I have a very late class on Monday evenings (7:00-9:40 pm…oy…), and it often happens that after a long day of Buddhist Paleo-Compatibilism (it’s just as exciting as it sounds), all I want to do is dive into some fairy tales.
Sometimes my searches take me to very interesting places (more interesting than paleo-compatibilism, in any case). Recently, I looked into how fairy tales were used in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. The first epoch chose to (of course) twist around the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.
Carl Orff, who most people remember as the composer of Carmina Burana, was also the composer of the opera ‘Die Kluge.’ ‘Die Kluge’ is a retelling of the Grimm’s tale ‘Die Kluge Bauerntocher,’ which just so happens to be one of my favorites. Brief Summary: A very intelligent peasant girl captures the heart of a king, who marries her. Later, when she proves herself to be smarter than him, he kicks her out of his castle, allowing her to take the one thing she likes best home. She takes the King (in his sleep). He wakes up, finds himself in a mud hut, and falls in love all over again. Huzzah! Look, it’s the Brothers Grimm, but it’s also an independent, intelligent woman! Take that, Jack Zipes.
Anyways. ‘Die Kluge.’ I have no evidence which says that Orff reworked the tale to make it more, shall we say, Nazi-friendly. But, I do know that Orff was most likely a Nazi sympathizer, and I also know that the Nazis made it a general practice to twist and corrupt the Tales to make them seem supportive of a nationalistic, German-centric ideology. You should really take a look at that last link. It’s basically a 1939 version of ‘A Very Nazi Christmas’…simultaneously interesting and chilling. I mean, how do you react to sentences like:
“As long as our people remains true to the customs of its fathers, as long as the flames burn from the mountain tops at mid-summer solstice and from the German countryside at mid-winter, so long will glow the spark of enthusiasm that will burst into flame when the people most needs it, the flame in which the traitors, troublemakers, and liars who threaten our people will meet their well-deserved end.”
It’s not exactly “Jingle Bells,” but I can see how it could have been…catchy…
Anyway. Knowing these things about Orff, I have to wonder…how does ‘Die Kluge’ fit into a Nazi conception of the world? Not that I have an answer for this at all. I’ll have to go and order the opera now, and try to see if I can work out how it all fits together.
In other news, the Soviets were also hard at work creating their own fairy tales. These promoted the Communist agenda, and with quite a vengeance, I must say. One of the “best” ones I found was this one, “The Rainbow Flower” by Valentin Kataev. Many of the usual tropes are there – a foolish girl is sent on an errand by her mother (no little red hat though), and ends up getting totally lost. However, she meets a kind old lady, who gives her a magical flower. The girl ends up making some silly (read: capitalistic!) errors…which she later regrets.
“See here, little girl, wishing for all the toys in the world is self-centered and baaaad! You should use your new, shiny toy to benefit mankind!”
“Oh, thank you Mr. Deus ex Narrator! Look, there’s a crippled boy sitting on a bench! Should I use my new, shiny toy to benefit him?”
“Go, little girl, go and do thou good!”
“Oh yay! It feels so good to be good! I think I’ll grow up to work in a factory, where I can immerse myself in the cooperative spirit!”
“I’m sure you shall, little girl, I’m sure you shall…”
…he said ominously. In any case, there is a (sometimes boring) rather good study on Soviet Fairy Tales which can be found here, written by Maria Nikolajevna in the tradition of Jack Zipes. Happy reading!