Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Representations of Heaven and the Afterlife in Fairy Tales and Saga

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
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Mass on the Hungerli Alp (full text below) is an extraordinary folk tale examining ideas of heaven and hell and the best way to lead a godly life. The characters include a rather dour priest and a family of simple cowherders living in a remote alpine setting. The priest becomes impatient with the family’s seemingly heathen lifestyle and what he discovers up on the Hungerli Alp is not at all what the reader is expecting: a direct experience of heaven and hell. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what this fairy tale is extolling: the virtues of a lifestyle more closely in tune with nature? Or perhaps the post-Reformation view of a Christianity stressing the importance of an individual’s relationship to God without an intermediary? However one reads the text, the meticulous detail provided for the mass is noteworthy, perhaps echoing a long-forgotten pagan ritual.
The story takes place on August 15th, the day traditionally associated with the bodily ascension of the Virgin Mary into heaven. With her direct heavenly connection the Virgin became the patron saint of pilots and plane crews or those who spend a great deal of time floating above or through the clouds.

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