Week three of my #FearieTalesBlog saw me look at Markus Heitz’s Fräulein Fearnot, based on tale number four in the Grimm Brothers collection, The Story of a Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was.
I found Markus’ take on this traditional German fairy tales to be truly refreshing. He included many subtle references to the original tale so that if you have read The Story of a Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was you were able to reminisce and ‘geek out’ (like at a good easter egg in a film). At the same time if you are not familiar with the traditional tale these subtle references will not ruin Markus’ story for you, in fact you just won’t recognise them (much like J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot which, for me, included many references which I loved but didn’t ruin the film for my friends who had no idea what they were.)
In his retelling Markus introduces us to Asa – a woman who has never known fear and her journey as she eventually breaks the curse Mephistopheles and Faust placed on Leipzig, at the bequest of Barabbas Prince. As a fan of the Faust legend and all of its iteration I enjoyed how Markus entwined it into his story and played on Goethe’s portrayal of Mephistopheles leading Faust through experiences that culminate in a lustful relationship in Barabbas Prince leading Asa through experiences which culminate in her finding love, and eventually *SPOILER ALERT* … fear.
Along with this Markus also brought a modern feel to the tale. From his scientific explanation of why the girl feels no fear to his use of a highly intelligent female protagonist, as opposed to a male one who is portrayed as ‘stupid and could neither learn nor understand anything’, Heitz delivers a version of The Story of a Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was that doesn’t feel dated to a modern day reader.
The conclusion of Fräulein Fearnot again highlights this modern interpretation, whilst allowing Markus to provide us with one of the ‘easter eggs’ I mentioned earlier (in the form of his ‘gargantuan creature … half-fish, half-monstrosity’). Markus’ tale concludes with Asa experiencing the real fear, something she never sought out (unlike the younger son from the original tale), of losing the person she loves. This thought alone frightens her to her core, and is one which many people will be able to relate to.