Fairy tales from ancient Egypt!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Grimm's Saga No. 538, Siegfried and Genofeva

Genofeva in the Forest


When Hildolf was Archbishop of Trier, the Palatinate Count Siegfried lived with his wife Genofeva, the daughter of a Duke from Brabant. She was fair and pious. It happened that a campaign was launched against the pagans and Siegfried had to go to war. He ordered Genofeva to live a quiet life of reclusion at his castle in Meifelder Gau. To Golo his trusted servant, he encharged his wife and requested that he be vigilant in watching over her. The last night before his departure, Genofeva received a child from her husband. When Siegfried was gone it did not take long for Golo to be aroused by sinful desire for the fair Genofeva. Finally, he could restrain himself no longer, but declared his intentions to the Palatinate Duchess. Filled with repugnance, she rejected him. In response, Golo wrote false letters pretending that Siegfried had drowned with all his men at sea and read them aloud to the Duchess. The entire kingdom belonged to him, he said, and she could love him without fear of sinning. But when he wanted to kiss her, she hit him hard in the face with her fist and he noticed that he would not accomplish anything. He changed tack, took away from the noble woman all her servants and maids so that she suffered enormously in her pregnancy. When her time came, Genofeva bore a beautiful son and no one but an old washer woman stood by and comforted her. Finally she heard that the Palatinate Duke was still alive and would return soon. She questioned the messenger and approached Golo, who had received the same news. Golo was beside himself with fright and thought all was lost. In his distress he turned to an old witch for counsel. She asked why he was so forlorn. The Palatinate Duchess bore her child at a time when no one could know who the father was, whether it be the cook or some one else. “Tell the Palatinate Duke that she took the cook as lover. He will have the cook killed and you will live in peace.” Golo said “That’s good advice,” and so he hurried to his master and told him the entire lie. Siegfried was mortified and sighed mournfully. Golo said “It is not proper for you to keep this woman as your wife.” The Palatinate Duke replied “What should I do?”
The unfaithful servant said “I will take her and the child to a lake and drown them both in the water.” After Siegfried agreed, Golo seized Genofeva and the child and gave them to the servants with instructions to kill them. The servants led them into the forest, but one among them said “What have these innocents done?” And they exchanged words but no one knew anything bad that could be said of the Fair Genofeva and no reason why she should be killed. “It is better,” they said, “that we let wild animals tear them apart than stain our hands with their blood.” And so they left Genofeva alone in the wild wood and went out. But because they needed a sign to bring to Golo, one of them said it would be best to cut out the tongue of their hound. And when they came to Golo, he said “Where have you left them?” “They are murdered,” the servants replied and showed them the tongue.

Genofeva cried and prayed in the desolate wilderness. Her child was not yet 30 days old and she could no longer nurse the child. She prayed to the Holy Virgin Mary for help and suddenly a roe deer leapt through the bush and sat down next to the child. The deer was able to suckle the child and he drank. Genofeva stayed at this place for six years and three months. She nourished herself on roots and herbs that she found in the forest. They lived under fallen tree trunks that Genofeva was able to pull together in layers to form a kind of dwelling.

After some time, the Palatinate Duke rode out into the forest to hunt. As the hunters rushed their hounds, they saw the same roe deer that nourished the boy with her milk. The hunters pursued the deer and because there was no way out, it fled to the spot where the two walked daily. It threw itself as usual at the feet of the boy. The hounds pressed forward while the child’s mother took a stick and warded off the hounds. At that moment the Palatinate Duke arrived, he saw the miracle and he ordered the dogs to be called back. He asked the woman whether she was Christian. She replied “I am a Christian, but completely uncovered. Give me your coat so that I can hide my shame.” Siegfried threw down his coat and she covered herself. “Woman,” he said “Why don’t you get food and clothing for yourself?” She replied “Bread I have none; I eat the herbs that I find in the wood; my clothing became worn and fell apart a long time ago.”
“How many years have you been here?”
“Six years and three moons is the time I have been living here.”
“To whom does the boy belong?”
“He is my son.”
“Who is the child’s father?”
“God alone knows.”
“How did you come here and what is your name?”
“My name is Genofeva.”
When the Palatinate Duke heard the name, he thought of his wife, and one of the Duke’s men stepped forward and said “By God that looks like our lady, who died some time ago and she had the same beauty mark on her face.” And every one saw that she had the same mark. “Does she still have her wedding ring?” Siegfried asked. The two went out and saw that she still wore the ring. The Palatinate Duke embraced her and took the child in his arms “This is my wife and this is my child,” he said. The good wife now told him everything that had happened, word-for-word. And everyone cried tears of joy. The faithless Golo was also found and brought forth. The crowd wanted to kill him but the Palatinate Duke cried out: “Hold him until we can determine whether he is worthy of dying.” It happened and Siegfried ordered four oxen, who had not yet pulled the plow, to be tied to the four parts of the body, two on his feet and two on his hands and then to make the oxen move forward. When they were tied in this way, each oxen moved forward and Golo’s body was torn into four pieces.

The Palatinate Duke wanted to bring his wife and child home. But she refused and said: “At this holy site the Virgin saved me from the wild beasts and preserved the life of my child by sending a roe deer. I will not leave this place until it is properly consecrated and honored.” The Palatinate Duke immediate sent word to Bishop Hildolf and everything was reported to him. The Bishop was happy and consecrated the site. After the consecration, Siegfried led his wife and son to the spot and they ate a solemn meal. She asked her husband to build a church there, which he promised. The Palatinate Duchess could no longer eat food, but instead ate the herbs she was used to and had gathered from the wood. She lived only a few days and then returned to God in heaven. Siegfried had her bones buried in the Forest Church, which he had built. This Chapel was called Our Lady (not far from Meyen) and many miracles happened there.


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