Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More tales of the Virgin Mary, Christ Child, the Winter Season and Heaven

200. Der goldene Schluessel
200. The golden key.

Once, when a deep snow lay on the ground in winter, a poor young boy had to go out and fetch wood on a sled. When he had found and gathered the wood and loaded it on to the sled, he did not want to return immediately to his house because he was frozen through. Instead he made a fire to warm himself a bit. He scraped the snow away from the ground and when he had cleared the earth he found a golden key. Now this boy believed that where you find a key, there must also be the matching lock and so he dug in the earth and found a small iron box. “If only the key would fit inside,” he thought, “there are certainly precious things in this little chest.” He looked but could not find a key hole. Finally he discovered a hole but it was so tiny that he could hardly see it at all. He tried and the key fit happily inside. He turned the key around in the lock but now we must wait until the key is completely turned and the lid opened. Then we will find out what wonderful things are hidden in the chest.

Nr. 7 Muttergottesglaeschen
No. 7 The cup of the Mother of God

There was once a driver who drove his wagon into the ditch. The wagon was heavily laden with wine and stuck so fast that he could not free it from the mud, try as he may. Just at that moment the Mother of God was walking down the road and when she saw the trouble of the poor man, she spoke to him: “I am tired and thirsty, give me a glass of your wine and I will free the wagon.”
“Gladly,” the driver answered, “but I have no glass to give you any wine”.
The Mother of God broke off a white flower with a red stripe, which is called field bindweed and looks very much like a glass. She gave it to the driver. He filled it with wine and the Mother of God drank it and in that moment the wagon was free and the driver could continue on his journey. Today the little flower is still called the cup of the Mother of God.

Nr. 9 Die himmlische Hochzeit
No. 9 The heavenly wedding

Once a poor farm boy heard in church what the vicar said “whoever wants to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, must always take the straight and narrow path.” He got up and walked in a straight line all the time, without changing, through mountain and valley. Finally, his path led him to a large city and in the center he came upon a church, where the service was just being held. As he now gazed upon all the majesty he believed he had reached heaven. He sat down and rejoiced greatly. When the church service was over and the verger told him to leave he answered, “No, I will never leave, I am so happy that I am finally in heaven.” The verger went to the vicar and said there was a child in church, who didn’t want to leave because he believed he was in heaven. The vicar spoke “If he believes it, we will leave it at that.” He went to the boy and asked him if he wanted to work. “Yes,” answered the boy, he was used to working, but he was not going to leave heaven ever again. He stayed in the church and when he saw how the people came, knelt and prayed before the Mother of God with the Christ Child, which was carved out of wood, he thought, “This is the dear God himself,” and he spoke, “Oh my dear God, how thin you are! The people are letting you starve: I will bring you half of my food every day.” From then on he brought the statue half of his food and the statue began to enjoy the food. After a few weeks the people noticed that the statue was gaining weight, becoming heavier and stronger and they were very surprised. The vicar could not understand it and stayed in church and followed the boy. He saw how the lad brought his bread to the Mother of God and shared it with her and how she took the food.

After some time, the boy became sick and could not leave his bed for eight days; but when he could get up again, the first thing he did was to bring food to the Mother of God. The vicar followed him and listened as he said “Dear God, please don’t be angry that it’s been so long since I brought you something: I was sick and could not get out of bed.” The statue answered him and said: “I saw your good will; that is enough; next Sunday you will accompany me to the wedding.” The boy rejoiced and told the vicar, who asked him to go to the statue and ask if he could come along too. “No,” the statue responded, “only you alone may come.” The vicar wanted to prepare the boy for the wedding and give him dinner, but the boy was already satisfied; and the next Sunday, when he received his dinner, he fell over and was dead and passed on to the eternal wedding.

Nr. 10 The hazel branch

One afternoon the Christ Child lay down in his cradle and when he was asleep, his mother come and watched him full of joy. She spoke “Have you fallen asleep, my child? Sleep softly, I want to go into the forest and pick a handful of strawberries for you; I know you will enjoy them when you wake up.” Outside in the wood she found a place with the most beautiful strawberries. When she bent over to pick them, an adder jumped up out of the grass. She was startled, left the berries and hurried away. The adder shot after her, but the Mother of God, as you can well imagine, knew what to do and hid behind a hazel bush and stayed there until the adder had slithered away. She then went back to collect the berries and when she was on her way home, she spoke “As the hazel bush has been my protection now, so shall it protect others in the future.” For this reason since ancient times a green hazel branch is the most certain protection against adders, snakes and everything else that creeps on the earth.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Now only the forbidden door was left unopened and the child felt such a huge desire to know what was hidden behind it. The girl spoke to the angels: “I won’t open the door completely and I don’t want to go inside, but I do want to open it so that we can see just a little bit through the crack.”

The Virgin Mary and Her Child

There was once a woodcutter, who lived with his wife outside of a deep forest. He had only one child, a little girl three years old. They were so poor, they had neither crust nor crumb nor did they know what they would feed the child. One morning, the wordcutter went into the forest burdened with worry. As he chopped his wood, at once a beautiful and tall woman stood before him. She had a crown of twinkling stars on her head and spoke to him: “I am the Virgin Mary, the mother of the Baby Jesus: you are poor and needy. Bring me your child. I will take it with me, be its mother and care for it.”
The woodcutter obeyed, fetched his child and gave it to the Virgin Mary, who took it with her to heaven. There the child prospered, ate sugar-cake and drank sweet milk. Its clothes were made of gold and angels were the child’s playmates. When the girl turned fourteen, the Virgin Mary called her and spoke “Dear child, I have a long journey ahead of me. Take the keys to the thirteen doors of the Kingdom of Heaven: you may open up twelve of them and view the splendor within. But the thirtheenth door, to which this small key belongs, is prohibited: take care, that you do not open it, otherwise you will become unhappy.” The girl promised to be obedient, and when the Virgin Mary had departed, she began to view the rooms of the kingdom of heaven: each day she opened one door, until she had gone around to all twelve. Behind each door sat an apostle, who was enveloped by an enormous brilliance and the child delighted in the splendor and magnificence. The angels, who always accompanied the girl, rejoiced with the child. Now only the forbidden door was left unopened and the child felt such a huge desire to know what was hidden behind it. The girl spoke to the angels: “I won’t open the door completely and I don’t want to go inside, but I do want to open it so that we can see just a little bit through the crack.” “Oh no,” said the angels. “That would be a sin: the Virgin Mary forbids it and it could easily result in your unhappiness.” The child was silent but the desire in its heart would not diminish. The desire gnawed and pecked and would not leave the child in peace. When the angels had all left, the child thought “now I am entirely alone and can look inside. No one will even know that I did it.” The girl took out the key and felt it’s cold metal in the palm of her hand, she then placed it in the latch. And when she had inserted it, the lock turned over. The door sprang open and inside the child saw the Trinity seated in fire and brilliance. The girl stood still for a while and considered everything with astonishment, then held out her finger a bit and touched the brilliant glow. Her entire finger became golden. The child immediately was gripped by fear, slammed the door shut and ran away. The terror would not subside and try as she may, her heart raced and raced and would not be calm: the gold stayed on her finger and would not wash off, no matter how much she washed or rubbed.

It was not long before the Virgin Mary returned from her journey. She called the girl and asked her for the keys to heaven. When she held up the key ring the Virgin Mary looked into her eyes and said “Did you open the 13th door too?” “No,” the girl responded. She placed her hand on the child’s heart and felt how it raced and raced and noticed that she had gone beyond her command and had indeed opened the door. She asked again “Are you sure you didn’t do it?” “No,” the girl said a second time. Then the Virgin Mary looked at her finger, which had become golden from touching the heavenly fire. She saw that the girl had sinned and asked a third time: “Did you do it?” “No,” the girl replied a third time. The Virgin Mary spoke “you have not obeyed me, and what’s more you have lied. You are not worthy to live in heaven.”

The girl sank into a deep sleep and when she awoke, she was lying below on earth, in the middle of a wilderness. She wanted to call out, but she could not bring forth any sound. She jumped up and wanted to run away, but wherever she turned, she was held back by a thick rose bush and the girl could not break through. There was an old hollow tree in the wilderness, where the girl was enclosed. The tree had to become her domicile. She crept inside when night fell and slept there. And when it stormed and rained she found protection inside: but this was a wretched existence and when she thought how beautiful it had been in heaven and remembered how the angels had played with her, the child cried bitter tears. Roots and wild berries were her only sustenance. The girl searched for these as far as she could go. In the fall, she collected fallen nuts and leaves and carried them to her cave. The nuts were her food in winter and when snow and ice came, she crept like some poor animal into the leaves so that she would not freeze. It was not long before she tore her clothes; one piece after another fell from her body. As soon as the sun shone warmly, the girl went out and sat in front of the tree and her long hair covered her on all sides like a coat. She sat there one year after another and felt the pain and misery of the world.

Once, when the trees stood in their green foliage again, the king of the land went out hunting in the forest and pursued a stag. Because the animal had fled into the bush, which enveloped the woods, he dismounted his horse, tore away the undergrowth and with his sword hacked out a path. When he had finally gotten through, he saw a beautiful maid sitting under the tree. She sat there and was covered from head to foot by her golden hair. He stood still and gazed upon her full of wonder. Finally he spoke and said “Who are you? Why are you sitting here in the wilderness?” The maid only nodded a bit with her head. The king picked her up in his arms, carried her to his horse and rode home. When he arrived at the royal castle, he had the finest clothes made for her and gave her everything in excess. And although she could not speak, she was still beautiful and charming so that she won his heart. It was not long before he married her.

About a year went by and the queen bore a son. In the night when she lay alone in her bed, the Virgin Mary appeared and spoke “Will you not say the truth and admit that you opened the forbidden door. If so, I will open your mouth and return to you the gift of speech: but if you persist in your sin and stubbornly continue to lie, I will take your new-born with me.” The queen was embarrassed to answer, she remained stubborn and said “No, I have not opened the forbidden door,” and the Virgin Mary took the newborn child from her arms and vanished. The next morning when the child could not be found, a murmur went through the castle. The queen was a child eater and had killed her own child. She heard it all but could not say anything in her defense. The king would not believe it because he loved her so.

After a year the queen bore another son. Once again at night the Virgin Mary appeared to her and said “Will you admit that you opened the forbidden door, I will return to you your child and release your tongue. If you stubbornly insist in your sin and lie, I will also take this newborn with me.” The queen spoke again “No, I have not opened the door.” And the Virgin took the child from her arms and returned to heaven. The next morning when it was discovered that this child had also vanished, the people were quite bold and said the queen had eaten it. They demanded the king’s council be called and that she should be executed. The king loved her so dearly that he would not believe and ordered the councils not to speak about it upon bodily pain to death.

The next year the queen bore a beautiful little girl. For the third time the Virgin Mary appeared and said “Follow me.” She took her by the hand and led her to heaven and showed her the two oldest children, who laughed and played with the terrestrial orb. When the queen rejoiced, the Virgin Mary spoke “Has your heart not yet softened? When you admit that you have opened the forbidden door, I will return both of your sons to you.” But the queen responded a third time “No, I have not opened the forbidden door.” The Virgin let her sink back to earth and took her third child too.

In the morning when it was heard, all the people cried out loudly “the Queen is a child eater, she must be condemned.” The King could no longer rebuke his council. A court was called to pass judgment over her and because she could not answer and defend herself, she was carried away and tied to a pole and the fire began to burn around. The hard ice of pride melted and her heart was moved by remorse and she thought “If I could only admit before my death that I opened the door.” Then her voice returned and she cried out “Yes, Maria, I did it!” And as soon as this was said the heavens began to rain and put out the flames and a light broke over her. The Virgin Mary came down from heaven with both little sons at her side and the newborn daughter in her arm. She spoke friendly to her: “Whoever is sorry for his sins and confesses them is forgiven” and gave her the three children, released her tongue and granted her happiness for her entire life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

When the stars fell from heaven.

When the stars fell from heaven.


There was once a small girl, whose father and mother were dead. The girl was so poor that she didn’t have a room to live in or a bed to sleep in and finally had no more than the clothes on her back and one little piece of bread in her hand, which a compassionate soul had given her. But the girl was good and pious. And because the child had been abandoned by the entire world, she went out in the fields in faith to meet dear God. The girl met a poor man, who said “Oh, give me something to eat, I am so hungry.” The girl gave him an entire piece of bread and said “God bless you and yours,” and continued walking. The girl came to a child who was crying and said “I am freezing and my head is so cold, give me something to cover it.” The girl took off her cap and gave it to the child. And after the girl had walked a while, it met another child who didn’t have a wrap and was freezing: the girl gave it her wrap; and then a bit further another child asked for the girl’s jacket, she also gave it to him. Finally it reached the forest and it was already dark. A child came and asked for her shirt and the pious girl thought “It is darkest night, no one will see you, you can give him your shirt,” and she took off her shirt and also gave it away. And as it stood there and had nothing left in the world, the stars fell from heaven and they were hard, shiny coins: and although the girl had just given away her little shift, she had a new one and this one was made of the finest linen. She collected the coins and was rich all the days of her life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Table of Content for Christmas Fairy Tales

Translations for the following fairy tales:
5. Frau Holla zieht umher ~~ Frau Holle is stirring
6. Frau Hollen Bath ~~ Frau Holle's bath
7. Frau Holla und der treue Eckart ~~ Frau Holla and True Eckart
8. Frau Holla und der Bauer ~~ Frau Holla and the farmer
117. Die Christnacht ~~ Christmas Eve

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fairy Tales

This website is devoted to all aspects of Fairy Tales and the translation of Fairy Tales and Saga, primarily from German. The Fairy Tales are grouped around specific themes: December/Christmas Themes, January/Discerning the Future, February/Stories Celebrating Love Won & Love Lost/Valentine's Day. Anyone interested in these stories and especially the translation of such tales is encouraged to add their comments. Please also add comments on stories from other cultural traditions that tie into a specific theme.

The fairy tale .... what is it?
Maerchen or Fairy Tale: a working definitionA fairy tale is a fictitious story, originally conveyed orally to a cohesive social group or community, bound together by language, custom or geography. Often fairy tales describe universal human experiences, core (religious) beliefs or the values of a social community. The problems of every day life are often explored: living within a family structure, finding a mate, securing status or riches, establishing oneself in life, life’s seasons and cycles . Main characteristics include fabulous or fantastic elements, a storyline that is played out independently from any specific time or place, an anti-hero or anti-heroine winning out against all odds (i.e., the youngest, smallest, dumbest, poorest succeeds over the oldest, tallest, smartest or richest). Fairy tale justice means the last shall be first and the first shall be last. As an oral tradition, the fairy tale often uses a narrative template with three-fold repetition. Only in the third segment is the adversary overcome, victory assured, success achieved.Often considered a form of literature suitable for children, fairy tales often contain explicit violence, sex and macabre events and are not always suited for younger readers.The Brother Grimm write in their Preface to the First Volume of fairy tales that “Fairy tales, sagas and history stand together and present us with the fresh and lively spirit of pre-historical times. …The fairy tale is more poetic, the saga is more historical in nature.”The saga is firmly anchored in a specific time, often a specific year, geographic region or city/town/place. Persons are mentioned by name, often a specific historical figure or king is mentioned. The saga often explains strange phenomena, unusual features in the landscape, the origin of an ethnic group or names long since forgotten but which were once of local significance. Sagas describe the memory of an historical event. History is explained by a community remembering its past and offering explanations for local custom and tradition. The saga is a means of connecting current circumstances to precise past reference points. Some of these reference points are authentic, others probably are completely invented.The saga in its purest form celebrates or commemorates a folk memory or tradition and has not been corrupted by current trends, commentaries or promotions.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Fairy Tales for Christmas Tide

5. Frau Holla zieht umher
5. Frau Holla is stirring....

Frau Holla begins her wanderings on Christmas Eve, for this is when goodwives bind new scraps of cotton or flax around their spindles. The spindles are then left out over night. If Frau Holla sees them, she says:

"So many a hair
So many a good year."

Frau Holla repeats this every evening until New Year's or Three Kings' Day. Then she must return to her Horselberg; but when she returns if she finds flax on the spindle she becomes very angry and says:

"So many a hair
So many a bad year."

That is why every evening when work is done the maidservants carefully remove from their spindles whatever they have not spun so that the spindles are bare and no evil befalls them. But it's even better if they are able to spin off all the bound batting before the end of the day.

6. Frau Hollen Bad
6. Frau Holla's Bath

There is a place in Hessen called Meissner where there is a large moor or lake. Often the water is murky and the place is called Frau Holla's Bath. Old folks tell how they have seen Frau Holle bathing in the murky water at mid-day and then see her vanish. The hills and moors in the entire region are filled with ghosts; travelers or hunters often become confused, lured away or harmed.

7. Frau Holla und der treue Eckart
7. Frau Holla and True Eckart

There is a village in Thuringia named Schwarza or Darkish. On Christmas Eve Frau Holla moves about the village and in the front of the pack True Eckart walks, warning people to get out of the way so that they are not harmed. Once, a few farm boys had just purchased beer in the pub and they wanted to carry it home. Suddenly the ghostly parade appeared before them. The ghosts took up the entire width of the street so the village chaps with their jugs turned away and receded into a corner. No sooner done than several crones separated themselves from the procession, took the jugs and drank them empty. The boys held their tongues out of fear and did not know how they would be received at home when they returned with empty jugs. Finally, True Eckart came round the corner and said: "Good that you did not say peep; tell no one what happened. Your jugs will always be full of beer and they will never break." The boys did this and it was as True Eckart said. The jugs were never empty. The boys were able to follow the advice for three days. But finally, they could conceal their secret no longer and told their parents. Their luck ran out and the little jugs dried up. Others said this did not happen on Christmas Eve but at a different time.

314 Der getreue Eckart/Deutsche Sagen

This is what is said about True Eckart: that he sits in front of the Venusberg or Hoeselberg and warns anyone who wants to enter. Johann Kennerer, Pastor at Mansfeld, his age over eighty years, told the story of how in Eisleben and in the entire Mansfeld area a raging army passed by every year on the eve of the feast of Thorn's Day. People ran to see the spectacle and waited as if it was nothing other than a powerful Kaiser or King who was passing by. In front of the troop walked an old man with a white staff. He called himself True Eckart. This man told the people to get out of the way, also said to many they must return home or experience harm. Endless hordes followed this man, endless throngs followed and people were seen in their midst who had recently died in the places and some were seen, who were still living. One rode on a horse with two legs. Another was bound to a wheel and the wheel rolled on its own. A third man was seen running furiously with his legs over his shoulders. Another man did not have any head and a piece without any dimensions. This happened recently in Franken and you can often see this in Heidelberg on the Neckar. The raging army appears in wild, deserted places, in the air, in the dark, with hounds bellowing, blowing of hunting horns and bellowing of wild animals. Often you can see rabbits running ahead and hear pigs grunting.

8. Frau Hola und der Bauer
8. Frau Holla and the Farmer

Once, when Frau Holla went out, she met a farmer with an axe. She said that he should cut or hack out a path for her. The day laborer did as she commanded and when the work was finished she said "Gather up the chips and take them as my gratitude," then she went her way. To the man, this seemed a futile and useless reward so he left most of the chips lying on the ground. He took only one or three pieces with him out of boredom. When he came home and looked in his bag, the chips had changed to sparkling gold. He turned around at once to retrieve the others left lying; but no matter how hard he looked it was too late and nothing was left behind.

117. Die Christnacht
117. Christmas Eve

In the early morning on Christmas Eve Day, superstitious maids buy a roll in the baker's shop for a Pfennig and always a bun with an end piece that is closed off. They cut off a bit of the crust, tie it under their right arm and work diligently the entire day. Afterward when they go to bed, they place the crust under their pillow on Christmas Eve and say:

"Now I lay down to sleep with bread by me,
If only my true love came and ate with me!"

At midnight some of the bread crust should be gnawed and in the morning you can tell whether or not the maid will marry her true love during the year. If the bread was left untouched, there is little hope. It also supposedly happened (in 1657 in Leipzig) that two slept in one bed. One had such a bread crust under her pillow, the other not. The other one heard a creaking and gnawing and was afraid and shook her bedfellow until she awoke from her dreams. When they looked at the bread in the morning, the form of a cross had been eaten out of it. The woman soon found a soldier as husband.

An old woman in Saale Fields says that others take a vessel with water and measure out the water with a certain small measuring cup, pouring it into another vessel. They do this endless times to see whether in the repeat measurements they find more water than the first time. From this they tell whether the following year will increase their possessions and goods. If they find the one and same measure, they believe their fate will stand still and bring neither fortune nor misfortune. But if in the end there is less water, they believe that their prosperity will decline. The Saale Field woman had the second thing happen to her.

Others take a bowl of peas and a ball of twine, bind the twine fast to the bowl and wind the ball until it can run no more than before. Now they let go it, releasing one yard or six. They now hang the contraption out of the window and move it from one side to another on the outer walls and say: "Listen, listen!" From the side area they should hear the voice, to whom they must come to free and to live with. Others reach their hands out of the door and when they pull their hands back in, have several hairs from their future true love.