Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Yvonne Ivory


Many of Grimms' Fairy Tales, which were published in 1812, have one striking feature in common. Almost all of them deal with material ownership. Fairy tales, like Frau Holle, Rumpelstilzchen, Vom Fischer und seiner Frau or Hans im Glück negotiate and critique wealth and its impact on humanity. Materialism also figures as a significant element in literary fairy tales, like Ludwig Tieck's Der blonde Eckbert and Der Runenberg as well as Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant and The Devoted Friend. This project pursues the question of how these fairy tales and literary fairy tales represent the thriving materialism of the nineteenth century. Moreover, it is concerned with the question of how these two genres differ in representing materialism. All narratives reveal the people's perception of socioeconomic changes in the nineteenth century und provide insights into the contemporary literary cultural discourse on materialism. In the course of my study I show that materialism is viewed as a concrete opposing threat to traditional morals and ethics in Grimms' fairy tales. In Ludwig Tieck's literary fairy tales materialism contradicts ideals of literary Romanticism. Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant contrasts material and immaterial conceptions of value. In The Devoted Friend wealthseeking people have appropriated the meanings of traditional norms and values. In line with their own materialist ambitions, they have deprived them of their original meanings and reconfigured them. This project accounts for the prominence and meaningfulness of materialism as a theme in fairy tales of the nineteenth century. They serve as a stage, which is used to represent human conflicts with the new socioeconomic dynamics of materialism. In particular due to its pictorial expressiveness, this literary genre lends itself more than others to depict and criticize materialism. Thus, this study provides a starting point for further research in this field.


© 2017, Kim Nadine Kahmann