A review of Hans Fallada’s captivating stories and fairytales

Günter Caspar’s “Hans Fallada Märchen und Geschichten”

After a half a century, Hans Fallada’s stories and fairytales are undergoing a revival in contemporary studies, reports and even in educational contexts. It is definitely worth reading them if you haven’t done so yet.

“And when we light each other up, we like to be on this beautiful planet. But when we cause somebody pain, we don’t want to stay and everything becomes dark and even the little star spark in us doesn’t want to blaze any longer. Think about it, my dear child.”

This quote from “Die Geschichte vom Brüderchen” is so meaningful for Fallada’s stories and fairytales, and even for his own life. Fallada had to bear many blows of fate which left deep marks, causing him to attempt suicide several times. His children were the only anchor he had to hold onto. Hans Fallada, Rudolph Dietzen in real life, wrote both stories and fairytales for his children, all containing a moral to guide them through their lives.

Rudolph Dietzen gained popularity under his pseudonym Hans Fallada by publishing “Bauern, Bonzen, Bomben” and the novel “Kleiner Mann-Was nun?”. His writings were classed within the New Objectivity movement. Fallada gained international success and fame with his novels “Jeder stirbt für sich allein” and “Wolf unter Wölfen”. His short stories and fairytales remained rather undiscovered and therefore didn’t make it into the public eye for many years.

Günter Caspar published a short story collection in the 1980s which consists of 57 stories. Fallada wrote these stories for his children but they are definitely worthy reading for adults too. Dietzen is known to be a socio-critical author who transforms the everyday life and reality of the petite bourgeoisie into easily understandable stories and fairytales for everyman. Because his stories are written for children, his language is sober and simple, but the tales still contain profound themes and approaches.

Fallada’s stories and fairytales are fairly short but amusing. They lure us into an unknown, new world, a world for children. This world is not always kind but often painful, disappointing and mean. Since Fallada wrote these stories for his own children, the protagonists of the stories are children as well. If you are interested in ordinary, common everyday life and the familiar but also enjoy the absurd and the fantastic, you may want to take a look at the collection.

One of my favorites is the story of “Mäuseken Wackelohr”. The protagonist is a tiny mouse which gets caught in the clutches of a scheming ant. If we look closely, “Mäuseken Wackelohr” can be interpreted as a political allegory. It was written in 1935 and addresses National Socialist issues. If you are interested you may want to look at Lutz Hagestedt’s fascinating interpretation. The second story I most enjoyed reading is “Das Märchen vom goldenen Taler”. Anna Barbara’s task in life is it to find a golden coin. She pursues her mission in Hans Geiz’ underground house, but even though she works hard for him, she struggles to find what she’s looking for. This story is full of traditional values, definitions of luck, purity, altruism and the meaning of life. The story “Die Geschichte vom Brüderchen” can be seen as a reflection on what happens after we have got something we have always wished for. The narrative addresses the reader directly and emphasizes the moral at the end of the story.

As mentioned above, Fallada’s fairytales and stories are definitely worth reading for adults as well as for children. They contain strong allusions to political issues. Fallada also endeavors to listen to children and their questions about life. Under the Nazi regime, the state dictated the roles of mother and father, but Fallada resisted these roles in his stories. He emphasizes a vulnerable father and ambitious children who strive for a better world. When interpreting literary writings, we must be careful when we start to include the author’s biography, but in this case, it is absolutely possible to consider the author’s private life.

The setting of Fallada’s stories is Carwitz, a little village in Mecklenburg, where today the Hans-Fallada-Haus provides you with more information about the author. Still more insights can be found in Jenny Williams’ biography “Hans Fallada – Mehr Leben als eins”, published in 2012. Reading the stories encourages you to explore local literature as well as inspiring you to think about personal subjects.

Jana Fehrmann

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