The Grimm Huguenot Fairytales

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Last night I went to bed believing I would be authoring ‘The Cosmic Carpet Riders’ this morning. Instead I have been launched into the world of German Mysticism, and Woman Artists and Fairytale Tellers. This of course is where I have longed to be, and have been heading all along.

An hour ago I discovered the most famous of Grimm’s Fairytales came from four sisters: Marie, Johana (Jeanette) Amalia, and Susette Hassenpflug. I have yet to discover the original French name and this families place of origin. That they adopted a German surname supports my theory the Stuttmeisters may have been Huguenots. We suspect the Rosamond/Rougemont family were of French origin, possibly the Alsace. That Grim named Sleeping Beauty, Rosamond, takes on a whole new meaning in that four beautiful sisters took over the life and destiny of these two brothers who put their name to work that was not their own. They kept the source a secret that this blog, Royal Rosamond Press, has brought into the light.

The truth did not surface till 1980 which is a fairytale itself. Consider the Rosamond imitator, Sara Moon, that turned out to be an old man from Iran. Consider Royal Rosamond being inspired to write by Fanny Cory, and my grandfather’s four beautiful daughters. These Huguenot sisters were the daughters of Mary Magdalene Hassenpflug. My mother, Rosemary Rosamond, is the daughter of Mary Magdalene Rosamond.

Jon Presco

Copyright 2015

royal-rosamond RRpress2Rosamonds 1942 June, Bonnie, Rosemary & Lillian Rosamonds 1942 Lilian, Bonnie, June & Rosemary on Step 1


Susette Hassenpflug:

Eldest of the Hassenpflug sisters, contributed the least of the stories, moved out of the house just as the brothers started visiting.  She would have been a young wife at the time of the story.  Like her sisters, she would have spoken French in the home, as her family were French Hugonauts (Protestants).

Jeanette Hassenpflug: b. 1790, 20 years old in 1810

She was a significant contributor to the collection.  Stories attributed to her include Puss in Boots, The Twelve Huntsmen, and On the Despicable Spinning of Flax.  It seems clear that several sisters often told the same stories to the brothers, and so while Jeanette and Marie tell the opposite stories in their scenes as those usually attributed to them, they each likely told their own versions of each other’s stories.

Marie Hassenpflug: b.1788, 22 years old in 1810

Marie was a major contributor of stories, sharing at least 20 of the 40 tales attributed to the Hassenpflugs. Stories attributed to Marie include Little Brother and Little Sister, The Robber Bridegroom, Sleeping Beauty, The Girl Without Hands, and Red Riding Hood.  She suffered from illness as a child and collecting and telling stories helped restore her health.  Many of the versions she told came from France, but she delighted in talking with the brothers about German medieval epics and the writings of Geothe.

Amalia Hassenpflug:  b. 1799, 12 years old in 1810

Amalia was usually known as Malchan, but with a Gretchen and Dortchen, her formal name is used in the play.  Amalia was convinced that she was homely because she had a crooked nose and crossed eyes.  However, her telling was remarkable and she demonstrated exceptional memory and intelligence.  She was something of a tomboy and acted out fairy tales with her brothers, often opting to play the heroic male roles rather than the damsel in distress.   She never married;  it was said of her than Amalia was too self-determined.  She because close with Lottie and Dortchen through the gathering of the stories.

. In 1925 William Sam Rosamond did a relatively complete genealogy. His research indicated that we were descended from a Huguenot born in France sometime in the mid to late 1600s. He discovered that his earliest traceable ancestor was a “Sergeant” Rosamond who left France following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes on 22nd October 1685. He found that Sergeant Rosamond supposedly travelled to Holland where he joined the army of William III, went to England, and from there went with William’s army to Ireland. He fought in the Battle of the Boyne on 1st July 1690 (by the old calendar – 12th July by the new calendar) and then remained in County Leitrim, Ireland. (There is still a family of Rosamonds in County Leitrim.)

With the exception of Viehmann, the brothers rarely identified their correspondents. Their names and the tales credited to them were learned in most cases only after careful study of the margin notes in the brothers’ personal copies of the Tales.The true identity of one of the most important informants—a certain “Marie”—came to light only in the mid-1970s. Marie was credited in the notes with narrating many of the most famous tales: “Rotkäppchen” (Little Red Riding Hood), “Schneewittchen” (Snow White), and “Dornröschen” (Sleeping Beauty). Herman Grimm, the oldest son of Wilhelm and guardian of the Grimms’ legacy after the brothers’ deaths, contended for many years that the Marie in question was the old housekeeper of Wilhelm’s in-laws.It took a close reading of the annotations by Heinz Rölleke of the University of Wuppertal to reveal that the storytelling Marie was in fact Marie Hassenpflug, a 20-year-old friend of their sister, Charlotte, from a well-bred, French-speaking family.
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I encountered a likeness of Marie on a wall in Wolfgang Hassenpflug’s house in Rinteln. Herr Hassenpflug, a retired engineer with a poet’s head of unruly white hair, is the great-great-grandson of Charlotte Grimm, known as Lotte in family circles. In 1822, he explained, 29-year-old Lotte left the household of her five brothers and married a longtime family friend, Ludwig Hassenpflug, a brother of Marie. Because the direct lines of Jacob and Wilhelm appear to have died out with the death of Wilhelm’s daughter in 1919, Wolfgang Hassenpflug now finds himself the inheritor of many Grimm family treasures, as well as mementos from the Hassenpflug lineage.The walls of Hassenpflug’s elegant stone house are hung with original portraits of the Grimm brothers and of their sister and her family—copperplate prints all etched by a third brother Grimm, Ludwig. Marie looks out with large soulful eyes, her thin face framed by dark curls.For my visit Hassenpflug’s wife, Gerda, dressed a table for lunch with one of Lotte’s original damask tablecloths, with “LG” stitched in one corner. Wolfgang told the story of Marie’s “rediscovery” and explained how the family’s French-Huguenot background influenced her storytelling ability. “Like the Grimms she grew up in Hanau, which at the time was a very French town,” Hassenpflug said. “Her nursemaids naturally told French stories. The Grimms may at first have thought Marie’s tales all came from Hesse, but the famous ones we now know came from France and the book by Charles Perrault.”Marie’s wonderful stories blended motifs from the oral tradition and from Perrault’s influential 1697 book, Tales of My Mother Goose, which contained elaborate versions of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Snow White,” and “Sleeping Beauty,” among others. Many of these had been adapted from earlier Italian fairy tales. In the second edition of their own collection the Grimms acknowledged the deep international roots of many of their tales. Included in their notes are references to variants from many other cultures, including Russian, Finnish, Japanese, Irish, and Slavic.Long before the Grimms’ time, storytelling thrived in the milieu of roadhouses, barns, and, perhaps most energetically, in the Spinnstuben, the spinning chambers of peasant women. During winter nights women softened the long hours of spinning flax into yarn by entertaining themselves with tales spiced with adventure, romance, and magic. The Grimm tales feature many spinners, most famously in “Rumpelstiltskin,” in which a poor miller’s daughter, ordered by a king to spin straw into gold—failure means death, success a royal marriage—enlists the aid of a devilish little man, Rumpelstiltskin.After the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, the brothers were elected to the civil parliament. Jacob became a prominent member of the National Assembly at Mainz.[10] Their political activities were short-lived as their hope for a unified Germany dwindled and their disenchantment grew. Although the brothers gained a reputation for collecting tales from peasants, many tales came from middle-class or aristocratic acquaintances. Wilhelm’s wife Dortchen Wild and her family, with their nursery maid, told the brothers some of the more well-known tales, such as “Hansel and Gretel” and “Sleeping Beauty“.[20] Wilhelm collected a number of tales after befriending August von Haxthausen, whom he visited in 1811 in Westphalia where he heard stories from von Haxthausen’s circle of friends.[21] Several of the storytellers were of Huguenot ancestry, telling tales of French origin such as those told to the Grimms by Marie Hassenpflug, an educated woman of French Huguenot ancestry,[18] and it is probable that these informants were familiar with Perrault’s Histoires ou contes du temps passé (Stories from Past Times).[12] Other tales were collected from the wife of a middle-class tailor, Dorothea Viehmann, also of French descent. Despite her middle-class background, in the first English translation she was characterized as a peasant and given the name Gammer Gretel.[15]


About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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