Fairy Tale Channel (fairytalechannel.com)

FAIRYTALECHANNEL.com Fairy tales following the seasons and bringing warmth to heart and hearth. Featured Fairy Tale: Fairy Tale of the Hinzelmann Hille Bingels' Wedding Party

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reading Hänsel and Gretel: Stepmother and witch, the ladies we love to loathe.



The fairy tale Hänsel and Gretel features two female characters that audiences love to abhor: the stepmother and wicked witch. It is the behavior of the stepmother that frequently launches the action of a fairy tale. The scheming machinations of this female, who we know from the beginning is not really the true mother, catapults the objects of her villainy into life-defining moments of distress and terror. Her evil actions speak for themselves and in this fairy tale, nothing is said (or needs to be said) about how the children feel toward the woman. She is fully human yet fully horrid and concerned only with her own welfare. We understand this type of person and perhaps even recognize elements of her character in our own acquaintances and family. Though thoroughly bad, there is nothing preternatural in her ability to make bad things happen. She does real harm to the other characters, but in the end she is usually dead or receives her just reward. In hindsight we can usually say that the evil stepmother is crucial as catalyst for transformation in the narrative.

The witch is another story. She is aligned with the forces of evil and thus her powers are stronger than the stepmother’s. Her supernatural qualities make humans appear even more frail and defenseless. In Hänsel and Gretel her unique attributes are animal-like and include recognizing creatures by their scent. Other characteristics include red eyes and indeterminable advanced age. She usually has something that people absolutely need or even worse, absolutely desire. That is the source of her power and why she can always lure the protagonists into her lair. But her powers are not without limit. Like the stepmother, she can do real harm. But fairy tale characters who look deep inside themselves can often find the resources they need to overcome the witch. The hero or heroine can always choose to take action or not. When put up against a supernatural being, he or she must develop resourcefulness and ingenuity, those qualities that have hitherto lain dormant. When these untapped qualities are finally unleashed, the witch has no power over the individual.

In fairy tales witches or sorceresses frequently have the power to reveal the future and thus they influence human destiny. They can shape-shift, disappear, do real harm to cattle and crops and also exercise control over the weather. But they usually cannot take a person’s life and thus it is up to the individual to develop strategies to overcome their evil.* This has caused some commentators to believe that witches are merely personifications or symbols of our inner struggle to become more fully human. Other writers have lamented the fact that the loathsome characters in fairy tales are mostly female. I would argue that the crucial characters in fairy tales are almost exclusively female. The male characters, such as the father in Hänsel and Gretel, are frequently weak and indecisive. Even Hänsel is not the true hero of the story for it is Gretel’s swift thinking that saves the day.

* The fairy tale Frau Trude is one exception. The witch ends up killing the girl because she is not up to the challenges of transforming her character.


To read the fairy tale Hänsel and Gretel click on the link:

 http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/09/fairy-tale-about-food-or-lack-of-it.html

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

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reading Hänsel and Gretel: a Journey of Filial Love and Survival



A Walk Through the Forest: a Recipe for Resilience

The situation is dire indeed in the fairy tale Hänsel and Gretel. We are told in the very first paragraph that “a terrible famine ravaged the land” and it was impossible to find even the most basic sustenance, bread. Without any relief on the horizon, the parents plot to rid themselves of their offspring in the hope that by losing their children in the forest they will somehow save themselves. Fairy tales are filled with examples of such extreme behavior and here the abandonment of children is equivalent to murder by neglect. A natural disaster is at the root of the crisis. The famine has not only ushered in a period of physical hardship but it has introduced widespread spiritual decay as well. This is a time when murder and cannibalism become strategies for survival. This fairy tale might be based on memories of the Great Famine of 1315 – 1322, which caused millions of deaths by starvation in Northern Europe. Catastrophic weather patterns produced greatly diminished yields in crops. The resulting calamity hit all echelons of society and many incidents of child abandonment and cannibalism have been documented by the chroniclers of the times.

Into this grim landscape come the innocent children, who are fully attuned to the gravity of their situation. Stripped of the protection and security offered by a properly functioning family, the children must make their own decisions and define their own survival plans. Hänsel tries to take charge and protect his sister. He comforts the crying Gretel and assures her that God will not abandon them. This might be a reference to the crisis in confidence the Church experienced during and after the Great Famine. Organized religion seemed impotent against the destructive forces that had been unleashed and the authority of the Church and God were called into question. But with the faith of a child, Hänsel insists on holding fast to his past beliefs as a prescription for survival.

Faced with impending death, Hänsel takes action while his sister responds to each new situation by crying, appearing frail and helpless. The gender roles in this fairy tale have often been criticized. But it is Gretel’s quick thinking that ultimately saves the day when she pushes the witch into the oven. And at the conclusion of the tale, Gretel gives her “duck speech” to Hänsel, signaling a new sort of self-reliance and confidence. Injecting a dose of fairy tale realism into the narrative, Gretel gently reminds her brother that the weight of two children on the back of a duck would probably cause them both to drown.

This fairy tale also has older motifs that pre-date the food shortages of the fourteenth century or other medieval famines; they are the bread and food images in the narrative, which are intriguing in and of themselves. Bread is one of the oldest foodstuffs and evidence of leavened bread can be found in the archeological record going back 6000 years. The very earliest references to bread are restricted to small or broken pieces, leading scholars to surmise that the first loaves were similarly small fragments. The fairy tale often mentions such broken bread pieces and they appear here in Hänsel and Gretel as the crumbs left as markers on the path through the woods. In the saga Queen Huett the proud monarch takes soft bread crumbs to clean away mud and in the saga Semmelschuhe the proud princess fashions shoes from little pieces of bread. In the world of the fairy tale, these acts are examples of depravity and sacrilege. Bread, one of the most fundamental necessities for survival, is sacred in these stories. Pre-Christian rites in Europe also reflect the consecrated status of bread. Sir James Frazer describes a custom in France in The Golden Bough . A god or corn-spirit was believed to reside in the last harvested sheaf of grain, which was ritually eaten in the form of a baked dough-man. Frazer cites numerous examples of this ancient custom of ritually eating the god or indwelling spirit of the harvested grain. He concludes that the Christian rite of communion absorbed these earlier pagan practices. The notion of a deity being bodily present within the grain and being harmed by a sacrilegious act is also illustrated in the Grimms' legend God’s Food. Here, the loaf actually gushes blood in response to an evil deed. And although Hänsel and Gretel are starving, they do not begin their feast on the witch’s house of bread and cake until Hänsel blesses their meal.

The period of sorrow and misfortune ends when the two protagonists make their way home. Their journey includes crossing an immense body of water, which is often a metaphor for dying. After walking through a strange and uncertain landscape, they finally reach a place more familiar. Their reunion with their father is joyful. The father hadn’t had a moment’s peace since he left his children in the forest. The children bring back wealth and prosperity in the form of gems and pearls. If only the family had stuck together during the crisis! Sorrows do end, the strong can persevere with their principles still intact and they are often rewarded in the end. Unfortunately, without the journey there is no transformation. One must take up life's challenges however terrifying they might be, because they are indispensable in making us what we are.
Please read, pass on to friends and enjoy!
Please do not plagiarize or copy!Thanks!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A fairy tale about food, or the lack of it: Hänsel and Gretel

The woodcutter and his family, Veneto, c. 1890.
Fratelli Alinari Museum of the History of Photography, Florence/Italy (Click on picture to enlarge.)

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 15: Hänsel and Gretel

A poor woodcutter lived with his wife and two children at the edge of a deep forest. The boy was named Hänsel and the girl Gretel. The man had nothing to eat or drink. Because a terrible famine ravaged the land, he could no longer find his daily bread. As he lay in bed that night thinking, he tossed and turned.

Sighing he said to his wife “What shall become of us? We cannot provide for our poor children because we don’t have anything for ourselves!”

“Listen husband,” the wife replied, “Tomorrow in the very early hours we shall take both children into the woods where the trees are the thickest. We shall light a fire and give them each a piece of bread. Then we shall go to work and leave them alone. They will not be able to find their way home and we shall be rid of them.”

“No wife,” the husband replied. “I won’t do it. How could I bring myself to abandon my own children in the forest? The wild animals would soon come and rip them to shreds.”

“Oh, you fool,” she replied, “Then all four of us must die of hunger; you should start now and mill the boards for our coffins.”

She did not leave him in peace until he consented. But the two children could not fall asleep because of their hunger and had heard everything that their step-mother had said to their father.

Gretel cried bitter tears and said to Hänsel, “Now we’re in trouble!”

“Be still, Gretel. Do not be afraid. I will do something to help us.”

And when the old folks had fallen asleep, he got up, put on his jacket, opened the lower part of the cottage door and slipped through it. The moon shone brightly and the white stones lying in front of the cottage glimmered like pennies. Hänsel knelt down and filled his jacket pockets with has many as he could cram inside. Then he returned home and said to Gretel, “Be comforted, dear sister, and sleep peacefully. God will not abandon us.” And he lay down again in bed.

When day was breaking but before the sun had risen, the woman came and woke both children. “Get up you lazy children. We shall go into the forest and cut wood.” Then she gave them each a piece of bread and said “You have something for your noon day meal, but don’t eat it before then, for you won’t be getting anything more.”

Gretel took the bread and placed it under her apron because Hänsel had the stones in his pocket. Then they all made their way into the forest. When they had walked a short distance, Hänsel stopped and looked back at the cottage again and again.

The father spoke “Hänsel, why are you looking back and staying behind. Pay attention and don’t forget to move your legs.”

“Oh father. I am looking for my white kitten, which is sitting on the roof and wants to say good bye to me.”

The woman spoke “Fool, that is not your kitten. It is the morning sun shining on the chimney.” But Hänsel was not looking for his kitten. Instead, he was dropping one of the smooth pebbles from his pocket onto the path.

When they had arrived in the middle of the forest, the father spoke. “Gather wood, children. I want to make a fire so that you are not cold.” Hänsel and Gretel gathered brushwood and made a small stack.

The fire was ignited and as the flame burned high, the woman said “Now lie down near the fire and rest. We shall go into the forest and cut wood. When we are finished, we shall return for you.”

Hänsel and Gretel sat down by the fire and when noon came, they each ate their little piece of bread. And because they heard the sound of an axe chopping wood, they believed their father was near. But it wasn’t the wood axe it was a branch, which their father had bound to a dead tree. And the wind blew it back and forth and it made a beating sound. Because they had sat still so long, their eyes fell shut in fatigue and they were soon fast asleep. When they finally awoke it was darkest night.

Gretel began to cry and said “How shall we now find our way out of the wood?”.

But Hänsel consoled her: “Wait a bit until the moon has risen. Then we shall find the way.” And when the moon rose, he took his little sister by the hand and followed the trail of pebbles. They lay there glistening like newly minted coins and showed the way. The children walked the entire night and as daylight was breaking, they arrived once more at their father’s house. They knocked on the door and when the woman opened and saw that it was Hänsel and Gretel, she spoke

“You evil children, why did you sleep so long in the forest? We thought you didn’t want to return ever again.” But their father rejoiced when he saw his children, because leaving them all alone had broken his heart.

It was not long after when there was despair in every corner of the house. The children heard how the mother spoke to the father at night in bed “Everything has been eaten. We only have half a loaf of bread. After that, the song is over. The children must go; we shall bring them deeper into the woods so that they cannot find their way out again. Otherwise, nothing can save us.”

The man was sorely troubled and he thought ““It is better to share your last morsel with your children. But the woman would not listen to what he said and scolded him and accused him. And so it was: whoever agrees once, must agree again. Because the woodcutter had given in the first time, he had to give in a second time also.

But the children were awake and had heard their parents’ conversation. Hänsel got up and wanted to gather pebbles again, but when he went to the door, he found the woman had locked it and he could not get out. But he comforted his little sister and said “Do not cry, Gretel, and go to sleep. Sleep peacefully, dear God will help us.”

Early the next morning the woman came and got the children out of bed. They both received their little crust of bread, but it was even smaller than before. On the path, Hänsel broke it into crumbs in his pocket. He often stood still and threw the crumbs on the ground. “Why are you always stopping, Hänsel, and looking around? Go your way,” the father said.

“I am looking for my little dove, which is sitting on the roof and wants to say goodbye,” Hänsel said.

“You fool,” the mother said. “That isn’t a dove, that is the morning sun shining on the chimney.” But Hänsel crumbled all of his bread and threw the crumbs on the path.

The woman led them even deeper into the woods to a place she had never seen in her entire life. Once again an enormous fire was made and the mother said “Stay here children and when you are tired, you may sleep a bit. We will go into the forest and chop wood. In the evening, when we are finished, we shall return and fetch you.”

When it was noon, Gretel shared her bread with Hänsel, who had scattered his pieces over the path. Then they fell asleep and evening came, but no one returned for the poor children. They awoke in the darkest night and Hänsel consoled his sister and said “Wait Gretel until the moon rises. Then we will see the bread crumbs, which I scattered. They will show us the way home.”

When the moon had risen, they started out but they could not find any crumbs. The many thousands of birds, who fly in forest and field, had pecked them all away.

Hänsel said to Gretel “We will find the way.” But they did not find it. They walked an entire night and day from morning until evening, but they never came out of the forest. They were enormously hungry because they only found a few berries lying on the ground. And because they were so tired, they lay down under a tree and went to sleep.

It was now the third morning since they had left their father’s house. They started to walk again but only found themselves deeper and deeper in the wood. If help did not arrive soon, they would soon fade away.

When it was noon, they saw a beautiful, snow-white bird sitting on a branch. It sang so beautifully that they stopped and listened. When it was done, it beat its wings and flew away. They followed until they reached a little house and the bird landed on its roof. When the children came very close, they saw that the cottage was built of bread and covered with cake. But the windows were made of bright sugar.

“Let’s dig in,” Hänsel said, “and have a blessed meal. I will eat a piece of the roof, Gretel you can eat from the window, it’s sweet.” Hänsel reached up and broke off a bit of the roof to try how it tasted. Gretel stood in front of the window and nibbled at the panes. A fine voice called from inside the cottage

“Crunch, crunch, crouse!
Who’s nibbling on my little house?”

The children replied

“It’s the wind,
The wind so wild,
The heavenly child,”

And they continued eating with abandon. Hänsel, who thought the roof tasted very good, tore off a large piece and Gretel pulled out a large, round window pane, sat down and enjoyed the food. At once the door fell open and there stood a woman as old as the hills. She supported herself on a crutch and walked out slowly. Hänsel and Gretel were so afraid that they let their morsels drop from their hands. But the old woman shook her head and said “Dear children, who brought you here? Come inside and stay with me. You shall not be harmed.” She took both by the hand and led them inside her little house. There, a splendid table was prepared with ample food, milk and pancakes with sugar-sweets, apples and nuts. Afterward they were led to two pretty little beds made up in white. Hänsel and Gretel lay down and thought they were in heaven.

The old woman was so cordial but in fact she was a witch who lay in wait for children. She had only built the house of gingerbread to lure them in. When one fell under her power, she killed it, cooked and ate it. And this was her feast day. Witches have red eyes and cannot see far, but they have a keen sense of smell. Like animals, they notice when people approach. When Hänsel and Gretel came close, she laughed scornfully “Now I have you and you shall not escape again.” Early in the morning before the children awoke, she was already up and when she saw them resting so peacefully, with full red cheeks, she murmured to herself “They shall be tasty morsels.” She grabbed Hänsel in her boney hand and put him in a stall and locked him in with a barred door. Cry as he may, it didn’t help him. Then she went to Gretel and shook her awake and called “Get up, you lazy bones! Fetch water and cook a good meal for your brother. He is sitting outside in the stall and will fatten up. When he is plump enough, I shall eat him.” Gretel began to cry bitterly but it was all for naught. She had to do what the evil witch commanded.

Now the best food was prepared for Hänsel, but Gretel got nothing but empty crab shells. Every morning the old woman crept to the little cage and called “Hänsel, stick out your finger so that I can feel whether you shall soon be fat.” But Hänsel extended a little bone and the old woman, who had weak eyes, could not see and thought it was Hänsel’s finger. She was amazed that he was not gaining weight. When four weeks had passed and Hänsel remained lean, impatience overcame the witch and she would not wait any longer. “Now, Gretel,” she called to the maiden, “Be quick and carry water. Hänsel may be fat or lean, but tomorrow I shall slaughter and cook him.”

Ach, how the poor little sister wept and wailed when she carried the water. The tears flowed from her eyes and fell down her cheeks. “Dear God, do help us,” she cried “If only the wild animals had devoured us in the woods, then at least we would have died together.”

“Spare me your blather,” the old woman said “None of it will help you now.”

Early in the morning Gretel had to go out and fill the pot with water and hang it over the fire. “First we shall bake,” the old woman said. “I have already heated the oven and kneaded the dough!” She pushed poor Gretel out to the oven, from which the flames of fire could already be seen lapping the edges. “Creep inside,” the witch said and see whether the oven is hot enough so that we can push the bread inside.” When Gretel was inside, she would shut the oven door and Gretel would roast inside and then she would also eat her. But Gretel noticed what she had in mind and said “I don’t know how I could do that. How will I get inside?”

“Dumb goose,” the old woman said. “The opening is large enough. Don’t you see, I could slip in myself,” and she crawled forward and put her head in the oven. Gretel gave her a shove so that she fell in and closed the iron door and lowered the latch. Hu! She began to scream horribly. But Gretel ran away and the godless witch burned to death miserably.

Now Gretel ran to Hänsel and opened up the little door of his stall and cried “Hänsel we are saved, the old witch is dead!” Hänsel jumped out like a bird free of its cage when the door is opened. How happy they were, hugged each other, jumped around and kissed! And because they no longer needed to fear, they went to the house of the witch and in every corner they found boxes with pearls and beautiful gems.

“These are much better than pebbles,” Hänsel said, and filled his pockets with as many as he could.

Gretel said “I also want to bring something home,” and filled her apron full.

“But now, let us leave,” Hänsel said, “so that we get out of the witch’s forest.” They had only walked a few hours when they reached an enormous body of water. We can’t pass over and there is also no bridge.”

“And no ship sails here,” Gretel answered, “but a white duck is swimming and if I ask, she might help us cross.” They called,

Little duck, little duck,
Hänsel and Gretel stand
Where no plank or bridge land.
So take us on your little white back.”

The duck came and Hänsel sat on its back and then asked his sister to sit beside him. “No,” Gretel replied “It will be too heavy for the duck. He shall bring us over one after another.” And the good animal did just that. When they were happily on the other side and had walked a time, the forest began to seem more familiar to them. Finally they spied from afar the house of their father. They began to run, pushed through the door and rushed inside. There they fell around their father’s neck. The man hadn’t had a happy hour since he left his children in the forest. But his wife had died. Gretel shook out her apron pockets and pearls and bright gems bounced around the room. Then Hänsel threw one handful after another out of his pocket. Their sorrow and misfortune had ended. Now they lived together in pure joy.

My story is over and there runs a mouse. Whoever can catch it, can make a big, big fur cap.


Read more about the fairy tale:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/09/reading-hansel-and-gretel-journey-of.html


http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/09/reading-hansel-and-gretel-stepmother.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/10/god-is-bread-in-this-german-legend.html

Translation copyright fairytalechannel.com
Please read, pass on to friends and enjoy!
Please do not plagiarize or copy!
Thanks!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Food and the Fairy Tale: An Aerial Bridge of Stone and a Lord's Godless Daughter



Grimm’s Saga No. 236: Shoes Made from Bread Rolls
In Klatau, a quarter hour from the village of Oberkamenz, there once stood a castle on Hradek Mountain. Today you can still see the ruins of the fortress. In ancient times the lord of the castle had a bridge built all the way to Stankau, which is at least an hour away. They took this bridge whenever they wanted to walk to church. This lord had a young, proud daughter. She was so overcome with pride that she had bread rolls hollowed out and wore the little loaves on her feet instead of shoes. One day when she was wearing these shoes and walking across the bridge to church, she put her foot on the last piece of the bridge. At once, the entire castle sank into the ground. Her foot prints can still be seen in the stone, which made up the last step of this bridge.



To read about the significance of bread in fairy tales:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/09/reading-hansel-and-gretel-stepmother.html


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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In this Saga A Powerful Giant Queen in Tyrol Does Not Respect God's Gifts




Grimm’s Saga 234: Lady Huett, Queen of the Giants
In ancient times a powerful giantess lived in Tyrol, Lady Huett. Her home was the high mountains that encircled Innsbruck. Now these rocks are gray and barren but in times of old they were teeming with forests, rich fields and green meadows. One day Queen Huett’s small son came home crying and miserable. He was covered in mud from head to toe and his clothes were blackened like a miner’s garb covered with soot. He had tried to break off a branch from a fir tree to make a riding stick. But because the tree stood at the edge of a marsh and the ground below him was soft, he sank up to his neck in mud. Luckily, he was able to free himself and run home. Queen Huett comforted him and promised him a new shirt. She called her servant and commanded him to bring fresh bread and clean her son’s face and hands with the loaf. The servant had barely begun to do the sinful act with God’s sacred gift when a dark storm blew up, covered the heavens and dreadful thunder could be heard all around. When daylight returned, the rich corn fields, green meadows and forests along with the dwelling of Queen Huett had all vanished. Where once the landscape had been rich and prosperous, the land was now a desert with roughly strewn stones. Not a single blade of grass grew there; all was dry and barren. In the middle of it all stood Queen Huett, the Queen of the Giants, turned to stone. And she shall stand there until Judgment Day.



To read more fairy tales, click on the link:

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



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reading the Writing on the Wall: My Husband is a God, but My Friends are All a Bunch of Sheep




Reading the Fairy Tale The Sun Prince

In the tantalizing tale of the Sun Prince (full text below), the abundant Christian images (flock of sheep attending church, who belong to a Christ-like Sun Prince) could easily lead one to believe this is a religious parable. But a closer analysis of the text reveals an unruly narrative with threads that do not tie up so neatly. As the eldest daughter attempts to explain to her baffled mother, we, too, must read the writing on the wall to fully grasp the significance of this tale.

A rather somber Sun Prince has abducted a mortal bride and taken her off to his abode far, far away. (This is reminiscent of other stories of wife-snatching gods such as Persephone and the God of the Underworld.) The eldest brother endeavors to find his sister and alleviate his mother’s grief. When he finally finds her, he discovers that the bride and her husband consort with a flock of sheep, river-swimmers who are semi-divine beings. But the most remarkable part of the story is stated in two rather unexceptional phrases: Although the oldest son has taken the prettiest horse his parents possess, when he arrives at the dwelling of the Sun Prince the brother is told to “…bring his horse to the stable. Horses were not tolerated near the door.” If we infer that a temple is the only appropriate abode for a Sun Prince and that horses were not tolerated near the temple in this tale, we come a step closer to understanding the story.

The horse was of vital importance to Indo-European peoples and features prominently in their mythologies. Horses were considered to be the most noble, sacred, trusted and intelligent of all animals. Almost every god in Indo-European mythology had his own named horse endowed with supernatural powers. Because of their special status, horses were kept directly next to temples and were used in sacred rites, including sacrifice and soothsaying. The sound of neighing alone was believed to bring fortune and health. An association between horses and the sun god has also been documented for numerous ancient tribes. It was the sun god who appeared in the morning sky with his horses and pulled the solar disk across the heavens in his wagon or chariot. Archaeologists have found such images throughout Europe (Trundholm sun disk, Celtic coins, Helios images, to name just a few examples). The fact that horses were not tolerated near the dwelling of the Sun Prince in this story, points to a cultural context outside the norm. This fairy tale comes from a remote region in Switzerland that was dependent on the sheep and not the horse for its survival. Bordering on Italy near the town of Merano, the area is still renowned for its fine wool and hand-woven fabrics.

Many ancient cultures personified the sun as a god and the earth as a goddess. The marriage between sun and earth was responsible for the fruitfulness of the earth and reenacted in religious festivals and cult practices. In many cultures bowing to the rising and setting sun was a daily ritual. This is echoed in the actions of the pious sheep of this fairy tale who show their reverence by bowing to the Sun God, his wife and finally the newly initiated youngest brother. The special cake the sheep eat is likely a reference to the round cakes made especially to honor the Sun God in religious ceremonies. In his book Indo-European Poetry and Myth, M. L. West surmises that such cakes might originally have been symbols of the sun itself.

The most delightful figures in this fairy tale are the sheep. They straddle parallel universes: the familiar world and an otherworldly realm beyond the wild river. Crossing a river is often a metaphor for dying in folktales (See Crossing to Remagen, link at right). At the very least the river crossing in this tale signals a transition into another spiritual dimension. The sheep seem to represent guardian angels or beings whose function is to assist mortals reach higher spiritual enlightenment, possibly a sort of heaven or the afterworld. In a delightful reversal of roles, it is the sheep who act as shepherds, coaxing and prodding the three brothers. They undergo a physical transformation as they cross the threshold of the chapel, which might actually be a metaphor for an unseen spiritual metamorphosis (or might even suggest a physical resurrection after death). However one reads the story, these sheep are indeed indispensable companions and guides.

At the end of the tale the grieving mother is granted a visit with her departed daughter. But when the girl vanishes for always, we presume her new role is too important for earth visits and she can no longer be bothered with the concerns of mortals. It would be interesting to find out what happens to her youngest brother, the one whose initiation facilitated by the sheep brought about the reunion in the first place. Has he become a priest on earth, ministering to mortals, or does he now inhabit the realm across the river? Only the Sun Prince knows for sure.

To read a fairy tale about the peaceable kingdom of animals:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/11/peaceable-kingdom-of-fairy-tales.htm

To read more fairy tales FairyTaleChannel.com
Please read and enjoy this article.
Pass on to friends or link to.
Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer.
Thanks and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fairy Tale of the Sun Prince



The Wonderful and Strange Fairy Tale of the Sun Prince
(A fairy tale from the Merino region of Switzerland)


A long time ago there lived a father and mother with their four children, a grown girl and three small boys. The father wanted to marry off his daughter to someone he liked. But because his daughter refused, he wanted to kill her.

One day the maiden told her mother she should look and see what was written on the wall of her bedroom. When the mother entered her daughter’s chamber, she found an inscription on the wall “Your daughter is my bride and I am the Sun Prince.” When the mother returned to the parlor, her daughter had vanished. The Sun Prince had taken her.

From that day on, the mother was deeply troubled and cried most of the time. The three brothers noticed this as they grew older. They begged their mother to say why she was so sad. After they had learned the fate of their sister, they could not find a moment’s rest. The oldest son took the prettiest horse in their stable and went out looking for the Sun Prince. After a very long trip he arrived at a large dwelling, where he tied the horse next to the door. A woman emerged and she said he should bring his horse into the stable. Horses were not tolerated near the door.

After the youth took his horse to the adjacent stable, the woman asked what kind of trip he was undertaking. “I must go to look for my sister, who married the Sun Prince!”

“Then you are my brother,” the woman replied and hugged him. Both went to the Sun Prince, and the brother asked permission for his sister to visit their home so that she could visit their mother one last time. “I will allow it,” the Sun Prince replied, “If you tend my sheep an entire day. But as sign that you have watched them, in the evening you must bring me what the sheep have eaten during the day.”

The youth thought “That won’t be difficult!” And early the next morning he went out into the fields with the sheep of the Sun Prince. Soon the herd came to a very deep valley. The sheep crossed the river flowing through the valley floor without difficulty. But the youth did not know how to cross the river. When the sheep saw from the other bank, that the shepherd stayed back, they sent two older sheep to fetch him. They motioned to the shepherd that he was to hold tightly to their tails. But the shepherd was afraid and did not dare do what the sheep commanded. By evening, he was still on the same side of the valley and when the sheep returned, he plucked some grass and put it in his sack, because he thought that was what the sheep must have eaten on the other side of the river. When they arrived at the house of the Sun Prince, the sheep first bowed to the Sun Prince, then to the wife and lastly to the shepherd, who then showed the Prince the grass in his bag. “My sheep don’t eat that!” the Prince cried loudly and the youth sadly returned home.

The second brother decided to see what would happen to him if he tended the herd of the Sun Prince. But he, too, did not have the courage to hold tightly to the tail of the sheep and stayed back.

In the evening he plucked several leaves, placed them in his sack and brought them to the Sun Prince. When the Sun Prince saw this, he said “You did not tend the sheep and must return home without your sister!”

Because this brother also returned home without his sister, it was left to the youngest brother to try to bring back his sister. After a trip lasting many days and years, he arrived at the dwelling of the Sun Prince, where he endeavored to tie his horse to the post. When the Sun Prince heard what he wanted, he made the same proposal as he had to his brothers. At the first light of morning the youth went out with the sheep. But when he came to the stream in the valley, he let the old sheep guide him through the water to the far side.

On the far side of the water, the youth saw the sheep entering a chapel and as they crossed the doorway, they were all transformed into humans. Once inside the chapel they all celebrated mass. After the service, they entered a nearby inn and ate a celebratory feast. The youth could see what wonderful and delicious food the sheep ate. He tried a bit of the best cake and placed it in his sack. When he returned home with his herd that evening, two old sheep once again pulled him safely through the river. When they arrived home, the herd first bowed to the youth and then to the Sun Prince and then to his wife. After the youth showed the Sun Prince the cake, he and his sister were immediately brought home the following morning and stayed until evening. When the sun went down, she vanished for always.

To read more about the Sun Prince:
http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/09/reading-writing-on-wall-my-husband-is.html

Read more fairy tales by clicking on the link:
Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
Please read and enjoy this article.
Pass on to friends or link to.
Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer.
Thanks and enjoy!