german folk tales


Johann Karl August Musäus (29 March 1735 – 28 October 1787)

A popular German author and one of the first collectors of German folk stories, most celebrated for his Volksmärchen der Deutschen (1782–86), a collection of German fairy tales retold as satires.

…he was offered a vacancy as pastor in the nearby countryside, the locals objected on the grounds that “he had once been seen dancing.” This finished his hopes of a career in the church, and at the age of twenty-five he became an author of satire.

An asteroid discovered on 6 April 1989 was named 10749 Musäus after him. (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: Illustrations from Legends of Number Nip. (Johann Karl August Musäus) By [i.e. adapted by] Mark Lemon. Illustrated by Charles Keene. London: Macmillan and Co., 1864.

Tanz der Vampire Namen

A study in names

Alfred was a very popular name during the late 19th and early 20th century.
It derives from the name “Alfrad” which is composed from two Old High German words:
Alf = elf + Rat = advice
Therefore, Alfred could either mean
“The elfish advisor”, “One who is advised by the elves” or simply “Elfish Advice”
Originally, the word elf comes from Norse Mythology but an elf as portrayed in German folk tales is a nature spirit that enjoys playing tricks on humans, creates chaos and does sometimes even cause harm. They might also be helpful, mind you, but only if you give them gifts.
An “elfish advisor” wouldn’t be much good of an assistant. If you, for example, tried to free the world from vampires and had an “elfish advisor”, you’d probably end up spreading vampirism across the world, much as- Oh, basically like Abronsius did.

Our dear Professor doesn’t have an all too common name- To be honest, I couldn’t find it in any of my books, neither as a first nor as a last name, and had to use the internet. My conclusion is, that it’s either entirely made up or a variation of “Abraham”.
Ab = father, rwm = being eminent
It would be quite fitting for Abronsius to be an “eminent father” but it might be a far fetch.
No matter what its meaning is, “Abronsius” makes a much clearer point by the sheer fact that it’s as unusual as it is. Someone by that name would even in the late 19th century be viewed as strange and outdated- the name has a certain Latin ring to it and wouldn’t be fitting during that time period.

Sarah, on the other hand, is quickly explained, being a common Hebrew name translating to princess or mistress. It’s a nice fit if you focus on her coming of age storyline but I fear it was mostly chosen because it’s a traditionally Jewish name.
Her mother, Rebecca, does also have a Hebrew name with the meaning “the one who links them”. It also translates to “cow”- not as an insult but as in “something precious I own”.
Magdas name is primarily a pun on the German word “Magd” = wench, maid. The name origins from “Magdalena” which plainly means “The one from Magdala”  

Let’s move on to our favourite vampire family, the von Krolocks. I was surprised to learn that it might be a reference to “Nosferatu” protagonist Graf Orlok whose name is linked to the Romanian words Orodog = devil and vrolok = Vampire. (Yes, their last name is basically McVampire.)
The counts first name is never mentioned in the musical but it’s a common bit of fanlore (at least here in Germany. How do you guys call him?) to assume he is called “Breda”, which is written on a gravestone in the original movie. The name seems to be unisex with a Romanian origin. The (internet) sources I found claim it means “lover of the night” which sounds almost to perfect to be true.  

Herbert McVampire has- just like Alfred- an Old High German name.
Heri = army, warrior + beraht = glistening, shining, famous.
“The one who shines in battle” and “The glistening warrior” would both be adequate translations and I think I speak for everyone if I choose “glistening warrior” as the most fabulous accurate translation.
I think it’s notable to say that Herbert was a very popular name during the late 19th century and not so much during the time von Krolock was transformed (Summer 1618). It wasn’t until after the 18th Century that Germans started to feel comfortable using “heathen” names again instead of “proper” Christian ones. This does not necessarily mean that Herbert wasn’t born while the count was still mortal but if he was von Krolocks choice of name might have be seen as inappropriate by many of his fellow noblemen.