Good Reading : August 2015
story of the forbidden romance between Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most beloved ‘wonder tales’. She told him stories like ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘Rumpelstiltskin’, ‘The Frog King’, ‘Six Swans’, ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’ and ‘The Singing, Springing Lark,’ a beautiful variant on the tale we know as ‘Beauty and the Beast’. In this story, the father catches a lark, rather than stealing a rose, and the beast of the taleisalionbydayandamanbynight(an arrangement which I always thought might have its compensations). The greatest difference, however, is the ending. In Dortchen Wild’s tale, the heroine must follow a trail of blood and white feathers her lover leaves behind him, and then outwit the enchantress who first cast the curse upon him. The heroine is given three gifts to help her: a dress as golden as the sun, another as silver as the moon, and a griffin on which to escape. Writing a novel always throws up many unexpected ideas as well as unforeseen problems, and The Wild Girl was no exception. Taking place over 20 years, and told from the point of view of a young woman forgotten by history, The Wild Girl was very research-intensive indeed. And, for a long while, I did not have a strong sense of the narrative structure. I knew I wanted to retell one of Dortchen’s stor ies in some way; I did not yet know how. While researching the Grimm Brothers, I was distressed to learn their tales had been banned in Ger many after the Second World War, as part of the Allies’ Denazification program. Hitler had loved the Grimm Brothers’ fairytales and had recommended all German households have a copy on their shelves. I went to bed that night troubled and upset. I loved the Grimm tales too. In times of darkness and fear, they had given me light and comfort.Yet I had always hated the Nazis and all they stood for, including their burning of books. I could not get to sleep that night, my mind in turmoil. Eventually I got up and found myself a novel to read. I chose an old World War II thriller about the Danish resistance to the Nazis. I read the whole book through, finally going to sleep long after midnight. Just before I fell asleep, I thought again about the 33 BEHIND THE BOOK The diaries of Kate Forsyth GOOD READING AUGUST 2015 I did not yet know how. The diaries of While researching the Grimm Brothers, I was distressed to learn their tales had been banned in Germany after the Second World War, as part of the Allies’ Denazification program.