The reluctant witches in Benedikte Naubert's Neue Volksmährchen der Deutschen, 1789-1792
Benedikte Naubert (1756-1819) lived at a time of significant literary awakening and production in Germany. It was also a momentous time in European history. In spite of the promising renewal Enlightenment thinking held, women still did not experience the same freedom as men, especially in education. Naubert's extensive oeuvre includes historical fiction, essays and literary fairy tales. But especially in her fairy tales she makes a personal statement regarding women's place in society. Without openly attacking the status quo, she points out that a real woman is neither a witch nor a saint. She does this through fairy tale heroines who are witches in the sense that they act rebelliously and in a manner unbecoming of a woman.The witch-theory of the sixteenth and seventeenth century holds that unless a woman is a submissive, saintly wife and mother, she is an inherently evil, rebellious witch. Neither idea allows the woman her own personality. Witch-trial records are evidence that often the real, historical woman accused of being a witch also had a personality judged unacceptable for a woman. Benedikte Naubert's fairy tales show female characters with distinct personalities such as the historical women had.This study contains biographical information and scholarship about Naubert and discusses how the intellectual witch-theory and fairy tale witches are interrelated. A comparison between Naubert, the Grimms and J. K. A. Musaus is made. The analysis of sixteen heroines in Naubert's collection focuses on Naubert's witch-like heroines: how they show their 'personality' by being entrepreneurial, eager to learn, refuse to be taken for fools and rebel against decisions imposed on them against their will.Benedikte Naubert shows alternatives to traditional female roles through her reluctant witches' untraditional behavior. She saw new hope and possibilities for women in the message of the Enlightenment and for that reason her fairy tales are a contribution to women's issues.
- German