This month: fairy tales from ancient Egypt!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Theme of Death and Resurrection in Fairy Tales



Embraced by thorns: the Fairy Tale of Sleeping Beauty, in which a maid is brought back to life.

A long time ago there lived a king and a queen. Each day they said to each other “If only we had a child!” for it was their most fervent desire. But alas, they never had one. Now one day it happened that the queen was sitting in her bath and a frog came out of the water. It crept onto the shore and said to her “Your wish shall be fulfilled, before a year passes you shall have a daughter.” What the frog foretold did indeed happen and the queen bore a little girl. She was so beautiful that the king was beside himself with joy and called together a celebration. He not only invited relatives and friends, but also the Wise Women, so that they would be well disposed toward the child. There were thirteen Wise Women in his kingdom, but because he only had twelve golden plates for them to eat from, one would have to stay home. The party was celebrated in splendor and when it was over, each of the Wise Women presented the child with a wonderful gift: one bestowed virtue, the other beauty, the third riches, and so on and so forth with everything that could be wished for upon the earth. When eleven of these wise women had bestowed their blessings, the thirteenth suddenly appeared. She was ready to take revenge because she had not been invited to the party. Without greeting or even looking at any of the guests, she called out in a loud voice “The king’s daughter shall prick her finger in her fifteenth year and fall over dead!” She did not utter another word, but turned around and left the hall. All were aghast. But the twelfth wise woman still had one wish left over. Because she could not negate the evil spell but could only mitigate it she said “The king’s daughter shall not die, but only fall into a deep sleep lasting one hundred years.” The king, who wanted to save his dear child from this misfortune, sent out the command that all spindles in the entire kingdom should be burned. But all the blessings of the Wise Women were fulfilled for the child. She was so beautiful, demure, friendly and attentive that anyone who saw her had to love her. It happened that on the very day she turned fifteen, the king and queen were not at home and the girl remained all alone in the castle. She wandered through all the rooms and chambers and finally came to the old tower. She climbed the tight spiral staircase and reached a small door. In the lock was a rusty key and when she turned it, the door sprang open. In a small chamber sat an old woman with a spindle and spun her flax skillfully. “Good day, old grandmother,” the king’s daughter said. “What are you doing here?” “I am spinning,” the old woman replied and nodded her head. “What kind of thing is this that spins around so cheerfully?” the girl asked and picked up the spindle and also wanted to spin. She had barely touched the spindle, when the magic spell was fulfilled and she pricked her finger. In the moment she felt the sting, she fell onto a bed beside her and was soon in a deep sleep. A heavy slumber soon spread throughout the entire castle: the king and queen, who had just come home and entered the hall, fell asleep and the entire court with them. The horses fell asleep in their stall, the dogs in the courtyard, the doves on the roof and the flies on the wall. Even the fire in the oven flickered, became quiet and died down and the roast stopped roasting. The cook, who was pulling the hair of the kitchen servant, let go and fell asleep. And the wind quieted until not a single leaf moved in the trees in front of the castle. A thorn hedge began to grow around the castle, which was higher each year and finally encircled the entire castle. It grew over the castle walls and soon, nothing more could be seen, not even the banners on the roof. The story circulated throughout all the land that a beautiful Thorn-Rose slumbered inside, because that is what the king’s daughter was called. From time to time the sons of kings came and tried to penetrate the hedge and enter the castle. But it was not possible. It was as if the thorns had hands, which were clenched firmly together. The youths got stuck in the thick branches, could not free themselves and died a mournful death. After many years another king’s son arrived in the land and heard an old man tell of the thorn hedge. A castle supposedly stood behind it, in which a beautiful king’s daughter, named Little Thorn Rose, was already sleeping one hundred years, and with her slept the king and the queen and the entire court. The man also knew from his grandfather that many princes had already come and tried to penetrate the thorn hedge, but they all became entwined in the bramble and died a miserable death. The youth spoke “I am not afraid. I will go out and try to see the beautiful Little Thorn Rose.” The old man tried to dissuade him, but he did not listen to his words. One hundred years had just passed and the day had arrived when Little Thorn Rose was to awake. When the king’s son approached the thorn hedge, it was full of beautiful flowers. The branches opened for him and the thorns parted and let him through unharmed. Behind him, the hedge closed again. In the courtyard he saw the horses and hunting hounds lying asleep and on the roof sat the doves with their heads tucked below their wings. When he entered the house, the flies on the wall still slept, the cook still held his hand in the air as if he wanted to strike the servant and the maid sat before the black hen that was to be plucked. He entered the hall and saw the entire court lying asleep and the king and queen lay on their thrones asleep. He walked further and everything was quiet, you could hear a person breathing. Finally he came to the tower and opened the door to the small chamber where Little Thorn Rose slept. She lay there and was so beautiful that he could not turn away his eyes and bent over and gave her a kiss. When he touched her mouth with a kiss, little Thorn Rose opened her eyes, awoke and blinked joyfully at the prince. They walked down the winding staircase and the king and queen and the entire court awakened. They all looked at each other in amazement wide-eyed. The horses in the courtyard stood up from their sleep and shook themselves; the hunting hounds jumped and wagged their tails; the doves on the roof pulled their heads from under their wings, looked around and flew out to the field; the flies on the wall began to hum; the fire in the kitchen rose up, flickered and cooked the food; the roast began to get crispy; the cook boxed the youth’s ears so that he cried out and the maid plucked the chicken. The marriage of the king’s son and Little Thorn Rose was celebrated in splendor and they lived happily ever after.

To read more about the Wise Women in this fairy tale, hit the Norns link at the right.
To read more about representations of heaven and the afterlife in fairy tales, hit link at right.
To read more fairy tales about death and resurrection of fairy tale characters, please hit the link Path to Paradise or Little Red Riding Hood.

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