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In the Middle Ages, robbers and other outlaws roamed the dense Spessart forest east of Aschaffenburg near Lohr am Main in Germany.

No doubt the crooks were the subject of many a fireside chat, but the lawbreakers weren’t the only yarn in the riverside town.

Turns out the people of the Lohr am Main area in central Germany believe their forebears helped inspire the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

“People say in every fairy tale there is some truth,” said Daniele Vormwald, a guide at the Spessart Museum.

Lohr am Main is one of those charming old German towns of half-timbered homes, narrow streets and a classic castle. Over the next couple of weeks, the scene should be further enhanced by the colorful fall foliage in northern Bavaria.

The Spessart forest, sizable by German standards, is surrounded on three sides by the meandering Main River. In medieval times, inhabitants of the area suffered through poverty and exploitation to eke out a meager existence. That might explain the desperation that compelled so many people to a life of crime.

Today, Lohr looks prim and proper and prosperous. Visitors would do well to stroll around the old city center, now a pedestrian zone, browse through some of the distinctive craft shops and take five at one of the many sidewalk cafes. Outside of town there are hiking and biking trails lacing the countryside.

The origin of the Snow White fable, however, is not as easy to follow as some of those paths. Variations of the story appear in folk tales from Asia to America, though the popularized version in the West probably came from France or Germany.

Several years ago, Karl Heinz Bartels, a Lohr pharmacist, delved into the nuances of the fable and came away convinced that the Brothers Grimm had Lohr in mind when they published their story.

The men who worked the silver mines in the nearby hills were often of short stature, he said, and Lohr was a town known for its mirrors.

“Mirrors from Lohr were so elaborately worked that they were accorded the reputation of ‘always speaking the truth,’ ” Bartels wrote.

There even was a young baroness from Lohr who, in the mid-18th century, tangled with a crotchety stepmother and eventually had to flee into the woods.

It’s all circumstantial evidence, but it has the people of Lohr convinced.

“I know Snow White is from Lohr,” guide Vormwald said. “I have to believe it.”

On the QT ...Directions: Lohr am Main is on route B-26, between Aschaffenburg and Würzburg. An alternative route is B-276, which comes in from the north off Autobahn 66.

Times: The Spessart Museum focuses on local industries, such as glass and wood crafts, as well as forest life. It is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays and holidays. The museum is closed Mondays.

Costs: Admission to the museum is 2.50 euros. Group rates for 10 or more and for discounted persons are available. Guided tours are offered if booked in advance; guide Daniele Vormwald speaks English. Call 09352-2061.

Food: Up and down the town’s Hauptstrasse, the main street, there are cafes and restaurants. One of the more prominent ones is the Gasthaus Schönbrunnen. Near the Spessart Museum is the Schloss Restaurant.

Information: Tourism office is at Schlossplatz 5, within eyesight of the museum. Phone numbers are: 09352-848-460, 09352-194-33 or 09352-5152. The city Web site is: www.lohr.de; there is an English version for the introduction, but the rest is in German.

— Kevin Dougherty

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