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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reading the Lithuanian Fairy Tale, Godmother Death


In the Lithuanian fairy tale Godmother Death (full text below), neither man nor god reign supreme. Rather, both characters engage in a life-and-death struggle for power, influence and survival. This tale is best read along with Godfather Death and the Possessed Princess (for full text, hit links at right) to gain some understanding of recurring notions of life and death, healing and infirmity and the status of humans alongside deities. I like this story for its rich detail and forceful characters. Even the children are no shrinking violets and are drawn to discover the source of underground moaning instead of being repelled by it. Contrasted with the story Godfather Death from the Brothers Grimm, we encounter attitudes toward life and death that are both strangely similar yet unique. Most tellingly, death here comes in the form of an earthy goddess, not a skeletal male messenger. In fact this goddess was quite comely at one time, before she experienced her own sort of death and was imprisoned beneath the soil for seven years. Like a seed lying dormant, she miraculously returns to life, suggesting that death is only one part of a mysterious cycle of life, death and rebirth. Another noteworthy feature of this story is that death is an eager killer and not merely a passive harbinger of one’s demise. Remarkably, the godmother is not reluctant to finish off her godson once he has riled her. We also see the ancient idea of healing being tied to supernatural forces. Like other gifts of prestige or riches, the power to heal is conferred or taken away by the gods. Godmother Death plays a role very similar to a Norn in this story, appearing at the birth of a child, granting gifts which fundamentally shape the quality of the child’s life and in that regard being a real presence or even spiritual guide throughout life (perhaps in fact suggesting that each person carries his own death with him throughout life). Because this fairy tale includes older notions of Norns and earth goddesses, I am inclined to believe it is an earlier version of the story we find in the Brothers Grimm collection.


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Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Princess is Healed and Evades Godmother Death in this Fairy Tale



Godmother Death

A man and a woman were living in abject poverty when God gave them a gift of a small child. They thought to themselves: “Whatever shall we do! We are so poor, we can't even afford to baptize this child?” When they invited people to the baptism, everyone declined the invitation. 

One morning the husband rose early and when he left his house he thought to himself: “The first man I meet, he shall be the godfather of my child!” And so it was! He met a man, asked him to be godfather and told him of his dire need. The man accepted. The husband heartily thanked him and continued on his way to find a godmother. He met a young and pretty wife. He wished her “Good Morning!” and asked her to be the godmother. She also did not refuse. 

When the godparents had assembled and brought their gifts, they held a huge feast and baptized the child. When they had all left the celebration, only the godmother remained behind. She thanked the parents for asking her to be the godmother and inviting her to the baptism and said “How shall I reward you? No one except you has ever invited me to a baptism. Do you know who I am? I am the Goddess of Death. I shall make this child a doctor. As soon as a person is sick, take it upon yourself to heal him! When you approach the sick person and see me standing at his feet, he will recover and become healthy again. Then you must promise to heal him! But if you see me standing at his head, don’t make the effort, for I will kill him. If you do as I say, you shall become a famous doctor and you will become enormously wealthy!” 

When the poor child grew to be a man he healed many people. No one saw the Goddess of Death except him. If he saw her standing near the sick person’s head, then he said that further help was futile. Everyone soon loved him very much. He became a famous doctor and was very rich. 

But one day the daughter of a king became deathly ill and the king called the doctor. When he arrived, he saw the Goddess of Death standing by the head of the princess. He pleaded with her to be beneficent and remove herself and let him heal the sick maid for then he would receive a handsome reward from the king. But the Goddess replied that he should move away because she intended to kill the princess. The doctor became angry at his godmother and fitted the bed so that it could be turned. Then he placed the princess in the bed. When the Goddess of Death stood at her head, the doctor simply turned the bed around and the Goddess found herself standing at her feet. When she walked around to stand at the princess’s head once more, he turned the bed around so that she stood by her feet. 

He tormented the Goddess in this way for some time until she left the sick maid enraged. The doctor healed the princess, was highly honored and received a good reward. But when he went home, the Goddess of Death, his godmother, approached him and said: “You did not listen to me. Lay down, I shall kill you now.” “But dear godmother,” the doctor replied, “Give me three days time! I want to make my own coffin and lie down inside. Then you can kill me.” She consented. 

The doctor had a very strong coffin made and strong clasps forged. When three days were up, the Goddess of Death returned and asked “Well! Have you prepared yourself for death?” The doctor lay face down in the coffin. She could not kill him and ordered him to lie on his back. When he rolled onto his back, he raised his knees so that the Goddess of Death could not close the coffin. “You don’t even know how to lie down!” the Goddess said. “Let me show you!” He jumped up. The Goddess of Death lay down inside and stretched out as straight as a reed. The doctor seized the lid of the coffin and slammed it shut, locking the Goddess of Death inside. Then he took it into the forest, dug a deep hole and buried the Goddess of Death inside. 

She lay there almost seven years. No one found her the entire time. He remained a very famous doctor because no one was dying anymore. One day children were tending their flock in the forest and heard sighing below the earth. They all decided to dig and see who was there. They dug up the coffin, opened the lid and found a living woman inside, who was now completely desiccated. Since that time she has been a terrible sight to behold. She thanked the children for freeing her, sat down on a stone near the path and waited for the doctor to come by. She sat as if she were a beggar woman, concealing her face. The doctor came by, stopped in front of the woman and commanded her to say an “Our Father”. When the prayer was over, she said “Amen,” killed the doctor where he stood and took him home. I know this because I was also in attendance at his funeral and enjoyed the wonderful food spread out on the table for all his guests.


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Friday, January 16, 2009

Human versus Demon versus Divine: The Surprising Story of the Possesssed Princess and Chunsu the Executor of Plans


The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain, Duccio du Buoninsegna (c. 1255-1319), Frick Collection

(2 versions of the original story provided below)

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The Possessed Princess is a mysterious tale about what happens to a princess dominated by an unclean spirit (not much) and more interestingly, what happens to the demon (a bit more). Set in Ancient Egypt in the time of Ramses II, the text was probably written in or around the first century BC. It is important to read this story in the context of its time. According to The New Oxford Annotated Bible, at the time of the New Testament “Demons were thought to be non material existences of a personal kind, hostile to human welfare and against God. The Gospels reflect widespread dread of demons and a general sense of helplessness before demonic activity.” This idea had apparently been around for a long time for even in the Old Testament we find the Israelites sacrificing to demons and not honoring God, instead they paid homage to deities they had never known. (Deuteronomy 32:17). The New Testament provides startling accounts of exorcisms that are often followed by even more remarkable stories of curing the sick, the paralyzed or those suffering from physical deformity. These stories lump physical and mental maladies into a general category of illness that requires a supernatural wonder cure. It was thought that only a god was powerful enough to heal a person suffering from one of these infirmities. This notion is developed further in the New Testament when Jesus is able to pass on the power of healing to mortal men or his followers. It suggests he is even more powerful than all prior gods.

In the Possessed Princess, we encounter the same biblical helplessness before demonic activity. But in this story the king takes action and summons the most learned scholars of the land. From their circle the most illustrious and skilled scribe is selected to dispel the demon. Very quickly the chosen one finds out that a mere mortal is no match for an evil spirit. The desperate king now turns to the god “Chunsu, Who Stands at the Pinnacle of all Gods”. A common feature of both biblical and Egyptian accounts of possession is that the gods roam the earth and mortals have direct access to them. In the Egyptian tale, the god communicates with the king by nodding his head twice. Like the Christian God with its threefold character, the god Chunsu has a partite nature. He decides to dispatch one of his sub-forms, Chunsu, the Executor of Plans, a deity revered for his healing power and miraculous cures. The demon’s speech in this story is remarkable for its striking similarities with the biblical account of Jesus driving out the demons in the book of Mark. The demon in the Egyptian tale, negotiates with the demi-god an outcome more to his liking. "I am your slave. I will go back to that place whence I came…I will satisfy your heart…But I ask your majesty to order a festival to be held for me…”
The demon doesn’t want to go and lingers with the Prince of Bechten until a festival is held. Then the demon “peacefully left the place he loved so much” and returned whence he came. The last we see of him, he is retreating into the desert sunset.

This is reminiscent of biblical accounts of exorcism. In Mark 5:12, “He (the demon) begged him (Jesus) earnestly not to send them (the demons) out of the country.” And in Matthew 12:43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house, from which I came.”

The fate of the demon is clear but not much is said about what happens to the princess. Of more concern in this story is the nature of man’s relationship to the gods and demons and the power structure under which the world operates. Chunsu, the Executor of Plans, is held captive by the king, who imprisons him in his chapel for over three and a half years. In the end the god cannot be kept down and returns to heaven and Egypt in the form of a golden falcon. Upon his arrival, Chunsu the Executor of Plans is embraced by the other form of his nature, Chunsu the Beautiful Resting One. He returns to his dwelling in peace and presumably stays there until he is next called to perform a miracle on behalf of mankind. And at the conclusion of the Book of Mark we read: "So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God."


To read the fairy tale of Princess Bentrescht and the Demon:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/01/egyptian-princess-bentrescht-and-demon.html

More fairy tales can be found at:

FairyTaleChannel.com

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Egyptian Princess Bentrescht and the Demon


This is a re-telling of the Egyptian fairy tale, The Possessed Princess. See the next blog entry to read a complete translation of the story and to learn about the significance of the winged sun symbol.


Cast of Characters:

The Moon God, Chunsu, also known as Neferhetep, the Beautiful Resting One

An offshoot of this deity, Chunsu, the Executor of Plans
King Ramses II of Egypt
The Prince of Bechten
His daughter, Nefer-u-Ra (the Beauty of the Sun)
Her sister, the Princess Bentrescht
A library scribe
A palace scribe
The princely scribe Thuti-emheb
Place: Ancient Egypt, Northeastern Syria and the Land of Bechten (somewhere in Asia)
Time: The text claims the story took place in 1350 B.C. but a more realistic date for the text itself is closer to around 100 B.C.

His majesty, King Ramses, was residing in his palace in Neharina. Princes from the farthest reaches of the earth came to pay tribute to him. They carried gifts on their backs, one walking behind the other. Gold, silver, lapis lazuli, malachite and every kind of valuable wood was brought before the king out of the land of the gods (Arabia in the East, the country of the sun god). The Prince of Bechten also paid tribute to the king. His oldest daughter led the throng of worshipers and offered praises to him. She was a very beautiful maiden, more beautiful than any other living creature. And so she found favor with the king and she became one of his princely wives. He called her Nefer-u-Ra (the Beauty of the Sun God). When the couple returned to their palace in Egypt, he had every ceremony befitting the wife of a king performed.

After some time, a messenger came from the kingdom of Bechten. He brought many gifts for the king’s wife. When he was allowed to approach the king he said “Praise to you, Sun of the people. May your radiance bestow light and life upon us!” He threw himself down before his majesty and then continued speaking. “I come to you my prince and master, because Bentrescht, Daughter of Joy, who through your marriage with Queen Neferu-Ra is her younger sister. An evil has taken over her body and penetrated her limbs. Your majesty should send a learned scribe to drive the demon from her.”

His majesty commanded: “Bring me a library scribe and a palace scribe.” They were immediately brought to him. His majesty continued “I called you to listen to my words. Find me a man who is most learned from among your group. He should be experienced and well-versed in all things.” They brought forth a princely scribe, Thuti-emheb. His majesty commanded him to go to Bechten with the messenger. When he arrived, he found that Bentrescht had been possessed by a demon but he was too weak to do battle with this spirit. The scribe sent a message to King Ramses “O Prince and Master! Send a god to do battle with this demon for I am too weak.”

Upon receiving word, King Ramses made his way to Chunsu, the Beautiful Resting One and said “O my beautiful master! I stand once more before you on behalf of the daughter of the Prince of Bechten. Please have your servant Chunsu, the Executor of Plans, the Big God, the Banisher of Evil drive out the demon from the princess.”

The god nodded his head twice, indicating he had granted the request. The king continued: “And may your powerful magic be with him so this god can go to Bechten and save the daughter of the Prince of Bechten.” Once more Chunsu, the Beautiful Resting One in Thebes nodded his head twice and conferred four times his magic power on Chunsu, the Executor of Plans in Thebes.

A large ship was brought for the god. It was laden with wagons and horses. Chunsu, the Executor of Plans traveled to the land of Bechten and arrived after one year and five months. The god entered the room of Bentrescht. He used his magic power to heal the princess and immediately she became healthy. But the demon spoke from inside the princess and said “You come in peace, you powerful god, you banisher of evil. You are lord over Bechten and all the people are your slaves. I am your slave. I shall go back to the place from whence I came. But I ask that you order a festival to be held in my name and for the Prince of Bechten.”

The god nodded in approval and said to his priests “Bring a large sacrifice for this demon!” And it was done. A festival was called and a sacrifice was made and the demon lingered a while with the Prince of Bechten, for that was the place he loved. Finally, at the command of Chunsu, the Executor of Plans in Thebes, the demon left that place peacefully. The Prince of Bechten rejoiced loudly and all the people living in his kingdom.

Now the Prince of Bechten decided the god should not return to Egypt but should stay on with his people. He would not let him leave. The god stayed three years and nine months. One day as the king was lying in his bed, he had a vision of the god flying out of his temple like a golden falcon. When the prince awoke, he was full of terror and said “This god who has stayed with us, has moved back to Egypt. May his wagons and horses also return to Egypt.”

The god was released and sent back to Egypt. Gifts of every kind, soldiers and horses were given to him. When they all arrived in Thebes, Chunsu, the Executor of Plans met Chunsu the Beautiful Resting One. He spread out all the gifts and didn’t take a single gift for his own but instead, returned to his dwelling in peace. This happened in the thirty-fifth year of the reign of King Ramses, who awards life and is like the Sun God, Ra.


To read more about the fairy tale: http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/01/human-versus-demon-versus-devine.html

The illustrated version of this fairy tale can be accessed by clicking on the link:

Translation  FairyTaleChannel.com

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Ancient Egptian Princess is Possessed by a Demon in this Fairy Tale

Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
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A majestic shrine rose up from the desert floor beside the enormous Temple of Amon in Karnak. It was built to honor the Moon God known as Chunsu, also called Neferhetep, the Beautiful Resting One. Beside this large structure stood a smaller one, which was dedicated to a lesser manifestation of this deity, Chunsu The Executor of Plans. This figure, mentioned only rarely in early Egyptian texts, came to be revered in the latter period of ancient Egypt. In particular he was worshiped because of his healing powers. A number of his wonder cures were commemorated in poems to spread his cult. These events purportedly took place in the golden age of Ancient Egypt. The accounts were inscribed in stone and placed in his shrines. One such stone survives and is kept in the National Library in Paris. According to the inscription, it was produced in 1350 B.C. under the ruler Ramses II. However the style of its language indicates a much later date, probably the beginning of the first century B.C.

The upper portion of the stone contains a picture of a winged sun disk, a symbol believed to have the power to banish all evil from the proximity of the stele. Below this image to the left is a large bier; a compartment on the top envelops the likeness of the god Chunsu in Thebes, the Beautiful Resting One, carried forth by eight priests. Before the priests stands King Ramses II bearing incense. At the right four priests carry a lesser bier which bears Chunsu, the Executor of All Plans in Thebes, the Big God, the Dispeller of Evil. Dispensing incense around him stands his priest Chunsu-ha-neter-neg or translated “Chunsu stands at the pinnacle of all gods”. An inscription follows these pictures, which references the welcome embrace of the two Chunsu’s after the latter returned from the land of Bechten. The language used is the ceremonious form found in all public documents. It follows the ancient Egyptian custom first providing honorifics for the king and the date when it was produced.

The translation of the fairy tale, found on this stele, follows the original text as closely as possible, to give you a sense of the language from that period. It might therefore come across a bit strange in English.

Horus (Taurus), the strong bull standing firmly with his diadem, who stands constant in his kingdom like the sun god Tum, the Golden Horus, who is mighty with his battle axe. He cuts down the nine foreign peoples, (he is) the king of upper and lower Egypt, the master of both countries. He is the sun, powerful in truth, and likewise praised by the sun – the dear son of the sun god RaRamses beloved of Amon – loved by Amon-Ra, the master of the throne of both countries (Upper and Lower Egypt) and by the nine gods Amon, who bore the goddess Mut, who created the god Ra-Harmachis, the shining offspring of the master of Ulls, who sprang from the spouse of his mother (a form of Amon), King of Egypt, Ruler of foreign kingdoms, the prince who seized the nine foreign peoples. As soon as he emerged from his mother’s womb he was successful in battle. He issued orders as soon as he sprang forth from his mother’s egg. (He is) the bull with its steadfast heart, from which manly strength emanates. He is a kingly, god-steer, who proceeds from the sun god. His victories are like those of (the war god) Month. His bravery is as great as the son of the goddess Nut (of the war god Set).

As was his habit this time of year, his majesty was residing in Neharina (in Northeastern Syria). Here the princes from the farthest reaches of the earth came to pay homage to his majesty, with deep bowing and solemn countenance. They carried gifts on their backs, one walking behind the other: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, malachite, every kind of valuable wood from the land of the gods (Arabia in the East, the country of the sun god). The prince of Bechten (an unknown country probably somewhere in Asia) let his tribute be brought. He had his oldest daughter stand at the front of her throng of companions to praise his majesty and to request life from him. She appeared as a very beautiful maiden before the heart of his majesty, more beautiful than any other creature. And so the king had her name entered into the registry of his harem, as one of the important princely wives and called her Nefer-u-Ra (the beauty of the sun god). When his majesty arrived in Egypt, he had every ceremony performed for the maiden, all rituals that were proper for the wife of a king.

In the twenty-second month of Payni, the fifteenth year of the reign of the king, his majesty was in Thebes, the city crowned with success, the queen of all cities, to praise his father Amon-Ra, the master of all thrones of the world, to praise his beautiful ceremonies in Southern Thebes at the places where from the very beginning the favorite abode of the gods had been established. They came and reported to his majesty: A messenger has arrived for the Prince of Bechten. He has brought many gifts for the king’s wife.” The messenger was allowed to approach his majesty with his gifts and he spoke and praised his majesty. “Praise to you, son of nine foreign peoples!” May you give us life!” He said this and threw himself down before his majesty and then he continued to speak of his majesty. “I come to you my prince and master, because of Bentrescht (dauther of joy), who (through your marriage) with the queen Neferu-Ra is her younger sister. An evil has penetrated her limbs. Your majesty should send out a learned scribe to look after her.”

His Majesty replied: “Bring me a library scribe and a palace scribe.” They were immediately brought to him. His Majesty replied: “I called you so that you listen to my words. Well and good! Find me a man who is knowledgeable in his heart, is an experienced scribe with his fingers and belongs to your circle.” They brought forth the princely scribe Thuti-emheb. His majesty commanded him to go to Bechten with the messenger. When the scribe arrived in Bechten, he found that Bentrescht had been possessed by a demon and found that he himself was too weak to battle this demon. So the Prince of Bechten sent a messenger to His Majesty a second time and conveyed the message “O Prince and Master! Command a god to visit us to battle the demon.”

This messenger arrived on the first day of the month of Pachons, the twenty-sixth year of the reign of the King, His Majesty, at the time when the festival of the God Amon was being celecbrated and His Majesty was in Thebes. His Majesty made his way to the God Chunsu, the Beautiful Resting One, and said “O my beautiful master! I stand once more before you because of the daughter of the Prince of Bechten.” Chunsu in Thebes, the Beautiful Resting One, hurried to Chunsu, the Executor of Plans, the Big God, the Banisher of Evil. His Majesty spoke to Chunsu in Thebes, the Beautiful Resting One:

“O my beautiful master! May you turn your countenance to Chunsu, the Executor of Plans, the Banisher of Evil, so that he goes to Bechten.” The god nodded his head twice indicating he granted the request. And the King continued: “And may your powerful magic be with him, when I let the majesty of this god go to Bechten to save the daughter of the Prince of Bechten.” Chunsu, the Beautiful Resting One in Thebes nodded his head enthusiastically twice to grant the request and he conferred four times his magic power to Chunsu, the Executor of Plans in Thebes.

His Majesty gave the order that Chunsu, the Executor of Plans in Thebes, should be brought to a large ship. Five cargo ships were loaded from the left and right with wagons with innumerable horses. In this way the god arraived in Bechten after one year and five months. The Prince of Bechten with his soldiers and armies went out to meet the god Chunsu, the Executor of Plans. He threw himself onto his stomach before him and said “You come to us, you make us happy at the command of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ramses II.”

This god entered the room Bentrescht occupied. He conferred on the daughter of the Prince of Bechten his magic power and she immediately became healthy. The demon inside her spoke to Chunsu, the Executor of Plans in Thebes: “You come in peace, you powerful god, you banisher of evil. Bechten is your city, your people are your slaves. I am your slave. I will go back to that place, from whence I came. In this way I will satisfy your heart, that is why you came here. But I ask your majesty to order that a festival be held for me and the Prince of Bechten.”

The god nodded in approval to his priests and said: “The Prince of Bechten shall bring a big sacrifice to this demon!” While these things happened between the god Chunsu, the Executor of Plans in Thebes and this demon, the Prince of Bechten and his soldiers stood by and were much afraid. Then the Prince of Bechten brought a big sacrifice to Chunsu, the Executor of Plans in Thebes and before this demon, who had lingered for a while with the Prince of Bechten. He called a festival day for them both. Then this demon at the command of Chensu, Executor of Plans in Thebes, peacefully left the place that he loved so much. The Prince of Bechten rejoiced loudly and with him, all the people living in Bechten.

The Prince of Bechten considered the council of his heart and said: I will give this god as gift to the country of Bechten and will not allow the god to return to Egypt.” So this god stayed three years and nine months in Bechten. One day the Prince of Bechten was lying in his bed and he saw the god emerge from his chapel. He had taken the form of a golden falcon and flew up and away to heaven and on to Egypt. When the Prince awoke he was full of terror and said to the priest of Chunsu, the Executor of Plans in Thebes: “This god who has stayed with us has moved on to Egypt. May his wagons also move on to Egypt.”

The Prince of Bechten released the god to Egypt. He gave him many gifts with all types of things, soldiers and very many horses. When they had all arrived in Thebes in peace, Chunsu, the Executor of Plans in Thebes went to the dwelling of Chunsu in Thebes, the Beautiful Resting One. He placed the gifts, which the Prince of Bechten had given him, before Chunsu in Thebes the Beautiful Resting One. He didn’t take a single thing for his own dwelling. But Chunsu, Executor of Plans in Thebes (after all these events) returned in peace to his dwelling on the nineteenth month of Mechir in the thirty-fifth year of the reign of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ramses, who awards life and who is like the sun God Ra.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bogey Women and Maintaining the Proper Social Order


In the morality tale Frau Trude (full text below), a bumptious maid suffers from an excess of self-assertiveness. This is the type of child parents find so irritating but children readily relate to. In a social order that calls for conformity to maintain the proper balance of things, something is fundamentally wrong when a child is allowed to freely pursue all the threads of her curiosity. The flummoxed parents command, threaten and finally disown the child. But in the end parental authority and wisdom are vindicated when the willful child meets a tragic end. Frau Trude is a bogey woman of a most sinister sort. Her allure might be illusive to the reader, yet the child is inexplicably attracted to the woman. Like a moth to the flame, the girl cannot resist her own self-destruction. The hobgoblin Frau Trude is very useful to parents, who can frighten their children into obedience with the words “Silence! Or Frau Trude will get you!” But what exactly does she represent to the child? Beside the fact that the child is curious and attracted to strange things, there are no clues to Frau Trude’s appeal. If we take a careful look at the three frightening apparitions the girl describes, we might come a step closer to deciphering another layer of meaning.

In the fairy tale, the child admits to being frightened by her visit to Frau Trude. The scales fall from her eyes so-to-speak and she might also have said “I finally understand what I've gotten myself into and I’m terrified.” The three men she describes might really personify three aspects of the girl's encounter with Frau Trude. The black man could represent evil, one's worst nightmare. The huntsman, a popular figure in German folk and fairy tales, often represented the god Woton and by extension old pagan beliefs and practices that are forbidden in a Christian world. The bloody-red butcher might suggest violence and sexual transgression. A possible interpretation of Frau Trude's speech is that her intense yearning for the child has ignited like fire, a metaphor perhaps for an illicit passion. “Ich habe schon lange auf dich gewartet und nach dir verlangt, du sollst mir leuchten“.
Another more literal translation is “you shall light the way for me.” However you read it, the end is the same. The girl burns like a hot, glowing ember and is thus consumed.

There is a lot to like about this tale. For one thing, justice comes swiftly to the sinner and a sort of balance has been restored to the social order. We are left with the image of a glowing fire that will soon turn to ash: proof of the importance of knowing the proper way to behave. In the end a certain amount of boring wholesomeness will win the day.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 43 Frau Trude




Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

Here follows the firey tale of a bumptious maid and Mistress Trude
There once lived a young maid who was so bumptious and stubborn that when her parents told her to do something, she didn’t mind them. How could anything good happen to a child like that?

One day the girl said to her parents “I have heard so much about Mistress Trude that I have decided to visit her. People say there are strange goings-on in her house and the oddest things are always happening there. I have become quite curious.”

Her parents forbade it and said “Mistress Trude is an evil woman, who pursues godless endeavors. If you visit her, you shall no longer be our child.”

But the maid did not change her mind just because her parents had forbidden it and did indeed go to visit Mistress Trude. When she arrived Mistress Trude asked “Why are you so pale?”

“Oh,” the girl recoiled, her entire body shaking in fear, “I am so terrified by what I have just seen!”

“What have you seen?”

“I saw a black man standing on your steps.”

“That was a charcoal burner.”

“Then I saw a green man.”

“That was a huntsman.”

“Then I saw a blood-red man.”

“That was a butcher.”

“Oh Mistress Trude, I was filled with dread when I looked through the window and did not see you, but instead the devil with a firey head peering back at me.”

“Aha!,” she replied. “You have seen the witch in her rightful finery. I have waited a long time for you, pining for your presence. You shall now become a light for me.”

She turned the child into a block of wood and threw it onto the fire. And when the wood was blazing hot and the embers glowed, she sat down and warmed herself. “Now things are clear and bright,” she said.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Three Legends of the Virgin Mary: The Singing Fir Tree

The Singing Fir Tree

Copyright of Translation FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

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.

Hans spread word among the townspeople of the mysterious singing. At night the entire village listened while the church bells rang and soon everyone heard the wonderful melody. The sound 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 taking shape 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.

Read more fairy tales of the Virgin Mary:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/image-of-mercy-in-larch-branch-at.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/christmas-reading-series-legends-of.html

FairyTaleChannel.com

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Reading Series: Three Legends of Mary

The Place Called Maria Stein

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. 

Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In the Swiss canton of Basel high above the village of Ettlingen there once stood mighty castle called Fuerstenstein. One of the most upright and decent men to ever live there was the Knight Hans von Rothberg. He was known throughout the land for his good and noble deeds.

One day the knight rode out to the city of Basel to visit friends. Before he left, he said a prayer and commended his wife and children to the protection of God.

Because it was a beautiful day, the lady of the castle left the peace and quietude of the fortress and took her little daughter for a walk around the deep walls. Wandering a bit with the child on the green meadow, the two had a good view of the mountains surrounding them and the valley below. When the mother found a bit of shade under tall trees, she sat down amongst some ferns, a bit tired and sleepy from the thousand different aromas emanating from the woods and fields. With tired eyes she gazed upon the zig-zagging flight of the butterflies. The humming of bees and chirping of crickets had a calming effect and the lady found herself nodding off from time to time. Her drowsy bliss was punctuated by the laughter of the girl when she came running with a basket full of alpine flowers to show her mother. In her search for the most beautiful flowers, the girl was drawn farther and farther away. Soon she was climbing into some brush that stood at the end of the precipice.

All at once the mother sat up abruptly. A terrible cry came from the direction of the brush. The lady rushed toward the sound and fell to her knees. Not a trace of her daughter was seen. She must have fallen through the brush and down the cliff. The mother, terrified, called her child’s name a hundred times. But it was all for naught, there was no reply.

She hurried as fast her feet could carry her to the path leading into the valley. Breathless and with her hair flowing wildly around her shoulders, she arrived below.

But abruptly she stopped dead in her tracks. There she saw her child, whom she believed had been smashed to bits from the fall. The girl ran toward her beaming and her little basket was full of strawberries. She called “Mother, Mother, here I am!” But the mother was speechless. With her heart beating wildly, she pressed the child to her breast. She looked up at the jagged rock and could not believe that her daughter had survived the horrible fall. She tried to regain her composure as the child told her what had happened. As the mother slept, she ventured out too far because she could not see through the brush and how precarious the spot was. All at once the ground vanished under her feet and she fell. Suddenly a beautiful woman appeared, took her in her arms and gently brought her to the valley below. Afterward they picked the strawberries that were now in her basket, which they would now bring to father.

Now the mother knew that it was the Virgin Mary who had saved her daughter. They went home and the grateful mother anxiously described what what had happened that afternoon. The father was so moved by this miracle that he had a chapel built at the site. Later they built the convent Maria Stein.


Read more fairy tales about the Blessed Virgin Mary:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/three-legends-of-virgin-mary-singing.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/image-of-mercy-in-larch-branch-at.html

Or about Saint Boniface/Wilfried:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/07/grimms-saga-no-181-saint-wilfried-or.html

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Image of Mercy in the Larch Branch at Waldrast

Grimm's Saga No. 349

Christmas Goddesses and Saints Revealed to the Faithful

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. 

Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In 1392 Our Lady in Heaven sent an angel to Tirol, at the place called Waldrast on Serlesberg. The angel stepped before a hollow larch tree and spoke to it in the name of God’s Mother: You, branch, shall bear fruit of the image of our Lady in Heaven!” 

The image grew into the branch and two pious shepherd boys, Hänsle and Peterle from Mizens village, first gazed upon it in the year 1407. In wonder, they ran down to the farmers in the valley below and told them: “Go up to the mountain, a wonderful image is revealed in the hollow wood. We hardly trust ourselves to touch it.” 

The holy image was now recognized and cut out of the branch with a saw and brought to the village of Matrey. There it stood until a separate church could be built for it at Waldrast. Our Lady entrusted the work to a poor woodcutter who lived near Matrey. 

One Pentecost when he was lying in his bed at night and slept, a voice came to him. It spoke three times and said: “Are you sleeping or are you awake?” And the third time he woke up and asked: “Who are you and what do you want?” The voice spoke: “You shall build a chapel to honor Our Lady at Waldrast.” The woodcutter replied: “I don’t want to do that.” But the voice returned the next Pentecost Eve and spoke to him in the same way as before. He replied “I am too poor to do it.” The voice returned on the Third Eve of Pentecost as he lay in his bed and spoke as before. For three nights he could not sleep for worry and so he finally answered the voice: “What do you mean that you will not leave me alone?” The voice replied “You shall do it!” He answered “I shall not do it!” It grabbed him and raised him in the air and said: “You shall do it and it would be good for you to reconsider!” 

He thought to himself: I am a poor man, how can I do the right thing? Finally he consented and said he would do it, if he only knew the correct site. The voice spoke “In the forest there is a green spot in the moss. Lay down and rest and the correct site will be revealed to you.” The woodcutter went out and lay down on the moss and rested (that is why the place is called the Resting Place in the Wood, or Waldrast). 

When he lay asleep, he heard two bells in his sleep. He awoke and looked up at the spot where the church now stands. A woman in white robes stood and had a babe on her arm but he saw only a glimpse. He thought to himself: Almighty God, this is certainly the right place! And he went to the spot where he had seen the picture and marked off where he meant to build Her church. The bells rang until he had finished marking the spot and then he did not hear them any more. 

He spoke: “Dear God, how can I accomplish this? I am poor and have no money to spend on such a building.” The voice spoke again: “Go to pious people; they will give you as much as you need. And when the time comes to bless the church, it will stand in peace for 36 years. After this, great signs will be revealed for all eternity.” And so, when he began construction of the chapel he went to his confessor and told him his intentions. The priest sent him to the Bishop of Brixen. He visited the Bishop in Brixen five times before he was allowed to start building the chapel. The bishop did this on the Tuesday before St. Pankratius in the year 1409. (St. Pankratius is a so-called Ice Saint and his feast day is May 12. Other Ice Saints include St. Servatius, St. Bonifatius (Boniface) and St. Sophie).

To read more legends of the virgin Mary:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/three-legends-of-virgin-mary-singing.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/christmas-reading-series-legends-of.html

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Christmas Wolf

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com 
(Fairy tales can be accessed by clicking on the link above.  Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

According to a folk belief widely circulated in Europe, certain persons were capable of transforming themselves into wolves on Christmas Eve. The night itself was filled with innumerable magical possibilities: water became wine; the mandrake root of legendary fame bloomed and apple trees simultaneously bore blossoms and fruit. At this time of year Frau Holda appeared with True Eckart, leading an unruly procession. An encounter with this Christmas goddess and her companion was both terrifying and rewarding. An unsuspecting mortal who unwittingly crossed path with Frau Holda’s procession received that most illusive Christmas gift of all, one that kept on giving. If you were lucky enough to be holding a beer stein when you met up with her, your glass would always be filled with tasty beer. That is, until you unwittingly disclosed the source of your secret brew.

The night was also good for augering the future. On Christmas Eve the curious hollowed out 12 onions and filled them with salt. Placing them strategically around the room, each onion was designated as a month of the year. On Christmas morning the onions would be carefully examined and the future predicted according to the shape of each onion. A shriveled January onion could only mean a month of meagerness. Likewise a bloated bulb could only portend a fat and prosperous 30 days. As in most things, it appears that much was left to the imagination of the beholder.

But back to the Christmas wolf. The wolf was originally significant as companion to Woton (Southern Germanic tribes) or Odin (Northern Germanic tribes). Two wolves reputedly were always by his side and they behaved more or less like hunting dogs. Because of this connection, the wolf became forever associated with heathen or pagan beliefs. An unbaptised child was referred to as heidenwolf (heathen wolf). There were certain methods one could employ to become a wolf: rubbing your body with magical salve or fastening your buckle in the 9th hole of your belt were popular methods. But remarkably, it was on Christmas Eve when pagan powers were especially potent. Persons with such inclinations could transform themselves into wolves quite easily on this night. Why someone would want to become a wolf is anyone’s guess. The night itself was considered to be imbued with supernatural powers.

A wolf in December is a ravenous beast. The all-devouring creature in Little Red Riding Hood is juxtaposed with the life-giving nourishment of wine and cake the maid brings her grandmother. In Europe, there is a traditional cake associated with Christmas and the month of December, with many different regional variations. In Germany, this cake is celebrated for its richness and is called Christmas stollen. Other countries also eat a sweet cake, often filled with raisins, nuts or other fruits. Folk tradition stipulates that eating this cake is absolutely necessary, for its richness awards strength and much needed poundage to survive the long winter months. To ward off the ravenous beast within, bake this Christmas stollen and enjoy. Substitute raisins for the dried cherries to bake a more traditional European stollen.

Recipe for Cross-Notched Stollen


Note:
An almond paste filling is optional in this stollen recipe but highly recommended! (Any nut paste can be used, be creative, but stick to one type of nut only!)
Dough: Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons dark rum:
1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup cubed citron
1/4 cup candied orange peel
Cover and let soak at least 1 hour. (This will be added after the dough rises).
1 package instant yeast dissolved in
3/4 cup warm milk
Let stand 10 minutes until frothy
Add:1 1/2 cups all purpse flour
1/3 cup sugar
Mix until smooth
Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until double in size
Mix in to dough mixture:
2 beaten eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
grated zest of lemon
1 teaspoon salt
Knead in by hand:
1 1/2 cups bread flour until smooth and elastic
Add while kneading:1 3/4 sticks soft butter, the dried fruit/rum mixture, 1/4 cup coarsely chopped and lightly toasted almonds.
Knead until all fruits and nuts are incorporated.
Let rise in buttered bowl 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until double in size.
Mix together (optional) filling:
8 ounces almond paste is mixed together with:
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs2 tablespoons soft butter
Roll into log about 6 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameterRemove dough from bowl and lightly roll out to a 1-inch thick oval (roughly 14 x 9 inches).
Place nut log in center. Fold over and shape into loaf.
Brush loaf with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place on greased cookie sheet.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Using sharp knife, cut 3 cross-shaped notches across top of loaf. Let rise until double in size. Bake stollen for about 50 minutes or when knife inserted in center comes out clean. Brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Top with powdered sugar.
Cool before serving.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas Goddesses and Little Red Riding Hood

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)


A coterie of fairy tale goddesses presides over the feast days of December, the time of the winter solstice. Frau Holle, Frau Bertha, Perahta, Frau Lutz and the Dirneweible all appear at the end of the year in the month of December. Their importance, though impossible to completely reconstruct today, was linked to the season with the longest amount of darkness and shortest amount of light. The winter solstice was celebrated as the turning point back to light and illumination. The goddesses connected to this tradition were celebrated with processions, lighted candles, singing and feasting. According to The Oxford Book of Days*, by the third century A.D. the Sun was considered to be the one true God by vast segments of the population. The Roman emperor Aurelian made December 25th the official birthday of the sun and proclaimed the day as Natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the unconquerable sun). When vast segments of Europe became Christianized, the traditions associated with these goddesses were also transformed. In parts of Bohemia and Scandinavia, Frau Berta became St. Lucy and her feast day was set on December 13th. It was at this time of year that Frau Holle and Frau Bertha reputedly made their 12-day procession, marking the time between Christmas and New Year. The procession itself was probably a dramatic reenactment of the natural cycle of the earth, turning from darkness and returning to light.

Nordic countries still celebrate Saint Lucy with a December festival or Luciatag. The day is commemorated with singing and parades marking the twelve days preceding Christmas. Saint Lucy was revered as the patroness of weavers, spinners and the harvest. Consequently, all weaving, spinning and threshing had to be completed by her feast day. Participants in her festival wore white and sang songs in her honor with typically one child being selected to represent Saint Lucy. This maid wore a white dress, a crown of lighted candles and a red sash to set her apart from the other participants, who were also clothed in white but wore silver crowns and sashes. The name Lucy itself suggests light and lucidity. According to Christian tradition, Lucy refused to marry the suitor her parents had selected for her. As punishment for her disobedience, her eyes were pulled out. A gory fate, we might think, but only a minor setback for a spunky saint. Miraculously Lucy was able to reinsert her eyeballs. Thereafter she was associated with persons suffering from eye ailments and was soon known as the patron saint of the blind. According to another tradition popular since the Middle Ages, Lucy was so filled with the Holy Spirit she became quite heavy. A whole group of men and team of oxen could not budge the saint from where she stood. Such weightiness might be the ultimate horror for girls her age and a most terrifying fate. But Lucy used her supernatural torpor to her advantage. Nothing could dislodge her and so she was able to continue arguing her innocence before the proconsul. (In summary the attributes of Saint Lucy: 12-day procession in December; patroness of harvest, weavers and spinners; red sash; name meaning light and lucidity; bringer of luck and prosperity; connection to eyesight, vision and seeing; supernatural weightiness resulting in immobility).

Perchta, Berchta, Perahta (old high German Perahta) or Berta (English) are various names for a Southern Germanic Goddess who was also prominent at the end of the year. These names mean the illuminated or shining one. Frau Holle, revered in areas where Berta left off, was also said to make shining white snow when she shook out her feather bed. According to pagan tradition, maidens were responsible for filling their spindles with neatly spun flax by the end of the year. If this was not accomplished, the goddess would cut open the girl’s stomach while she lay sleeping and fill it with hay and stones. In other traditions, the goddess demanded that a fast be kept and if the typical food prescribed for such fasts was not eaten, the goddess would exact her revenge in a similar manner. Instead of using a needle to sew up the disobedient girl’s stomach, a particularly irked goddess would use a ploughshare bone and instead of thread, an iron chain was used. Apparently the sleeping the maiden never woke up during the ordeal and only noticed something amiss upon waking when she was unable to move under the weight of the stones in her stomach. Like Saint Lucy, Perchta also had an eye connection. She had the power to blow out a person’s eyes and thus, she was a force to be reckoned with. (In summary the attributes of Frau Berta, Perchta or Frau Holle: 12 day procession in December; patroness of weavers and spinners; white garment, name meaning light and the shining one; connection to eyesight, vision and seeing; supernatural weightiness resulting in immobility).

These December goddesses are associated with the life-giving forces of the sun, which wane in December but then dramatically begin to ascend. In Nordic mythology the sun represents life and eternity. The ability to see the sun was equated with being alive; by contrast the dead could no longer see the light of day. The color red, the only color that can be traced back to an Indo-European root, represented the dawn, or the color of the rising sun. This might be why red is a frequent marker and associated with the gods. The gods themselves are concerned with maintaining their health and longevity. To prevent aging, they ate apples tended by the goddess Idunn. In Ossettic mythology, apples are life-giving, bestowing immortality and protecting against disease.

A lesser goddess among the powerful personages of December was the Dirneweibl. She appeared at a specific bush in the woods, often referred to as the Christmas bush, and seemed to be more like a nymph of the forest than a full-fledged goddess. She wore a bright red cloak and offered mortals red apples from the basket she carried. Anyone accepting such a gift was rewarded with health and prosperity. But should the person not accept her offering, she retreated further and further into the forest crying pitifully. She is a mysterious figure, both luring the unsuspecting passerby deeper and deeper into the woods but also offering health and happiness in the form of her apples. She is simultaneously dangerous yet beneficent. It is only fitting that her cloak be red, symbolizing all those emotions associated with arousal, including anger, passion, love and even death. Thus, red is tied to those things that are fundamental to our very survival, security and prosperity. A signifier of what is both basic and essential. (In summary, the attributes of the Dirneweibl: her connection to light is only through the red garment she wears and the red apples she offers; she is a potential bringer of health and prosperity but is misunderstood by mortals; appears in the forest or near a specific shrub or tree.)

Little Red Riding Hood is perhaps most like the Dirneweibl. In fact, in the opening line of the fairytale she is referred to as eine kleine suesse Dirne. The word Dirne reflects the dual attributes of her character, she is both a temptress yet seemingly innocent. Like the color red, she symbolizes strong emotions, including lust and passion. Dirne is an antiquated word for Maedchen and in its modern-day usage it designates both a girl and a prostitute. Like the goddess Idunn, Red Riding Hood brings her grandmother life-giving food and nourishment. The passage in the narrative about seeing the sun beams flicker through the trees might be considered only a weak marker tying her to other December goddess associated with the winter solstice. But her fate as ballast in the wolf’s stomach and then later, the supernatural torpor, immobility and subsequent death of the wolf induced by large stones placed in his belly are clearly reminiscent of this pre-Christian tradition.




Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 26 Little Red Riding Hood (Little Red Cap)

Little Red Cap; 
Food and the Fairy Tale; 
Into the Dark, Deep Woods

Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)


There once lived a sweet, young lass. Everyone who put eyes on her loved her but her grandmother loved her most of all and she showered her with gifts. Once she gave her a present, a little hat made of red velvet. Because she looked so pretty in it and the girl didn’t want to wear anything else, she was now called Little Red Riding Hood (or Little Red Cap).

One day her mother said to her: “Come Red Riding Hood. Here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take this to grandmother. She is ill and weak and will gain strength from it. Be on your way now before it get’s too hot. But while you are walking be especially good and do not stray from the path. If you do, you shall break the glass and grandmother shall have nothing at all. And when you arrive in her chamber, don’t forget to say “Good Morning” and don’t let your eyes wander around looking in every nook and cranny.”

“I’ll be good,” Red Riding Hood said to her mother and gave her hand in promise. Now grandmother lived deep in the forest, a half hour’s walk from the village. When Red Riding Hood entered the forest she encountered a wolf. But Red Riding Hood did not know what an evil creature it was and was not frightened.
“Good Day, Red Riding Hood,” the wolf said.
“And good day to you, wolf,” was her reply.
“Where are you going so early in the morning, Red Riding Hood?”
“To grandmother’s.”
“What are you carrying under your apron?”
“Cake and wine. We baked yesterday and now our sick and weak grandmother shall refresh herself and regain her strength.”
“Red Riding Hood, where does your grandmother live?”
“Still a quarter hour’s walk in the forest, under three large oak trees. Her house stands by the hazel hedge row, certainly you know that,” Red Riding Hood replied.

The wolf was thoughtful “This young, sweet thing will be a tasty morsel. She will taste better than the old woman. But I must be cunning so I get both.”

He walked a while beside Red Riding Hood, then he said: “Red Riding Hood, look at the pretty little flowers at the side of the path. Why don’t you take a look around?” I believe you don’t even hear how sweetly the little birds are singing? You walk along so soberly as if you were going to school and it is so merry to be in the forest.”

Red Riding Hood opened her eyes and when she saw how the sun beams filtered through the trees, dancing and flickering back and forth and how the woods were full of beautiful flowers, she thought “If I bring grandmother a fresh bouquet she shall also be happy. It is so early in the day that I shall still arrive in time.” She ran from the path into the woods and looked for flowers. And when she had broken off one stem, she thought a much prettier flower lay ahead. And so she ran and ran and went deeper and deeper into the forest.

But the wolf went straight to the house of the grandmother and knocked on the door. “Who is there?”
“Red Riding Hood who is bringing you cake and wine, open up!”
“Press on the latch,” the grandmother called, “I am too weak and cannot get up.”
The wolf pressed on the latch and the door fell open. Without saying a word, he went straight to the grandmother’s bed and devoured her. Then he put on her clothes, put on her bonnet and lay down in her bed, pulling the curtains all around.

But Red Riding Hood had been picking flowers and when she had so many that she couldn’t carry any more, she remembered her grandmother and continued on her way. She was surprised to see the door open and when she entered the chamber it seemed so strange that she thought “Good gracious, how frightened I am, when usually I enjoy visiting grandmother.” She called out “Good morning,” but heard no reply. She approached the bed and pulled back the curtains. There lay the grandmother, who had pulled her bonnet so deeply over her face, she looked quite odd.


“Grandmother, what big ears you have!”
“The better to hear you with.”
“Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”
“The better to see you with.”
“Grandmother, what big hands you have!”
“The better to grab you with.”
“But grandmother, you have such a horribly large snout!”
“The better to eat you with!”
The wolf had hardly spoken these words when he lunged from bed and devoured poor Red Riding Hood.

When the wolf had stilled his cravings, he lay back down in bed and began to snore loudly. A huntsman was just passing the house and thought to himself
“How loudly the old woman is snoring! Go see if something is the matter.”
He entered the chamber and when he got to the bed he saw the wolf lying there.
“So here I find you, you old sinner,” the huntsman said. “I have searched for you a very long time.”
He wanted to use his rifle but he thought the wolf could have eaten the grandmother and she might still be saved. He didn’t shoot but took scissors and began to cut open the belly of the sleeping wolf. When he had made a few cuts, he saw the bright red cap gleaming; He made a few more cuts and the girl jumped out and called “How frightened I was in the dark belly of the wolf!”
Then the grandmother emerged still alive but could hardly breathe. Little Red Riding Hood immediately brought large stones and they filled the wolf’s belly. When he awoke and wanted to jump away, the stones were so heavy that he immediately sank down and fell over dead.

All three were gay; the huntsman skinned the wolf and went home. The grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine that Red Riding Hood had brought and soon recovered. But Red Riding Hood thought “For as long as I live I shall not stray from the path and go into the forest when mother has forbidden it.”




For further reading:

Wolf mythology and the Christmas wolf: 
http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/12/christmas-wolf.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/06/fairy-tales-to-read-under-full-moon.html

An analysis of mythological themes in Little Red Riding Hood:
http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/11/christmas-goddesses-and-little-red.html

Click on link for more fairy tales:

Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Clever Gretel's Turkey Feast


Bechlboschen or Christmas Bush, Feast Days, the Color Red and Christmas Goddesses
Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In Salzburg Land, the Bechlboschen is a Christmas bush. The special significance of this bush or why it was tied to Christmas is unclear but it is probably based on a long forgotten pagan belief. A Christmas bush is also traditional in Bavaria in a region near Guenzburg. It was said the bush marked the spot frequented by the dirneweibl (female child) dressed in a bright red cloak, who carried pretty red apples in a basket. She always offered these as gifts to the unsuspecting passerby (probably in the winter season around Christmas time?). Should the person accept her gift, it turned into pure gold. But if the person did not follow her, the dirneweibl retreated into the forest, crying pitifully. The color red for her cloak is significant and marks her as one of the many forgotten pagan goddesses of German mythology. One of the most famous fairytale figures of all is dressed in similar garb and likewise retreats into the forest: Little Red Riding Hood.
In the tale of Clever Gretel (full text below), the protagonist wears shoes with red heels, a similar marker. But Gretel is not the typical Christmas Goddess of times past. Red shoes mark a strong-willed, socially deviant person in fairy tales, who could signal trouble. Still, her cooking is sublime.


It is easy to imagine that Gretel would have liked to cook even bigger birds than mere chickens, given her lusty appetite. Here follows a recipe for an American feast: the Thanksgiving Roast Turkey.
To cut down on roasting time, buy a small turkey (12 – 14 pounds). Butterflying the bird will also reduce the cooking time. That said, you must still begin preparations one day in advance:

One day in advance:
Mix 5 cloves of minced garlic, minced parsley, oregano, rosemary, 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ cup minced shallots together. Cut the bird along its backbone and split it open, pressing it down to lie as flat as possible. Season with salt and pepper. Rub bird with garlic mixture. Push some of the mixture under the skin and the remaining over the entire surface of the bird. Let it sit in a plastic bag in your refrigerator over night.

Next day:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (or 190 degrees C). Use a pan with a rack. Position turkey in rack with breast side up. Baste with melted butter (1-4 tablespoons melted). Roast until skin is crisp and the thickest part of the thigh away from bone registers 175°F (or 80°C). This should take 2 ¼ to 2/3/4 hours for a 12 – 14 pound bird. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before eating it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Feast Days of Fall: Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 77: Clever Gretel

It is best to act with confidence, no matter how little right you have to it.
(Lillian Hellman)

Translation: Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

There was once a cook named Gretel and she wore shoes with red heels. Whenever she went out, she swayed back and forth before the mirror, was exceedingly gay and thought to herself “You are indeed a very pretty maid.” And when she came home she was so merry, that she took a gulp of wine. And because the wine made her hungry, she tried some of the best victuals she had cooked that day. She ate until she was satisfied and always said “The cook must know how the food tastes!”

It happened that the gentleman of the house came to her and said “Gretel, this evening a guest shall visit. Prepare two splendid chickens.” “That I shall do, sir,” Gretel replied. She slaughtered the chickens, boiled them, plucked them and skewered them. And toward evening she placed them over the fire so they could roast. The chickens began to brown and would soon be done, but the guest had not yet arrived. Gretel called to the master, “If the guest does not come, I must take the chickens off the fire. But what a shame if they are not eaten immediately when they are in full juice and so succulent.” The master spoke “I shall run out and fetch the guest myself.” As soon as the master had turned his back, Gretel put aside the spit with the chickens and thought to herself “Standing so close to the fire all day makes one sweaty and thirsty. Who knows, when they will get here! While I wait, I’ll go down to the cellar and take a little nip.” She ran down the stairs, picked up a jug and took a gulp. “Good wine should be enjoyed,” she said and continued “it’s not good to stop in mid-gulp.” And so, she took another full swallow. Then she went and placed the chickens over the fire again, brushed them with butter and happily turned the spit. The roasted meat smelled so delicious that Gretel thought to herself “No one shall notice if a small bit is missing. I must of course try it!” She poked and pulled off a bit with her finger and said “Ah, what delicious chickens indeed. It’s a crying shame if they aren’t eaten immediately! She ran to the window to see if the master was returning with the guest, but saw no one. Turning back to the chickens, she gazed upon the plump birds. “Better that I should eat this little wing before it burns.” And so she cut off the wing and ate it. It tasted good and when she was done she thought, “The other wing must now come off, otherwise the master shall notice that the first one is missing.” When the two wings had been eaten she returned to the window and looked for the master. He was no where to be seen. “Who knows,” she thought, they might not even come and have probably already turned back.” She thought to herself “Gretel, be happy, you’ve started eating the one chicken, go get a fresh drink and eat up the rest. When it’s all gone you shall have your peace. Why should God’s gifts be wasted? And so she ran down into the cellar, took an honorable gulp and then ate the chicken in complete contentment. When the chicken was gone and the master still was not home, Gretel gazed on the other bird and said “Where the first chicken has gone the second must follow! The two belong together. What’s right for the one is only fitting for the other. And if I should take another sip of that wine, it surely won’t hurt me.” And so, she took another hearty gulp and the second chicken joined the first.
And as it often happens with the best of dinners, the master of the house finally returned home and called out “Hurry, Gretel, our guest shall arrive promptly.” “Yes, sir, I’ll get things ready,” Gretel replied. The gentleman looked to see whether the table was laid, took out the big knife to cut the chickens and sharpened it in the hallway. When the guest arrived, he knocked politely on the door. Gretel ran and looked to see who it was. Seeing the guest she laid a finger on her mouth and said “Quiet, quiet!, go quickly while you can. If my master catches you, you shall be sad indeed. He did invite you to supper but he intends to cut off both your ears. Listen to how he is sharpening the knives.” The guest listened to the sharpening sound coming from the hallway and retreated down the stairs as fast as he could. Gretel was not a lazy maid. She ran screaming to her master and called out “That’s quite the guest you invited!” “Why is that, Gretel? What do you mean?”
“He took both chickens from the platter, which I was just about to place on the table, and ran off with them!” “That’s a fine way to act!” the master cried. And he felt badly about losing two delicious chickens. “If he had at least left me with one, I would have something to eat.” He called after the man imploring him to stay. But the guest pretended he didn’t hear. The master ran after him with the knife still in his hand and cried “Only one, only one!” He meant the guest should leave only one of the chickens and not take both. But the guest understood he was to relinquish only one of his ears and so he ran as if a fire were raging behind him. And so, he arrived safely home with both of his ears.


Gay Gretel’s Chicken Feast:This country roasted chicken is delicious with side courses of butternut squash (served with brown butter and sage) and parmesan green beans.
In the spirit of Clever Gretel, a hearty wine should also be served.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Ingredients:
2 plump free-range chickens
2 small shallot onions
Freshly ground salt and black pepper
Virgin olive oil
2 lemons
4 tablespoons butter

Wash chickens inside and out. Pat with paper towl.
Salt and pepper inside cavities. Place lemon wedges inside chickens.
Heat oil and minced onions in bakeable skillet or roasting pan. Place chickens on top.
Brush outside with melted butter. Add salt and pepper.
Roast for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours. Feeds 4 - 6

The Gretel Test:
Ascertain whether the juices run clear by gently slicing between wing and breast.
(or thigh and breast). When the chicken is in full juice, it is time to eat!

The Gretel Watch and Wait:
Cover with foil and let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before eating. Use this time to assemble your guests round the table.