Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Musäus, Johann Karl

(1735-1787) German academic and writer who was among the first to collect together local Folktales, some derived from oral tradition but others drawn from written sources. These were published as Volksmärchen der Deutschen ["German Folk Tales"] (1782-1787 5 vols; cut trans [attributed to William Beckford] Popular Tales of the Germans 1791 UK; vt Popular Tales 1826 UK), and included: "Richilde", an early version of the Snow White story; "Die Nymphe des Brunnens" ["The Nymph of the Fountain"], which involves Three Wishes but is otherwise similar to the Cinderella tale; and other stories involving Enchantment, Transformations and Ghosts. The stories were immensely popular and highly influential. "Die Entführing" ["The Abduction"] suggested "The Legend of the Bleeding Nun", which Matthew Gregory Lewis, who knew JKM, incorporated into The Monk (1796), while one of the episodes in "Legenden der Rübezahl" (usually translated as "Elfin Freaks, or the Seven Legends of Number-Nip"), featuring a headless horseman, provided inspiration to Washington Irving for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1820). Many of JKM's stories were translated anonymously or misattributed. He died relatively young, and his role as a popularizer of folktales was soon eclipsed by Ludwig Tieck, Johann August Apel, Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué and the Grimm Brothers, all of whose work he helped inspire. A good selection of JKM's work was included in the first volume of German Romance (anth 1827 UK) ed Thomas Carlyle; this included the foundation myth Libussa (1782; chap 1844 UK) and the Ghost Story "Dumb Love" [ot "Stumme Liebe"] (1782; vt "The Spectre-Barber" in Tales of the Dead anth 1813). JKM was briefly rediscovered during the UK's fairytale bonanza in the 1840s, which saw translations as Legends of Rubezahl and Other Tales (coll trans William Hazlitt the Younger [1811-1893] 1844 UK) and Select Popular Tales from the German of Musäus (coll trans 1845 UK). [MA]

Johann Karl August Musäus


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.