Romantic Fairy Tales by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Ludwig Tieck, Friedrich de la Motte Fouque, and Clemens Brentano, translated by Carol Tully, 159 pages
Romantic Fairy Tales collects a series of original "artistic" fairy tales (Kunstmaerchen) written by some of the most celebrated German authors at the dawn of Romanticism between 1795 and 1817. Goethe's Fairy Tale, also known as The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily or simply The Tale, is a fantastic dream, lacking real characters or logic but full of magical creatures and seemingly arbitrary rules, any of which might represent something real or nothing at all. Tieck's Eckbert the Fair is a moralistic fable on patience and desire, the story of a young runaway who finds herself living in an isolated cabin with an old woman and a magical bird who lays jeweled eggs. Fouque's Undine tells the tragic tale of a gallant knight's love affair with the titular water nymph. Finally, Brentano's The Tale of Honest Casper and Fair Annie is a story of death and honor featuring unfortunate lovers and a magical sword belonging to the local executioner.
All four stories are told with the mastery to be expected of such renowned authors. Fairy Tale stands apart from the others in both content and style, just as Goethe's genius rises above the others, but the stories are all united in their vital sense of wonder and enchantment.