Sunday, May 11, 2008

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 17: The White Snake

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A very long time ago a king lived, whose wisdom was renowned throughout the entire land. There was nothing he did not know and it was as if news of the most hidden things was carried to him through the air. He had a very strange habit. Every afternoon, when everything was carried away from his dinner table and no one was present, he had a trustworthy servant bring him one more bowl. But the bowl was covered and the servant himself did not know what was under the lid for the king kept it closed and would not eat from the bowl until he was completely alone. This went on for some time until one day the servant who was carrying the bowl away was gripped by a curiosity he could not resist. He took the bowl into his chamber. When he had carefully closed the door he raised the lid and looked underneath and there lay a white snake. As he gazed upon it he could not restrain his desire to taste some. He carefully cut off a piece and placed it in his mouth. It had barely touched his tongue when he heard the strange whisper of fine voices. He went toward the sound and listened. He noticed that the sound was coming from sparrows, which were talking to each other and were telling everything they had seen in field and forest. Eating the snake had given him the ability to understand the language of animals.

Now it happened that just at that time the queen had lost her most beautiful ring and the suspicion of theft fell on the trusted servant, who had access to everything. The king called him to appear before him and threatened him under harsh words that if the culprit was not found by the morning, he would be considered the guilty one and charged. It didn’t help for him to assert his innocence. He was left with no better prospects. In his trouble and fear he went down to the courtyard and considered what he could do to alleviate his troubles. The ducks sat peacefully near the pond and rested, they preened their feathers with their bills and while resting, held a confidential conversation. The servant stood still and listened. They told each other how they had all waddled out in the morning and found such good food. One said sorrowfully, “How heavy it lays in my stomach, for in my haste I swallowed a ring, which lay under the queen’s window.” The servant immediately grabbed the duck by its neck, carried it into the kitchen and ordered the cook “Kill this one, for its plump and ready.”
“Yes,” the cook replied and weighed it in his hand. “This one wasted no time in fattening itself and should have been roasted a long time ago.” He cut off its head and when it had been removed, he found the queen’s ring in the duck’s stomach. The servant could now easily prove his innocence to the king. The king, who wanted to make good the injustice done to the servant, permitted him to request a favor and promised him the best honorary position at his court.

But the servant ruled out everything the king proposed. He asked for only a horse and travel money because he wanted to see the world and wander for a while. When his request had been fulfilled, he made his way and arrived at a pond where he noticed three fish, which had become entrapped in a pipe and were gasping for water. Although it was said that fish were without speech, he could understand their laments that they should die such a pitiable death. Because he had a compassionate heart, he dismounted and set the three captives back in the water. They wriggled and splashed for joy, stretched their heads out of the water and called to him, “We shall thank you and yours, that you have saved us.” He rode on and after a while it seemed as if he heard a voice at his feet in the sand. He listened carefully and heard how the ant king cried “If only men with their clumsy animals would stop stepping on us! The stupid horse with his heavy hooves is kicking my people without any mercy!” He turned to take a side path and the ant king called to him “We will remember you and yours.” The path led to a forest and there in the woods sat a raven father and raven mother; they stood by their nest and threw out their young. “Away with you, you gallows birds,” they cried. “We can no longer feed you until you are satisfied. You are big enough and can feed yourself.” The poor birds fell to the ground and fluttered and beat their feathers and cried “We helpless children, we should feed ourselves and can’t even fly! What else can we do but die of hunger here!” The good youth dismounted, killed his horse with his sword and left it to the ravens for food. They hopped toward him, ate their fill and cried “We will remember you and yours!”

Now he had to use his own legs and when he had walked a long way he came to a large city. There was much noise and the streets were filled with people. A rider pushed his way through the throng and announced that the king’s daughter was looking for a husband, but whoever would woo her must complete a difficult task. If he could not accomplish it with success, he would lose his life. Many had already tried and wagered their lives for naught. When the youth gazed upon the king’s daughter, he was blinded by her radiant beauty. He forgot the danger and went before the king and announced himself a suitor.

No sooner said than he was taken to the sea and before his eyes a golden ring was thrown into the waves. The king ordered him to fetch the ring from the ocean floor and added, “If you return to the water’s surface without the ring, you will be sent back to the ocean’s depths where you will die in the waves.” Everyone regretted the demise of the beautiful youth and left him standing on the beach by himself. He stood and considered what to do for he saw three fish swimming and they were no others than those whose life he had saved. The middle fish held a shell in his mouth, which he placed on the shore at the feet of the youth. When the youth picked up the shell and opened it, the golden ring lay inside. Full of joy he brought it to the king and expected him to grant him the said reward. But the proud king’s daughter, when she heard that he was not of equal birth, scorned him and demanded that he should fulfill another task. She went down to the garden and spread ten sacks full of millet in the grass. “You must pick up the millet by tomorrow before the sun comes up,” she said, “and no grain may be missing.” The youth sat in the garden and thought about how he could complete the task. But he could think of nothing and sat sadly. He awaited his death at the break of dawn. When the first sun beams fell in the garden, he saw the ten sacks and all were standing full next to each other. Not a granule was missing. The ant king with his thousand upon thousand of ants had arrived at night and the grateful animals had gathered the millet with enormous diligence. The king’s daughter came down to the garden herself and with wonder gazed upon the youth and saw he had accomplished what had been set before him. But she could not overcome her proud heart and spoke “He has solved both tasks, but he shall not become my husband until he has brought be an apple from the tree of life.” The youth did not know where the tree of life stood but took up the journey. He thought he would walk as long as his legs could carry him, but he had no hope of ever finding the tree of life. When he had already walked through three kingdoms and arrived in a forest in the evening, he sat under a tree and wanted to go to sleep. Suddenly he heard a noise in the branches above and a golden apple fell into his hands. Three ravens flew down to him and sat on his knee and said “We are three young ravens, who you saved from starvation. When we grew up and heard that you were looking for the golden apple, we flew over the ocean to the end of the earth where the tree of life stands and have brought you the apple.” Full of joy the youth made his way home and brought the beautiful king’s daughter the golden apple. Now there was no excuse. They divided the apple of life and ate it together. Her heart was filled with love for him and together they lived to old age in undisturbed happiness.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Saint Severus and The Three Languages


The fairy tale The Three Languages roughly follows the life of Saint Severus, whose relics were translated to the Severikirche in Erfurt, Germany sometime after 836 A.D. (See article below for details).
There are several churches in Germany that have been dedicated to the Saint, including those in Blankenhain, Boppard, Otterndorf, Gemuenden and Fulda. Saint Severus can also be seen in mosaic in the Basilica San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, where he appears with dove on shoulder.

In the world of the fairy tale, the acquisition of languages (especially the knowledge of animal languages) was held in high regard. According to earliest traditions, gods and men spoke different languages. Folklore and mythology mention several ways to acquire the understanding of animal tongues; two of these methods involve snakes. Consuming the flesh of a white snake supposedly granted men the power to understand animal language. Another way was to have your ears licked by a snake. In the fairy tale appearing next week, The White Snake, the hero prevails because of his compassionate heart* and the special linguistic abilities he acquires after eating a white snake. (For the full text of The Three Languages, scroll down or hit the link to the right.)

* Compassion in a fairy tale comes in many startling forms. It may even involve committing acts which today seem cruel, barbaric or totally incomprehensible.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Saint Severus and The Three Languages


Any Liberal Arts major can identify with the fairy tale The Three Languages (full text below). At first glance, the story seems to be a simple and slightly humorous account of generational conflict with happy resolution. The theme of a parent’s objection to a child’s career choice is a common one, but rarely does a parent threaten murder. The oddity of this story is perhaps that the newly married protagonist takes an unexpected trip to Rome with young wife in tow. Strange, we might think, for a young man who speaks fluent barking, croaking and chirping to become pope. After all, he is married. It might be a surprise to learn that this fairy tale is probably based on a true life history, that of Saint Severus. *

According to legend, a new bishop was to be elected in Ravenna at Pentecost in the year 342 A.D. There was some uncertainty about who should be elected. When the wool weaver Severus appeared on the scene, a dove circled overhead three times and landed on his shoulder. The church community interpreted this as a sign from God and elected him bishop. Severus was buried near the harbor of Ravenna, which today no longer exists. In the year 836 the German Archbishop had his remains transferred from Ravenna to Mainz and ultimately they were moved to Erfurt. The stone sarcophagus of Saint Severus can still be seen in the Erfurt Church and it includes both wife and daughter of the saint (Vincentia and Innocentia). The story of Saint Severus’ divine selection would have been circulated at the time his relics were moved and used to promote Christianity among the pagan population.

The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit and according to Christian tradition has inspired church elders to expound the doctrines of Christian faith. In addition to Saint Serverus, Pope Gregory, Thomas Aquinas and Augustine are commonly associated with the dove. They are often depicted with a dove sitting on their shoulders or hovering overhead. The dove flies down from heaven, announcing God's will and provides concrete instructions to humans, which it whispers in their ears.


* (Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, an account of his life history that was circulated at the time and is impossible to verify. In other words, a legend.)

Monday, May 5, 2008

May Fairy Tale: The Three Languages


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A count once lived in Switzerland and he had only one child, a son. But this child was a very simple lad who would learn nothing. One day the father said to him “Listen, my son, try as I may, I can’t get anything to stay in your head. Now you shall go forth into the world and let a famous master try his luck with you.” The youth was sent to a foreign city and remained with the master an entire year. At the end of this time, he returned home and his father asked him “Now my son, what have you learned?” “Father, I have learned to understand the barking of dogs.” “God be merciful!” the father cried, “is that all that you have learned? I will send you to another city and to another master.” The youth was brought to this new city and stayed with a new master another entire year. When he returned, the father asked him again “My son, what have you learned?” He replied, “Father, I have learned to understand the chirping of birds.” The father was filled with rage and replied angrily “O, you lost and forsaken boy, you have wasted your valuable time and not learned anything at all. Aren’t you ashamed to appear before me? I will send you to a third master, but this time if you don’t learn anything, I will no longer be your father.” So the son stayed with the third master another entire year and when he returned home, the father asked “My son, what have you learned?” He replied “Dear father, this year I have learned to understand the croaking of frogs.” The father was seized by such rage, he jumped up and called his servants. “This man is no longer my son. I am now washing my hands of him and ask that you take him into the forest and kill him.” They seized him and led him out, but when they were about to kill him, they could not for they pitied him, so they let him go. They cut out the eyes and tongue of a doe and this is what they brought the old man as proof of their act.

The youth wandered forth and after some time he came to a castle, where he requested lodgings for the night. “Yes,” the master of the castle replied, “If you want to spend the night down below, in the old tower, go ahead. But I must warn you, it is a most dangerous place for it is filled with wild dogs that bark and howl without end. At certain hours they demand that a human being be thrown to them, whom they devour immediately.” The entire region was filled with alarm, but no one was able to help. The youth, who was not afraid said “Let me go down to the barking dogs and give me some food I can throw to them. They won’t do anything to me.” Because he insisted on going, they gave him some food for the wild animals and brought him down to the tower. When he entered, the hounds did not bellow at him, they wagged their tails in a friendly manner and ran around him, ate what he placed before them and did not harm a single hair on his head. The next morning to everyone’s surprise he returned healthy and whole. He said to the master of the castle “The hounds have revealed to me in their language why they rage and romp and bring harm to the countryside. A curse has been placed on them and they must guard a magnificent treasure in the tower until the treasure has been raised. Only then will they be allowed to rest. Their speech has also revealed to me the way the treasure must be uncovered.” Everyone who heard this rejoiced and the count promised his daughter to the youth, if he would raise the treasure. He happily complied, the wild dogs disappeared and the country was free of the nuisance. The beautiful maiden was given to the young man as wife and they lived happily together for some time.
It was not long after that the young count sat down happily beside his wife in a wagon and began a trip to Rome. On the way they passed a marsh where frogs sat and croaked. The young count listened and when he heard what they said, he became thoughtful and sad. At first, he would not tell his wife the reason. Finally, they arrived in Rome and found the pope had just died. Among the cardinals there was doubt about who should be elected successor. They at last agreed that the man would be revealed by a divine sign from God and this divinely designated man would then be voted pope. Right at the very moment it was decided, the young count entered the church and suddenly two snow-white doves flew down and landed on his shoulders. And there they remained seated. The priest recognized the sign from God and asked the young count immediately whether he wanted to become pope. He hesitated for he did not know if he was worthy of the job. But the doves murmured to him that he should do it and he responded “Yes”. He was anointed and blessed and thus, what the frogs had foretold before en route to Rome came true. The frogs had croaked he would become the blessed pope, which initially disturbed him. He was soon asked to sing mass and didn’t know a single word. But two doves perched on his shoulders and they whispered everything into his ear.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Frouwa: Portrait of a Witch as a Young Woman



Diminutive Ancient Wagon, Pergamon Museum, Berlin


The Germanic goddess Frouwa was the sister of the sun god Fro. Because of this solar connection, she is associated with things that shine and glisten, such as brilliant gems and the perfect sunshine of a cloudless spring day. As goddess of love, fertility and beauty, she was held in high esteem by Germanic tribes. But by the Middle Ages she had become associated with witches, devils and other demonic beings.

Frouwa had endured hardship as a young goddess. The source of her trial lay in the fact that she was not married to a god, but rather a human, who in stealth abandoned her. Full of longing, she searched the world over for her lost love. She had barely caught up with him, when he vanished again. The tears that fell from her eyelashes reached the ground as pearls or droplets of gold. That is why the pearl often represents a tear in German mythology.

The greatest hope of a Germanic woman was to become part of Frouwa’s sacred realm after death. The heavenly palace where Frouwa received these departed women was called Freistatt.

Like other gods, Frouwa also held a procession that lasted twelve nights. On these nights she often appeared riding a boar with golden bristles (witches were also known to ride boars on Walpurgis Night). But usually she traveled in a wagon that was pulled by cats. The cat was sacred to Frouwa and that is why her realm was filled with a large number of these animals. Carefully tended and revered, no one was allowed to touch them.

The ladybug (or ladybird) was given a special place of honor by Frouwa. It was said that the number of black spots on its back foretold the number of Talers a bushel of corn would cost in the coming year. Later Christian priests renamed this insect after the Virgin Mary, because it was thought the Virgin was most similar to the goddess in regard to purity, goodness and beneficence. The ladybug in German is therefore often called Marienkaefer. Likewise, the church transformed Frouwa’s cats into witches or devils and these became known as the fearful creatures accompanying her on her night flight.

As leader of the Valkyries she also had a swan-feather shirt, which gave her the power to take on the shape of swan and travel through both air and water, doing the gods’ bidding. By some accounts she could also transform herself into a falcon or bird of prey. However, her actions were always honorable and she was therefore considered to be the model of feminine virtue.
By the time of the poet Snorri (12th century AD), Frouwa was the only pagan goddess that was still venerated in Iceland.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Walpurgisnacht

Walpurgisnacht: in Germanic countries, the night of April 30 to May 1st. On this night witches fly from all directions on broomsticks to dance, drive away the last remnants of snow and herald the beginning of spring. According to folk tradition, the devil presides at the witches’ Sabbath until the May Queen appears at midnight, signifying the end of winter. The witches must report all their misdeeds of the past year at this gathering. Those who have not done their fair share receive a beating as punishment. By all accounts, it is a night of boisterous obscenity and indecency.

In times past, farmers were advised to bore three holes over the door of their cowshed and place special roots and herbs in these cavities on Walpurgisnacht. The time and manner for digging up the roots was precisely defined for it was believed that such herbs had power over witches and could prevent them from entering the cowshed and doing harm to the cattle. The name Walpurgisnacht is taken from St. Walpurga, who was the daughter of Richard of England. According to tradition, her bones were taken to the Eichstatt Church on May 1, 870 and the church used her feast day in an attempt to Christianize these pagan practices.


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Monday, April 28, 2008

Ideas of Good and Evil in Jorinda and Joringel


The old woman in Jorinda and Joringel (full text provided by clicking here) is no ordinary sorceress. In fact she is a magician of the highest order, an arch-sorceress or Erzzauberin. She has gruesome physical characteristics and other unusual attributes, including red eyes and yellow skin, the ability to spit poison and bile and the power to transform herself and others into birds. She is also able to cast spells, which transfix people. Clearly she is aligned with a malignant force. But curiously she is also aligned with Zachiel, who has the power to break her spells and does so at her request. Zachiel in this fairy tale is probably a reference to the archangel Zadkiel, the Biblical angel of mercy (alternative spellings: Zachiel, Zadkiel or Zachariel). Zadkiel is the Patron Angel of all who forgive and according to Judaic tradition, it was Zadkiel who prevented Abraham from sacrificing Isaac.

The relationship between arch-sorceress and archangel is an interesting one. The witch seems to have authority over the archangel Zadkiel for it is at her request that Zadkiel releases Joringel from the spell. It seems they are working together in some capacity. Or, are they merely representatives of the two forces acting in creation, light and darkness or good and evil? In the Middle Ages these powers were frequently described as angelic or demonic beings. The Biblical portrayal in the New Testament (Pauline Epistles, Colossians, Romans and Corinthians) emphasizes that God has created these powers and they are under his dominion. Some religions claim that there is no omnipotent good power, but rather good and evil are equal forces acting in the world and the human being and creation itself are seen as their battleground.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ideas of Good and Evil / Vorstellungen von Gut und Boese

An die (deutschsprachige) Leserschaft des Fairy Tale Channels:


Willkommen! Ihre Meinung ist uns wichtig. Bitte ihren Kommentar unter Comments eintragen. Leserbriefe auf Deutsch oder Englisch sind erwuenscht.
Vielen Dank fuer Ihre Bemuehungen! Besonders interessant waeren Ihre Vorstellungen von Gut und Boese bezueglich des Maerchens Jorinde und Joringel. (Siehe unten fuer vollen Text)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 69: Jorinda and Joringel




As Walpurgisnacht is approaching (evening of April 30th to May 1st), it might be appropriate to read a fairy tale about a witch. This tale is remarkable for many reasons, also because it contains both archangel and arch-witch, personifications of ultimate mercy and ultimate evil. The link between the two is especially interesting in this tale.





There was once an old castle in a deep and impenetrable forest. An old woman lived alone there and she was an arch-sorceress. During the day she took the shape of cat or night owl, but at night she took the form of an ordinary human. She would lure wild animals and birds into her snare and when she caught one, it was cooked or roasted. The wanderer who came within one-hundred feet of the castle was brought under the sorceress’s spell. With feet frozen to the ground, the person could not move from the spot until the enchantress released him. When a chaste maiden entered the castle perimeter, the old witch turned the girl into a bird, which she immediately snatched up and locked in a basket. She carried the basket to a chamber deep inside the castle. The sorceress probably had seven-thousand baskets containing such rare birds in her castle.

Now there was once a maid called Jorinda; she was more beautiful than all other maidens. She had promised herself to a handsome young man by the name of Joringel. Each took enormous pleasure in the company of the other for they were still celebrating their engagement. They loved to walk by themselves and whisper softly to each other so that no one else heard while they spoke. And so it was that one day they took a walk in the forest. “Be careful,” Joringel warned “that you don’t come too close to the castle.” It was a beautiful evening and the sun shone between the tall trunks of the majestic trees and the bright yellow light pierced the shadows of the deep green wood. Overhead a turtledove sang a mournful song among the last May buds of the beech tree.

Before long Jorinda began to cry, sat down in the sunshine and was inconsolable; Joringel did the same. They were deeply distressed and cried like one going to die. They looked around and were lost and did not know the way home. The sun could still be seen illuminating half the mountain, but the other half was already in shadow. When Joringel peered through some underbrush, he saw the old wall of the castle and became deathly afraid. Jorinda began to sing:

“My little bird, with ring so red
Sing of sorrow sorrow sorrow:
For the dove sings of her death
On the morrow morrow morrow – zickuth, zickuth, zickuth.”

Joringel turned to Jorinda but Jorinda had been turned into a nightingale who sang Zickuth, Zickuth, Zickuth. Suddenly an enormous owl with glowing eyes swooped out of the bush. It circled her three times and cried out three times “Schu, hu, hu, hu.” Joringel could not speak: he stood as still as stone, he could not cry out, he could not talk, he could not move hand or foot. Now the sun was sinking: the owl flew into the bush and an old and crooked woman, yellow and lean emerged. She had enormous red eyes and a crooked nose that extended to the tip of her chin. She murmured and caught the nightingale and carried it away in her hand. Joringel could say nothing and could not move from the spot; the nightingale was gone. Finally, the old woman appeared again and spoke in a muffled tone “Greetings to you Zachiel, when the moon shines in the basket then unbind, Zachiel, in good time.” Joringel was released from the spell and fell to his knees before the old woman. He pled for the return of his Jorinda, but in vain. The sorceress replied that he would never ever see her again and walked away. He called, he cried, he lamented but all for naught. “Uu, what shall happen to me?” he cried.

Joringel walked until he arrived in a strange village: there he took on the job of sheep herder for many years. Often, he walked around the castle but never came too close. Finally he dreamt one night that he found a blood-red flower and in the center was a beautiful large pearl. He broke the flower, and walked toward the castle. Everything that he touched with the flower was released from the spell. He also dreamt that Jorinda returned to him in this way. In the morning when he awoke, he began to search hill and dale for the flower. He searched and searched until the ninth day, when he found the blood-red flower in the early morning. In the center was a large dewdrop, as large as the most beautiful pearl. He carried this flower day and night until he arrived at the castle. As he came within one-hundred steps of the castle, he did not become frozen fast in his tracks as last time but instead could continue walking to the castle door. Joringel was overjoyed, touched the gate with the flower and it fell open. He went inside, through the courtyard and listened for the warbling of many birds. Finally he heard the trilling sound. He followed it and found the hall and the enchantress feeding birds in seven-thousand baskets. When she saw Joringel she became very angry, so angry that she scolded and spat poison and bile at him, but she could not come within two feet of him. He did not turn back at the sight of the sorceress but walked around, peering into each basket with a bird. But there where many hundreds of nightingales, how could he find his Jorinda again? As he looked he noticed that the old woman secretly took away a basket with a bird and was walking to the door. Quickly he jumped toward her, touched the basket with the flower and also brushed against the old woman. Now the sorceress could no longer cast spells and in the same moment Jorinda stood before him, her arms fell round his neck, and she was as she had always been. Joringel now returned all the other birds to their prior maidenly form. He then returned home with his Jorinda where they lived happily together for many years.


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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Reading and Understanding Folk Tales & Fairy Tales



Fairy Tale Factum:

Hooting Ursula is a wonderful illustration of elements commonly encountered in German folk tales. At first glance, the narrative offers a confusing combination of Christian images and pagan beliefs. Despite a complex story line and a rather dark sub-text, the tale remains witty and fun.
What we modern readers take from the story is probably quite different from what the earliest audience would have understood. If we accept the premise that such tales, based on an oral tradition, reflect values and attitudes of a time long past, we come a step closer toward deciphering the original meaning.
In 12th century Europe pagan sentiments still persisted: demons and other malevolent spirits took nightly flights through the woods. In some traditions, these apparitions were said to be the wild huntsman led by a hooting owl; in others, an entire army of ghosts and spirits assembled and rampaged through the forest. Frouwa was the Norse goddess of war, love and magic. She had numerous powers including the ability to change into a hawk or owl and the cat was her sacred animal. As patroness of witches, it was likely Frouwa who initiated the annual assembly on Walpurgisnacht, the night of April 30 to May 1st. On this night witches flew from all directions on broomsticks to dance, drive away the last remnants of snow and herald the beginning of spring.
This story starts with the ancient pagan notion of witches and devils taking flight through the air but gives it a Christian explanation: Hooting Ursula was originally a nun gone bad. In fact it was the church that exorcised and banished such spirits and in the end it is the Christian God that is shown to have power over life, demons and creation.


More fairy tale factum:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/03/vernal-equinox.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/03/fairy-grotto-and-palm-sunday-fairy.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/03/saga-123-woman-in-white.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/fairy-tale-factum_22.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/01/more-than-fashion-faux-pas-white-dress.html

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Grimm's Saga 312. Hooting Ursula

At midnight in storm and rain the Hackelnberg Huntsman races through the Thuringia Wood. His wagon, horse and hounds make a crackling and creaking noise as he breaks through the brush of his favorite haunt: the Hackel Forest. A night owl flies ahead of him and folk call it Hooting Ursula. Wanderers who happen to meet this terrible pair fall down flat on their stomachs and let the wild huntsman pass by. Soon they hear the barking of hounds and the call: Uh-hu!

Many years ago in a remote cloister in Thuringia there lived a nun named Ursula. During her lifetime she always disturbed the choir with her shriek-like singing. For that reason they called her Hooting Ursula. But things only got worse after her death. Each night starting at eleven o’clock she stuck her head through a hole in the church tower and hooted wretchedly. Every morning at four she came uncalled and sang with the sisters. They could endure it for only a few days; on the third morning one nun said softly and full of terror to the nun singing next to her “That is most certainly Ursula!” Suddenly everyone fell silent, their hair stood on end and the nuns ran screaming from the church crying: “Hooting Ursula, Hooting Ursula!” No punishment would induce the nuns to enter the church again until a famous exorcist was called from a Capuchin monastery on the Danube. He banished Hooting Ursula in the form of an owl to the Dummburg region of the Harz Mountains. It was there that Ursula met the Huntsman Hackelnberg. She became charmed by his Uh-hu and he in turn was charmed with her Uh-hu! And now they both go out together, flying through the air on the wild hunt.


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Monday, March 31, 2008

The Buxtehude Hedgehog


April Fool’s Day

On this day, tricks are played on the April fool: a credulous person who suffers some hoax or conspiracy, often to make him look ridiculous. The deception frequently involves sending the fool on a fruitless journey or bogus errand, with many back-and-forths. This Fairy Tale of the Brother’s Grimm is a cautionary tale for the proud and arrogant, who might view themselves as refined and distinguished. It is precisely this sort of person who is especially susceptible to becoming an April fool.


The Buxtehude Hedgehog

This story is really a lie, but there is some truth in it, for my grandfather who told the story to me, always said the following when he told it: “True it must be, my son, or you wouldn’t be able to tell it.” The story happened this way. It was a Sunday morning in autumn, just when the buckwheat was blooming, the sun had risen on the horizon and the wind blew softly through the stubble. The larks sang as they soared high in the air and the bees hummed busily round the buckwheat. People wore their Sunday best to church and all creatures were cheerful, the hedgehog too. He stood in front of his door with his arms crossed and looked out into the morning sunshine. He warbled a little song and sang as beautifully as any hedgehog can sing on a Sunday morning. While he stood there and trilled like a little bird, he suddenly had the idea that while his wife was washing and dressing the children, he would go out and take a little walk in the field to see how the turnips were doing. The turnips grew quite close to his house and it was his habit and that of his family to eat them. That is why he considered them to be his own.

No sooner thought than done. He closed the front door behind him and took the path to the field. He had not gone very far and was just about to go round the blackthorn bush, which marked the edge of the field, when he saw the hare. The hare was walking on ahead engaged in similar pursuits, namely looking after his cabbage. When the hedgehog saw the hare, he wished him good morning in a cordial way. But the hare, who in his own right was a distinguished gentleman and furthermore, was terribly conceited, did not respond to the hedgehog’s greeting. Instead with a scornful countenance he replied icily: “How is it that you are already running about so early in the morning?”
“I’m going for a walk,” the hedgehog replied.
“A walk?” laughed the hare. “You should use your little legs for better things.”
This remark annoyed the hedgehog very much, who was a very good-natured fellow. He could tolerate anything except disparaging remarks about his legs, because they were naturally crooked.
“You imagine that you could do more with your legs?” he said.
“I do indeed,” the hare replied.
“Well, we will have to try it then,” the hedgehog said. “I bet that if we run a race, I will run faster than you.”
“You – with your crooked little legs?” the hare said. “That’s rich! But if you have such a keen desire let’s have a go at it – what shall we wager?”
“One gold coin and one bottle of brandy,” the hedgehog said.
“Accepted,” replied the hare. “Go ahead and we can start the race right now.”
“No, there is no need for such haste,” the hedgehog replied. “I haven’t had anything to eat. I want to go home first and have some breakfast. I’ll be back in an hour.”

With that, he left and the hare was satisfied. But on the way home he thought to himself: “The hare is counting on his long legs to win the day, but I will show him. He is indeed a refined gentleman but a stupid rabbit, and for that he will pay.” When he arrived home he said to his wife: “Wifey, dear, get dressed quickly, you must go with me to the field.”
“What is it?” his wife asked.
“I have made a bet with the hare for one gold coin and one bottle of brandy that I will win a race with him. And you will be there.”
“O my God, husband,” the wife began to cry, “Have you lost your mind? How can you race the hare?”
“Woman, silence your blabbermouth,” the hedgehog said, “that is my concern. Don’t interfere with a man’s business! Go now, get dressed and come along!”
What else could the wife of the hedgehog do? She had to comply but she did not like it. When they were walking together the hedgehog said to his wife: “Now listen very carefully to what I say. I will run the race up there in the long field. The hare will run in one furrow and I in the other. We will start up there. You have nothing else to do but to wait down here in the furrow. And when the hare comes running in his furrow, call out to him as he approaches and say: “I’m already here!”

And so they arrived in the field. The hedgehog indicated the spot to his wife and went up the hill. When he arrived at the top, the hare was already there. “Can we begin?” he asked.
“Of course,” the hedgehog replied.
“Then let’s go.”

Each positioned himself in his furrow. The hare counted: “On your mark, get set, go!” and off he ran down the hill like the rushing gale wind. But the hedgehog ran only three steps, then he crouched down in the furrow and sat there calmly. And when the hare arrived down below at the finish line at full speed, the hedgehog wife called out to him “I’m already here!”

The hare was astonished not a little, but believed that the hedgehog stood before him. For it is well-known that Mrs. Hedgehog looks exactly like her husband. “Something is quite strange here,” he cried out. “Let’s race again, in the opposite direction!”
And once again the hare took off like the storm wind and his long rabbit ears were pressed down to his skull. The wife of the hedgehog remained sitting calmly in her place, and when the hare arrived Mr. Hedgehog called out to the hare “I’m already here!”
The hare was beside himself with rage and cried “Once more, the other way!”
“All right,” the hedgehog replied. “As often as you wish.” So the hare ran seventy-three times, and the hedgehog always kept up. Each time, when the hare arrived at the top of the field or arrived at the finish line at the bottom, the hedgehog or his wife called out “I’m already here!”.

But the seventy-fourth time, the hare did not arrive at the finish line. He fell to the ground in the middle of the field, blood came out of his nose and he lay dead. The hedgehog took the gold coin and bottle of brandy that were his prize and called to his wife at the end of the furrow. Cheerfully they returned home. And if they have not died, they are still living today. And so it happened that on the Buxtehude Heath the hedgehog ran the hare to death and since that time no other hare has dared to run a race with the Buxtehude hedgehog.

The moral of the story is, first, no one (regardless of how distinguished he might be) should make fun of a small man, even if the small man is only a hedgehog. And second, it’s a very good idea to marry a woman of your own stature, one that looks exactly like you. Whoever is a hedgehog must make sure that his wife is also a hedgehog.



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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On this day March 27, 1686:




Fading March flowers and the last gasps of winter.


Grimm's Saga 266: For whom the bell tolls.

In a famous free town of the Holy Roman Empire the so-called “Market Bell” rang three times on its own on March 27, 1686. A prominent gentleman of the town council, who was distinguished and bore the title Marktherr, died immediately.

The solemn tones of a bell began to sound six or seven weeks before the death of a gentleman of a prominent German house, and at two different times. Because the gentleman was still young and healthy, but his wife lay sick in bed, he forbade the servants from saying anything to her out of concern she would become fearful and being seized by melancholy, would become even sicker and perhaps die. But the warning was actually for him; he soon went to the grave but his wife recovered to full health. Seven weeks later, when she was cleaning her dear spouse’s garments and coats and was brushing them out, the Tennen Bell began to swing by itself and sounded out the familiar ring. Eight days later the oldest son became ill and died in a few days. When the widow married again and had several children with her second husband, they died and were buried a few weeks after birth; they faded just like the March flowers. The bell had been pulled three times in a row, although the room in which it hung was locked and no one could reach the cord.
Some believe this ringing is done by evil spirits (often, the ill and dying do not hear the tolling bell, it is only heard by others). But others believe the bells are rung by benevolent angels. Still others say guardian angels ring the bell and remind people to prepare for their coming end.

Fairy Tale Factum

The wife in this saga is following a folk tradition that apparently was prevalent in the Ansbach region of Germany. According to custom, the clothing of a deceased person must be promptly washed and cleaned. If this does not happen, the departed will not find eternal rest.

More fairy tale factum can be found:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/03/saga-275-shrieker.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/03/saga-123-woman-in-white.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/fairy-tale-factum_22.html

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Vernal Equinox and Easter

Wild Flowers at Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Southern California, Spring 2008


Fairy Tale Factum

Easter is the most important Christian feast day and it is traditionally celebrated at the end of March or the beginning of April. The precise date is determined annually and it falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox (approximately March 21).
There are diverging views about the origin of the word Easter. By some accounts, Easter can be traced back to the old Germanic Goddess Ostara, whose symbols were the rabbit and egg. According to another explanation, Easter is derived from an Indo-Germanic word áus, which means shining, brilliant or luminous. Apparently the deity Ostara (Old High German) or Eastre (Old English) represented the radiant morning and the rising sun and the concept may have been applied to the Christian theme of resurrection. According to ancient Germanic tradition, Easter is the time the woman in white appears on cliffs and crags announcing the return of spring. Symbols include the Easter Lily or any of the white spring flowering plants and of course, the Easter bunny and Easter egg.



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Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Fairy Grotto and the Palm Sunday Fairy

The Fairy Grotto
Excerpt from The Age of Gold by Lucas Cranach
National Gallery, Oslo

In fernyear there lived many bewitched and enchanted women, who meant well by folk and even offered help in times of need or disaster. In particular, the goodly Queen Berta is well- known for the many beneficial things she did for the earth. She especially liked to hover round the Sourze Tower in Waadt Land. Every winter she was said to appear there in a white, radiant gown. Swinging a winnower filled to the brim, she broadcast seed over every mountain and valley. At Christmas she appeared as huntress with magic wand in hand, and processed through the village accompanied by many spirits. She circled the houses and dwellings to find where industry, diligence and order ruled.
But the good wife Berta was not the only beneficent woman. In the steep rocky cliffs of the Jura Mountains near Vallorbes there is an enormous cave. In olden times many kindly and beautiful fairies lived there, but no one was allowed to intrude into their underground dwelling without punishment. This did not mean you could not see them. One fairy always showed herself from a distance every Palm Sunday. She led a white lamb on a string when a fertile year lay ahead, but in times of misfortune or famine a pitch-black goat followed her. Another fairy bathed at the midnight hour in the blue pools of the Orbe Spring. Two powerful wolves always circled the pool to keep people away.
When it snowed in winter and became cold, the fairies came into the village and entered the empty smithies as soon as the workers had left. They warmed themselves by the fire and a rooster crowing loudly announced the return of the forge workers. Then the fairies vanished from the work place. The appearance of fairies was well-known throughout the entire land. Every herder boy knew that there were tall and beautiful women in white gowns that flowed down to the ground, which carefully concealed their feet. The fairies also sang beautifully. But their abundant and rich hair was the finest attribute of all, for their golden tresses fell round their shoulders and enveloped them like a golden mantle.

Fairy Tale Factum
The German expression in teueren Zeiten (Teuerung) is used in this Swiss saga and appears in other saga of the Brothers Grimm. Its antiquated meaning refers to a time of disaster, famine or need. The modern translation is inflation or a rise in prices. At first glance this modern usage seems to have little to do with the older meaning. Teuerung is a term from economics and describes the cost of living index or the price of commodities. Its ancient meaning often meant death from starvation and its causes included failed crops, mismanagement of agricultural resources or unsustainable economic or farming practices.


Queen Berta is spreading the seed for planting using a Futterschwinge. I would guess that 75 years ago, people were still familiar with this exact implement. Since the word is not included in any of the dictionaries at my disposal, I must derive its meaning from its parts, on the one hand, and a pictorial encyclopedia of early American farm tools on the other. Futter = dried food for cattle such as hay or grain and schwinge = something swung back and forth or a shallow, oval basket. The Museum of Early American Tools by Eric Sloane describes a winnower or winnowing scoop as a tool used to throw flailed grain into the air to separate the lighter particles of chaff. The process of winnowing beats or diffuses something through the air. I suspect the tool was something similar for dispersing seed during the spring planting, perhaps by swinging a shallow basket back and forth.
Fernyear is a now obsolete term which means in olden times or past years. Fern means remote or distant in German.



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http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/04/reading-and-understanding-folk-tales.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/01/more-than-fashion-faux-pas-white-dress.html

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

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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http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/04/reading-and-understanding-folk-tales.html


http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/fairy-tale-factum_22.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/01/more-than-fashion-faux-pas-white-dress.html

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Grimm's Saga 123. Woman in White

Marc Chagall, Madonna of the Village




A woman in white appears in woods and meadows. From time to time she even enters horse stalls carrying a burning wax candle. She combs and brushes the horses and droplets of wax fall on their manes. It is said that when she goes out, she can see clearly, but when she is in her own dwelling she is blind.



Fairy Tale Factum
The woman in this saga is described as a “schlossweisse Frau”, which can mean she is white like a castle or white like a hailstone. Another possibility is snow-white (schlohweiss). Radiantly white women are common in German mythology and are frequently depicted wearing a long white dress and having very pale-white skin. The color white was of central importance in ancient ceremony. It represented divinity and was associated with kings. Apparently the purpose of such weisse Frauen was to serve the gods and to prophesy to mankind. This contrasts with the Christian and Jewish traditions, where the role is primarily left to prophets and angels. In the traditions of ancient Germanic tribes, prophecies foretold by women have higher sacredness and significance. According to Jacob Grimm, Germanic tribes esteemed men for their acts, but women were honored for their wisdom.

The horse was considered to be the most noble, intelligent and trustworthy of all animals. The Germanic hero frequently conversed with his horse, the horse empathized with his master’s troubles and celebrated his victories. Horses were used in sacred rituals and their manes were carefully tended and adorned. Apparently gold and silver bands were often woven into their hair. The hair of sacred horses was said to have magical properties and was often preserved as an object of veneration.


Bronze Horse, c. 750-800 BC. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC


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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dark, Starry Night with Singing Fir Tree


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Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Singing Fir Tree

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.

But Hans spread word among the townspeople. At night the entire village listened while the church bells rang and soon everyone heard the wonderful singing daily. The singing 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 growing 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.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

February Fairy Tale: The Frog King and Iron Heinrich



The following 3 articles deal with themes, symbols and images found in The Frog King and Iron Heinrich. Because of the blog format, you will need to scroll down to find the translation of the fairy tale. The comments on meaning/interpretation appear above the translation. Helpful reading tips for this fairy tale can also be found at Understanding Fairy Tales. See table of content at right.

The lower and higher angels of our nature.

The Sacred Grove


The Frog King and Iron Heinrich. Who are they?

Heinrich is a frequent name for an Elbe (sprite), house spirit or poltergeist in ancient German mythology. The diminutive form Heinz is also commonly associated with these spirits, which are almost exclusively male. The house ghost of folktales is often a talkative, inquisitive fellow, who is friendly, well-meaning but irritating. Such a spirit is often encountered as a cold and clammy presence but usually not seen. He is described as having thin hands like a frog, with cold, moist skin. Like the little Frog King, these ghosts often demand to sleep in the same bed as household inhabitants, insist on a place at the table and want to eat the same food. They assist in doing household chores but are best known for offering unwanted and sometimes comical advice. Once entrenched, it is extremely difficult to get rid of these spirits.

As more and more people in Europe were Christianized, the old deities that lived in water wells or inhabited trees may have gradually come to be considered rustic, unsophisticated or even powerless. The new faith needed to be appealing to potential converts; it offered a vision of justice, forgiveness, redemption and eternal life. The princess in the story rejects the frog king, whose realm is that of water sprite or house spirit. In a fit of irritation, she attempts to smash the little frog and destroy all that he represents. This absolute rejection of the old faith, magically transforms it and yet preserves its most sacred elements.

Iron Heinrich is a more mysterious and complex character. When taken out of his pagan milieu, he is very puzzling indeed. Germanic tribes believed that every person possessed a good and bad angel, (not unlike the later concept of the lower or higher angels of our nature). These spirits brought about good or created evil for their masters. In The Frog King, it is the evil spirit or hex which transforms the prince into a frog. Iron Heinrich, it would seem, is the higher angelic being, interested in preserving and saving the prince. These benevolent angelic beings were apparently thought to be connected to each person with bands or chains that could be severed only by death. By the same token, the malevolent angel could only be subdued by being chained to a pole. At the conclusion of the fairy tale the bands that connect Iron Heinrich to the prince are heard breaking. In the end, the redemptive power of love has prevailed and brought about a startling transformation.

The heart bound by chains is a powerful image. I am not aware of any sources indicating that this symbol was common in ancient mythology. However, it is reminiscent of the Christian symbol of the sacred heart of Jesus, which conveys the idea of death and redemption through the power of love.
The traditional, valentine-shaped heart is an ancient symbol, going back to at least Cro-Magnon hunters who painted it in pictograms. It's precise meaning probably had more to do with fertility than with romantic love. The symbol may have conveyed a stylized female form often seen in representations of fertility goddesses. Only in the Middle Ages did the heart become a symbol of romantic love. For an excellent history of the heart as symbol see Expressions of Innocence and Eloquence, Selections from the Jane Katcher Collection of Americana published in association with the "Made for Love" exhibition that ran at Yale University in 2007.

Links:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/frog-king-or-iron-heinrich.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/fairy-tale-factum_22.html



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Friday, February 22, 2008

Fairy Tale Factum



The Enchanted Landscape of the Frog King
Pagan Symbols and Themes: Water Well, Linden Tree and Sun



The early Christian church forbade the veneration of groves, trees, stones and wells. Veneration of such things did not figure prominently in the Christian religion, so presumably the intent of such laws was to end pagan cult practices. Places where water sprang from the earth were considered to be sacred to the pagan. Folktales and saga are filled with the remnants of ancient beliefs concerning the water cult, which are difficult to fully understand today. We know from early historical accounts that ancient Allemanic and Frankish tribes prayed at the edge of springs, lit candles and peered into the reflected light of the pool. They left sacrifices on the banks or threw offerings into the water. Incantations to the water spirit were often recited there. Water had healing, strengthening and redemptive properties and Nordic tribes blessed and sanctified newborns with water. Similar to the Christian custom of Baptism, pagans also believed in human redemption and transformation brought about by water. An ancient rite required that newly married women throw an offering into the water of a well located in a sacred grove, often made up of oaks, ash or linden trees.
The linden tree (British English = lime) is a frequent pagan marker in sagas and fairy tales. Germanic tribes assembled under the linden tree and held celebrations and dances there. But most importantly, judicial or thing meetings were held under the linden semi-annually. It was believed the tree facilitated the discovery of truth and it has been associated with justice and jurisprudence ever since. In rural Germany during the Middle Ages, courts were frequently held and verdicts read under the linden tree (See The Stone Table of Bingenheim).
In ancient mythology the sun frequently appears as a god. A distinctly pagan sentiment is that the gods enjoy gazing at human beauty and often like to mingle with humans. This pagan element is prominent in the first paragraph of Frog King. The sun, which had seen so much in its day, was amazed whenever it gazed upon the princess’s face.


Links:
http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/lower-and-higher-angels-of-our-nature.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/frog-king-or-iron-heinrich.html

Fairy tale factum:
http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/03/saga-123-woman-in-white.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/fairy-tale-factum_22.html

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Frog King or Iron Heinrich


A wonderful and strange fairy tale for valentine's day: only iron bands can keep a true heart from breaking.

In times of old when wishing still helped, there lived a king, whose daughters were all extremely beautiful. But the youngest one was so beautiful that the sun, which had seen so much in its day, was amazed whenever it gazed upon her face. Near the king’s castle lay a dark wood and in the wood underneath an old linden tree there was a water well. If the day was very hot, the king’s child went out to the forest and sat at the edge of the cool spring. And if the child was bored, it took a golden ball, threw it in the air and caught it; and that was the child’s favorite plaything.

Now it happened that the golden ball of the king’s daughter did not fall into her little hands, but rather hit the ground and rolled directly into the water. The king’s daughter followed it with her eyes, but the ball disappeared and the well was so deep that it was impossible to see the bottom. She began to cry and cried louder and louder and was inconsolable. And as she cried, some one called to her “You, daughter of the king, what are you doing? You are crying in a manner that even a stone would take pity.” She looked round to see where the voice was coming from, and there she saw a frog that poked its hideous head out of the water. “Oh it’s you, you old puddle splasher,” she said. “I am crying over my golden ball, which fell into the well.” “Be still and do not cry,” the frog replied. “I can help. But what will you give me if I fetch your plaything?” “Whatever you want, dear frog,” she said. “My clothes, my pearls and jewels, but also the golden crown that I am wearing.” But the frog replied “I don’t want your clothes, your pearls or jewelry. And your golden crown, that I surely don’t want. But if you will love me and I will be your mate and play fellow, I will sit at the little table next to you, eat from your little golden plate, drink from your little cup and sleep in your little bed. If you promise me that, I will dive down and fetch the golden ball.” “Oh yes,” she answered. “I promise you everything you want as long as you bring me the ball.” But she was really thinking “How that simple frog prattles on. He sits in the water with his own kind and croaks and can never be the mate of a human.”

The frog, when he had received her promise, dipped his head below the surface, sank deep into the water and after a while he swam to the top again. He held the ball in his mouth and threw it on the grass. The king’s daughter was filled with joy when she saw her wonderful plaything. She picked it up and jumped away with it immediately. “Wait, wait,” the frog yelled. “Take me with you, I can’t run like you.” But what good did it do that his loud croaking followed her, cry as he may! She didn’t listen, hurried home and soon forgot about the poor frog, who had to climb back to his water well.

The next day, when she sat down with the king and his entire court to dinner and ate from her little golden plate, something crept up the marble steps, plitsch, platsch, plitsch, platsch. When it reached the top it knocked on the door and cried “King’s daughter, youngest one, open the door for me.” She ran and wanted to see who it was. But when she opened the door, there stood the frog. She shut the door hastily and returned to the table and was very frightened. The king saw that her heart was pounding and said “My child, what do you fear, is a giant standing at the door to snatch you away?” “Oh no,” she answered, “It is no giant but a loathsome frog.” “What does the frog want with you?” “Oh dear father, when I went to the wood yesterday and sat by the well and played, my golden ball fell into the water. And because I cried so, the frog fetched it. And because he demanded it, I promised that he would be my mate. I never thought that he would creep out his water. Now he is outside and wants to come in.” And the frog knocked on the door a second time and called

“King’s daughter, youngest one,
Open the door for me,
Don’t you remember yesterday?
What you promised me
By the cool water well?
King’s daughter, youngest one,
Open the door for me.

The king said “What you have promised, you must also keep. Go now and open the door for him.” She went and opened the door and the frog hopped inside, followed right behind her feet and went to her chair. There he sat and called “Lift me up to you.” She shuddered, until finally the king commanded it. When the frog sat on the chair, it wanted to be on the table and when it sat there it said “Now slide your little golden plate over to me, so that we can eat together.” She did it, but one could see she did not do it gladly. The frog ate heartily but almost every bite lodged in the princess’s throat. Finally he said “I’m full now and tired. Carry me into your little chamber and make up your silk bed, where we can lay down.” The king’s daughter began to cry and was scared of the cold frog, which she didn’t even want to touch. And now he wanted to sleep in her beautiful clean bed. But the king became angry and said “Whoever has helped you when you were in need, you should not forget later.” She picked him up with two fingers and carried him up and put him in the corner. But when she lay in bed, he crept over and said “I’m tired, I want to go to bed like you. Lift me up or I will tell your father.” She was seized by such a bitter rage that she snatched him up and threw him against the wall with all her might. “Now you will have the rest you seek, you loathsome frog.”

But when he fell down, he was no frog but rather a prince with beautiful and friendly eyes. It had been her father’s will that he become her dearest mate and husband. He told her he had been hexed by an evil witch and no one but she could save him from the water well. Tomorrow they would go to his kingdom . They fell asleep and the next morning when the sun woke them, a carriage drove up with eight white horses. The horses had white ostrich feathers on their heads and walked in golden chains and behind stood the servant of the young king. It was True Heinrich. True Heinrich was so aggrieved when his master had been turned into a frog, that he had three iron bands placed round his heart so that it would not burst for pain and sadness. The carriage now fetched the young king to take him to his kingdom. True Heinrich lifted up both, stepped behind and was filled with joy over the prince’s redemption. And when they had traveled some distance, the prince heard a loud sound behind him, as if something was breaking. He turned and called

“Heinrich, the carriage is breaking.”
No, dear sir, not the carriage,
But the band round my heart,
In pitiable suffering,
Whilst you sat in the spring
And were a frog.”

Again and again the sound was heard and the prince thought the wagon was breaking. But it was only the bands around the heart of True Heinrich, as they broke, because his master was redeemed and was exceedingly happy.



Links:
lhttp://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/lower-and-higher-angels-of-our-nature.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/02/fairy-tale-factum_22.html


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