As Walpurgisnacht is approaching (evening of April 30th to May 1st), it might be appropriate to read a fairy tale about a witch. This tale is remarkable for many reasons, also because it contains both archangel and arch-witch, personifications of ultimate mercy and ultimate evil. The link between the two is especially interesting in this tale.
There was once an old castle in a deep and impenetrable forest. An old woman lived alone there and she was an arch-sorceress. During the day she took the shape of cat or night owl, but at night she took the form of an ordinary human. She would lure wild animals and birds into her snare and when she caught one, it was cooked or roasted. The wanderer who came within one-hundred feet of the castle was brought under the sorceress’s spell. With feet frozen to the ground, the person could not move from the spot until the enchantress released him. When a chaste maiden entered the castle perimeter, the old witch turned the girl into a bird, which she immediately snatched up and locked in a basket. She carried the basket to a chamber deep inside the castle. The sorceress probably had seven-thousand baskets containing such rare birds in her castle.
Now there was once a maid called Jorinda; she was more beautiful than all other maidens. She had promised herself to a handsome young man by the name of Joringel. Each took enormous pleasure in the company of the other for they were still celebrating their engagement. They loved to walk by themselves and whisper softly to each other so that no one else heard while they spoke. And so it was that one day they took a walk in the forest. “Be careful,” Joringel warned “that you don’t come too close to the castle.” It was a beautiful evening and the sun shone between the tall trunks of the majestic trees and the bright yellow light pierced the shadows of the deep green wood. Overhead a turtledove sang a mournful song among the last May buds of the beech tree.
Before long Jorinda began to cry, sat down in the sunshine and was inconsolable; Joringel did the same. They were deeply distressed and cried like one going to die. They looked around and were lost and did not know the way home. The sun could still be seen illuminating half the mountain, but the other half was already in shadow. When Joringel peered through some underbrush, he saw the old wall of the castle and became deathly afraid. Jorinda began to sing:
“My little bird, with ring so red
Sing of sorrow sorrow sorrow:
For the dove sings of her death
On the morrow morrow morrow – zickuth, zickuth, zickuth.”
Joringel turned to Jorinda but Jorinda had been turned into a nightingale who sang Zickuth, Zickuth, Zickuth. Suddenly an enormous owl with glowing eyes swooped out of the bush. It circled her three times and cried out three times “Schu, hu, hu, hu.” Joringel could not speak: he stood as still as stone, he could not cry out, he could not talk, he could not move hand or foot. Now the sun was sinking: the owl flew into the bush and an old and crooked woman, yellow and lean emerged. She had enormous red eyes and a crooked nose that extended to the tip of her chin. She murmured and caught the nightingale and carried it away in her hand. Joringel could say nothing and could not move from the spot; the nightingale was gone. Finally, the old woman appeared again and spoke in a muffled tone “Greetings to you Zachiel, when the moon shines in the basket then unbind, Zachiel, in good time.” Joringel was released from the spell and fell to his knees before the old woman. He pled for the return of his Jorinda, but in vain. The sorceress replied that he would never ever see her again and walked away. He called, he cried, he lamented but all for naught. “Uu, what shall happen to me?” he cried.
Joringel walked until he arrived in a strange village: there he took on the job of sheep herder for many years. Often, he walked around the castle but never came too close. Finally he dreamt one night that he found a blood-red flower and in the center was a beautiful large pearl. He broke the flower, and walked toward the castle. Everything that he touched with the flower was released from the spell. He also dreamt that Jorinda returned to him in this way. In the morning when he awoke, he began to search hill and dale for the flower. He searched and searched until the ninth day, when he found the blood-red flower in the early morning. In the center was a large dewdrop, as large as the most beautiful pearl. He carried this flower day and night until he arrived at the castle. As he came within one-hundred steps of the castle, he did not become frozen fast in his tracks as last time but instead could continue walking to the castle door. Joringel was overjoyed, touched the gate with the flower and it fell open. He went inside, through the courtyard and listened for the warbling of many birds. Finally he heard the trilling sound. He followed it and found the hall and the enchantress feeding birds in seven-thousand baskets. When she saw Joringel she became very angry, so angry that she scolded and spat poison and bile at him, but she could not come within two feet of him. He did not turn back at the sight of the sorceress but walked around, peering into each basket with a bird. But there where many hundreds of nightingales, how could he find his Jorinda again? As he looked he noticed that the old woman secretly took away a basket with a bird and was walking to the door. Quickly he jumped toward her, touched the basket with the flower and also brushed against the old woman. Now the sorceress could no longer cast spells and in the same moment Jorinda stood before him, her arms fell round his neck, and she was as she had always been. Joringel now returned all the other birds to their prior maidenly form. He then returned home with his Jorinda where they lived happily together for many years.
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Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
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