Apr0293 04:50PM Subject: The Truth About Hansel And Gretel This posting should have been f

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From: Thomas Kettenring Apr-02-93 04:50PM Subject: The Truth About Hansel And Gretel Organization: FB Physik, Universitaet Kaiserslautern, Germany From: kring@efes.physik.uni-kl.de (Thomas Kettenring) Message-ID: <1993Apr2.005014.16012@rhrk.uni-kl.de> Newsgroups: soc.culture.german,sci.skeptic,talk.origins This posting should have been finished yesterday, but I didn't make it. If you want to make a longer thread out of it, please be aware that it is posted to three groups. It is relevant to sci.skeptic and talk.origins because it's a fine example of the scientific methods often used there. [Quotes are my translations from German. TK] This is a review of a book by Hans Traxler, "Die Wahrheit ueber Haensel und Gretel", German for "The Truth About Hansel And Gretel". Traxler relates the story of the amateur archaeologist Georg Ossegg (born 1919 in Prague), who made astonishing discoveries but is, alas, not as well known as he should be because of the resistence to his ideas coming from established experts. Heinrich Schliemann, who refused to look at Homer's Ilias as on a myth without basis in reality and went to Asia Minor to find the ruins of Troja using Homer's descriptions, impressed Ossegg deeply, as he himself had from early childhood taken "fairy tales" as gospel. E.g. when he was eleven, he made experiments to verify what the Grimm Brothers had written about the behaviour of sweet porridge when cooked for longer time, but all his attempts to make the substance multiply and fill whole streets failed. So he developed another explanation of the phenomenon described by the Grimms: Hungry people often suffer from hallucinations. So from the moment he read a book about Schliemann's life, he was possessed of the idea of digging up the Witch's hut. In 1945, war threw him at a location where there were good chances of finding it: a small village in the Spessart. Later, in 1962, his profession - he was a school teacher - led him back there, and he remembered the clues he had found seventeen years ago - people talking of Witches Wood. Now he started to read Grimms' Fairy Tales as a documentary report. The father, "a poor lumberjack [..] (lived) in front of a big forest." Where else should a lumberjack live? The first sentence that gives a - very encrypted - geographical hint is this: "Oh father," said Hansel, I'm looking for my white kitten, it is sitting on the roof and wants to say goodbye." The woman said: "Fool, that's not your kitten, it's the morning sun shining on the chimney." Ossegg infers that the chimney must have been in back light, as that can easily result in such an illusion. Therefore the lumberjack's house must be east of the forest. From the geographic properties of the Spessart mountain range he concludes that the house must be on a hill. Then luck led Georg Ossegg to the path the lumberjack's family once trod. Strolling through the forest, he had a strange feeling, and suddenly it came back to him: he knew this path. An illustration from 1818 he found in one of his Grimm editions exactly depicted the trees. The illustration and a photo are shown in Traxler's book: they are remarkably similar. The scientist followed the path to the east but it ended on a field. Hansel's and Gretel's parental house doesn't exist anymore. It was pulled down in 1954 when the Autobahn Frankfurt-Wuerzburg was built. The last owner, a Georg Scheidthauer, got a compensation of 18,760 DM. In the book there is a photo of Ossegg pointing to the place where the house once was (designated by white lines), with the motorway in the background. The next problem was where to search for the resting place. The text says "we will.. lead the kids out into the forest where it's thickest; there we will make a fire for them..!" That's clearly nonsense. No lumberjack would make a fire in the forest "where it's thickest". Ossegg therefore looked for a big clearing. To this behalf, he proceeded as the text said: he filled an eight- year old boy's trouser pockets with pebbles "the size of Batzen (coins)." The boy started at the place where the house once was and dropped a stone everytime when he was barely able to see the last one. But the experiment failed: there was no clearing. When Ossegg repeated it, this time dropping the pebbles himself, he found a meadow when the stones were used up. As an adult has a wider horizon than an eight-year old, the distance between two pebbles was greater, and that prolonged the way to the resting place. Ossegg had to conclude that Hansel and Gretel were not children but had the size of adults. The Grimm Brothers had manipulated the text. Soon he found more evidence, as a rope around a tree (25 m above the ground; it was later carbon dated to be 315 years old). That was the tree about which the text says, "since they heard the blows of the axe, they believed their father was close by. But it wasn't the axe but a branch he had tied to a tree which was moved by the wind." Through systematical search Ossegg finally found the remains of the Witch's house. The book shows many photos: Ossegg working at the site, the partly burnt female skeleton found in one of the ovens, a reconstruction of the house, baking tools, a gingerbread recipe, fossilized gingerbread, and a broken doorhinge - the first evidence that Hansel and Gretel had violently intruded into the house. "Two adults, seemingly by chance, come to a lone house in the woods and kill the woman dwelling there. Why?" Ossegg asks himself. The clue lies in the gingerbread recipe he finds *hidden in a niche in the wall*. By logical steps he reaches the conclusion that the "witch" - rather an ingenious confectioner - lived in the woods because she had reason to distrust other confectioners who were envious of her invention, a then unheard-of delicacy called "Lebkuchen" (gingerbread). According to Ossegg, the "witch" was killed by a colleague who found her at her hiding place. But he didn't find what he was after: the recipe was hidden in the wall, and three centuries later Georg Ossegg found it. Piece after piece the puzzle assembles. Evaluating the dialect in the witch's first spoken text in the tale "Knuper, knuper, kneischen, wer knupert an meinem Haeuschen?" Ossegg finds she must come from the area around Wernigerode, Harz. In the archives he finds the "Wernigerode manuscript", which describes the interrogation of a Katharina Schraderin, called "the baker witch" (Wirkliche & akkurateste Beschreybung der hoch Notpeinlichen Befragung der Katharina Schraderin genant die Bakkerhexe). The whole picture: Katharina invents the gingerbread. Hans Metzler, a colleague, tries to marry her to get at the recipe, but she doesn't want him. So he denounces her as a witch, and she is interrogated by the inquisition and found innocent (as told by the Wernigerode manuscript). Failing that, Metzler goes to Katharina's house in the woods, accompanied by his sister Grete as a false witness, and kills Katharina Schraderin. He doesn't find the recipe, so the murder was unnecessary. All he can find is some Lebkuchen; he takes them with him and tries to bake his own. Metzler is tried for murder, but somehow the judges believe his version of the man-eating witch, and he is found innocent. He goes to Nuremberg, where he spreads them as the famous Nuernberger Lebkuchen. (Ossegg used Katharina's recipe to make some Lebkuchen; they taste similar to, but not quite the same as, Nuernberger Lebkuchen.) He dies as a wealthy citizen. Some facts point to the hypothesis that the Grimm Brothers knew the truth, but concealed it for ethical reasons. Traxler's book is one of my favourites. That's how science should be - serious but interesting! Hans Traxler, Die Wahrheit ueber Haensel und Gretel (c) 1978, Zweitausendeins Versand Dienst GmbH, Postfach, 6000 Frankfurt/Main 61 Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, 1983, 1987 -- thomas kettenring, 3 dan, kaiserslautern, germany Johannes Scotus Eriugena, the greatest European philosopher of the 9th century, said that if reason and authority conflict, reason should be given preference. And if that doesn't sound reasonable to you, you'll just have to accept it. =================================================================== Hans Rollmann Apr-03-93 07:36AM The Truth About Hansel And Gretel Organization: Memorial University of Newfoundland From: hrollman@morgan.ucs.mun.ca (Hans Rollmann) Message-ID: Newsgroups: soc.culture.german,sci.skeptic,talk.origins Your Haensel and Gretel posting from 2 April was supposed to be finished yesterday. That's April 1st?! Need I say more! Not bad.


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