Birte Giesler (Universität Karlsruhe)

Gendered cultures in fairy tales around 1800: Miraculousness, gender identity and the comic in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's La Reine Fantasque and Friederike Helene Unger's Prinz Bimbam - Ein Mährchen für Alt und Jung

0. Introduction

The idea that mankind is ontologically divided into two sexes is part of the history of thought of the Modern Age (Hausen 369-70). This way of thinking about gender was developed at the beginning of the Modern Age and gained acceptance as a basic theorem of modern culture. As generally known, the prominent pedagogue and philosopher of the Enlightenment, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, played a major role in the development of the philosophy of two complementary genders with reference to 'nature' (Felden 225-26; Lange 415. On the ambiguity of Rousseau's concept of 'nature' see Bovenschen 169; Giesler 185-86). His gender philosophy has influenced western history of thought and gender ratio during the last 250 years (Kleine 162). It is mainly based on the images of two fundamentally different sexes with two specific gender characters including the idea that this ontological difference is 'natural.' At the same time Rousseau describes the female character as completely fixated on the male. Thus, the two gender characters appear complementary (Kofman; Bovenschen 164-181).

The relationship between nature and the supernatural or miraculous, or rather the relations between reason and imagination, were a central topic of the philosophical and aesthetic debates around 1800 (Schaefer 146-156). Consequnetly, the fairytale genre enjoyed increasing popularity in the literature of the Enlightenment, the Weimar classical period and - above all - Romanticism. (Novalis conceives of the fairytale as "Canon der Poësie." Novalis 449). In the following, two fairytales of the 18th and very early 19th century will be discussed. The main subject of both fairytales are gender issues in the context of the miraculous. Although both works reflect the genre of the fairytale and its typical narrative techniques by using aesthetic forms and stylistic devices of the comic, the propositions given by Rousseau's and Unger's texts are different. A gender-critical reading reveals the underlying assumptions and indirect statements of both works.

1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: La Reine Fantasque (1756)

In his fairytale La Reine Fantasque Rousseau ridicules the aesthetic shape of the contemporary voguish French conte de fées. The conte de fées is a highly artistic kind of fairytale that is composed by certain authors and mainly characterised by the combination of the miraculous and aristocracy. (In the early examples of the genre, all the protagonists had to be members of the higher noblesse. Dammann 133; Mayer and Tismar 23-27). Rousseau's fairytale narrates the story of a good-natured king called Phoenix and his rebellious and capricious wife Fantasque who quarrel constantly. After a long period of childlessness, the queen falls pregnant. While the king and most of the members of the royal household long for a son (and heir to the throne) the queen wishes to give birth to a daughter. The fairy Discrčte tries to comfort the parents by telling the king that it will be a son while secretly assuring the queen that she is going to have a daughter. In the end, the queen delivers twins (a daughter and a son) who look very much alike. Hence, they are dressed the same (RF 309). The ongoing dispute of the king and queen is intensified when the donation fairy asks them which attributes they wish their children to be donated with. The king feels the responsibility they have to bear. He will not allow his cranky and flippant wife to make such an important decision. Since they are not able to come to an agreement, the donation fairy proposes to both of them to select the character of the same-sexed child (the king for the son and the queen for the daughter). Phoenix picks up his son and looks pitifully upon his second child. Nevertheless, he feels comfortable with this compromise since it protects the heir to the throne against the queen's capricious wishes (RF 317). However, Fantasque is offended and picks up the other child. She declares "que je demande pour celui que je tiens, tout le contraire de ce qu'il demandera pour l'autre" (ibid.). Phoenix is appalled that Fantasque obviously hates her daughter. Anger overwhelms him. Against the will of his wife he wishes his daughter to become perfect. Hence, he demands his son to become similar to Fantasque. He immediately regrets what he said but both children "étaient doués sans retour des caracteres demandés" (RF 318). The boy receives the name Caprice and the daughter is called Raison. Thus, the crown prince is provided "de toutes les perfections d'une jolie femme" (ibid.) while his sister owns "toutes les vertus d'un honnęte-homme, & les qualités d'un bon Roi" (RF 318-319). In the end, the embarrassment is solved by the narrator explaining that the king mistook his son for his daughter because of the great similarity of both children. The donation fairy used this mistake "pour douer les deux enfants de la maniere [!] qui leur convenoit le mieux" (RF 323). So the name of the princess is Caprice, the prince is called Raison. Regardless of the Queen's caprices "tout se trouva dans l'ordre naturel" (ibid.).

1.1 Different levels of fiction and the comic in La Reine Fantasque

The main element of comic in Rousseau's fairytale is the ironic narrative style. It consistently breaches the fictional illusion which is a main criterion of stylistic irony (Müller 49, 53). At the beginning the following story is explicitly introduced as a fairytale narrated within the fiction:

Il y avoit autrefois un Roi qui aimoit son Peuple...... Cela commence comme un conte de Fée, interrompit le Druide? C'en est un aussi, répondit Jalamir. Il y avoit donc un Roi [...] (RF 295).

The fairytale of Queen Fantasque and her husband King Phoenix is only one part of the story. It is presented within the fiction as a story which a figure called Jalamir tells to "the druid" (RF 295). The conversation of Jalamir and the druid forms the framework of a second embedded fairytale. The two interlocutors even mention the possibility that the narrated tale could be published sometime (RF 308). Thus, Rousseau's La Reine Fantasque shows the four 'symbols of ironic fiction' (Müller 59):

1)The multi-layered work has a sort of auctor in fabula as the author of the intra-fictional narration is part of the fictional plot. As he thinks about a future printing of his text, the fictional events also point to the empiric author, reader and system of literature.
2)It also comprises a lector in fabula because the druid functions as an intra-fictional audience.
3)The liber in fabula (which means that the book itself is part of the fictional world) is implied at the moment when the figures of the background story talk about publishing the narrated tale.4) The opus as a whole consists of the fabula in fabula which means that (one) further fiction(s) is (are) embedded in the (background) story

All 'symbols of ironic fiction' function as signals with disenchanting power. The sub-realities interfuse due to the breaking of the different fictional levels and frames. Forty years after Rousseau's fairytale this method of composition was carried to the extremes by the early Romanticism of the Jena circle. The 'symbols of ironic fiction' produce the aesthetic figure of 'romantic irony.' According to Friedrich Schlegel 'irony' is a form of paradox (Lyceum fragment 48: "Ironie ist die Form des Paradoxen." Schlegel 153). He conceives of irony as an art of writing or rather a way of philosophising which is characterised by a constant alternation of self-creation and self-destruction (Athenäum fragment 51: "Naiv ist, was bis zur Ironie, oder bis zum steten Wechsel von Selbstschöpfung und Selbstvernichtung natürlich, individuell oder klassisch ist [...]." Schlegel 172).

Another instrument of breaching the reader's illusion is to draw his attention to the act of story-telling. The druid again and again interrupts the narrator to discuss the story and its continuation. The intra-fictional narrator and listener change roles when the druid pretends to be able to complete the tale as well as Jalamir. The druid then describes his vision of a state ruled by the capricous king. He points out that Princess Raison would be a new heroine of wonderland. The people would demand to change the system of succession to the throne but the jurists would emphatically try to prove that the most stupid man would be better than the most brilliant woman, even if the first born was a monkey or a wolf. The original narrator Jalamir is amused by the druid's excitement and complains that he would make a political essay out of his conte de fées. He declares that there would be no lack of endings and that he would present one of them in four words. He then completes his fairytale elaborating on the solution of the mistake that is mentioned above.

Inside the intra-fictional narration the figures bear meaningful names, which is an instrument of the comic traditionally used in the comedy of types. Rousseau's capricious queen is called "Fantasque" which is French and means caprice. Due to the fact that her daughter ought to be the same as her, she is called "Caprice". The prince is named by the French word for reason. The prince's name "Raison" stands for the attribution of rationality, sanity and intellect to the male, which is a basic element of the philosophy of gender employed since Antiquity. The donation fairy is called "Discrčte" which means discreet. According to her descriptive name, she is close-lipped whenever a member of the royal household insists on knowing whether the queen is expecting a girl or a boy. At the same time her name functions ironically since the donation fairy is not really close-mouthed. Rather, she blabbers out the half-truth to everyone. Overall, the topic and its presentation are ironic. The whole story about the idle royal couple is rather laughable. The sublime of the aristocratic wonderland and the noble motives of the royal sovereigns are turned into the common and the low and reduced to physicalness. At the same time it is obvious that particularly women are mocked in the intra-fictional tale. Due to the bawdy comic Sarah Kofmann considers La Reine Fantasque a burlesque, a type of text that is associated with the farce and the antic. She interprets its main assertion as follows:

Die Burleske La Reine Fantasque zeigt mit den Mitteln der Komik, daß die Männer immer die Frauen von der Macht ausschließen und den dümmsten der Männer, ja sogar ein Tier, "einen Affen oder einen Wolf", der Weisesten aller Frauen, die sich immer deren Wünschen unterordnen muß, vorziehen (Kofman 13-14).

Furthermore, Rousseau's text itself bares patriarchal discourse and metaphors that are used to exclude women from power. To identify the relevance of gender and the different 'cultures' of the supernatural and 'nature,' it is useful to distinguish between the different levels of fiction. Due to the performative effects arising from 'romantic irony,' the author is not master of his speech. (For feminist readings of Rousseu's novels by linguistic deconstruction see Garbe 1987, 1992; Kleine 163-168). Obviously the stylistic irony of Rousseau's fairytale as a whole subverts his gender discourse.

1.2 The supernatural, gender and the comic in La Reine Fantasque

The whole work is presented as a fairytale. Even the figures of the background story bare names of Oriental fairytales (Jalamir) or Celtic myths (the druid). The self-referring reflection of the miraculous as a main criterion of the genre of the fairytale disenchants the reader's illusion as well. The narrator picks the difference between the sphere of wonderland and reality as a central theme. He reminds his intra-fictional auditor that the story is set in a faery and explains that the wonderland is a mix of cultures and religions (RF 312-314). It is the text itself that creates the expectation that the oppositeness of the two genders is a product of the supernatural. After all, it is the double-fictional queen in wonderland who, as a part of the fiction within the fiction, creates this impression in the reader. Nevertheless, in the course of the background story and in the course of the narration, it becomes obvious that Jalamir and the druid have a 'rational' conversation creating the interior fairytale while telling (and listening to) it. Thus, the intra-fictional story is explicitly presented as male speech. The 'rational' male discourse emerges as an omnipresent and self-referring system of communication that implies a certain concept of 'nature.' Although Jalamir and his listener allude to the construction of 'reality' by discussing the smooth transition of 'history' and 'story,' the intra-fictional narrator refers to the 'natural order' to explain the gender-specific division of sanity, freakishness and the right to power. Considering the aesthetic shape of La Reine Fantasque as a whole, 'nature' emerges as a male axiom. Gender identity proves itself to be performatively self-created and self-destructed through the narration.

2. Friederike Helene Unger: Prinz Bimbam - Ein Mährchen für Alt und Jung (1802)

Friederike Helene Unger translated the famous Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau into German. She can be considered a contemporary expert on Rousseau (Felden 196-97). As Heide von Felden points out, her reception of Rousseau's works shows a "cool distance" (ibid. 34.). Concerning Rousseu's philosophy of gender, this distance is especially eye-catching. It is particularly noticeable that Unger mocks the contemporary philosophy of gender in her fairytale about the laughable hero Prince Bimbam. (It is only recently that research in literary studies took notice of Friederike Helene Unger's Prinz Bimbam (Giesler 245-281, 247-48). So far, the work has not been re-published. The only preserved copy of the book is locked away in the State Library of Berlin. Fortunately the text is "saved" and easily accessible on microfiche. (See list of works cited.))

The eponymous hero of Unger's Prinz Bimbam - Ein Mährchen für Alt und Jung is the young and spoiled son of a fairy called Quatscheline. One morning he awakes from wondrous dreams about girls and bewitched cherry pits. Spontaneously he declares that he will marry the girl of his dreams. Quatscheline shows her son a crystal mirror that features all princesses of the world to identify the sought-after girl. The chosen one is called Zenobia. She is an aesthete who keeps company with other aesthetes and critics. Bimbam has to complete an exhausting voyage through the history of culture and literature to win her over. However, his very task and exam is to catch a cherry pit between the rotating sails of an enormous windmill and hand it over to the princess. Thereby he has to gain self-assurance. He departs accompanied by Invalido who is supposed to control Bimbam's education. After a little while Bimbam encounters Kronos who is introduced as the gravedigger of literature. Bimbam passes through different epochs of the history of literature such as singings of alexandrines and German poems in antique style. Finally he reaches the forest of current literature and philosophy. There among other fairy-tale-figures he meets a tomcat wearing boots (PB 80-81). While observing the marvellous doings, he feels like a silly boy. This is the moment when he gains self-knowledge. He merits a change of name. Thenceforward he is called Luminos. Bimbam-Luminos now appears "in männlicher Schöne" (PB 100). When he hands over the cherry pit to Zenobia, an enlightened inscription showing the wording of "Wahre Lebensweisheit" appears all over the place ( PB 100-101). Zenobia explains that she was only an instrument of the "Bildung" of Bimbam (PB 101). She declares to retransform herself into the female "eigenthümliche Weibesnatur (ibid.)." Nevermore would she be "ein ästhetisches Weib" (ibid.). Luminos and Zenobia live happily ever after.

As Lutz Röhrich points out, the fairytale of magic does not really fall into the category of the comic (Röhrich 23). Friederike Helene Unger ironically takes up the aesthetic shape of the voguish French conte de fées and turns it into a literary satire of literature focussing on education, formation and gender.

2.1 Comic elements in Prinz Bimbam

As Matthias Morgenroth points out, the satire is an aggressive attitude of writing (Morgenroth 36). Unger's satire of literature is at work on all levels of the text. It attacks several concrete works, aesthetic ideas, literary patterns, genres as well as the modern business of literature itself. Thus, the following designation of the satiric given by Georg Lukács can be applied to Prinz Bimbam:

Die Satire ist eine ganz offen kämpferische literarische Ausdrucksweise. Es wird in ihr nicht bloß das, wofür und wogegen gekämpft wird, sowie der Kampf selbst gestaltet, sondern die Gestaltungsform selbst ist von vorneherein unmittelbar die des offenen Kampfes. (Lukács 87. Original emphasis.)

The laughable hero is one of the main elements of the comic in Unger's Prinz Bimbam. According to Hans Robert Jauss the laughable hero acts comically due to the disproportion of his efforts and returns (Jauss 103). He either works too hard or not hard enough. Unger's Prince Bimbam is a laughable hero who acts comically working too little. The strenuous voyage turns out to be a ridiculous trip. Moreover, Bimbam oversleeps most of the journey lying on the trolley of books of Kronos. Actually, Bimbam gets pushed to Zenobia's royal household (PB 37). Furthermore, he seems to be blissfully ignorant since he does not recognise his well-known travelling acquaintances.

The whole plot of Prinz Bimbam is organised around a contrastive positioning of the sublime and the low. The narrative is full of social criticism and derides the aristocratic fairyland. Bimbam is described as a lazy and snot-nosed slacker:

"Mein Gouverneur hat mir gesagt, es gäbe da draussen, wo die Menschen wohnen, Mädchen, die Prinzessinnen heißen; sie thun, so wie ich, den ganzen lieben langen Tag hindurch nichts, als tändeln und tanzen" (7). [...] "Erringen! mühsam! wiederholte Bimbamchen erbleichend. Heißt das nicht arbeiten und sich anstrengen? für was wäre ich denn ein Prinz? und wozu wären denn die gemeinen Leute da?" Freilich hatte das arme Kind bei dem bloßen fatalen Worte: Arbeit, schon immer Blut und Wasser geschwitzt (13-4).

The figures are also mocked by their expressive names. For example, the name of Quatscheline can be interpreted as a hint that she talks nonsense. The name of Invalido is paradox since it indicates his invalidity while he is supposed to work as the controller and guide of Bimbam. The name of the eponymous hero indicates that the text deridingly deals with gender issues. The onomatopoetic term 'Bimbam,' which hints at the ring of a bell, was a German bawdy slang word denoting the male genitals in the early 19th century (Küpper 108; Bornemann 1.73). Thus, the narrative creates an eminently gendered atmosphere right from the beginning and clearly shows that it makes fun of the male. The whole story can be considered a satire about gender ratio. Following Wolfgang Preisendanz, satire functions by deformation using metonymy, synecdoche or hyperbole (Preisendanz 413). The meaningful name of Bimbam functions as a synedoche hinting at every male. The comic easily succeeds by metaphorically totalising an idea or a group. This is extremely true as far as sex and gender are concerned:

Auch die Geschlechtsidentität bietet ein gutes Beispiel für eine metaphorische Totalisierung, denn auch hier steht jeweils ein Bild 'Frau' und 'Mann' nicht nur für eine Gruppe von vielfältigen und differenzierten Ausdrucksweisen von Geschlechtsidentität, sondern darüber hinaus für eine illusionäre Konstruktion (Uecker 45-46).

The story of Prince Bimbam clearly focuses on gender because it is set in the sphere of fairies - the fairy being traditionally female (Wolfzettel 946). Prince Bimbam obviously is an oafish milksop who gets spoilt by his mother and several foster mothers.

The story also shows socratic irony using the motif of the riddle. The riddle is a very popular motif of myths and fairytales. Otto Betz points out that the German word for riddle 'Rätsel' is ethymologically connected with the German word for advice 'Rat' (Betz 213). Unger's Prince Bimbam not only accepts advice. He also obtains worldly wisdom. Prinz Bimbam uses the motif of the riddle combined with socratic irony. The laughable hero has to achieve self-knowledge by catching a cherry pit that stands for the core of his ego. His self-knowledge consists of him realising his own ignorance.

Unger's fairytale produces plenty of comical effects in form and content. The narration also quotes shapes. It uses - said in the words of Andreas Böhn - the 'Formzitat' (Böhn 21-22). The plot can be considered a comic parody of the fairytale genre in general, the sub-genre of the 'fairytale of formation' in particular, and the genre of the classical German 'Bildungsroman.' Recent gender-oriented research has argued that the 'Bildungsroman' itself is a gendered narrative pattern. It shows the construction of the two sexes and the (re )confirmation of a heterosexually organised culture by narrating the growing-up of an individual.

2.2 Prinz Bimbam as a gender critical parody of the 'Bildungsroman'

The narration places itself in the context of the contemporary education philosophy of German idealism and its specific educational ideal by explicitely using the term 'Bildung.' Prince Bimbam is not only supposed to win the princess over, he explicitly also has to learn something to become educated: "Sie treten hier in Ihre Bildungsschule ein [...]" (PB 38). The term 'school' indicates that the development of Bimbam will be motivated by an extraneous cause. Nevertheless, his inner life also contributes to it:

Der Bildungstrieb war in [...] ihm erwacht [...]. (PB 49); [...] sie [the fairy Madame de Klingklang] halte den Prinzen für eine ganz artige kleine Erscheinung, bei welcher der Bildungstrieb erwacht zu seyn schiene (PB 53).

Unger sets the narration in relation to the German 'Bildungsroman.' The system reference is marked by several allusions to Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, which is considered a paradigm of the genre. For example it is quite remarkable that Zenobia allows Bimbam to make his own mistakes and errors (PB 59) while having a finger in the pie from the beginning of Bimbams educational journey. Apparently she acts on the same concept of education as the tower-society in Goethe's novel. Furthermore, the oracle considers Bimbam's disposition as the spark of God (21). Wilhelm Meister uses the same metaphor reflecting his desire of self-development:

[...] daß in den Menschen ein besserer Funke lebt, der, wenn er keine Nahrung erhält, wenn er nicht geregt wird, von der Asche täglicher Bedürfnisse und Gleichgültigkeit tiefer bedeckt und doch spät und fast nie erstickt wird (Goethe 55).

The classical ideal of formation aims to harmonise individualisation and socialisation since the individual ought to self-confidently integrate himself into society. Unger alludes to the classical ideal of formation by mocking it. Bimbam's 'school of formation' mainly consists of him admiring himself and of disrespecting the others (PB 38).

Women have a specific function in the formation of the male protagonist of the classical 'Bildungsroman'. Thereby the female acquaintances of the male protagonist also represent different levels of the history of art in Goethe's novel (Giesler 274). Unger's parody of the classical 'Bildungsroman' also mocks this motif. Bimbam meets a beautiful damsel who personifies German literature. She turns Greek and becomes frivolous which can be considered a hint at Goethe's Römische Elegien (PB 75-79). Moreover, canonised novels of the genre also narrate the solution of the conflict between Eros and Logos. Unger's fairytale also makes fun of this motif. Obviously women have a certain function in the education ('Bildung') of Prince Bimbam: "Sie treten hier in Ihre Bildungsschule ein: nie gerieth ein Mann, den nicht ein geliebtes Weib bildete" (PB 38). Hence, Bimbam develops a certain interest in women:

Der Bildungstrieb war in dem Grade in ihm erwacht, daß er sich unablässig Gasse auf und Gasse ab umhertrieb, das edle Werk zu fördern. Einst war er einer der tausend einzeln und Gruppenweise in Residenzen umherschwirrenden transparenten weiblichen Gestalten nachgeeilt [...] (PB 49-50).

The narrator sarcastically describes how Bimbam starts his education by energetically living up to his name gaining sexual experience. As mentioned above, he merits a change of names after having solved the riddle. His new name "Luminos" indicates his luminosity. His educational journey leads Bimbam from his fixation on physicalness to the light of reason which means that he turns from 'Prinz Genital' into 'König Genial.'

The simple fact that Bimbam merits the coveted princess at the end of the story not only alludes to a major motif of the fairytale genre. It is also a basic part of 'becoming a man' in the context o f the Rousseauist philosophy of the complementarity of gender. Jean-Jacques Rousseau elaborated on this in his paradigmatic novel of education Emile ou de l'éducation:

Im fünften und abschließenden Kapitel der Musterbiographie erreicht der junge Held Emile den Gipfel und den Lohn seiner Bildungsgeschichte: "Sophie oder Das Weib" (Lange 415).

Unger's Prinz Bimbam explicitly demonstrates a statement of the recent gender-oriented reading of the 'Bildungsroman.' In the classical 'Bildungsroman' women figures are fixated on the male protagonist and function as instruments for the education of the protagonist:

Luminos erschien ihr in männlicher Schöne; sprechend war seine Miene und denkend sein Auge. Mit edlem Anstande überreichte er ihr den Kirschkern, der beider Schicksal lösen sollte. Kaum hatte ihre warme Hand ihn berührt, so zersprang er mit Kraft, und auf allen Seiten des Saales war mit Feuerschrift zu lesen: Wahre Lebensweisheit. Und in der ganzen großen Residenz war der Wiederschein: wahre Lebensweisheit. "Mein theurer Prinz," sagte jetzt Zenobia mit herzgewinnender Freundlichkeit: Diese, nicht ich, war des Strebens werth; denn auch ich sollte Werkzeug Ihrer Bildung seyn. Der Zauber ist dahin; ich bin in meine eigenthümliche Weibesnatur zurückgetreten, und werde nie wieder, weder ein ästhetisches Weib werden, noch zur Thiergestalt der Mäusefänger herabsinken (PB 100-101. Original emphasis.).

At the same time, Unger's fairytale demonstrates the function of the 'female' as a metaphor in the symbolic order. The 'female' is excluded as the 'Other,' serving as a projection screen to create 'male' identity. Thus, the 'female' is an effect of a process of repression. In Prinz Bimbam the woman explicitly functions as a man-created imago and mirror image. Zenobia emerges in the mirror when Bimbam looks at his reflection at the beginning of the story (PB 8-9). At the same time, Bimbam receives his 'masculinity' by averting and removing his female attributes by washing himself: "'Hier müßt Ihr baden, und das weibische Wesen abthun, das Euch nie zur Kraft gelangen läßt'" (PB 67). The womanish Prince Bimbam is a contradiction to moral and social gender norms and expectations. Hans Robert Jauss points out that a parody working with a laughable hero might aim at the norms the laughable hero is contradictory to (Jauss 105). Following Wolfgang Preisendanz, a main function of laughter is that it relativises rules (Preisendanz 411). Thus Bimbam-Luminos shows 'Komik der Gegenbildlichkeit' (Jauss 105) rendering gender identity moot.

In Unger's Prinz Bimbam, gender identity is called into question on two fictional levels. Firstly, the narrator mocks the laughable unmanly protagonist. Secondly, the gender-focussed system of narration as a whole makes fun of Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre and the bourgeois gender ratio since Goethe's 'Bildungsroman' narrates "die Bildungsgeschichte des Bürgertums schlechthin" (Koopmann 183). Jauss argues that the parody might work with the discrepancy of the high and the low in form and content ( Jauss 104). Unger's fairytale addresses aristocracy and gross physicality as well as the socially high and low. Although Bimbam-Luminos receives the coveted girl at the end, the story satirises the motif of reaching aristocracy which is found in fairytales as well as in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Novalis called Goethe's novel "die Wallfahrt nach dem Adelsdiplom" (Novalis 646) whereas Unger's fairytale belittles Goethe's protagonist by leading her successful protagonist from aristocracy to a civic life according to bourgeois gender roles.

3. Final remarks

Both texts use the shape of the conte de fées in a comical way to make different statements about the relation between the supernatural, rationality and gender.
Rousseau's fairytale La Reine Fantasque focuses on the miraculous and offers a concept of 'nature' that conceives of nature as a predetermined category giving orientation. A gender critical reading analysing the different levels of fiction makes visible the tautological structure of the narrator's argumentation and his concept of gender.
In contrast Unger's Prinz Bimbam shows an through and through ironic and sarcastic gender critical art of writing. The story hints at the power of imagination and poetry which strongly contribute to the construction of cultural and social reality. The narration straightforwardly attacks gendered literary patterns with literary allusions. The ideas of nativeness, originality and identity dissolve in an endless reflection of (poetic) images. Due to the name of the protagonist, the phallus itself gets lost in a cabinet of mirrors.


I would like to thank Dr. Haike Frank and Arjeta Herbst for language support. Discussions with the students of my course on "Gender in der Literatur um 1800" at the Technical University of Darmstadt (winter term 2003/04) contributed implicitly to this paper.


Cited works

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. "La Reine Fantasque, conte," Collection complete des oeuvres, tome treizieme, contenant le IIIe. volume des "Mélanges". Genčve 1782. 293-324. (Cited as "RF" with page number.) The text is also easily accessible on the Internet: Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. "La Reine Fantasque, conte,"
.A German translation (by Friedrich Justin Bertuch) is published in: Französische Feenmärchen des 18.
Jahrhunderts. Stuttgart: Parkland, 1980. 367-386. The following selection of European fairytales contains an English translation: Spells of enchantment: the wondrous fairy tales of Western culture. Ed. Jack David Zipes. New York: Viking, 1991.

[Unger, Friederike Helene.] Prinz Bimbam. Ein Mährchen für Alt und Jung. Berlin: Johann Friedrich Unger, 1802. (Cited as "PB" with page number.)

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Bornemann, Ernest. Sex im Volksmund. Der obszöne Wortschatz der Deutschen. 2. Wörterbuch nach Sachgruppen. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1974.

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