"The Enlightenment is dead. Long live the fairy tale!"
The fairy tale was exemplary for expanding horizons in romantic literature. Like a folk fairy tale, it spoke of witches and wizards, queens and princes, adventures and danger, however the orthodox happily ever after was missing. The romantic fairy tale lacked simplicity and lightheartedness; it stepped outside the fairy tale stereotype. The romantic fairy tale included complex problems open to interpretation and lacked human warmth to them. The romantic fairy tale was a poetic form in an innovative world that satisfied the new generation's need for self-expression and it also provided sheer delight to readers. These works of young talents were a mature aesthetic phenomenon that closely tied romanticism together in theory and practice. To discover the message in Romantic fairy tales works of Wackenroder, Novalis, Tieck, and Brentano will be analyzed.
The romantic generation knew the uncertainty of realities and the suffering of the battlefields. A new era had dawned on society. Life was beginning to empty itself into a torrent of technical progress, and it steered towards existentialism. Wackenroder and others saw this shift as ominous; God slowly retreated from an industrial birth. Wackenroder, in new patterns of speech and thought defended the artist against ridicules of society who thought them queer and mad. Wackenroder wrote not for children but often for very serious adults. He presented a type of fairy tale that included a spiritual person that readers grew attached to from the beginning. His fairy tales were the first defense of the maverick. Although he handles this subject gently, Wackenroder's characters were a blatant attack against the enlightened realism of a dying culture.
Novalis has often been called the prophet of the fairy tale. He utilizes the "alogical" dreamlike character, which represents a higher-level experience to him. Novalis values the fairy tale more than any other form of literature as he feels that it poetizes reality and thus, the "higher fairy tale," different from folk fairy tales, is the highest reality according to Novalis, for poetry is now the yardstick of the world. This author believes in finding the extraordinary out of the ordinary. Many of his stories are set in commonplace settings and a higher morale is intertwined into the plot. Novalis believed that out of imagination and reality something new was born, and it was this very knowledge that was miraculous. Experience and imagination intermingled into a great tale. Thus, Novalis has an incredibly modern take on this literary genre. A romantic fairy tale does not pursue a moral purpose to criticize, but rather it focuses on the artistic political consciousness as modern Europe awakened after destruction by Napoleon.
The inwardness of the eighteenth century was replaced by the subconscious self of the nineteenth century. In Tieck's fairy tales, the inner struggles of the hero is seldom revealed, instead it is revealed by symbols or semi-consciously. His hero searches not for the truth but instead of the secret to life. They no longer know the safety of a bourgeois existence, as a war generation is not safe. But they are deserters, not yet refugees and they still find substance in life. In Tieck, there are no fairy-tale kings, no giants, and no talking trees. His fairy tales have nothing to do with the idea of magic. Instead, they are concerned with our neighbor without the usual fairy-tale make-up and mannerisms, for example like the hunter or the young man on a journey. Sensitiveness, reserve, and imagination are the permanent subsoil of Tieck's heroes. Unlike other romantics, Tieck includes selective landscape descriptives in his fairy tales that are highly symbolic.
Brentano is a storyteller with a great talent for information absorption who draws materials from every possible source and in every familiar form and morphs it into his own. This is often seen as a problem as his stories often fluctuate in tones. Brentano builds his own fairy tales with a combination of folklore and intuition. Often, his works are made of sympathetic understanding and linguistic imagination. Actions are controlled by external factors and have the trend of cause and effect. By doing so, Brentano avoids the questionable mysteries of life, the debatable nature of time, and the coming to terms with an uncanny experience. Out of all the fairytale romantics, perhaps Brentano is the most similar to a folk fairy tale storyteller.
Hoffmann modestly aligns himself with the great romanticists, although he never actually knew any of the others personally. Through his works, a firm definition of the traditional fairy tale can be noted. A characteristic of Hoffmann's fairy tales is that the material has to be realistic. By this it means that the story must condition itself in a definite place. The usual and commonplace in Hoffmann's stories are wonderful and strange, not to mention unfathomable.
Literary criticism often dismissed romantics as "sentimental" and the fairy tales themselves also did their bit to give these young writers a reputation of being rocking-chair poets. Moreover, these individuals were often undemocratic and had no sense for progressive politics. However, these tales reflected an aspect of society growing under Napoleon's armies. We now know better than our fathers that castles in the air cannot endure in times of war and in postwar periods. Romantic fairy tales reflected sentiments of an era.