Laura Martin


This comparison of Rübezahl tales by Benedikte Naubert and Johann Karl August Musäus shows that each tale presents a system of beliefs implicit in the language and narrative structure, and in the depiction of men and women, Gentile and Jew. Naubert’s work represents more truly some of the values of the Enlightenment, in its positive depiction of humane treatment of others and tolerance of class, racial, and sexual difference. He work subverts gender roles, which Musäus’s story seeks to enshrine. Thus two important myths of our times are debunked: one, that enlightened thought comes exclusively from the upper echelons of the male educated classes; and two, that the German Volk expressed unanimously these early nationalistic and anti-Semitic sentiments, as Robert Darnton claims.