Author Topic: How a Literary Prank Convinced Germany That ‘Hansel and Gretel’ Was Real  (Read 437 times)

German Translator

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/is-hansel-and-gretel-real

Few fairy tales are as popular and beloved as the Brothers Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel.” First published in 1812, the tale has been interpreted, revised, and parodied in myriad ways through the years. So one can imagine the furor in 1963 when a German writer claimed to have uncovered the real story behind the fairy tale.

According to Die Wahrheit über Hänsel und Gretel (The Truth About Hansel and Gretel), the two siblings were, in fact, adult brother and sister bakers, living in Germany during the mid-17th century. They murdered the witch, an ingenious confectioner in her own right, to steal her secret recipe for lebkuchen, a gingerbread-like traditional treat. The book published a facsimile of the recipe in question, as well as sensational photos of archeological evidence.


The Truth About Hansel and Gretel caused an uproar. The media picked up the story and turned it into national news. “Book of the week? No, it’s the book of the year, and maybe the century!” proclaimed the West German tabloid Abendzeitung in November 1963. The state-owned East German Berliner Zeitung came out with the headline “Hansel and Gretel—a duo of murderers?” and asked whether this could be “a criminal case from the early capitalist era.” The news spread like wildfire not only in Germany, but abroad too. Foreign publishers, smelling a profit, began negotiating for the translation rights. School groups, some from neighboring Denmark, traveled to the Spessart woods in the states of Bavaria and Hesse to see the newly discovered foundations of the witch’s house.

As intriguing as The Truth About Hansel and Gretel might sound, however, none of it proved to be true. In fact, the book turned out to be a literary forgery concocted by Hans Traxler, a German children’s book writer and cartoonist, known for his sardonic sense of humor. “1963 marked the 100th anniversary of Jacob Grimm’s death,” says the now 90-year-old Traxler, who lives in Frankfurt, Germany. “So it was natural to dig into [the] Brothers Grimm treasure chest of fairy tales, and pick their most famous one, ‘Hansel and Gretel.’”

[...]

The truth about Hans Traxler’s literary trick came out in early 1964. (One tip-off was that Traxler copied Schraderin’s lebkuchen recipe from a Dr. Oetker cookbook.) But some people refused to accept that the book was an elaborate hoax. In the months following the publication, the publisher’s office received thousands of letters from readers demanding to know the truth: so many that they had to employ three people to answer them. Traxler and his accomplices were delighted at the reactions, but not everyone was amused. According to Der Spiegel, one indignant reader filed a complaint of fraud. The police interrogated Traxler, but didn’t press charges.



The 'radiocarbon dating equipment' used for studying the gingerbread was a lasagna pan, a TV cable, a few spice jars, and a microscope.

[...]

Just a few of the books I have translated (English <-> German)
 
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Lysmata Debelius

This is awesome! Thanks for sharing.
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy and Science Fiction


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Vijaya

Wow! Reminds me of the panic that ensued when War of the Worlds was broadcast on the radio.
 https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/welles-scares-nation

Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces, primarily for children
Vijaya Bodach | Personal Blog | Bodach Books
 

Jan Hurst-Nicholson

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I wonder how much money the author and publisher made.

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German Translator

Quote
I wonder how much money the author and publisher made.

Later on the article states:

Reprinted numerous times over the years, The Truth About Hansel and Gretel has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. In 1987, it spawned a film adaptation of the same name, starring French actor Jean-Pierre Léaud as Georg Ossegg and West Berlin singer, performer, and club owner Romy Haag as the witch.

Just a few of the books I have translated (English <-> German)
 
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Jan Hurst-Nicholson

  • Short Novel unlocked
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Quote
I wonder how much money the author and publisher made.

Later on the article states:

Reprinted numerous times over the years, The Truth About Hansel and Gretel has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. In 1987, it spawned a film adaptation of the same name, starring French actor Jean-Pierre Léaud as Georg Ossegg and West Berlin singer, performer, and club owner Romy Haag as the witch.


Looks like finding other ways to be 'creative' pays off  :icon_rolleyes:

Non-fiction, Fiction, family saga, humour, short stories, teen, children's
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Jessica

That reminds me of the faked Hitler Diaries that appeared 20 yrs later.  :doh:
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twicebitten

That reminds me of the faked Hitler Diaries that appeared 20 yrs later.  :doh:

which reminds me of the Bloom County response to that: a week on Elvis's fake secret diaries (penned by Opus in the back room), ending with the fake Lost Diaries of Margaret Mead, which said, "Man, those Samoans are a surly bunch."

(I'm getting old, aren't I?)