This is only for the hairy-chested readers (of any gender) among you; if you enjoy the work of any famous author named Jonathan, this will be a NIGHTMARE

1592: The first printed appearance of the phrase “Once upon a time,” in its original German form, Es war einmal, is traceable to a village in the region of the Spreewald, via a press in Strassburg. The printing of the phrase was at the expense of Victor’s ancestor, Konstantin von Lehde, a wealthy brewer who published a dozen copies of his collected Märchen (fairytales), as well as later financing the printing of a pocket Bible ideal for itinerant tradesmen, who, although they may not have been able to read the little book, carried it in their pockets as a protective talisman for their travels. Konstantin von Lehde’s fairytales were burlesqued transcriptions of stories he remembered from his childhood, some for children, others not, and copies of the book, printed on vellum, were distributed among members of his extended family as reminders of his wealth, learnedness, generosity, and wit.

1830: The von Lehde clan had migrated, largely, to nearby Berlin and then from Berlin to America, “fleeing the Jews,” (as Victor’s father gleefully put it) in the middle of the 19th century, taking their place, among the Germans of Wisconsin, with the anglicized name of Leader.

1930: An original copy of the von Lehde book of fairytales remained in the Leader family until well into the twentieth century, when it vanished from the custodianship of Victor’s great-grandfather, Jacob Emmanuel Gustave Leader, the bushy-mustached patriarch, at the time the clan was brought low by the Great Depression. He was rumored to have bartered the rare book for nothing less sensible than a barrel of heating oil. All that remains of the heirloom is a loosely bound copy of the book’s first tale, inscribed on yellowing paper, itself now an heirloom, written exquisitely, most probably in Jacob Emmanuel Gustave Leader’s own fine, waltzing hand; a faintly recognizable corruption of Rumpelstiltskin (or “Rumpenstinzschen”).

Eine frischvermählte junge Frau läuft vom Wasserholen aus der dörflichen Quelle durch den finsteren Wald nach Hause…




LETTERS TO THE EDITOR [letters are vetted for cogency and style]

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