variations is widely distributed in Germany. In his version, the Jew is portrayed as the creditor of the murderer, echoing medieval stereotypes about the Jewish creditor.[16] Thus, from all versions, Grimms’ (KHM115) and Bechsteins’ (DMB12 & especially NDMB5) are clearly pro-Jewish.

The NDMB includes another folk-narrative, originally Swiss, with a Jew at its center – “Die verwünschte Stadt”. It is one of the many local variations of the Wandering Jew legend that sprouted in the German speaking countries from the beginning of the new era.The legend took shape in seventeenth-century Protestant circles in Germany. In a chapbook entitled Kurtze Beschreibung und Erzehlung von einem Juden mit Namen Ahaßverus [Short Description and Account of a Jew Named Ahasuerus], published in German in 1602. Based on a sweeping reading of the New Testament, the legend concerned a Jew named Ahasuerus, who was condemned to perpetual wandering after refusing to let Jesus rest on the walls of his home on his way to the crucifixion. Over the course of the following centuries, the legend spread throughout Europe in dozens of different adaptations and translations.[17]

As I will show, Bechstein adapted this legend in such a way that the positive side of the Jew was emphasized and the negative side covered up.  The origin of the folk-narrative, according to Bechstein, is the legend “Der ewige Jude auf dem Matterhorn”, which appears in his collection Deutsches Sagenbuch (DSB 18), published by Bechstein in 1853.  According to Bechstein, he included the legend in NDMB with additions and adjustments which added gloom to the story.[18]

<15>The story tells of a previously thriving city at the foot of the “Matterhorn” (a steep and high mountain in the Pennine Alps shaped like a pyramid that can be seen from afar, today bordering Switzerland and Italy), that was now buried under a blanket of snow and ice.  The sad lot of the city was caused by the Wandering Jew who had arrived to the city in his eternal wanderings and cursed it after no one agreed to host him in his house.  The Wandering Jew, therefore, declared that although the city now had houses and streets, walls and towers, the next time he comes to the city in the course of his wanderings, there will be only grass, trees and rocks.  The third time he comes, the city will be covered with ice and snow.

Bechstein’s adaptation NDMB28 emphasizes and elaborates on motives that are already found, although in short, in his earlier version DSB18:[19] a detailed description of the destruction of the thriving city, criticsm of the residents’ lack of hospitality and an analogous comparison of the sin of the  residents with the ancient sin of the Wandering Jew. The appearance of the Jew is described as arousing respect but also fear and recoiling:[20]

[…] eine hohe ernste Gestalt; sein Gesicht war bräunlich von Farbe, aber bleich, mit langem Barte, sein Haar schwarz mit grau gemischt, sein Gewand ein langer brauner Talar, mit einem Strick umgürtet, seine Fußbekleidung starke Schuhe mit Riemen um die Knöchel befestigt […] Die Bewohner der Hochgebirgsstadt sahen den fremden Mann mit einer eigenen Scheu an und er flößte ihnen ein seltsames Grauen ein.

In response to the refusal of the local residents to host him because of his sin towards Jesus, the Wandering Jew cursed them: ”Ich werde gehen jetzt und ihr bleibt, ihr aber werdet vergehen und ich werde bleiben” – a paraphrase of the curse used by Jesus on his way to Golgotha. According to the Ahaßverus chapbook (1602), Jesus punished Ahasuerus with the words: Ich wil stehen vnd ruhen, du aber solt gehen.[21] However, in the telling of Roger of Wendover – a thirteenth-century English chronicler whom the author of Ahaßverus drew upon– Jesus said: ‘I am going, and you will wait till I return.’[22] Bechstein’s adaptation creates a parallel between the sin of the local residents and the sin of the Wandering Jew hinting to a parallel between the Wandering Jew and Jesus.  After some hundred years, the Wandering Jews returns to the same place and when he sees it in its destructive state, declares: “Was hat gesungen einst David, der Konig uber Israel? Er hat gesungen: ‘Wenn Du nach Gottlosen Stätte sehen wirst, wird er weg sein.'” With the passing of another hundred years, the Wandering Jew returns to the same place and when he sees that it is covered with snow and ice, says: ”Erfüllt ist nun das Wort des Herrn Herrn, das er tat durch den Mund des Propheten, seines Knechts: ‘Ich will meine Hand über sie ausstrecken und das Land wüste und öde machen.”’[23]

The image of the Wandering Jew is described in German folklore as an ambivalent figure reverberating positive and negative tensions between sin and redemption.[24] This ambivalence is found in Bechsteins’ adaptation, to a certain extent. However, the depiction of figure as a harbinger of destruction, as can be seen in many versions of the legend, is marginal to his description as a figure arousing respect, parallel to Jesus or a prophet who brings about a justified divine punishment. On the contrary, the fear and piety of the residents that caused them to refuse to host the Jew, is considered sinful. Particularly instructive is the difference between Grimm’s and Bechstein’s version of this legend. The Grimm Brothers’ version lacks the part that deals with the refusal of the village to host the wandering Jew, leaving the impression that the Wandering Jew arbitrarily announced the people of the village about their disaster.[25]

Hence, all the folk narratives in the main collections of Bechstein that include images of Jews depict them as positive figures. Making a comparison of Bechstein’s version and the parallel versions and revealing the manner in which he adapted the stories, lends validity to that conclusion. The consistently positive presentation by Bechstein of the Jews arouses wonderment, which is intensified by the totally different description of the Sinti and Rom in his collections.

Only one tale, “Star und Badewännlein” (DMB21, 1845 edition), deals with the Sinti and Rom in Bechsteins’ main collections.[26] The tale is about a prince named Konrad who stayed overnight in an inn belonging to a landlady and her young female maid. The beauty of the girl and the pure white skin of her hand – “ihrer schneeweißen Hand” – stand out next to her employer who is described in these words: “ein häßliches Weib von brauner Gesichtsfarbe und widrigem Ansehen”. Similar to the tale “Das Rebhuhn”, a bird reveals a secret: a Starling whispers in the ear of prince Konrad that the beautiful maid is his twin sister who was kidnapped when she was a baby by “die böse Zigeunerin”. In response, the prince thrusts his spear in the head of the woman from ear to ear.  The prince and his sister return then to the palace and live happily ever after.

According to Bechstein’s comment on this tale it is based on a folk song. As indicated by the German literary scholar Wilhelm Solms, the origin of this tale is a Swiss folk song “Die wiedergefunden Königstochter”, but this does not mention a woman from Sinti and Roma origin at all.  Clemens Brentano made some modifications in the original song and added the figure of the wicked “Zigeuner” and the Singing Starling.  In 1808, Achim von Arnim included both versions in the second volume of his anthology of folk songs, “Des Knaben Wunderhorn”, thus contributing to the misleading presentation of Brentano’s latest literary version as an ancient folk song.  In a letter to Jacob Grimm, Arnim complains that Brentano led him astray.  A few years after Arnim’s publication, Brentano adapted the folk song to a folktale in his “Rheinmärchen”. In this adaptation, Brentano repeats the motif of the “böse Zigeunerin” and hints to the dark color of her skin. Bechstein who created a second adaptation of the folk-song into a literary tale, was clearly influenced by Brentano in adding explicit racist expressions, as detailed above.[27]

The differences between the image of the Jew and that of the Sinti and Rom in Bechstein’s collections are clear.  While the Jew is presented as a victim of murder and inhospitality, the woman is presented as a kidnapper who deserves her violent death. The reason for these differences in portraying these minorities can be ascribed to Bechstein’s ideology, as will be shown below.

Ideological and Professional Editing in the Process of Canonization

Although further research in Bechsteins’ writings and estate must be conducted with regard to Bechstein’s editing considerations in specific folk-narratives, it is likely that the manner in which the Jews and Sinti and Rom are depicted in Bechsteins’ main collections suit the bourgeoisie worldview expressed in his overall editing. Bechsteins’ collections, claims the folklore scholar Ruth Bottigheimer, gained great commercial success according to its system of values that fitted the ideals and values of the middle class, and were therefore suited to be used for educational purposes.[28]

The Jews, who were in the midst of a socialization process into German culture and society by joining the middle class, were depiced in Bechstein’s collection, in a positive manner.[29]  The Sinti and Rom, in contrast, differed from the German middle class in almost every conceivable aspect, starting with the definition of the intimate family unit, passing through fields of occupation and ending with the housing style.[30] They were, therefore, presented by Bechstein as the antithesis of the rising German middle class and harmful to the ideal of the bourgeoisie family by kidnapping children from the arms of their mothers. Interestingly, while Jews appear in Grimms’ collections there is no mention of Sinti and Rom, Not in “Kinder- und Hausmärchen” and not in “Deutsche Sagen”.

Much has been researched and written concerning the national ideology of the Grimm Brothers, and indeed, the findings regarding the images of minorities such as Jews and the Sinti and Rom in the Grimm brothers’ collections correspond, to a great extent, with the national ideology.[31]  The Sinti and Rom, who were not seen as a threat to the German national identity, were not related to at all, while the Jews, who were in the process of intensive integration into the German society, attracted much more interest, hope and fear.

However, constructing an ideology is dependent on the character, dynamics and internal rhythm of the cultural repertoire, no less than directing it.  Therefore, a historical research on shaping images of minorities and foreigners in the process of canonization of German literature cannot be reduced to just illuminating an ideology’s strategy to achieve hegemony, but must also deal with strategies of rival (or overlapping) ideologies and world views and the subjugation of every ideological strategy to the “nature” and availability of the given cultural form, in this case – folk-narratives.[32]

Grimm Brothers’ considerations in including the KHM115 in their collection derived, apparently, from their interest in proverbs as a folklore genre, specifically the Middle Age proverb with its legal and theological contexts, “Die sonne bringt an den Tag”, and the special literary interrelations between the proverb and the folk-narrative.[33] As mentioned above, the Grimms in their comments focus on the sun as God’s heavenly aye that no sinner can escape from and the way this “tiefes, herrliches Motiv ist hier bürgerlich ausgedrückt”.[34] The importance of the proverb is evident also from the literary structure of the tale: the proverb is quoted in a relatively short text not less than five times, including the title (the only case in KHM) and the didactic last sentence. Yet, the fact that the Grimms included a tale with a clearly positive image of a Jew, without any editing or blurring attempts, refutes the possibility that they maintained an established anti-Jewish ideology.

Beyond Nationalism: Minority images in German folk-narratives

Group images, the manne of their appearance, their function in the formation of ethnic and religious groups and the relationships between them, have occupied academic research for many years. The survival capacity of these images for hundreds of years even after they had supposedly disappeared, and their ability to adapt to changing conditions, have become a focus for ongoing discussions and debates with regard to issues of continuity and break and the social and cultural context of their manifestations.

Folk-narratives have unique features with high potential for shedding light on matters mentioned above. Despite the process of canonization, the German folk-narratives express a multitude of ideologies and world views that are (also) reflected by the images of foreigners and minorities.  Alongside the national ideology that has garnered great research attention, folk-narratives are rooted in a wide and complex framework of pre-nationalistic and para-nationalistic ideologies and world views (rival/overlapping/separate) that remain relatively hidden from the eye of research, like social-class tendencies, regional ideology and cosmological thought. Many folk-narratives are basically etiological stories, whose purpose is to give a cosmological explanation on the nature of the world and foundations of the social order that is conceived of as being natural, eternal and cyclic.  Instead of directly addressing contemporary social and political questions the tales are characterized by ambiguous, and even paradoxical, positions towards those phenomena, without aspiring to arbitrate or mitigate the contradictions. Questions regarding the identification of foreigners and minorities, the ideological significance that was ascribed to this labeling and its sociological function – can be given different answers according to the relevant context: social, regional, national or cosmological.

The nexus of nationalism and folklore has received a great deal of attention in the last couple of decades. Folklore has been an object of study aiming to gain an understanding of the context in which folklore was produced, collected, disseminated, classified and turned into symbols by nations and other groups[35]. Alongside this growing interest, the research on the image of foreigners and minorities in Germany has devoted relatively great attention to ideological, literary and philosophical sources as well as to visual sources, such as caricatures and films.  In contrast, there is almost no research on the image of foreigners and minorities in folklore materials like folk-narratives.

The study of anti-Jewish blood-libel folk-narratives is wide and comprehensive[36]. In fin de siècle Western Europe considerable philological and historical research on the legend of the Wandering Jew was published, but although the theme was under continuous consideration as a literary topos, since then hardly any research on the folk versions of the legend in nineteenth century Germany has been conducted.[37]

Interestingly, most of the (few) articles about Jews in German folk-narratives focus on Kinder- und Hausmärchen, especially on the tale “Der Jude in Dorn” (KHM110), with hardly any reference to hundreds of folk-narratives with figures of Jews that were published in dozens of collections in nineteenth century German speaking countries. This is not only the consequence of the great popularity of the Grimm Brothers and KHM in the twentieth century that caused all others to fall into oblivion, but may also be the influence of the Nazi past on contemporary research of this field since this tale was specifically used as anti-Semitic propaganda for children.[38]

Subsequent to the genocide that was perpetrated by the Germans on the Jews, Sinti and Rom in Europe during World War II, many academic studies in the west have dealt with the images of these minorities, focusing generally on the Jews, but usually without making use of comparative methods – this despite the importance of such methods to widen the perspective and deepen the historical understanding of these images.  The comparison of diverse ethnic, religious and other identity groups would significantly reduce the danger of interpretive distortions and enable an analytic study of the social and cultural framework of the images.[39]

A comprehensive study of images of Jews and other ethnic/ religious/ local minorities in German folk-narratives is yet to come. Due to the relatively initial state of art, it is still early to make definite conclusions about the ideologies, world views and editing strategies that were involved in the process of canonization of folk-narratives that include images of minority groups in Bechstein’s (and Grimm’s) collections. Likewise, further examination of the reception process and the application of the folk-narratives in pedagogical literature for children, will aid in the historical understanding of the relations between the images’ contents and their sociological functions, and how the folk-narratives were understood by the people living in that period.

However, as shown, folk-narratives with positive attitudes towards Jews and negative images of Sinti and Rom gained wide distribution in nineteenth century Germany. These findings broaden our historical perspective concerning majority-minority relations in nineteenth century German society and demonstrate  the great complexity of the manner in which minorities, among them Jews, Sinti and Rom were portrayed in German folk-narratives in the 19th century.


[1] Rudolf Schenda, “Telling Tales – Spreading Tales: Change in the Communication Forms of a Popular Genre”. In:  Ruth B. Bottigheimer (ed.), Fairy Tales and Society. Illusion, Allusion, and Paradigm, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986, pp. 83 – 85; Lutz Röhrich, “And They Are Still Living Happily Ever After”. Anthropology, Cultural History, and Interpretation of Fairy Tales, Bulington: University of Vermont 2008, p. 355

[2] Galit Hasan-Rokem, Web of Life. Folklore and Midrash in Rabbinic Literature, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2000, pp.15, 131, 150 – 151.

[3] Ruth B. Bottigheimer, “Ludwig Bechstein’s Fairy Tales: Nineteenth Century Bestsellers and Bürgerlichkeit”, in: Internationales Archiv für Sozialgeschichte der deutschen Literatur 15,2 (1990), pp. 55 – 56.

[4] Hans-Jörg Uther, ‘Ludwig Bechstein’, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales, Vol. 1, Donald Haase (ed.), Westport, Connecticut & London: Greenwood Press 2008, pp. 110 – 111; See also: Ruth B. Bottigheimer, ‘Ludwig Bechstein’ in: Sophie Raynard (ed.), The Teller’s Tale: Lives of the Classic Fairy Tale Writers, New York: SUNY Press 2012, pp. 156 – 157.

[5] Ludwig Bechstein, Deutsches Märchenbuch, Leipzig:  Georg Wigand’s Verlag 1846, pp. 61 – 63

[6]  Bechstein, Deutsches Märchenbuch, p. 61

[7]  Moriz Haupt & Heinrich Hoffmann (ed.), Altdeutsche Blätter, Bd. 1, Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus 1836, p. 119

[8]  Diane Wolfthal, Picturing Yiddish: Gender, Identity, and Memory in the Illustrated Yiddish Books of Renaissance Italy, Leiden & Boston: Brill 2004, pp. 176 – 183.

[9] “Er wart erhangen, daz was wol!/ Der guote man nieman morden sol.” Citation taken from: John D. Martin, Representations of Jews in Late Medieval and Early Modern German Literature, Oxford: Peter Lang 2006, p. 173. See Martins’ profoundly analysis of Boners’ version and his claim concerning the problematic implication of modern terms such as ‘Anti-Semitism’ to medieval culture: pp. 1 – 32, 164, 171 – 174.

[10] Ludwig Bechstein, Neues Deutsches Märchenbuch, Leipzig & Pesth: W. Einhorn & C. A. Hartleben 1856, p. 39 – 41.

[11] Bechstein, Neues Deutsches Märchenbuch, p. IX

[12] Brüder Grimm, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, Band 2, Berlin: Realschul 1815, p. XXIX

[13] Brüder Grimm, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, Band 3, Göttingen: Dieterich 1856, pp. 195 – 196

[14] Ernst Meier, Deutsche Volksmärchen aus Schwaben, Stuttgart: C. P. Scheitlin  1852, pp. 53 – 54, 302. The tension between the Proverbs comes to an ease in Pröhles’ version: the proverb “Die Sonne wird dich verrathen” is the Victims last words to the Murderer and the proverb “Die Sonne bringt es an den Tag” is the objective narrators words. This literary solution may be an indication of late editing in Pröhles’ version.

[15] Heinrich Pröhle, Märchen für die Jugend, Halle: Waisenhaus1854, p. 175

[16] Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, Aus der Oberpfalz: Sitten und Sagen II, Ausburg: Matth. Rieger, 1858, p. 52

[17] On the wide distribution of the legend see the classic of Georg K. Anderson, The Legend of the Wandering Jew, Providence: Brown University Press, 1965

[18] Bechstein, Neues Deutsches Märchenbuch, p. XII

[19] See Ludwig Bechstein, Deutsches Sagenbuch, Leipzig: Georg Wigand 1853, pp. 18 – 19; Bechstein, Neues Deutsches Märchenbuch, pp. 192 – 195

[20] Bechstein, Neues Deutsches Märchenbuch, p. 192

[21] “Kurtze Beschreibung und Erzehlung von einem Juden mit Namen Ahaßverus” in Ahasvers Spur: Dichtungen und Dokumente vom Ewigen Juden,” eds. Mona Körte and Robert Stockhammer, Leipzig: Reclam 1995, p. 11.  Emphasis in original.

[22] Roger of Wendover, Flowers of History, vol. 2, trans. John Allen Giles, London: Henry G. Bohn 1849, p. 513; Roger of Wendover, Rogeri de WendowerChronica, sive Flores Historiarum, vol. 4, ed. Henry Octavius Coxe, Londinium: Sumptibus Societatis, 1842, p. 177: “ʻEgo, ʼinquit, ʻvado, et tu exspectabis donec redeamʼ.”

[23] Bechstein, Neues Deutsches Märchenbuch, p. 194 – 195

[24] see Rafael Edelmann, “Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew – Origin and Background,” in The Wandering Jew: Essays in the Interpretation of a Christian Legend, eds. Galit Hasan-Rokem and Alan Dundes, Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1986, p. 7. On Ahasuerus as a mirror image of Jesus see Galit Hasan-Rokem, “Homo Viator et Narrans – Medieval Jewish Voices in the European Narrative of the Wandering Jew,” in Europäische Ethnologie und Folklore im internationalen Kontext: Festschrift für Leander Petzoldt zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Ingo Schneider, Frankfurt: P. Lang 1999, p. 95.

[25] Brüder Grimm, Deutsche Sagen, Bd. I, Berlin: Nicolai 1816, pp. 443 – 444

[26] Bechstein, Deutsches Märchenbuch, pp. 94 – 96

[27] Wilhelm Solms, Zigeunerbilder. Ein dunkles Kapiel der deutschen Literaturgeschichte Von der frühen Neuzeit bis zur Romantik, Würzburg: Könikhausen & Neumann 2008, pp. 164 – 165; Heinz Rölleke, ”’Wie die Dioskuren’ – Art und Ergebnisse literarischen Zusammenwirkens in der Romantik,” in Literarische Zusamenarbeit, Hrsg. Bodo Plachta, Tübingen: Max Niemeyer 2001, p. 135. See also: Almut Hille, Identitätskonstruktionen. Die “Zigeunerin” in der deutschprachigen Literatur des 20. Jahrhunderts, Würzburg: Könikhausen & Neumann 2005, pp. 27 – 28.

[28] Ruth B. Bottigheimer, Internationales Archiv, pp. 55 – 88

[29] Shulamit Volkov, “The ‘Verbürgerlichung’ of the Jews as a Paradigm,” in Bourgeois Society in Nineteenth-Century Europe, ed. Jürgen Kocka & Allan Mitchell, Oxford: Berg Publishers 1993, pp. 367 – 391. On the interactions between socio-economic and cultural embourgeoisement of the Jews in Germany see: Simone Lässig, Jüdische Weg ins Bürgertum. Kulturelles Kapitel und sozialer Aufstieg im 19. Jahrhundert, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2004.

[30] Gilad Margalit, “German Citizenship Policy and Sinti Identity Politics,” in Challenging Ethnic Citizenship: German and Israeli Perspective on Immigration, eds. Daniel Levy & Yfaat Weiss, New York & Oxford: Berghahn Books 2002, p. 108

[31] For a recent study on the linguistic project of the Grimm Brothers as a nationalist project, See: Richard Bauman & Charles L. Briggs, Voices of Modernity: Language Ideologies and the Politics of Inequality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2003, pp. 197 – 225.

[32] See Rakefet Sela-Sheffy, “Struggles over the Canon: Culture Preservation and Culture Transformation.” In: (ed. Yaacov Shavit) Canon and Holy Scriptures, Tel-Aviv: Tel-Aviv University [=Te’uda research series xxiii], pp. 24 – 25, 30; [Hebrew]. For a historical study on the canonization of national literature in 19th century Germany, see: Peter Uwe Hohendahl, Building a National Literature: The Case of Germany 1830 – 1870, Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1989.

[33] On Grimm’s profound interest in proverbs and the significance of KHM115 as a prime example of a tale that the narrative is secondary to the proverb and   see: Wolfgang Mieder, “‘Ever Eager to Incorporate Folk Proverbs’: Wilhelm Grimm’s Proverbial Additions in the Fairy Tales,” in The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, ed. James M. McGlathey, et al. Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press 1991, pp. 112 – 132; Heinz Rölleke (ed.), Kinder- und Hausmärchen: Ausgabe letzter Hand mit den Originalanmerkungen der Brüder Grimm, Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam 1980, III, p. 607; Lutz Röhrich, “Sprichwörtliche Redensarten aus Volkserzählungen,” in Volk, Sprache, Dichtung: Festgabe für Kurt Wagner, ed. Karl Bischoff and Lutz Röhrich, Gießen: Wilhelm Schmitz 1960, pp. 267 – 269.

[34] Brüder Grimm, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, Band 2, Berlin: Realschul 1815, p. XXIX

[35] See: Hermann Bausinger, Volkskunde. Von der Altertumsforschung zur Kulturanalyse. Darmstadt: Carl Habel, 1971; Herbert Nikitsch, Auf der Bühne früher Wissenschaft. Aus der Geschichte des Vereins für Volkskunde (1894–1945), Vienna: Selbstverlag des Vereins für Volkskunde, 2006; Regina Bendix,  In Search of Authenticity, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997; Jack Zipes, The Brothers Grimm. From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003; Joep Leerssen, National Thought in Europe: A Cultural History, Amsterdam University Press, 2006; Diarmuid Ó Giolláin, “Narratives of Nation or of Progress? Genealogies of European Folklore Studies,” Narrative Culture: Vol. 1, Iss. 1, Article 5.

[36] See: Alan Dundes (ed.), The Blood Libel Legend: a Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991; Helmut Walser Smith, The Butcher’s Tale: Murder and Anti-Semitism in a German Town, New York: Norton, 2002;  Israel Jacob Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Berkeley : University of California Press, 2006; Stefan Rohrbacher & Michael Schmidt, Judenbilder: Kulturgeschichte antijüdischer Mythen und antisemitischer Vorurteile, Reinbek:  Rowohlt Taschenbuch, 1991; Rainer Erb (Hrsg.), Die Legende vom Ritualmord: zur Geschichte der Blutbeschuldigung gegen Juden, Berlin: Metropol, 1993; Johannes Groß, Ritualmordbeschuldigungen gegen Juden im Deutschen Kaiserreich (1871-1914),  Berlin: Metropol, 2002.

[37] In the last decades a new literary discipline is in formation – Imagology – which focuses on comparative studies of images and representations of ethnic and national groups and their role in shaping group identities. For a comprehensive historical and methodological survey, see: Manfred Beller & Joep Leerssen (eds.), Imagology: The Cultural Construction and Literary Representation of National Characters – A Critical Survey, Amsterdam: Rodopi 2007, pp. 3 – 44, 309 – 311. The most significant study on the legend in the fin de siècle is Leonard Neubaur, Die Sage vom Ewigen Juden, Leipzig: J.G. Hinrichs, 1884. For a survey on the research in the fin de siècle see: Anderson, Wandering Jew, pp. 402 – 407.  For more recent folkloristic research of the legend see: Galit Hasan-Rokem & Alan Dundes (eds.), The Wandering Jew: Essays in the Interpretation of a Christian Legend, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

[38] On the Nazi use of the tale, see: Ulrike Bastian, Die “Kinder- und Hausmärchen” der Brüder Grimm in der literaturpädagogischen Diskussion des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts, Frankfurt a. M: Haag + Herchen, 1981, pp. 162.  For studies that examine the image of the Jew in KHM in a wide thematic context, beyond the topic of anti-Semitism, which enables balanced and profound conclusions about the role of anti-Semitism in shaping the Jewish image in KHM, see: Ruth B. Bottigheimer, Grimms’ Bad Girls & Bold Boys. The Moral & Social Vision of the Tales, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989, pp. 123 – 142; Leander Petzoldt, “Der ewige Verlierer. Das Bild des Juden in der deutschen Volksliteratur”, in: Heinrich Pleticha (Hrsg.): Das Bild des Juden in der Volks- und Jugendliteratur vom 18. Jh. bis 1945. Würzburg, 1985, pp. 29 – 61; Gerd Bockwoldt, “Das Bild des Juden in den Märchen der Brüder Grimm”, Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte, Vol. 63, Issue 3, 2011, pp. 234 – 249. See also: Henry Wassermann, Europe, Cradle of Nationalism, Unit 2, Tel Aviv: Open University 1989 [Hebrew].

[39] For a comparative research on minorities in Europe that differentiates between religious/ cultural minorities and local ethnic minorities that were labeled in the rise of nationalism as a “minority” and post World War Two immigrants, see: Panikos Panayi, Outsiders: A History of European Minorities, London & Rio Grande: The Hambledon Press, 1999. Interestingly, Panayi associates Jews and Sinti and Rom only to the first group. For a methodological discussion on ‘Anti-Gypsyism’ and comparative research (which is more common in the research of anti-Gypsyism than of anti-Semitism), see: Herbert Heuss, “‘Anti Gypsyism’ is not a new phenomenon”. Anti-Gypsyism research: the creation of a new field of study,” in Scholarship and the Gypsy Struggle: Commitment in Romani Studies, ed. Thomas Acton ,  Great Britain: University of Hertfordshire Press 2000, pp. 52 – 67. For the first, and for now the only, comprehensive comparative study on anti-Semitism and anti-Gypsyism, which supports the continuity thesis, see: Wolfgang Wippermann, “Wie die Zigeuner” – Antisemitismus und Antiziganismus im Vergleich, Berlin: Elefanten Press, 1997. For a comparison between the ‘Nomadic’ character that was attributed both to Jews and Sinti and Roma, see: Monica Rüthers, Juden und Zigeuner im europäischen Geschichtstheater »Jewish Spaces«/»Gypsy Spaces« – Kazimierz und Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in der neuen Folklore Europas, Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2012. For a study that emphasizes on the similarities between Jews and Sinti and Rom regarding stereotypical labeling and constructing a consolidated self identity of a diasporic and geographically scattered minority, see: David Mayall, Gypsy Identities. From Egipcyans and Moon-men to the Ethnic Romany, London & New York: Routledge, 2004.

Cite as: “Tuvia Singer, Images of Jews and Sinti and Rom in Ludwig Beschsteins’ Folktale Collections, in: Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitism in International Perspective – Open Peer Review, 08.12.2016,


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  1. 08/12/2016

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