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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Three Legends of the Virgin Mary: The Singing Fir Tree

The Singing Fir Tree

Copyright of Translation FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In Switzerland, a story is told about a man named Hans Kreutz, who lived with his wife on Thun Lake in Ralligen. In the year 1555, a thick black fog descended on the village and it would not dissipate. The alarmed villagers retreated to their homes, closed doors and sealed the windows tightly. But a light blue vapor crept under the window sill and the wife breathed in this vapor and in the evening she lay in bed motionless. Hans looked into her eyes and saw no reflection there and in the morning she was dead. 

Many villagers died that year and the survivors buried their loved ones in the church yard at the outskirts of town, where the mountain and forest swept down abruptly into the valley. While the bells in the church tower were ringing, Hans buried his wife and returned home. For days he did not leave his house. He neither ate nor slept but could not forget the vacant stare of his beloved wife and the sound of the church bells as he lowered her into the grave.

One evening when Hans sat by the fire, he heard the church bells ring out the Ave and they rang and rang and he lost track of the time. He raised his head, for he thought he heard wonderful and sweet singing up high in the Hohlbach Forest near the tree line. But when the church bells stopped ringing, he heard it no more. The next day he sat with longing and waited for the evening church bells to ring out the Ave. At first he heard only the faintest sound of distant singing, but then the melody grew stronger until there could be no mistake. A woman’s voice sang a mysterious and beautiful song, the words of which he could not quite decipher.

Hans spread word among the townspeople of the mysterious singing. At night the entire village listened while the church bells rang and soon everyone heard the wonderful melody. The sound was soothing and the villagers listened at the edge of the village until the snow began to fall and then they returned to their homes. 

All but Hans, who wanted to know where the singing came from. The next night when the church bells were ringing, the villagers assembled in the church yard. Hans lit a torch and climbed the mountainside, following the mysterious melody. He did this every evening until one night he finally found a giant fir tree, and its voice was sweet and clear. He shyly gazed upon the tree and in amazement listened to its gentle song.But Hans could find no rest. The singing fir tree occupied his waking and sleeping hours and he wanted to be in the presence of its song always. In secret he climbed up the mountain during the day and spent long hours near the tree. 

Some time passed and Hans was called away to visit his family in the next valley.While he was away, a wood carver from among the villagers, who had seen the beautiful fir tree, decided he needed it to make a wood carving. Because the tree was so magnificent, tall and straight, with perfectly formed branches and trunk, he had it felled and brought down to the valley. From the wood, he selected an enormous block of the trunk that had no scars or branches. From this piece of wood he began to carve an image of the Virgin Mary. 

He worked day and night on this carving and saw nothing more beautiful than the image of the Virgin taking shape out of the wood. And after some time, the villagers came to his workshop and marveled at the beauty of the image, its heavenly countenance and mild authority.When Hans returned to the village after some months, he climbed the mountain and went directly to where the singing fir tree had stood. In its place was only a stump and Hans was gripped by such melancholy, that a loud moan issued from his lips. It was like the howling of a wounded wolf or the shriek of an eagle flying overhead. The loud cries filled the valley, echoing off the cliffs and rocks. 

When the villagers heard the loud cries from above, they gathered below near the church. And soon in the distance they heard the beautiful, long-missed song. They turned and saw the woodcarver, carrying his statue and saw that it was singing. He placed the statue in the church, where it stands today. And some say, they have heard it singing when a loved one dies. The place where the tree once stood is now called Marienstein. There is a smaller rock nearby, where Hans once gazed upon the fir tree. It is said that in his grief, Hans turned to stone and the place is now called the Kreutzantisch.

Read more fairy tales of the Virgin Mary:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/image-of-mercy-in-larch-branch-at.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/christmas-reading-series-legends-of.html

FairyTaleChannel.com

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Reading Series: Three Legends of Mary

The Place Called Maria Stein

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. 

Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In the Swiss canton of Basel high above the village of Ettlingen there once stood mighty castle called Fuerstenstein. One of the most upright and decent men to ever live there was the Knight Hans von Rothberg. He was known throughout the land for his good and noble deeds.

One day the knight rode out to the city of Basel to visit friends. Before he left, he said a prayer and commended his wife and children to the protection of God.

Because it was a beautiful day, the lady of the castle left the peace and quietude of the fortress and took her little daughter for a walk around the deep walls. Wandering a bit with the child on the green meadow, the two had a good view of the mountains surrounding them and the valley below. When the mother found a bit of shade under tall trees, she sat down amongst some ferns, a bit tired and sleepy from the thousand different aromas emanating from the woods and fields. With tired eyes she gazed upon the zig-zagging flight of the butterflies. The humming of bees and chirping of crickets had a calming effect and the lady found herself nodding off from time to time. Her drowsy bliss was punctuated by the laughter of the girl when she came running with a basket full of alpine flowers to show her mother. In her search for the most beautiful flowers, the girl was drawn farther and farther away. Soon she was climbing into some brush that stood at the end of the precipice.

All at once the mother sat up abruptly. A terrible cry came from the direction of the brush. The lady rushed toward the sound and fell to her knees. Not a trace of her daughter was seen. She must have fallen through the brush and down the cliff. The mother, terrified, called her child’s name a hundred times. But it was all for naught, there was no reply.

She hurried as fast her feet could carry her to the path leading into the valley. Breathless and with her hair flowing wildly around her shoulders, she arrived below.

But abruptly she stopped dead in her tracks. There she saw her child, whom she believed had been smashed to bits from the fall. The girl ran toward her beaming and her little basket was full of strawberries. She called “Mother, Mother, here I am!” But the mother was speechless. With her heart beating wildly, she pressed the child to her breast. She looked up at the jagged rock and could not believe that her daughter had survived the horrible fall. She tried to regain her composure as the child told her what had happened. As the mother slept, she ventured out too far because she could not see through the brush and how precarious the spot was. All at once the ground vanished under her feet and she fell. Suddenly a beautiful woman appeared, took her in her arms and gently brought her to the valley below. Afterward they picked the strawberries that were now in her basket, which they would now bring to father.

Now the mother knew that it was the Virgin Mary who had saved her daughter. They went home and the grateful mother anxiously described what what had happened that afternoon. The father was so moved by this miracle that he had a chapel built at the site. Later they built the convent Maria Stein.


Read more fairy tales about the Blessed Virgin Mary:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/three-legends-of-virgin-mary-singing.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/image-of-mercy-in-larch-branch-at.html

Or about Saint Boniface/Wilfried:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/07/grimms-saga-no-181-saint-wilfried-or.html

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Image of Mercy in the Larch Branch at Waldrast

Grimm's Saga No. 349

Christmas Goddesses and Saints Revealed to the Faithful

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. 

Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In 1392 Our Lady in Heaven sent an angel to Tirol, at the place called Waldrast on Serlesberg. The angel stepped before a hollow larch tree and spoke to it in the name of God’s Mother: You, branch, shall bear fruit of the image of our Lady in Heaven!” 

The image grew into the branch and two pious shepherd boys, Hänsle and Peterle from Mizens village, first gazed upon it in the year 1407. In wonder, they ran down to the farmers in the valley below and told them: “Go up to the mountain, a wonderful image is revealed in the hollow wood. We hardly trust ourselves to touch it.” 

The holy image was now recognized and cut out of the branch with a saw and brought to the village of Matrey. There it stood until a separate church could be built for it at Waldrast. Our Lady entrusted the work to a poor woodcutter who lived near Matrey. 

One Pentecost when he was lying in his bed at night and slept, a voice came to him. It spoke three times and said: “Are you sleeping or are you awake?” And the third time he woke up and asked: “Who are you and what do you want?” The voice spoke: “You shall build a chapel to honor Our Lady at Waldrast.” The woodcutter replied: “I don’t want to do that.” But the voice returned the next Pentecost Eve and spoke to him in the same way as before. He replied “I am too poor to do it.” The voice returned on the Third Eve of Pentecost as he lay in his bed and spoke as before. For three nights he could not sleep for worry and so he finally answered the voice: “What do you mean that you will not leave me alone?” The voice replied “You shall do it!” He answered “I shall not do it!” It grabbed him and raised him in the air and said: “You shall do it and it would be good for you to reconsider!” 

He thought to himself: I am a poor man, how can I do the right thing? Finally he consented and said he would do it, if he only knew the correct site. The voice spoke “In the forest there is a green spot in the moss. Lay down and rest and the correct site will be revealed to you.” The woodcutter went out and lay down on the moss and rested (that is why the place is called the Resting Place in the Wood, or Waldrast). 

When he lay asleep, he heard two bells in his sleep. He awoke and looked up at the spot where the church now stands. A woman in white robes stood and had a babe on her arm but he saw only a glimpse. He thought to himself: Almighty God, this is certainly the right place! And he went to the spot where he had seen the picture and marked off where he meant to build Her church. The bells rang until he had finished marking the spot and then he did not hear them any more. 

He spoke: “Dear God, how can I accomplish this? I am poor and have no money to spend on such a building.” The voice spoke again: “Go to pious people; they will give you as much as you need. And when the time comes to bless the church, it will stand in peace for 36 years. After this, great signs will be revealed for all eternity.” And so, when he began construction of the chapel he went to his confessor and told him his intentions. The priest sent him to the Bishop of Brixen. He visited the Bishop in Brixen five times before he was allowed to start building the chapel. The bishop did this on the Tuesday before St. Pankratius in the year 1409. (St. Pankratius is a so-called Ice Saint and his feast day is May 12. Other Ice Saints include St. Servatius, St. Bonifatius (Boniface) and St. Sophie).

To read more legends of the virgin Mary:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/three-legends-of-virgin-mary-singing.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/christmas-reading-series-legends-of.html

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Christmas Wolf

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com 
(Fairy tales can be accessed by clicking on the link above.  Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

According to a folk belief widely circulated in Europe, certain persons were capable of transforming themselves into wolves on Christmas Eve. The night itself was filled with innumerable magical possibilities: water became wine; the mandrake root of legendary fame bloomed and apple trees simultaneously bore blossoms and fruit. At this time of year Frau Holda appeared with True Eckart, leading an unruly procession. An encounter with this Christmas goddess and her companion was both terrifying and rewarding. An unsuspecting mortal who unwittingly crossed path with Frau Holda’s procession received that most illusive Christmas gift of all, one that kept on giving. If you were lucky enough to be holding a beer stein when you met up with her, your glass would always be filled with tasty beer. That is, until you unwittingly disclosed the source of your secret brew.

The night was also good for augering the future. On Christmas Eve the curious hollowed out 12 onions and filled them with salt. Placing them strategically around the room, each onion was designated as a month of the year. On Christmas morning the onions would be carefully examined and the future predicted according to the shape of each onion. A shriveled January onion could only mean a month of meagerness. Likewise a bloated bulb could only portend a fat and prosperous 30 days. As in most things, it appears that much was left to the imagination of the beholder.

But back to the Christmas wolf. The wolf was originally significant as companion to Woton (Southern Germanic tribes) or Odin (Northern Germanic tribes). Two wolves reputedly were always by his side and they behaved more or less like hunting dogs. Because of this connection, the wolf became forever associated with heathen or pagan beliefs. An unbaptised child was referred to as heidenwolf (heathen wolf). There were certain methods one could employ to become a wolf: rubbing your body with magical salve or fastening your buckle in the 9th hole of your belt were popular methods. But remarkably, it was on Christmas Eve when pagan powers were especially potent. Persons with such inclinations could transform themselves into wolves quite easily on this night. Why someone would want to become a wolf is anyone’s guess. The night itself was considered to be imbued with supernatural powers.

A wolf in December is a ravenous beast. The all-devouring creature in Little Red Riding Hood is juxtaposed with the life-giving nourishment of wine and cake the maid brings her grandmother. In Europe, there is a traditional cake associated with Christmas and the month of December, with many different regional variations. In Germany, this cake is celebrated for its richness and is called Christmas stollen. Other countries also eat a sweet cake, often filled with raisins, nuts or other fruits. Folk tradition stipulates that eating this cake is absolutely necessary, for its richness awards strength and much needed poundage to survive the long winter months. To ward off the ravenous beast within, bake this Christmas stollen and enjoy. Substitute raisins for the dried cherries to bake a more traditional European stollen.

Recipe for Cross-Notched Stollen


Note:
An almond paste filling is optional in this stollen recipe but highly recommended! (Any nut paste can be used, be creative, but stick to one type of nut only!)
Dough: Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons dark rum:
1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup cubed citron
1/4 cup candied orange peel
Cover and let soak at least 1 hour. (This will be added after the dough rises).
1 package instant yeast dissolved in
3/4 cup warm milk
Let stand 10 minutes until frothy
Add:1 1/2 cups all purpse flour
1/3 cup sugar
Mix until smooth
Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until double in size
Mix in to dough mixture:
2 beaten eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
grated zest of lemon
1 teaspoon salt
Knead in by hand:
1 1/2 cups bread flour until smooth and elastic
Add while kneading:1 3/4 sticks soft butter, the dried fruit/rum mixture, 1/4 cup coarsely chopped and lightly toasted almonds.
Knead until all fruits and nuts are incorporated.
Let rise in buttered bowl 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until double in size.
Mix together (optional) filling:
8 ounces almond paste is mixed together with:
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs2 tablespoons soft butter
Roll into log about 6 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameterRemove dough from bowl and lightly roll out to a 1-inch thick oval (roughly 14 x 9 inches).
Place nut log in center. Fold over and shape into loaf.
Brush loaf with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place on greased cookie sheet.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Using sharp knife, cut 3 cross-shaped notches across top of loaf. Let rise until double in size. Bake stollen for about 50 minutes or when knife inserted in center comes out clean. Brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Top with powdered sugar.
Cool before serving.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas Goddesses and Little Red Riding Hood

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)


A coterie of fairy tale goddesses presides over the feast days of December, the time of the winter solstice. Frau Holle, Frau Bertha, Perahta, Frau Lutz and the Dirneweible all appear at the end of the year in the month of December. Their importance, though impossible to completely reconstruct today, was linked to the season with the longest amount of darkness and shortest amount of light. The winter solstice was celebrated as the turning point back to light and illumination. The goddesses connected to this tradition were celebrated with processions, lighted candles, singing and feasting. According to The Oxford Book of Days*, by the third century A.D. the Sun was considered to be the one true God by vast segments of the population. The Roman emperor Aurelian made December 25th the official birthday of the sun and proclaimed the day as Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the unconquerable sun). When vast segments of Europe became Christianized, the traditions associated with these goddesses were also transformed. In parts of Bohemia and Scandinavia, Frau Berta became St. Lucy and her feast day was set on December 13th. It was at this time of year that Frau Holle and Frau Bertha reputedly made their 12-day procession, marking the time between Christmas and New Year. The procession itself was probably a dramatic reenactment of the natural cycle of the earth, turning from darkness and returning to light.

Nordic countries still celebrate Saint Lucy with a December festival or Luciatag. The day is commemorated with singing and parades marking the twelve days preceding Christmas. Saint Lucy was revered as the patroness of weavers, spinners and the harvest. Consequently, all weaving, spinning and threshing had to be completed by her feast day. Participants in her festival wore white and sang songs in her honor with typically one child being selected to represent Saint Lucy. This maid wore a white dress, a crown of lighted candles and a red sash to set her apart from the other participants, who were also clothed in white but wore silver crowns and sashes. The name Lucy itself suggests light and lucidity. According to Christian tradition, Lucy refused to marry the suitor her parents had selected for her. As punishment for her disobedience, her eyes were pulled out. A gory fate, we might think, but only a minor setback for a spunky saint. Miraculously Lucy was able to reinsert her eyeballs. Thereafter she was associated with persons suffering from eye ailments and was soon known as the patron saint of the blind. According to another tradition popular since the Middle Ages, Lucy was so filled with the Holy Spirit she became quite heavy. A whole group of men and team of oxen could not budge the saint from where she stood. Such weightiness might be the ultimate horror for girls her age and a most terrifying fate. But Lucy used her supernatural torpor to her advantage. Nothing could dislodge her and so she was able to continue arguing her innocence before the proconsul. (In summary the attributes of Saint Lucy: 12-day procession in December; patroness of harvest, weavers and spinners; red sash; name meaning light and lucidity; bringer of luck and prosperity; connection to eyesight, vision and seeing; supernatural weightiness resulting in immobility).

Perchta, Berchta, Perahta (old high German Perahta) or Berta (English) are various names for a Southern Germanic Goddess who was also prominent at the end of the year. These names mean the illuminated or shining one. Frau Holle, revered in areas where Berta left off, was also said to make shining white snow when she shook out her feather bed. According to pagan tradition, maidens were responsible for filling their spindles with neatly spun flax by the end of the year. If this was not accomplished, the goddess would cut open the girl’s stomach while she lay sleeping and fill it with hay and stones. In other traditions, the goddess demanded that a fast be kept and if the typical food prescribed for such fasts was not eaten, the goddess would exact her revenge in a similar manner. Instead of using a needle to sew up the disobedient girl’s stomach, a particularly irked goddess would use a ploughshare bone and instead of thread, an iron chain was used. Apparently the sleeping the maiden never woke up during the ordeal and only noticed something amiss upon waking when she was unable to move under the weight of the stones in her stomach. Like Saint Lucy, Perchta also had an eye connection. She had the power to blow out a person’s eyes and thus, she was a force to be reckoned with. (In summary the attributes of Frau Berta, Perchta or Frau Holle: 12 day procession in December; patroness of weavers and spinners; white garment, name meaning light and the shining one; connection to eyesight, vision and seeing; supernatural weightiness resulting in immobility).

These December goddesses are associated with the life-giving forces of the sun, which wane in December but then dramatically begin to ascend. In Nordic mythology the sun represents life and eternity. The ability to see the sun was equated with being alive; by contrast the dead could no longer see the light of day. The color red, the only color that can be traced back to an Indo-European root, represented the dawn, or the color of the rising sun. This might be why red is a frequent marker and associated with the gods. The gods themselves are concerned with maintaining their health and longevity. To prevent aging, they ate apples tended by the goddess Idunn. In Ossettic mythology, apples are life-giving, bestowing immortality and protecting against disease.

A lesser goddess among the powerful personages of December was the Dirneweibl. She appeared at a specific bush in the woods, often referred to as the Christmas bush, and seemed to be more like a nymph of the forest than a full-fledged goddess. She wore a bright red cloak and offered mortals red apples from the basket she carried. Anyone accepting such a gift was rewarded with health and prosperity. But should the person not accept her offering, she retreated further and further into the forest crying pitifully. She is a mysterious figure, both luring the unsuspecting passerby deeper and deeper into the woods but also offering health and happiness in the form of her apples. She is simultaneously dangerous yet beneficent. It is only fitting that her cloak be red, symbolizing all those emotions associated with arousal, including anger, passion, love and even death. Thus, red is tied to those things that are fundamental to our very survival, security and prosperity. A signifier of what is both basic and essential. (In summary, the attributes of the Dirneweibl: her connection to light is only through the red garment she wears and the red apples she offers; she is a potential bringer of health and prosperity but is misunderstood by mortals; appears in the forest or near a specific shrub or tree.)

Little Red Riding Hood is perhaps most like the Dirneweibl. In fact, in the opening line of the fairytale she is referred to as eine kleine suesse Dirne. The word Dirne reflects the dual attributes of her character, she is both a temptress yet seemingly innocent. Like the color red, she symbolizes strong emotions, including lust and passion. Dirne is an antiquated word for Maedchen and in its modern-day usage it designates both a girl and a prostitute. Like the goddess Idunn, Red Riding Hood brings her grandmother life-giving food and nourishment. The passage in the narrative about seeing the sun beams flicker through the trees might be considered only a weak marker tying her to other December goddess associated with the winter solstice. But her fate as ballast in the wolf’s stomach and then later, the supernatural torpor, immobility and subsequent death of the wolf induced by large stones placed in his belly are clearly reminiscent of this pre-Christian tradition.




Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 26 Little Red Riding Hood (Little Red Cap)

Little Red Cap; 
Food and the Fairy Tale; 
Into the Dark, Deep Woods

Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)


There once lived a sweet, young lass. Everyone who put eyes on her loved her but her grandmother loved her most of all and she showered her with gifts. Once she gave her a present, a little hat made of red velvet. Because she looked so pretty in it and the girl didn’t want to wear anything else, she was now called Little Red Riding Hood (or Little Red Cap).

One day her mother said to her: “Come Red Riding Hood. Here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take this to grandmother. She is ill and weak and will gain strength from it. Be on your way now before it get’s too hot. But while you are walking be especially good and do not stray from the path. If you do, you shall break the glass and grandmother shall have nothing at all. And when you arrive in her chamber, don’t forget to say “Good Morning” and don’t let your eyes wander around looking in every nook and cranny.”

“I’ll be good,” Red Riding Hood said to her mother and gave her hand in promise. Now grandmother lived deep in the forest, a half hour’s walk from the village. When Red Riding Hood entered the forest she encountered a wolf. But Red Riding Hood did not know what an evil creature it was and was not frightened.
“Good Day, Red Riding Hood,” the wolf said.
“And good day to you, wolf,” was her reply.
“Where are you going so early in the morning, Red Riding Hood?”
“To grandmother’s.”
“What are you carrying under your apron?”
“Cake and wine. We baked yesterday and now our sick and weak grandmother shall refresh herself and regain her strength.”
“Red Riding Hood, where does your grandmother live?”
“Still a quarter hour’s walk in the forest, under three large oak trees. Her house stands by the hazel hedge row, certainly you know that,” Red Riding Hood replied.

The wolf was thoughtful “This young, sweet thing will be a tasty morsel. She will taste better than the old woman. But I must be cunning so I get both.”

He walked a while beside Red Riding Hood, then he said: “Red Riding Hood, look at the pretty little flowers at the side of the path. Why don’t you take a look around?” I believe you don’t even hear how sweetly the little birds are singing? You walk along so soberly as if you were going to school and it is so merry to be in the forest.”

Red Riding Hood opened her eyes and when she saw how the sun beams filtered through the trees, dancing and flickering back and forth and how the woods were full of beautiful flowers, she thought “If I bring grandmother a fresh bouquet she shall also be happy. It is so early in the day that I shall still arrive in time.” She ran from the path into the woods and looked for flowers. And when she had broken off one stem, she thought a much prettier flower lay ahead. And so she ran and ran and went deeper and deeper into the forest.

But the wolf went straight to the house of the grandmother and knocked on the door. “Who is there?”
“Red Riding Hood who is bringing you cake and wine, open up!”
“Press on the latch,” the grandmother called, “I am too weak and cannot get up.”
The wolf pressed on the latch and the door fell open. Without saying a word, he went straight to the grandmother’s bed and devoured her. Then he put on her clothes, put on her bonnet and lay down in her bed, pulling the curtains all around.

But Red Riding Hood had been picking flowers and when she had so many that she couldn’t carry any more, she remembered her grandmother and continued on her way. She was surprised to see the door open and when she entered the chamber it seemed so strange that she thought “Good gracious, how frightened I am, when usually I enjoy visiting grandmother.” She called out “Good morning,” but heard no reply. She approached the bed and pulled back the curtains. There lay the grandmother, who had pulled her bonnet so deeply over her face, she looked quite odd.


“Grandmother, what big ears you have!”
“The better to hear you with.”
“Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”
“The better to see you with.”
“Grandmother, what big hands you have!”
“The better to grab you with.”
“But grandmother, you have such a horribly large snout!”
“The better to eat you with!”
The wolf had hardly spoken these words when he lunged from bed and devoured poor Red Riding Hood.

When the wolf had stilled his cravings, he lay back down in bed and began to snore loudly. A huntsman was just passing the house and thought to himself
“How loudly the old woman is snoring! Go see if something is the matter.”
He entered the chamber and when he got to the bed he saw the wolf lying there.
“So here I find you, you old sinner,” the huntsman said. “I have searched for you a very long time.”
He wanted to use his rifle but he thought the wolf could have eaten the grandmother and she might still be saved. He didn’t shoot but took scissors and began to cut open the belly of the sleeping wolf. When he had made a few cuts, he saw the bright red cap gleaming; He made a few more cuts and the girl jumped out and called “How frightened I was in the dark belly of the wolf!”
Then the grandmother emerged still alive but could hardly breathe. Little Red Riding Hood immediately brought large stones and they filled the wolf’s belly. When he awoke and wanted to jump away, the stones were so heavy that he immediately sank down and fell over dead.

All three were gay; the huntsman skinned the wolf and went home. The grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine that Red Riding Hood had brought and soon recovered. But Red Riding Hood thought “For as long as I live I shall not stray from the path and go into the forest when mother has forbidden it.”




For further reading:

Wolf mythology and the Christmas wolf: 
http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/christmas-wolf.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/06/fairy-tales-to-read-under-full-moon.html

An analysis of mythological themes in Little Red Riding Hood:
http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/11/christmas-goddesses-and-little-red.html

Click on link for more fairy tales:

Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clever Gretel's Turkey Feast


Bechlboschen or Christmas Bush, Feast Days, the Color Red and Christmas Goddesses
Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In Salzburg Land, the Bechlboschen is a Christmas bush. The special significance of this bush or why it was tied to Christmas is unclear but it is probably based on a long forgotten pagan belief. A Christmas bush is also traditional in Bavaria in a region near Guenzburg. It was said the bush marked the spot frequented by the dirneweibl (female child) dressed in a bright red cloak, who carried pretty red apples in a basket. She always offered these as gifts to the unsuspecting passerby (probably in the winter season around Christmas time?). Should the person accept her gift, it turned into pure gold. But if the person did not follow her, the dirneweibl retreated into the forest, crying pitifully. The color red for her cloak is significant and marks her as one of the many forgotten pagan goddesses of German mythology. One of the most famous fairytale figures of all is dressed in similar garb and likewise retreats into the forest: Little Red Riding Hood.
In the tale of Clever Gretel (full text below), the protagonist wears shoes with red heels, a similar marker. But Gretel is not the typical Christmas Goddess of times past. Red shoes mark a strong-willed, socially deviant person in fairy tales, who could signal trouble. Still, her cooking is sublime.


It is easy to imagine that Gretel would have liked to cook even bigger birds than mere chickens, given her lusty appetite. Here follows a recipe for an American feast: the Thanksgiving Roast Turkey.
To cut down on roasting time, buy a small turkey (12 – 14 pounds). Butterflying the bird will also reduce the cooking time. That said, you must still begin preparations one day in advance:

One day in advance:
Mix 5 cloves of minced garlic, minced parsley, oregano, rosemary, 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ cup minced shallots together. Cut the bird along its backbone and split it open, pressing it down to lie as flat as possible. Season with salt and pepper. Rub bird with garlic mixture. Push some of the mixture under the skin and the remaining over the entire surface of the bird. Let it sit in a plastic bag in your refrigerator over night.

Next day:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (or 190 degrees C). Use a pan with a rack. Position turkey in rack with breast side up. Baste with melted butter (1-4 tablespoons melted). Roast until skin is crisp and the thickest part of the thigh away from bone registers 175°F (or 80°C). This should take 2 ¼ to 2/3/4 hours for a 12 – 14 pound bird. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before eating it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Feast Days of Fall: Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 77: Clever Gretel

It is best to act with confidence, no matter how little right you have to it.
(Lillian Hellman)

Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

There was once a cook named Gretel and she wore shoes with red heels. Whenever she went out, she swayed back and forth before the mirror, was exceedingly gay and thought to herself “You are indeed a very pretty maid.” And when she came home she was so merry, that she took a gulp of wine. And because the wine made her hungry, she tried some of the best victuals she had cooked that day. She ate until she was satisfied and always said “The cook must know how the food tastes!”

It happened that the gentleman of the house came to her and said “Gretel, this evening a guest shall visit. Prepare two splendid chickens.” “That I shall do, sir,” Gretel replied. She slaughtered the chickens, boiled them, plucked them and skewered them. And toward evening she placed them over the fire so they could roast. The chickens began to brown and would soon be done, but the guest had not yet arrived. Gretel called to the master, “If the guest does not come, I must take the chickens off the fire. But what a shame if they are not eaten immediately when they are in full juice and so succulent.” The master spoke “I shall run out and fetch the guest myself.” As soon as the master had turned his back, Gretel put aside the spit with the chickens and thought to herself “Standing so close to the fire all day makes one sweaty and thirsty. Who knows, when they will get here! While I wait, I’ll go down to the cellar and take a little nip.” She ran down the stairs, picked up a jug and took a gulp. “Good wine should be enjoyed,” she said and continued “it’s not good to stop in mid-gulp.” And so, she took another full swallow. Then she went and placed the chickens over the fire again, brushed them with butter and happily turned the spit. The roasted meat smelled so delicious that Gretel thought to herself “No one shall notice if a small bit is missing. I must of course try it!” She poked and pulled off a bit with her finger and said “Ah, what delicious chickens indeed. It’s a crying shame if they aren’t eaten immediately! She ran to the window to see if the master was returning with the guest, but saw no one. Turning back to the chickens, she gazed upon the plump birds. “Better that I should eat this little wing before it burns.” And so she cut off the wing and ate it. It tasted good and when she was done she thought, “The other wing must now come off, otherwise the master shall notice that the first one is missing.” When the two wings had been eaten she returned to the window and looked for the master. He was no where to be seen. “Who knows,” she thought, they might not even come and have probably already turned back.” She thought to herself “Gretel, be happy, you’ve started eating the one chicken, go get a fresh drink and eat up the rest. When it’s all gone you shall have your peace. Why should God’s gifts be wasted? And so she ran down into the cellar, took an honorable gulp and then ate the chicken in complete contentment. When the chicken was gone and the master still was not home, Gretel gazed on the other bird and said “Where the first chicken has gone the second must follow! The two belong together. What’s right for the one is only fitting for the other. And if I should take another sip of that wine, it surely won’t hurt me.” And so, she took another hearty gulp and the second chicken joined the first.
And as it often happens with the best of dinners, the master of the house finally returned home and called out “Hurry, Gretel, our guest shall arrive promptly.” “Yes, sir, I’ll get things ready,” Gretel replied. The gentleman looked to see whether the table was laid, took out the big knife to cut the chickens and sharpened it in the hallway. When the guest arrived, he knocked politely on the door. Gretel ran and looked to see who it was. Seeing the guest she laid a finger on her mouth and said “Quiet, quiet!, go quickly while you can. If my master catches you, you shall be sad indeed. He did invite you to supper but he intends to cut off both your ears. Listen to how he is sharpening the knives.” The guest listened to the sharpening sound coming from the hallway and retreated down the stairs as fast as he could. Gretel was not a lazy maid. She ran screaming to her master and called out “That’s quite the guest you invited!” “Why is that, Gretel? What do you mean?”
“He took both chickens from the platter, which I was just about to place on the table, and ran off with them!” “That’s a fine way to act!” the master cried. And he felt badly about losing two delicious chickens. “If he had at least left me with one, I would have something to eat.” He called after the man imploring him to stay. But the guest pretended he didn’t hear. The master ran after him with the knife still in his hand and cried “Only one, only one!” He meant the guest should leave only one of the chickens and not take both. But the guest understood he was to relinquish only one of his ears and so he ran as if a fire were raging behind him. And so, he arrived safely home with both of his ears.


Gay Gretel’s Chicken Feast:This country roasted chicken is delicious with side courses of butternut squash (served with brown butter and sage) and parmesan green beans.
In the spirit of Clever Gretel, a hearty wine should also be served.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Ingredients:
2 plump free-range chickens
2 small shallot onions
Freshly ground salt and black pepper
Virgin olive oil
2 lemons
4 tablespoons butter

Wash chickens inside and out. Pat with paper towl.
Salt and pepper inside cavities. Place lemon wedges inside chickens.
Heat oil and minced onions in bakeable skillet or roasting pan. Place chickens on top.
Brush outside with melted butter. Add salt and pepper.
Roast for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours. Feeds 4 - 6

The Gretel Test:
Ascertain whether the juices run clear by gently slicing between wing and breast.
(or thigh and breast). When the chicken is in full juice, it is time to eat!

The Gretel Watch and Wait:
Cover with foil and let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before eating. Use this time to assemble your guests round the table.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 176: A Lifetime

“Ach, God,” the ass replied, “that is a long time. Just think of my laborious existence!


We complete our mini-series on life and immortality in fairy tales with the following humerous story, straight from the donkey's mouth so-to-speak,
Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 176: A Lifetime.
Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

When God created the world, he decided it would be fitting to set the life span of every creature. He called the ass, who asked “God, how long shall I live?”
“Thirty years,” God replied, “how does that suit you?”
“Ach, God,” the ass replied, “that is a long time. Just think of my laborious existence: I carry heavy burdens from dawn to dusk, drag sacks of corn to the mill so that others have bread to eat, for encouragement and refreshment I get nothing but kicks and beatings! Release me from a portion of this long time.”
God had pity and gave him eighteen years. Comforted, the ass departed and the dog appeared.
“How long do you want to live?” God asked him. “The ass thought thirty years would be too long, but surely you will be satisfied with that.”
The dog replied, “God, is that really your will? Just think how I must run. It’s unbearable for my feet! When I have lost my voice and can no longer bark and my teeth and can no longer bite, what else is left for me but to run from one corner to the next and growl?”
God agreed and gave him twelve years. Then the monkey approached. “Surely you want to live thirty years?” God said to him, “You don’t need to work like the ass and the dog but instead, are always happy-go-lucky.”
“Ach, God,” the monkey replied, “it would seem that way, but in fact it’s not. When it’s raining millet I never have a spoon! I’m supposed to always perform happy tricks and make faces so that other people laugh. But when people give me an apple and I bite into it, it is always sour. How often does sadness really hide behind humor! I could never endure thirty years.” So God in his mercy decided to give him ten years.
Finally man appeared. He was happy, healthy and hearty. He asked God to set his lifetime. “You shall live thirty years.” God said, “Is that enough?”
“What a short time!” the man cried, “When I have finally completed building my house and a fire is burning happily on the hearth, when I have planted trees that are finally blooming and bearing fruit and when I can finally be happy about life, then I shall die! O God, extend my lifetime.” “I will add the eighteen years deducted from the ass’s life,” God said. “That is not enough,” replied the man. “You shall also have the twelve years of the dog.” “Still not enough.” “Well and good, I will give you the ten years of the monkey, but more you shall not get.” Man left but he was still not satisfied..
And so, man lives seventy years. The first thirty are his human years, they pass quickly. He is happy and content. He enjoys his work and is pleased with his existence. Eighteen years of the ass follow, he must bear the many burdens that load him down. He must carry the corn that nourishes others and endure beatings and kicks that are the only reward for his faithful service. Twelve years of the dog follow. He must lie in a corner, growl and has no teeth to chew. And when this time is over, the ten years of the monkey make up the final years of his existence. Man is dimwitted, crazy, does every manner of foolish thing and becomes the laughing stock of his children.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 177: Messenger Death

A well-worn country road.
Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In ancient times a giant roamed the earth. One day he was walking down a well-worn country road when an unknown man suddenly jumped up before him and cried out “Stop, not one step more!” “What is this?” the giant exclaimed. “You are only a little dwarf that I can squash between my fingers. You want to block my path? Who are you, that you speak so boldly?” “I am Death,” the stranger replied. “No one can resist me. You, too, must listen to my commands.” But the giant refused to obey and instead, began wrestling with Death. It was a long and fierce fight, but in the end the giant gained the upper hand and beat down Death with his fist, so that he collapsed next to a stone on the road. The giant went his way and Death lay there defeated. He was so powerless that he could not get up again. “What shall happen to me?” he asked, “If I must lie here in the corner and can’t even get up? No one will ever die in the world again and it will become so filled with humankind that there won’t be enough room for people to stand side by side.” As he was thinking this, a young man came strolling down the lane. He was healthy and hearty, sang a song and glanced back and forth. When he saw the semi-conscious creature lying there lifelessly, he approached in pity. Helping him sit up, he poured a strong drink from his bottle to help him regain his strength. “Do you know,” the stranger asked as he sat up, “who I am and who you have helped get back up on his feet?” “No, the young man replied, “I don’t know you at all.” “I am Death,” he said. “I spare no one and can make no exception with you either. But you should understand that I am grateful. I promise you that I will not overtake you suddenly and without warning. Instead I shall send my messenger before I come and get you.” The youth replied, “That’s something. At least I shall know you are coming and can safely escape ahead of you.” He continued on his way, was happy and in good spirits and lived each day to the fullest. But youth and health do not last for long, soon illness and pain came. They tormented him by day and robbed him of his sleep by night. “But die I won’t,” he said, “for Death shall first send his messenger. I only wish the bad days of illness to be over.” Soon he felt healthy and once more began to live in joy. One day, someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and saw Death standing behind him. He said “Follow me, the hour of your departure from the world has now come.” “What!” the man replied. “Shall you break your promise? Did you not promise that you would send your messenger to me before you came yourself? I haven’t seen anyone.”“Silence,” Death replied. “Have I not sent you messengers in excess? Were you not visited by Fever, who seized you violently so that you trembled and shook before he threw you down! Did not Dizziness cloud your mind? Did not Gout settle in your joints? Did you not hear buzzing in your ears? And didn’t your teeth make your gums ache? Weren’t there times you saw only black before your eyes? And above all, did not my dear Brother Sleep remind you of me every night? Weren’t your slumbers as if you had already died?” The man did not know what to say. And so he accepted his fate and went off with Death.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reading Godfather Death

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)


In Godfather Death (full text below), there is a supernatural bond between Death and the living that is established at birth. This link is so strong it is likened to kinship and is based on a pre-Christian tradition. Like the ancient Norns, Death bestows gifts of fortune upon the newborn and then accompanies the young protagonist through key stages of his life. Here, Death is conceived as a benevolent force actively shaping a person's life, creating human happiness and enjoying even more popularity than God himself. The sentence about “not knowing how wisely God distributes riches” was not part of the original version of the story and was added later. In subsequent Christian traditions, the saints took on the function that Death had performed in these earlier stories. We especially see St. Mary, St. Michal and St. John the Baptist filling the role that Death had occupied and acting as intercessors helping the soul navigate its path in the afterlife. This tale, reflecting an obsession with death that was evident in the Middle Ages in Europe, expressed both a longing to cheat death or at least to know the exact hour of one’s death. Last rites were very important to Christians in the Middle Ages. It was believed that if a person was prematurely anointed, he would be doomed to continue life as a walking dead person because the sacrament permanently terminated all human pursuits of the living on earth. As in many pagan traditions, the candle appears in this fairy tale as a symbol of life force. In Christian traditions candles were used to represent life, renewal and power over evil.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 44: Godfather Death


Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
Please read and enjoy this article.
Pass on to friends or link to.
Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks and enjoy!


A man once had twelve children and had to work night and day to earn even the most meager sustenance of mere bread for his children. When the thirteenth child was born, he was filled with overwhelming despair. He ran out to a well-traveled road and decided to ask the first person he met to be the child’s godfather. The first person he met was the Dear God himself. God already knew what was troubling the man and said “Poor man, I pity you. I will raise your child from the baptismal font, will care for it and make it happy on earth.” The man replied: “Who are you?” “I am the dear God.” “I don’t want you to be the child’s godfather,” the man said, “you give to the rich and let the poor hunger.” The man said this because he did not know how wisely God distributed riches and poverty. He turned from the Lord and continued on his way. He soon met the devil, who asked him: “Whom are you looking for? If you desire me to be the godfather of your child, I will bestow gold galore and furthermore, grant every worldly desire.” The man asked “Who are you?” “I am the devil.” “I don’t want you to be the child’s godfather,” the man said, “You lie and tempt people.” He continued on his way. Soon dry-boned Death approached him and said: “Take me as the child’s godfather.” The man asked “Who are you?” “I am Death, who makes everyone equal.” The man replied, “You are the right one. You take the rich and poor without distinguishing between them; you shall be the godfather of my child.” Death responded “I will make your child rich and famous. Whoever has me as friend, shall not want.” The man replied: “This Sunday is the baptism. Come at the given time.” Death appeared as promised and stood as proper godfather.

When the boy grew up, his godfather appeared to him and said he should follow. He led him into the forest, showed him an herb growing there and said “Now you shall receive your gift. I will make you a famous doctor. When you are called to a sickbed, I will also appear next to you each time. If I position myself at the head of the sick person, you can speak boldly. You will bring him back to health and will give him some of this herb. He shall recover. But if I stand at the foot of the ill person, every help is for naught. Take care that you do not give him the herb against my will. Things could go badly for you.”

It was not long until the youth became the most famous doctor in the world. It was said that he only needed to look at a sick person and he immediately knew what would happen, whether he would become healthy again or would die. People came from far and wide, bringing their sick loved ones and gave him so much gold that he was soon a rich man. Now it happened that the king became ill. The doctor was called and was to say whether recover was possible. But as he approached the bed, Death stood at the foot of the patient. No herb could help anymore. “If I could just trick Death,” the doctor thought, “he will of course be angry, but because I am his godchild, he will probably look the other way. I’m going to try.” He grabbed hold of the ill man and turned him around in bed so that Death now stood at the man’s head. Then he gave him some of the herb and the king recovered. But Death came to the doctor and made an angry and dark grimace. He threatened him by poking his bony finger in the air and said “You pulled the light from my eyes. This time I will ignore it because you are my godchild, but if you dare disobey again, you’ll be in for it and I shall carry you off myself.”

Soon thereafter the daughter of the king became seriously ill. She was the king’s only child . He cried day and night until he was blinded by tears. He let it be known that whoever would save his child, would become her husband and inherit the crown. The doctor came to the bed of the patient and saw Death at her feet. He should have remembered the warning of his godfather, but the tremendous beauty of the princess and the thought of becoming her husband filled him with joy and so he turned a deaf ear on all the warnings. He did not notice Death giving him angry looks, raising his hands in anger or threatening him with his bony fist. He raised the ill girl and placed her head were her feet had been. Then he gave her the herb and her life’s force returned immediately.
When Death saw that he had been robbed of what rightfully belonged to him, he lunged toward the doctor in long strides and said “It’s over for you! Now it’s your turn.” He grabbed him with his ice-cold hand. His grip was so firm that he could not put up a struggle but had to follow him to his underground cavern. There he saw how thousands upon thousands of lights burned in immense rows. Some of the lights were large, others half the size and still others small. Every moment several went out and others started up again, so that the flames appeared to be in a steady state of change. “You see,” Death said, “these are the life lights of men. The large candles belong to children, the half-size candles belong to married couples in the best years of their life. The small candles belong to old people. But sometimes children and young people also have a very small light.” “Show me my life light,” the doctor said, and thought his must still be quite large. Death pointed to a small stub, that was about to go out. Death said “See, there is your light.” “Oh, dear godfather,” the frightened doctor pleaded, “Light a new candle for me, do it for my sake, so that I can become king and marry the beautiful princess.” “That I cannot do,” Death replied. “First a candle must go out before a new one is lit.” “So take the old one and start a new one immediately so that it starts to burn when the other goes out,” the doctor begged. Death acted as if he wanted to fulfill his wish. He took a long, fresh candle in his bony hands. But because he wanted to take revenge, he slipped while lighting the new candle, the little stub fell over and went out. The doctor immediately fell to the floor and had now fallen into the hands of Death himself.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Death and the Afterlife in Fairy Tales and Saga; Near-Death Experiences

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this article on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)
The Raising of Lazurus, Vincent van Gogh

Fairy tales and saga are keenly interested in every day themes of human existence and so it is not surprising that death and mortality figure prominently in these stories. Humans have probably always had a powerful urge to explain what happens after death and many of the earliest myths do just that. Many ancient traditions describe death as a physical journey or crossing to the afterlife. A complex geography of the netherworld was created with the dead traveling to either Britannia, Jutland or Scandinavia. The idea of a soul living on after the body has died is ancient. But in the early Middle Ages a type of story was introduced whose sole purpose was to provide proof of the afterlife. Based on accounts of near-death experiences, a new genre of story arose, sometimes referred to as medieval vision literature. After reading these early near-death narratives, some striking similarities with earlier pagan traditions are evident. Notions of death in fairy tales and saga seem to blend heathen folk beliefs and Christian attitudes. These stories provide us with a picture of both enduring and changing beliefs about death and the afterlife.

The Edda describes a bridge over which the souls of the dead must tread. This bridge is thatched or covered in bright gold and it trembles and groans underfoot as the dead cross over. There is a bridge leading down into Hel as well as one leading upward into the realm of the gods (for more about these themes, see the link in this website concerning the Rainbow or Bifrost). According to Jacob Grimm, the ancients believed that a person had three souls, two were tied to the body and were lost at death but the third survived. Abandoning its decaying body, this soul proceeded on to the afterlife. Death does not kill in ancient traditions, but rather, is a messenger that announces the end of life and accompanies the soul to its new realm. Souls were both received and drawn to Wuotan, Frouwa, Ran and Hel, water spirits, angels, elves and the devil. Dying warriors were taken to the abode of the gods but descriptions of this place are few. Some accounts mention that it glitters with precious gems, gold and silver; others that the roof is made from tilted spears. Often, the dead had to arrange their own passage and cross a body of water, as described in Crossing to Remagen (see below for full text). In other tales, the dead joined a huge throng, processing a great distance on foot (Gratzug). The living were crucial to the well-being of the dead in that they supplied the departed loved one with the clothing, equipment, money or even boat to make the difficult journey. The sound of dead souls disembarking from the shallop in Crossing to Remagen is reminiscent of the footfalls heard when the dead crossed the rainbow in the Edda. That a specific or unusual sound should be equated with death is also a core element in modern near-death experiences (or NED). According to R. Moody in Life after Life, noise or sound is often the first sensory impression of a near-death experience.

In the story of Adalbert the Compatriot (full text below), we find many of the key elements of a modern day near-death experience. According to Dr. Carol Zaleski in Medieval Otherworld Journeys, near death experiences were essential to the early church for proving the existence of life after death and the soul’s immortality. In his Dialogues, Gregory the Great uses near-death experiences to underscore the veracity of church teachings: the afterlife is a real construct, you will be punished for your sins, masses and good works on behalf of the dead are important and each person is called to live a more holy life. (To find out more, read the full web article by Dr. Zaleski Medieval Otherworld Journeys).

As described in many modern accounts of near-death, Adalbert the Compatriot seems to grasp immediately that he is dead. His first experience is described as moving through the air being guided by angels. He is aware of a tunnel or shaft in the center of the earth and he meets spiritual beings who accompany him on his journey. He is given a life review and confronted with the deeds of his life time. He reaches a physical boundary defined by a stinking river and must cross a bridge to enter into the heavenly realm. A guardian angel or messenger of death appears as guide and plays an authoritative role in Adalbert’s new existence. He determines that Adalbert must return to the realm of the living. Adalbert is terrified and does not wish to return. A similar reluctance is often mentioned by survivors of near-death experiences. And like modern-day accounts of near-death, Adalbert’s ordeal transforms him and causes him to make profound changes in his life.

By contrast, the Swiss folktale Path to Paradise is not concerned with proving the notion of an afterlife. Rather, the narrative reads more like a service manual outlining the different stages of death. Unlike a typical near-death experience, the narrator does not seem to know exactly when he dies. But his soul, or something like it, continues to exist even after he has relinquished his body. In this story the Rhone River seems to represent a natural boundary of sorts and crossing it might be understood as a metaphor for dying. The tinsmith's initial guide in the afterlife is a frightening figure with green, bulging frog-eyes but later in the narrative, angelic beings appear. This tale includes elements that are common in many traditions concerning death: attraction to a distant light; the aerial bridge; a crossing; a wild and raging sea/body of water; ultimate calm and serenity in death; a beautiful and joyous garden of paradise; distinct sounds; and perhaps most interestingly, sensory perception including smelling fragances and tasting food. The sensations of eating and smelling described in this tale might suggest that the tinsmith has experienced a physical resurrection. And like Adalbert, there is a sorting out of souls into those deserving and not deserving paradise. Similar to the Grimm’s fairy tale The Shroud, death does not sever the attachment between the dead and their loved ones. The tinsmith wonders how his family is faring and whether they will ever be rejoined in paradise. An ongoing concern of the dead for the living might have provided comfort to the audience of these tales. But The Shroud also includes an ancient pagan notion that likens death to sleep. Only when survivors abandon their grief and release the dead, can their sleep be peaceful The child also carries a candle and like the candles on a birthday cake, fire and light are often used as metaphors for a human being’s life force.

In fairy tales and saga we see changing views about the responsibility of the living toward the dead: instead of conferring practical utensils that will be needed in the afterworld, survivors in medieval literature are encouraged to say masses and perform good works here on earth. And in later tales the living are instructed that the best thing for a survivor is to more or less get on with life. This may have something to do with changing attitudes toward death: from physical journey to spiritual transformation.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 109: The Shroud

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)


A mother once had a seven year-old son, who was so dear and beautiful that no one could gaze upon the child without loving it. She cherished this child more than anything on earth. Now it happened, that the boy was overtaken by a sudden illness and dear God took the child to be His own. The mother was inconsolable and cried night and day. But after the child had been buried, it appeared at night in the very places it had sat and played while living. When the mother cried, the child cried and when morning came, it vanished. The mother did not want to stop crying and so one night the child appeared in the white shroud; the one it wore when it was laid in its coffin. Wearing a little wreath on its head, it sat at the foot of the bed and said “Oh Mother, do stop crying, otherwise I shall not be able to fall asleep in my coffin, for my shroud cannot dry from all your tears falling on it.” The mother became frightened when she heard these words and did not cry any more. The next evening the child appeared again, carried a little candle in its hand and spoke “See, my little shirt will soon be dry and I will have peace in my grave.” The mother commended her sorrows to dear God and bore her misfortune quietly and patiently. The child came no more but slept in its little bed under the earth.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Glimpses of the Afterlife in Fairy Tales and Saga: Britain, Land of Departed Souls

Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

The Crossing to Remagen

Like the ancient Greeks who believed that Charon rowed the souls of the dead in a narrow boat over the Cocytus River to the underworld, many heathen tribes in Germany believed that the realm of the living and dead was separated by a body of water. The departed made a journey across this body of water to their final destination. Britannia was said to be this land of the dead and Frisian yeomen purportedly helped dead souls make this final crossing. Living among the Frisian nobility who made their home on the North Sea were farmers and fishermen, who had always been free from paying any tax for they performed a service that was valued more than money. These yeoman were entrusted with ferrying the dead to Britannia. The job always passed from one household to the next. At midnight the farmer or fisherman would hear a knocking on his door and then a muffled voice call out. He got up, went to the beach and there he saw what looked like an empty shallop. Boarding the heavy boat, he gripped the oar and immediately began the crossing. The oarsman would notice that the shallop seemed to be completely loaded down and barely remained one finger’s breadth above the water. But not a single passenger was ever seen. The crossing lasted only one hour but normally if they had been traveling in their own vessel it would have taken an entire night and a day. Once on shore in Britannia, the ghostly crowd disembarked and the shallop became so light that only the very bottom touched the water. The Frisians never saw anyone in the boat during the trip and when they arrived they never saw anyone disembark. But once on shore in the land of the dead they heard a voice call out the names and the tribes to which the dead belonged as they departed.

The nighttime crossing of gnomes over the Rhine River (described below) is reminiscent of the crossing of dead souls to Britannia. This tale may incorporate elements of the earlier pagan tradition:
The story was told in the beginning of the nineteenth century, that an oarsman living in Erpel on the Rhine River heard a knock at his door one night. Opening the door, an invisible presence asked for immediate passage across the river. As he climbed into the boat he noticed it sinking deeper and deeper into the water although he did not see anyone else boarding. When the vessel was only one finger’s breadth above the water’s surface, the ferryman was ordered to shove off. Upon landing on the bank of the Rhine River at Remagen, the boat immediately began to rise in the water and the oarsman could hear heavy footfalls as the boat emptied. His passengers were the gnomes who had lived in Glenberg near Linz from time immemorial. But they had been offended and that is why they were abandoning their ancestral home. They moved across the Rhine River, where -- nobody knows.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Near Death Experiences in Fairy Tales: The Path to Paradise

Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)


The Path to Paradise (a Swiss Folk Tale)
Many years ago a poor tinsmith, who repaired pots and pans for a living, could no longer feed his family for he could not find work. Wherever he went he only found people living in greatest need and terrible suffering for the plague had infested villages and towns. Often entire families were struck down, including cattle and even the family dog. The survivors ran wildly through the streets as if insane or sat lifeless in front of their houses, stunned and brooding. The poor tinsmith had passed through all the villages on the shadow side of the Rhone River and had sold only a few small scraps. Tired and dejected, he crossed the Rhone River and thought he would now try walking on the sunny side. But the plague had wreaked havoc there also. He climbed up the mountain slag panting and gasping for breath. From time to time he had to wipe the sweat from his brow. His only wish was to lie down and rest, rest for all time. In the village he was now passing through it was deathly still. The house doors were wide open; the evil smell of corpses wafted through the alleyways and made him shudder. No one responded to his knocking. On the threshold of the last house sat a man as old as the stone cliffs, he had a long snarled beard and green, bulging frog eyes. Sadly, the little man gazed up and said in a rattling voice: You don’t need to come here with your tin pots, you won’t sell any here, the plague has been guest in this abode. Yes, I am the sole survivor of the village and I won’t buy anything from you. I have plenty of good and bad utensils – in excess. I have become a rich man, the entire village belongs to me and me alone,” and he laughed wildly and struck his forehead with his palm. Then he glared at the tinsmith with the same sad gaze. “Should I show you the way to where you will find work?”

The tinsmith shifted the heavy bundle on his back and said: “Yes, I’d be happy to find some work, but I’m sure there is nothing anywhere and the pots will stay on my back!”

The little man made a sign that the man should follow him. He placed a thick hazel branch between the pots and tin pans, shifted the bundle with the stick and plodded behind the little man, who slowly climbed the mountain. Every ten steps the man stopped, coughed but finally led him to an open field, which was easy to climb at the far end. But the front end of the field was a jagged drop-off, filled with fir trees. The sun had just sunk behind the mountain and it would soon be dark. The little man pointed to a narrow path, which led from the base of the cliff, on which they stood, in a straight direction but always upward, over the broad Rhone Valley to the peak of the Eliserhorn, which projected through the dark mass of the cliff with its snow-covered peak. On the peak of the Eliserhorn there burned a light, not larger than a star in heaven. The little man cried: Take this path and always, always follow the light! A deep, dark night will break and evil spirits will seemingly build broad bridges for you; you must not lose sight of the light, otherwise you will sink into endless night. The ocean lies below the bridge. It will remain calm as a green mountain lake, then it will become red and then roaring and finally will become sulfur-yellow and putrid. The raging waves will beat over your path and threaten to devour you.”

The tinsmith thanked the old man as the distant, remote light started to awaken new hope within him. He grasped his bundle of pots tightly and with the little light firmly in his gaze, he began his climb up the narrow aerial path. His stride was slow and deliberate, his steps long so that the tin ware on his back rattled with each step. He looked at the green shimmering surface of the water, which extended before him like an endless sea. But soon the sea glimmered a purple-red; the waves began to curl over and became larger and larger. Soon, they began to rock back and forth and he became dizzy. He began to stagger and stumble but found his equilibrium again and again with his hazel stick. When he looked into the water’s depths for only a heartbeat, he thought he would crash into the waves, but he immediately gazed up into the radiating light and stepped weakly in that direction. He paid no attention to the beautiful, wide and brightly illuminated bridge, which enticingly rose from the water and formed a bridge to the narrow and bumpy path he was on. The closer the little light appeared on the peak of the Eliserhorn, the brighter it burned. The path was now enveloped in the depths of darkness and below him the waters raged like an ocean storm. The yellow shimmering waves rolled with unceasing force against the ramp he walked on. Now the water breached the path and threatened to tear him away. The spray, hitting the granite cliff edges, splashed up striking his face and enveloping him in a veil of foam, drenching his clothes. The putrid water took his breath away. But now he was close to the light and with his last strength, he pushed himself through the foaming surf and the waves, which rose up to his left and right were as high as towers.

The sea suddenly subsided below him. A great calm descended all around. He was at his destination and stood on a large, level place. Before him stood a mighty church built of snow-white marble. In its beautiful, richly decorated façade he counted twelve doors. The tip of the tower seemed to extend into the heavens and shone like a star, in white blinding light. It all seemed so solemn, so beautiful and holy that he had to fold his hands in prayer. Over the entrance gate could be read: Church of Eternal Joy. On both sides of the gate guards stood in white shirts with golden collars, on which were written S Z (sit Zion). The one held a pick on his shoulder, the other a shovel.

The tinsmith wanted to put down his heavy bundle to enter the church properly, as is fitting; but the guards motioned to him he should take everything with him. So he stepped through the gate with the rattling bundle and entered a richly illuminated hall filled with people. It looked like the inside of any church at home, but only here it was much larger, majestic and solemn. The hall at the front and back was crossed by a passage. On the right side of the front passage he noticed a funeral pyre. He set down his tin ware as quietly as possible, kneeled completely exhausted and covered in sweat on a riser and listened to the beautiful heavenly music, which came to him from the choir. The sound was like the rushing of the organ, and other times was like the rushing of a forest stream, which fell from the heights and then rushed peacefully through a green meadow. The souls in the passage were enveloped in white robes, turned their backs to the gate and held both hands before their faces. The souls in the passage before the choir, under which he was also standing, supported their arms on the prayer stool and did not pay any attention to him.

The tinsmith hardly dared breathe, he was gripped by such solemn feelings. As far as the eye could reach, everything was rigid, unmoving figures. Only in the choir before him was there bright laughter as if the angels themselves were rejoicing. It must be wonderful there; he had to reach that spot.

He stood up, but two white-clad youth approached him, softly taking his arm, they said he must not enter the choir so dirty. He should wait a bit. He sank back onto the prayer bench, but when the youth vanished, he tried going forward again. For something pulled him there with irresistible force. Two med appeared in red robes and said to him “Follow us, you are not yet clean, we will wash you and cleanse you, then when you may join the throng that sing and praise in the choir!”

They led him by the arm through the throng, which silently made room for him. Proceeding through the door of a passage, he climbed the steps of a high tower and opened the door to a lovely room. On the table lay a scourge and tightly twisted cords. On the wall stood washing utensils and fastened to the wall sparkling faucets could be seen. The men removed his clothes, filled the barrels with water: first tepid and then boiling water. They scourged him with the whip so that his skin fell off, then they splashed him with ice-cold water and immediately his body was covered with young, fresh skin. The horrible pain turned into a wonderful, heavenly feeling of comfort. After this, they dressed him in a soft muslin shirt and said he could now pass through the door. The led him down the steps and through the passageway to the singing saints, asked him to kneel on a large, cushioned riser and ask the Heavenly Father for a beautiful cap of eternal life. He should imagine something of indescribable beautiful and then wish for it. He knelt in the choir and fervently prayed the Our Father so that he soon forgot to wish. He was hardly done, when the youth were once more at his side and waved to him to follow so that he could make room for another. They stepped out to the temple and arriving before its doors, wandered almost a half hour on a beautiful and wide street. High trees with large leaves marked the path. The trees were of such splendor, he had never laid eyes on such marvels. Between the branches he saw a garden inestimable size, from which the most wonderful sweet smells of flowers emanated. He drank in the fragrance and could not get enough of it. Before him stood vineyards, which hang ripe with fruit.

“Eat your fill,” the guide said to him. He picked a grape but each time he raised the fruit to his lips, he felt already satisfied. When he had tried every assortment, one of the youth presented him with the key to his house, which hung on a green band. He would now be the occupant of this house.

He could not really say what it looked like, for the splendor glimmered before his eyes and completely enveloped him. He only saw how enormous carnation stalks from the darkest red to the brightest snow-white hung over the wall. When he asked whether he could open all doors with this single key, the youth replied, this one key opened every door. Then he asked whether he could not fetch his family and his relatives and friends, because it was so beautiful here and he felt so happy. The youth replied: “They will come but not all. Do you see over there in front of the large gate to the cathedral? There stands the bishop with his tall miter cap and long staff. He has been standing there for a long time and must wait even longer, for he won’t be let inside!”
He nodded his head and thanked them once more. Then the youth vanished.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Glimpses of the Afterlife in Fairy Tales and Saga: Gratzug

Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

A well-worn path through the mountains.

(Der Gratzug: A procession of the dead over mountain and through valley. According to Swiss folk tradition, whoever encounters such a “Volch”, will be visited by a dangerous illness. Also referred to as “Totevolch”.)
There are paths, roads and corridors through the mountains, on which the souls of the dead travel in long ghostly processions. These deathly processions are called Gratzug, also folk walk or symphony. Whoever falls into such a buzzing or whirring train of ghosts or is taken by surprise by such a procession, often falls victim to a dangerous illness and suffers from it for weeks or months. People believe they can recognize these well-worn corridors and paths in the landscape. One ghost path purportedly winds through the Tschingel Valley and has ninety-nine different segments.

The ghosts appear wearing the clothing they wore when they were carried to the grave, or in the robe which was presented to their death guardian or given to the poor of the community in their memory. A deceased person, who is not well-dressed when he is interred or is only partially dressed or who did not receive a God’s garment (as these gifts are called), also appears in the Gratzug as poorly dressed or lacking dress, without a coat or hat or may even walk barefoot.

In the Visper Valley region of Switzerland, a man who was once sleeping alone at home heard someone call out his name three times around eleven o’clock at night. The voice whispered softly that he should get up and go to the field where he had just cut down larch trees. He should remove them immediately so that the Gratzug would not be hindered but would find a clear path. He believed he recognized the voice to be that of his deceased father. He responded immediately and said he would go as quickly as possible and remove the obstruction. He got dressed, climbed the path in large strides and began work immediately. When he had removed the last tree from the path he heard the same voice say urgently: “Quickly, quickly, move to the right side of the path!”

With all his strength he pulled the last round piece of wood out of the way and sat down exhausted on the trunk. Promptly a faint buzzing sound could be heard, which soon swelled into a loud roar. As the sound approached it sounded like an entire army praying the rosary. Drumbeat and whistles like a slow death march could also be heard and in midst of the throng; the cacophony of music echoed off the cliff walls. Then he heard crying and laughing voices, a whirring sound and whispers. At first only a warm breeze blew round him but then suddenly a blast of wind blew through the wood, causing his hair to stand on end. Try as he may he could distinguish nothing other than black shadows passing by quickly. But when the clock in the church tower struck twelve he saw figures walking along the path in twos and fours, as many as the width of the path would allow. Some were well-dressed but others walked barefoot. Still others were weighted down by a haphazard assortment of garments, some even wore two coats. One woman balanced a heavy ball of butter on her head instead of a hat. One of the deceased was missing the belt of his white garment. The robe fluttered in the wind and he had to hold it together with his hands.

When the ghost train passed, the clock in the valley below struck three and then the prayer bell sounded. The ghost procession had lasted three long hours as measured by the tower bell.


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