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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Saint Severus and The Three Languages


The fairy tale The Three Languages roughly follows the life of Saint Severus, whose relics were translated to the Severikirche in Erfurt, Germany sometime after 836 A.D. (See article below for details).
There are several churches in Germany that have been dedicated to the Saint, including those in Blankenhain, Boppard, Otterndorf, Gemuenden and Fulda. Saint Severus can also be seen in mosaic in the Basilica San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, where he appears with dove on shoulder.

In the world of the fairy tale, the acquisition of languages (especially the knowledge of animal languages) was held in high regard. According to earliest traditions, gods and men spoke different languages. Folklore and mythology mention several ways to acquire the understanding of animal tongues; two of these methods involve snakes. Consuming the flesh of a white snake supposedly granted men the power to understand animal language. Another way was to have your ears licked by a snake. In the fairy tale appearing next week, The White Snake, the hero prevails because of his compassionate heart* and the special linguistic abilities he acquires after eating a white snake. (For the full text of The Three Languages, scroll down or hit the link to the right.)

* Compassion in a fairy tale comes in many startling forms. It may even involve committing acts which today seem cruel, barbaric or totally incomprehensible.

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