Marie Jeserich was a very popular German author during her lifetime. Born in Berlin in 1830, she was the oldest daughter of an officer of the Prussian Guards. Her family had 5 children, all of whom received an ultra-puritanical education and grew up in strict isolation and minimal contact with other children. Despite her solitary upbringing, she was happy and full of life. At the age of twelve, she was sent to a well-known boarding school of the Moravian Brethren at Neuwied on the Rhine. Marie described many of her experiences during those years in Rheinklänge, a book that was published in 1872. Soon after graduation, at the age of nineteen, she married Reverend Karl Timme, a Protestant clergyman from Coblenz. Following the death of her husband, she returned with her children to Berlin, where she started writing and teaching to support her family. Her first novel, Im Kabinett meiner Tante (In My Aunt’s Cupboard), received a literary prize.
In 1876, she published a collection of fairy tales which appeared in English as Fairy Land: Tales and Legends of Dwarfs, Fairies, Water-Sprites, Elves, etc. During the next year, she published another collection of fairy tales under the title Fairy Circles: Tales and Legends of Giants, Dwarfs, Fairies, Water-Sprites and Hobgoblins.
Marie Timme was a prolific writer who mainly wrote children tales, using the pseudonym Villamaria. Although most of her books were very successful with the German public, only her two fairy tale collections were translated and published in English.
Her best-known tale is The King’s Child, a moving story about a Pharaoh’s daughter who becomes a mermaid following the parting of the Red Sea. The story originates from the Saga of the Selkies or Seal Folk, a mythological being able to take two forms, the human and that of a seal.