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Sunday, May 3, 2020

Anatomy of a Fairy Tale

The fairy tale .... what is it?
Maerchen or Fairy Tale: a working definition 

A fairy tale is a fictitious story, originally conveyed orally to a group or community, bound together by language, custom or geography. Often fairy tales describe universal human experiences, core beliefs or values of the community. The problems of every day life are often explored: living within a family structure, finding a mate, securing status or riches, establishing oneself in life, seasons and cycles of the year. Main characteristics include fabulous or fantastic elements (for example, talking animals), a storyline that is played out independently from any specific time or place, an anti-hero or anti-heroine winning out against all odds (i.e., the youngest, smallest, dumbest, poorest succeeds over the oldest, tallest, smartest or richest). Fairy tale justice means the last shall be first and the first shall be last. As an oral tradition, the fairy tale often uses a narrative template with three-fold repetition. Only in the third segment is the adversary overcome, victory assured, success achieved.  The setting of fairy tales is often the forest. The forest is dark and forbidding but also imbued with magic.
Fairy tales often contain explicit violence, sex or macabre events, nonetheless their appeal is timeless. 

The Brothers Grimm write in their Preface to the First Volume of fairy tales that “Fairy tales, sagas and history stand together and present us with the fresh and lively spirit of pre-historical times. …The fairy tale is more poetic, the saga is more historical in nature.” 

The saga is anchored in a specific time, often a particular year, geographic region or city/town/place. Persons are mentioned by name, often a historical figure or king is mentioned. The saga frequently explains strange phenomena, unusual features in the landscape, the origin of an ethnic group or names that were once of local significance. Sagas are the memory of an historical event. History is explained by a community remembering its past and offering explanations for local custom and tradition. The saga is a means of connecting current circumstances to precise past reference points. Some of these reference points may be authentic, others are probably completely invented. 

The saga commemorates a distant folk memory or tradition. It has not been altered or corrupted by current events or commentaries. 

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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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.com
(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. 



Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Fairy Tale for the Approach of Spring and the Last Shrieks of Winter

Grimm's Saga 275. The Shrieker




March 12th
On this day in 1753:Johann Peter Kriechbaum, mayor of the Upper Kainsbach Zent, told the following on March 12, 1753: “In the district called Spreng a ghost or spirit resided, who made all kinds of shrieking noises, like the sounds of deer, fox, donkey, swine or other animals, even every type of bird. For this reason, the people called him the shrieker. He has led many astray and no one dares linger in this meadow, especially herders.” This is what the mayor recently encountered when he was walking at night in his meadow in Spreng. He had used up all the water for watering his herd when a pig squealed in the little woods on the Langenbrombach side. It screeched as if a knife were stuck in its throat. The ghost has been seen as far as the Holler Forest, where they used to burn charcoal seventeen years ago. The coal burners complained bitterly at the time that many had been frightened by this ghost because he appeared in the form of a donkey. The deceased Johann Peter Weber said the same thing. He had loaded coal there at night to take it to the Michelstadt Hammer. Heinrich Germann, the old mayor of the Zent stated that when he was once tending his oxen in the Spreng field, it was as if a fox ran at him, but when he beat him away with the whip, the fox immediately vanished.

Fairy Tale Factum:The Cent was an administrative and judicial unit created in the Middle Ages. It roughly covered 100 families. The spelling was subsequently changed to Zent and was said to cover an area including ten villages (some accounts say 20). The Zent was governed by a count (Zentgraf, usually a farmer) or presiding judge (Zentschoeffen), often the village mayor or sheriff. These districts were marked off with border stones (Grenzsteine or Zentsteine), some of which have survived to the present day.

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Impenetrable Elfmound





My home is the impenetrable elfmound where sump meets hillock.  Once I pledged my heart to a prince but I was kidnapped by a king; my swain freed me from the king’s cruel advances only to abandon me soon after. Were it not for my horse or help from the fairy folk I would have been lost. But by and by I came to this place of moss and mold. I have put on the wings of the fairies as armor and here I shall live for all time forth. For in the muck every army sinks, every villain is swallowed, and love is unknown. 


Excerpt from Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse