Showing posts with label Snake Symbolism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Snake Symbolism. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tale of the Orphan Child, a Belly-Wriggler and a Patch of Blue

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 105, The Little Ringed Snake Version II

An orphan child sat at the city wall spinning. The girl saw a little snake sliding on its belly along the stone wall. Quickly the child spread out her blue-silk kerchief, a thing little snakes love with all their heart (and the only thing to which they are irresistibly drawn).

As soon as the creature saw the cloth, it turned around and slithered toward that patch of blue carrying a small golden crown, which it placed there. Then the little snake wriggled away. The girl picked up the glittering crown and saw it was spun from the finest and most delicate golden thread. Soon the snake returned a second time: but when it no longer saw the crown, it crept away along the city wall. It beat its head against the stone until it no longer had the strength to continue. Finally it lay there dead. 

If the girl had left the crown lying in its place, the little snake surely would have brought even more treasures to her from out of its crevice.

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Copyright Translation

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fairy Tale of the Little Ringed Snake

(Illustration by Tomi Ungerer, Das Grosse Liederbuch)

Fairy Tale of the Little Ringed Snake, Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 105 Version I

There once lived a little child and every day its mother gave it a small bowl with milk and broken pieces of bread. The child always took the little bowl and went out into the yard, sat down and ate.

But when the child began to eat, a house snake would often creep out of a crack in the wall. It lowered its little head and lapped up the child’s milk, eating right along. The child was pleased with its companion and if it sat alone with its little bowl and the snake did not appear immediately, it cried out:

“Snake, come fast, come swift,
Come here you little thing,
Take from me these crumbs,
And lick the milk refreshing.”

The snake came slithering out and enjoyed the refreshing milk. It also showed its gratitude by bringing the child secret treasures, all manner of pretty things, sparkling stones, pearls and golden toys. But the snake only drank the milk and left the crumbs alone.

Once the child took its little spoon and rapped the snake’s little head and said “You silly thing, you must eat the crumbs too!” When the mother, who was standing in the kitchen, heard the child talking and when she saw that it was hitting a snake with its spoon, she ran out with a piece of firewood and killed the goodly animal.

From that time forward there was a change in the child. The child had grown big and strong as long as the snake had eaten beside it. But now it lost its rosy cheeks and became thin. It wasn’t long until the bird of death appeared at the child’s window one night and began to cry. And the robin gathered leaves and twigs and wove a funeral wreath and soon thereafter the child lay on the bier.

Translation Copyright

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Serpent: Symbol of Knowledge and Sexuality

Fairy Tale Factum

Snake images appear in the mythology of ancient cultures across pre-Christian Europe. Serpent symbols have been found carved on Pictish stones in Scotland and in ancient Rome, girls took gifts of barley cake to the sacred serpent to assure their own reproductive powers and the fertility of the earth. In some ancient cultures snakes were worshipped (See 2. Kings 18.4 King Hezekiah breaking the bronze serpent of Moses). In others, myths speak of a snake maiden having the power to confer sovereignty on the king (early Arthurian Romance). Since early myths were first oral traditions and written down much later, often by persons critiquing rather explaining the cult, a precise understanding of the snake’s significance is difficult to fully reconstruct. Recurrent themes seem to suggest that the serpent represented both esoteric knowledge and a divine sexual power. To counter these pagan beliefs, the Bible makes it perfectly clear that it was a snake that led to the downfall of man, linking the serpent forever with Satan and evil. Clement of Alexandria (2nd – 3rd century A.D.) described the snake that tempted Eve as having a female head. Thus, it was a temptress that brought sin and misery into the world and the snake has had a bad reputation ever since.
The Snake Maiden told below has the pagan element of a kindly attitude toward the serpent; snake veneration may even be at its core. But the Christian notion of the need to redeem sinful and pagan practices of the past is evident in this story. The maiden must be freed from the curse of her hideous condition, resulting in physical transformation and spiritual redemption. But perhaps respect for the snake and old traditions had its merits. Fear and loathing of snakes is not necessarily a good thing.