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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reading the German Fairy Tale Hans-My-Hedgehog

Terracotta Hedgehog, National Museum, Athens


The Artist as Hedgehog

It has been said that the blessings of money and property give rise to both leisure and art. But in the poignant tale of Hans-My-Hedgehog, the birth of a musically gifted young poet-hedgehog is not perceived as a blessing by the rich farmer.
According to the wisdom of this folk tale, prosperity without offspring makes for a meaningless life. But life with a sickly child or a child that does not match the physical ideal poses its own challenges. Both parents are embarrassed by their misshapen son, let him languish behind the stove because they do not know what to do with him and finally wish him dead. Below the prickly surface of his hedgehog skin lies a deep poetic temperament and musical ability, but all his parents see are the rough edges. His outward appearance is not the only thing that places the young hedgehog in a peculiar class all by himself. Rather, it his quiet self-confidence and focus on becoming who he is that set him apart. Taking his destiny in his own hands, he decides to dedicate his life to the study of bagpipe playing and donkey and pig-herding. In these endeavors he is peerless. His life, which seemed so useless and embarrassing to his parents, confers practical riches on the community in the form of his greatly enlarged herd. But his beautiful music feeds the soul. Music was long considered a gift from the gods and the first musicians were believed to be gods or demi-gods. Hans-My-Hedgehog shares some attributes of the Ancient Greek god Pan, who was the herders’ god and therefore lived in wild and remote places. Travelers through desolate mountain or woodland settings attributed unusual sounds in the forest to Pan’s beautiful pipe playing. The god was also constantly falling in love but rejected by those he wooed because of his ugliness.
In the end, Hans-My-Hedgehog distinguishes the true bride from the false bride (in a rather grisly way) and his wedding culminates in a startling transformation through fire. He sheds his hedgehog skin and becomes a beautifully shaped young man. Only then is the wedding feast celebrated. This might be based on a long-forgotten wedding ritual, where the marriage partner is reborn or becomes a new person through the symbolical removal of old skin. In his new, all-human form, he now seeks out his father. Although he has pledged never more to return and his father was glad to be rid of him, their reunion is a happy one, attesting to the powerful bonds of love and family.




To read the fairy tale:  

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/06/german-fairy-tale-of-hans-my-hedgehog.html


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Thursday, June 11, 2009

The German Fairy Tale of Hans-My-Hedgehog


Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 108: Hans-My-Hedgehog

Once there lived a farmer, who was blessed with plenty of money and property. But as rich as he was, there was one thing missing from his fortune: he and his wife had no children. Often when he went into the city with the other farmers, they mocked him and asked why he didn’t have any children. Finally he became so angry that one day when he returned home he said “I want a child, even if it’s a hedgehog.”

And so it was, his wife soon bore a son. But the top of the child’s body was a hedgehog and only the lower part was a boy. When the farmer’s wife saw the child, she recoiled and said “See what you have brought down upon us!”

The man replied “It's no use complaining now! The boy must be baptized and I doubt very much we will be able to find a godfather.”

His wife answered “That doesn’t matter because the only name we can use to baptize him is Hans-My-Hedgehog.”

When the child was baptized the pastor said “Because of the barbs on his back, he won’t be able to sleep in a real bed.” So, a little straw was placed behind the stove and Hans-My-Hedgehog was placed there. He couldn’t drink his mother’s milk because he would have pricked her with his barbs. So he lay behind the stove for eight years. His father became tired of him and thought if only he would die. He didn’t die, but remained lying there.

Now it happened that there was a market in the city and the farmer wanted to go. He asked his wife what he should bring her. “A bit of meat and a few rolls, those things we need for our household,” she answered.

Then he asked the maid. She wanted slippers and a few socks.

Finally he asked “Hans-My-Hedgehog, what do you want?” “Dear father,” he said “Bring me a bagpipe.”

When the farmer returned home, he gave his wife what he had purchased, meat and bread. Then he gave the maid the slippers and stockings. Finally he went behind the stove and gave Hans-My-Hedgehog the bagpipe. And when Hans-My-Hedgehog had the bagpipe, he said “Dear father, go to the smithy and have him shoe my rooster, because I want to ride away and never more return.” The father was pleased that he would be rid of him and had the rooster shod. When it was finished, Hans-My-Hedgehog mounted the bird and rode away. He took with him several pigs and donkeys, which he wanted to graze in the forest. Once in the forest, the rooster flew with him up into a high tree. There he sat and guarded the donkeys and pigs and sat many years until, finally, the herd was very large. But his father didn’t know anything about him. As he passed his time sitting in the tree, he blew into his bagpipe and made music and it was very beautiful. Once a king came riding by. He became lost and heard the music. In amazement, he sent his servant and said he should look around and see where the music was coming from. But the servant found nothing else than a small animal sitting up in a tree. It looked like a rooster on which a hedgehog sat playing music. The king told his servant he should ask why he was sitting there and whether he knew the way back to his kingdom. Hans-My-Hedgehog climbed down from the tree and said he would show the way if the king would promise to write down and promise to him the first thing he encountered at the royal court when he returned home. The king thought “That will be easy. Hans-My-Hedgehog can’t read and I can write down whatever I want.” The king took a quill and some ink and wrote something down and when it was done, Hans-My-Hedgehog showed him the way and he arrived happily at home. But it was his daughter who saw him from afar and was so happy that she ran to meet him and kissed him. The king thought about Hans-My-Hedgehog and told her what had happened and that the strange creature told him to write down the first thing he encountered. And the little animal sat on a rooster like a horse and played pretty music. He intended to write down something but Hans-My-Hedgehog couldn’t read it anyway. The princess was happy with this solution and said, she never wanted to leave the king’s castle.

But Hans-My-Hedgehog continued to tend the donkeys and pigs and was content. He sat in the tree and blew his bagpipe. Now it happened that another king was passing through the forest. He soon got lost with his servants and runners and entourage. In utter dismay, he wandered about the woods because they were so immense. All at once he heard beautiful music in the distance and commanded his runner and to go and ask what it was. The runner went and in the tree he found Hans-My-Hedgehog sitting on the rooster. The runner asked him what he was doing. “I am guarding my donkeys and pigs; but what are you doing?” The runner said, that the king and his companions were lost and could not find the way back to their kingdom. Couldn’t Hans-My-Hedgehog show them the way?

Hans-My-Hedgehog climbed down from the tree and said to the old king, he would show him the way if he would give him the first thing he encountered once he was home and standing before his royal castle. The king said “yes” and promised Hans-My-Hedgehog that he should have it. After this had happened, the king arrived happily again at his kingdom. When he entered the court, the people were jubilant. Now his only daughter, who was very beautiful, ran to meet him, embraced him and rejoiced that her father had returned. She also asked him where he had been so long and he told her. He had become lost and almost wouldn’t have returned if he hadn’t met a creature, half hedgehog, half man, sitting on a rooster up in a high tree, playing beautiful music. This creature helped him and showed the way home. In return he promised to give him the first thing he encountered once he had returned to his royal castle. That thing was his daughter. But she promised him, she would gladly go, because she loved her father so dearly.

But Hans-My-Hedgehog tended his pigs and the pigs in turn had more pigs and their numbers grew until the entire forest was filled with them. Hans-My-Hedgehog no longer wanted to live in the forest and sent word to his father, they should clear the stable in the village. He was returning with such a large herd, that each person could slaughter whatever he wanted. His father was saddened, when he heard this news, because he thought Hans-my-Hedgehog had died a long time ago. But Hans-My-Hedgehog sat on his rooster, drove the pigs back to the village and had them slaughtered: Hu! That was a feast day and it took several hours for the work to be done. Afterward Hans-My-Hedgehog said “Dear father, let me have my rooster shoed once more by the smithy, because I want to ride away and will never return as long as I live.” His father had the rooster shoed and was happy that Hans-My-Hedgehog wouldn’t return again.

Hans-My-Hedgehog rode away to the first king’s castle. The old king there had commanded that if a creature came riding on a rooster and if he had a bagpipe, then everyone should shoot at him, hew and stab so that he could not enter the castle. When Hans-My-Hedgehog came riding, they thrust their bayonets toward him, but he gave the rooster the spur and flew up over the gate before the king’s window. There he landed and called to him, that the king should now deliver what he had promised. Otherwise, he would take the lives of the king and his daughter both.

The king spoke soothing words to his daughter. She should go out to him to save both their lives. She put on a white dress and her father gave her a wagon with six horses, wonderful servants, money and property. She mounted the carriage and next to her were Hans-My-Hedgehog, his rooster and bagpipe. They then said goodbye and departed. But the king thought gleefully to himself, he was now rid of them and would never see them again. But things happened a bit differently from what he thought. When they were a short distance from the city, Hans-My-Hedgehog bristled his barbs and poked her all over with his hedgehog skin. Soon her clothes were ripped to shreds and she was covered in blood. “That is the reward for your falseness. Now go back, I don’t want you,” he said. And he chased her home and she was held in contempt her entire life long.

Hans-My-Hedgehog rode on with his rooster and bagpipe to the second kingdom, where the old king lived, to whom he had also shown the way. But this king commanded that when Hans-My-Hedgehog arrived, they should display royal arms and escort him in. Call out Vive! And bring him into the castle in pomp and ceremony. When the king’s daughter saw him, she became terrified because of the oddity of the creature’s shape. But a promise is a promise and it could not be changed. She welcomed Hans-My-Hedgehog and they were married. He sat at the royal table and she sat by his side. They ate and drank together side-by-side.

When night fell, they wanted to go to sleep. She feared his barbs but he said, she should not be fearful and she would not be harmed. He told the old king, four men should stand guard outside their chamber door and make a huge fire. When he entered the chamber and wanted to go to bed, he would take off his hedgehog skin and place it next to the bed. The men should then come quickly and throw the skin into the fire and wait until it was entirely consumed by the flames.

When the clock struck eleven, Hans-My-Hedgehog went into the bedchamber, took off his hedgehog skin and placed it beside the bed. The men came and quickly threw it into the fire. When the fire had consumed it, he was redeemed. He lay in bed entirely in the shape of a man. However, his skin had been burned as black as charcoal. The king sent him his doctor, who washed him and rubbed him with salve and oil until his complexion was clear and fresh like a beautiful young man. When the king’s daughter saw him, she rejoiced. The next morning they rose in happiness, ate, and drank and only then was the wedding feast celebrated. Hans-My-Hedgehog received the kingdom from the old king.

After many years passed, Hans-My-Hedgehog led his wife back to his father and told him that he was his son. But the father said, he didn’t have a son. He only had one a long time ago. But he was a hedgehog, born with barbs all over his body. He had left him a long time ago and went out into the world. The son then revealed himself to his father and the father rejoiced and returned with him to his kingdom.

To read about the artist as hedgehog:

 http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/06/reading-german-fairy-tale-hans-my.html

To read about another fairy tale wedding:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/08/french-tale-of-fairy-sisters-july.html

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/06/grimms-fairy-tale-130-one-eye-two-eyes.html


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Friday, June 5, 2009

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse, Chapter 7, in which the prince being forewarned by the Ant King takes refuge in the shielding forest.

But he did not know where he was or whither they were going.


Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse Chapter 7, in which the prince being forewarned by the Ant King takes refuge in the shielding forest.
The Ant King, having finished his song, looked up at the prince and spoke: “Do not lose a precious minute, flee immediately. The king is rallying his army of witches, werewolves and giants and their power should not be underestimated!”

“But Ant King, where shall I begin? Where shall I go?” In the distance a faint humming could already be heard. The noise swelled and the very ground they stood on began to shake as the frightening sound approached.

“Quickly!” the Ant King cried to his underlings. “Submerge, submerge!” With that, his entire colony rushed to their ant hole and soon vanished underground.

With no ant hole of his own for protection, the prince looked around and saw a forest at some distance. He ran for it and just as he reached its edge, he turned back to see an immense army on the horizon. Dust spun up creating black clouds around the throng; the creak and crackle, whoof and whoompf of war vehicles melded into one loud roar. And still the mob rushed toward him. With no time left to lose he turned and ran into the shielding forest. After running for some time, he thought the menacing cacophony had diminished somewhat. But still he ran on, breathless and with heart beating. Surely now he had lost them in this impenetrable maze of trees and bushes and thickets. Soon he heard a new sound, meager at first but cheery. Was it a song or was it the sighing of the wind passing through the dense treetops? Now he thought it was a lark, now he thought it was a woman’s beautiful song. He followed the sweet music and could almost discern words in the melody. The source was just over the next hillock or in the next grove, behind that jagged rock or down the next valley. But when he reached the next hillock or the next grove, the melody seemed to be further ahead and so he pushed on, drawn to its sweetness and purity. The shadows of early evening soon descended and the prince found himself hopelessly astray. As blackness enveloped the woods, the prince sank down beside an enormous oak tree in complete exhaustion. Soon he was fast asleep. He dreamt he could see his bride walking ahead of him in the forest. It was she who was singing. As he got nearer and nearer to her, the song became clearer and more beautiful. He felt a deep calm come over him and smiled peacefully because he knew he would soon be with her. And then he felt her warm embrace like a slowly enveloping cocoon. At first, warmth spread through his body but soon it felt more like a stranglehold and then he could barely breathe. Awakening he found the oak tree had sprouted woody arms, which had grown tightly around him while he slept. He choked, he struggled, to no avail. The tree had been bewitched by the king’s hexes. It would now destroy him as he lay there helplessly. In this blackest of hours he remembered the magic horse charm. Barely able to gasp out the words, he beseeched the horse to come to his aid:

Huzza, huzza, hinny-whinny.
Fly like a hawk, shake like thunder.
Eyes like the sun,
Hooves swift-footed.
Come to me horse,
Where I am rooted.

Huzza, huzza, hinny-whinny.
Fly like a hawk, shake like thunder.
Legs are leaping,
Ears are keeping.
Come to me horse,
Where I lay weeping.

As the prince lay gasping for breath in the wooden embrace of the oak tree, he could finally discern the words of the song that had lured him to his demise. The witches sang:

You four-footed beasts,
And two-tailed creatures,
You creeping things,
And winged leeches,
Fly from the sky,
Come nigh.
Choke, strike, hew,
Choke, strike, hew!

But above the witches’ wicked cries could be heard another more hopeful and familiar sound. It was the swooshing sound of the prince’s steed as he hurtled through the air. It was the sound of his hooves alighting on firm ground. It was the neighing of the horse as he battled the witches, four-footed beasts, two-tailed creatures, creeping things and winged leeches. When the prince awoke, he found himself lying on the back of his horse, but he did not know where he was or whither they were going.


Read Chapter 8:
http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/06/fairy-tale-of-prince-and-horse-chapter_29.html

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fairy Tale of the Wild Huntsman and His Fire-Breathing Horse



SAGEN; Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Source: Folk Tales from Pommern and Ruegen, Ulrich Jahn, Berlin 1889, No. 3

In Ruegen folk say that the Wild Hunstman is the devil. Every evening he rides out between eleven and twelve o’clock on his fire-breathing horse and charges through the countryside. You can hear his wild cry in the air high above: Tschue ha! Tschue ha!. When people hear this sound they hasten to reach a place of safety.

If the front or back door of a house is open, he rides his horse through the door and steals every human being he can catch inside. He carries them off to his kingdom. He prefers snatching small children. If the house door is locked, he will circle the building with loud cries and commotion. One evening a worker named Moeller living in Coldevitz left both doors of his house open. The Wild Huntsman rode through but did not find anyone inside. Moeller saw quite plainly how on the left and right side of the wild steed there hung a living boy. The devil had kidnapped these children from God knows where.


Oral tradition from Coldevitz


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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fairy Tale of the Evil Knight Eppela Gaila and His Horse


Grimm’s Saga No. 130: Eppela Gaila

Not long ago, Nuremberg street urchins still sang this old rhyme:

“Eppela Gaila from Dramout
Always rides on the fourteenth out.”

“The Nuremberg fiend rides out,
Eppela Gaila from Dramout.”

In times of old Eppelin von Gailing lived in Bayreuth near Drameyesel (a very small village parish after Muggendorf). He was a bold knight, who wantonly plundered and pillaged. He was especially inclined to do harm to the Nuremberg townfolk, whom he sought out for special distress and sorrow. But he also understood magic and had a colt that could ride and trot, canter and gallop until it’s hooves leapt from the earth and soared to high rock and crag, or down to river and meadow. And the hoof of his colt never trod on a single blade of grass.

His main estate was near Cliff Gailenreuth, but scattered throughout the region he had other castles and in a flash he could fly like the wind from one fortress to another. Often flying from one side of the mountain to the opposite or even reaching Saint Lorenz in Muggendorf. Nothing could stop his terror in Nuremberg, neither high stone wall nor deep moat. He committed many crimes and seemed unconquerable. But finally, the Nuremberg townsfolk captured him, brought him to the New Market and hanged him on the gallows with his accomplices. The Nuremberg Castle still displays weapons and the wall still shows a hoof print from his horse, which sank into the soft clay when he jumped onto it.



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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse Chapter 6: the prince, having been abandoned by bride and horse, must undertake 3 trials as foretold by the ant king

The Ant King

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse, Chapter 6, in which the prince, having been abandoned by bride and horse, must now undertake three trials as foretold by a chorus of chirping ants.

The prince was alone. He had lost his faithful companion the horse. He had cursed the bride he loved so dearly. Gazing dejectedly at his feet he noticed the dry dust on his boots. It was indeed a barren place he found himself in: parched earth, cracked ground and only ants as companions. “Perchance the ants will show some compassion,” he thought sadly. “But even they are so busy, I would not bother them.”

The Ant King heard the prince’s speech and rising up on his hind legs, shook the dust from his body and addressed the prince:
“Three trials you must pass, witch, werewolf, giant.
To win a wife you will surpass, witch, werewolf, giant.
When in need call the steed; witch, werewolf, giant.”

The Ant King’s underlings now rose up behind him and raising their legs they chirped:
“Three trials you must pass, witch, werewolf, giant.
To win a wife you will surpass witch, werewolf, giant.
When in need call the steed, witch, werewolf giant.”

The place buzzed with their song, growing louder and louder until it seemed the earth itself was humming with electricity.

While all this happened, the sleeping king, the kidnapper of the prince’s bride, awoke rather grumpily from his nine day slumber. “I knew it,” he snarled. The escapees have outwitted me this time, but I shall send my army after them. Witch, werewolf and giant shall come to my defense and seize my rightful bride! I shall not be out-foxed this time!”
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Swiss Fairy Tale of Zawudschawu, the Night Horse


Strange Steeds in Switzerland

Fairy Tale of Zawudschawu, the Night Horse


Many monsters were said to inhabit the mountains and valleys in times of old. In Sitten, a town in the Wallis region of Switzerland, a three-legged steed was often seen prancing through the streets in the bright moon light. And in the soft swamplands surrounding the city, the wild horse Zawudschawu could often be seen grazing at night. His coat was an iridescent milk-white but his wild mane and long tail were as white as the driven snow. If a brittle old hag wandered out of the village and lost her way in the moor, it might happen that the horse approached at a proud trot. Lowering itself carefully, it would invite the old person to sit on its back. Barely situated there, the horse would hasten home. But the horse was not always so gracious and trustworthy. Sometimes it played mean tricks. One evening a man, who had quenched his thirst a bit too much that evening, was wandering home from the tavern. He was tired and also his legs were unsteady. Fatigued, he sat down on a large stone near the bridge and thought to himself “If only an old nag would come trotting by to take me home.”

He had hardly formed the thought when he heard the approach of a horse; turning he saw the pale-white steed. It bowed and lowered itself gently and even nodded its head in an inviting way. The man did not hesitate nor did he wonder who the owner might be of such a magnificent steed. Rather clumsily he mounted the horse but once sitting on the horse’s back, the steed got up carefully and moved away. Thus encouraged, the man promised it good feed and sugar bread as reward for taking him home.

Soon the man saw his village and the roof of his house illuminated by the full moon. He smiled remembering his soft feather bed and urged the horse on with a gentle kick in its side. The horse responded by jumping jerkily, almost catapulting the rider into the air. He gripped its mane terrified as the horse began a wild gallop. The white mane whipped back by the wind nearly blinded the man. He implored the horse to return to the rightful path but instead it crashed through the swamp and continued on to the river.

Now the rider was seized by a veritable premonition of death. He screamed and tried to turn the wild horse around by pulling violently on its mane. But the horse pulled away and he could hardly stay mounted. They quickly reached the treacherous banks of the river where its rolling waves menaced. But in the last second the horse turned as quick as lightening. Its rider flew into the whirling waters and was carried downstream. The horse neighed as if laughing, turned around and ran back in the direction of the moor.

The rider was only able to save himself with the utmost exertion. As he returned home soaked to the bone, he knew he had encountered the wild steed Zawudschawu. The cold bath in the river had a sobering effect on the man and he never again visited the tavern.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse, Chapter 5: In which the prince is chastised by his horse, which has assumed the form of horse-man.

Boticelli, Pallas and the Centaur

(See link at right, Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse, for prior chapters.)

Horrible fate, pitiable predicament!
The prince was overcome with anguish and lamented his sad condition to the horse: “My rash actions, though done in love, have not benefitted my bride. Whatever shall I do? Must I really sacrifice my life in this way? I curse the day I ever laid eyes on her!”

The horse halted and taking on the form of horse-man sang in somber voice:

What is it you love?
Fair face – radiant divine,
Blossom-lips – heaven sublime?
Sparkling eyes, mad desire,
Are these the boons you require?

How do you love?
With longing adoration, long-suffering pain?
With hope and aspiration to acquire gain?
As sharp as an arrow, tip full gleam,
As soft as a feather, love-fond dream?

Why do you love?
To quench your thirst, to entertain?
To amuse yourself, circumvent pain?
A strong elixir makes one cheery,
Darkness banished from the weary.

Lout-not, love-full, unbridled colt.
Lout-not, love-full, loveful filly.
Let spalt-maid canter, spalt-youth trot,
Let love spane – spang, spang!



Now a finely shaped horse stood once more before the prince. Without saying a word, the hag jumped to its back and horse and rider soon vanished in the distance.


Chapter 6: http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/05/fairy-tale-of-prince-and-horse-chapter_19.html


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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Scent of Spring: Dragon Takes Wing, Grimm's Saga No. 216, a Saga from Switzerland in which a Man Escapes from Entanglement with Two Ancient Worms




Alpine folk in Switzerland have preserved many sagas about dragons and worms, which in ancient times dwelled in mountain caverns and often descended upon the valleys, leaving total destruction and sorrow behind. Even now, when an impetuous forest stream breaks its banks, crashing down the mountain and pulling along trees and rock with it, the local folk cite this melancholy proverb: “The dragon has taken wing.” The following story is one of the oddest:

A barrel binder from Lucerne went out into the forest to fetch Dauben wood for his barrels and lost his way until he found himself in a barren, lonely place. Night came and he suddenly fell into a deep pit, but it was muddy, like a well. On both sides of the bottom, gangways led off from the side into enormous caves. When he approached to examine them more carefully, to his horror, two frightful dragons blocked his way. The man prayed fervently while the dragons wound themselves round his body several times, but they did not harm him. One day passed thus, then several. He had to endure the dragon’s tight embrace from November 6 until April 10. He was only able to nourish himself with the salty dewdrops that formed like beads of perspiration on the stone walls

When the dragons smelled the scent of spring, they knew the winter season was over and decided to take flight. The first dragon did this with a loud roar. When the other prepared to do the same, the unlucky barrel maker took hold of the dragon’s tail, gripped hard and was pulled out of the well. Once above, he released his grip and fell free. He then returned to town. To commemorate his experience, he had a picture of his ordeal embroidered on a priest’s frock. It can still be seen in the Holy Leodagars Church near Lucerne. According to church records, this happened in the year 1420.

Read more fairy tales by clicking on the link:

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Horse Prophesy


The Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse, Chapter 4
(See link at right Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse for prior chapters.)
The young prince soon asked for the hand of the beautiful princess and she was willing to take him as husband.

But the neighboring king would not hear of it. He wanted to have such a beautiful wife for his own. How could he win her? Finally he thought up the following trick: He would send to his rival news that he should return home for his father was on his deathbed. Naturally it was a lie, but who would know? When the prince heard of his father's misfortune, he saddled his trusted steed and rode as fast as he could in the direction of home. He was hardly gone when the neighboring king appeared and robbed the prince of his bride.

On his way home, the prince stopped in a peaceful grove of oak trees. He alighted from his horse to take water from a bubbling spring. With a heavy heart he gazed at his own reflection in the pool of water and thought back to the counsel the Head had given him. “Beseech the horse three times when you are in distress,” it had said. The prince then remembered the magic horse spell:

Huzza, huzza, hinny-whinny.
Fly like a hawk, shake like thunder.
Eyes like the sun,
Hooves swift-footed,
Your lightning-gait,
Your mane gold-plait.

Huzza, huzza, hinny-whinny,
Fly like a hawk, shake like thunder.
Legs are leaping.
Ears are keeping.
Your truth be told.
Your signs unfold.

Huzza, huzza, hinny-whinny.
Fly like a hawk, shake like thunder.
All-seeing – tell.
All telling – see.
Horse-laugh prophesy!
Horse-neigh prophesy!

The horse turned to the prince and spoke solemnly: “Do not ride any further but halt and listen! It is not true that your father is lying on his deathbed. Your rival lied to you and while you rode, he robbed you of your bride. Return quickly for tomorrow is the wedding feast. Here, beside this stream you shall find three potions. If you drink from the first, you will fall into the deepest sleep for nine days and nine nights. If you drink from the second, you will become so old and brittle, that no one will recognize you. But if you douse yourself with the third potion, you will become as young, strong and vigorous as before.”

The prince turned his horse immediately and hurried to free his bride. He reached the gate of the neighboring king’s realm. Everything glittered like the richest jewelry. Guests had arrived; the wedding had begun. The prince drank from the second potion and became an old, old beggar. The beggar entered the castle and once in the wedding hall he begged for alms. Everyone gave him something; only the bride gave him nothing. She sat dejected in the corner. At last the beggar spoke: “I shall honor the bride with a wedding gift and you will give me refreshments in return. I can teach the young lady how to acquire virtue that attracts good fortune.” When the bride heard this, she reached forward to give the beggar his portion. The beggar took the alms with both hands and said: “Let us step aside so that I can tell you what a young bride must know.” Both stepped to the side. The beggar only then revealed what had happened and why he had purposely taken the form of a beggar. And finally, he gave his bride the potions and said: “Try to give your kidnapper some of this first potion. While he sleeps nine days, we will be long gone over the mountain.”

The bride took the sleeping potion, but noticed that the second potion looked so sweet and glittered in its golden vessel. She secretly took it, too. She slipped the first potion into a golden goblet, went to her kidnapper and spoke: “Before the wedding we should drink from this cup to celebrate our engagement!” He was satisfied. But when he drank, he fell into a nine-day sleep.

The young bride hastened away, but as she turned, she noticed the bright color of the second potion and how the vessel glittered that held this wonderful refreshment. Surely, a small portion from this second vessel could do no harm. No sooner thought than done and instead of a beautiful princess, a wretched beggar woman stood before the eager prince. The prince had already doused himself with the third potion and had thus resumed his comely form. No time was left to lose. The prince escaped with the old hag on his wonderful horse and they galloped away into the night.

When they had ridden a distance, the prince took the vessel of the third potion to douse his bride and return her beauty. But alas, when he opened it, he realized that in his haste, he had used the entire potion on himself. Now his bride was as old and brittle as a broomstick and there was no potion to restore her youth.


Chapter 5   http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/05/fairy-tale-of-prince-and-horse-chapter.html

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Magical Power of Bird's Nests Revealed in Fairy Tale and Saga


Grimm's Saga No. 86: Bird's Nest

This saga celebrates the mystery and beauty of spring and is well worth reading this time of year.


In some areas people still believe that there are certain bird's nests (also called Zwissel or Zeissel nests) which make all persons carrying the nest invisible. To find the nest, you must by chance see it in a mirror or in the reflection of a pool of water. The saga is most likely a reference to Bifolium, a two-leaf plant genus commonly referred to as Bird's Nest in almost every European language. There seems to be something magical or mandrakelike about it. This belief is elaborated in an account from the 17th century, most certainly originating from folk tradition: 

While I was talking, I saw the reflection of the tree in the water. But there was something lying on the branch, which I could not see in the tree itself and for this reason, I pointed it out to my wife. When she found it and the branch on which it lay, she climbed up the tree and brought down the object we had seen in the reflection of the water. I watched her and saw her the moment she disappeared. She vanished the moment she picked up the nest whose shadow (image) we had viewed in the water’s reflection. I still saw my wife in the reflection of the water: how she climbed down from the tree and held the small bird's nest in her hands which she had removed from the knick in the branch. I asked her what kind of bird’s nest she carried. In reply she asked me if I could see her. I said “I can’t see you in the tree but I can see your shape in the water’s reflection.” --- “It’s best,” she replied, “if I come all the way down now. Then you shall see what I have.” It seemed strange to me to hear my wife talking in this manner, because I couldn’t see her and it was even stranger that I should see her shadow move in the sun but could not see her. And because it was easier for her to approach me in the shade (when she didn’t have a shadow because she was outside of the sunlight in the shade) I couldn’t see anything more of her, except I heard the faint sounds she made with her footfalls and her clothing, as if a ghost were passing me by. She sat down next to me and placed the nest in my hand. As soon as I held it, I saw her again, but she in turn no longer saw me. We repeated this several times and each time we found that whoever held the nest in their hand, that person was completely invisible. She finally wrapped the little nest in a handkerchief, so that the stone or herb or root, which was giving the nest these powers, could not fall out and be lost. And after she placed the bundle beside her, we saw each other again, just as before she climbed the tree. We could not see the handkerchief with the nest, but could feel it at the spot where she had laid it. 


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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse, Chapter 3: The Magic Charm Used to Beseech the Horse


And this is the charm the prince was to use when he beseeched his horse to prophesy the future:
Huzza, huzza, hinny-whinny.
Fly like a hawk, shake like thunder.
Eyes like the sun,
Hooves swift-footed.
Your lightning-gait,
Your mane gold-plait.

Huzza, huzza, hinny-whinny.
Fly like a hawk, shake like thunder.
Legs are leaping,
Ears are keeping.
Your truth be told.
Your signs unfold.

Huzza, huzza, hinny-whinny.
Fly like a hawk, shake like thunder.
All-seeing – tell.
All telling – see.
Horse-laugh prophesy!
Horse-neigh prophesy!



Chapter 4: http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/05/horse-prophesy.html

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse, Chapter 2



How the Horse Outfoxed River Witches and Forest Witches

The sun hung low in the sky when the prince and his swift-footed steed reached a lucious flower meadow. They rode through it and came to a gently rolling river. “We shall cross the river and go to the castle in the distance,” the prince said. But his horse replied: “The river is enchanted by witches. Once in the middle of the stream, the water would swell up so violently, it would devour us both. Take hold of my mane, we shall leap across instead.”

The youth took hold of his horse’s mane and in a single leap, both horse and rider reached the other side. With another leap they found themselves in the center of the forest. The youth looked around in amazement and saw majestic oaks and in a clearing, he could see a cabin. “Wait dear steed, for I long to find refreshment in that house I spy! I hear a wonderful and sweet song coming from within.” It was the enchanted song of witches, luring him to his doom.

“We must leave here,” the horse replied. “You shall not endeavor to reach that hut or we shall come to blows and the winner will then decide where we go.”

“Well let us try then,” the young man answered laughing. Both took hold of each other and a wrestling match ensued. As it happened, the young man was soon lying on the bottom. But the witches in stealth had encircled them whilst they wrestled. The steed said “Quickly jump to my back and hold fast to my mane! I shall kick our way free!” The powerful steed kicked with his hindquarters and pranced and jumped free of the forest with a single leap. Now prince and steed were well on their way and soon approached the castle of a foreign king, who had a beautiful daughter.


Chapter 3  http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/04/fairy-tale-of-prince-and-horse-chapter_30.html

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Monday, April 20, 2009

The Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse: How a prince allied with a horse overcame witches.



Chapter 1: The Nature of Horses: How the Horse Runs in Freedom and Understands All Wild Things
In times of old a king went to war and he was gone nine years. He left behind a young wife and his one-year old son. The king loved this son dearly. When he took leave from his wife, he made her pledge to care for this dear child with the greatest diligence and utmost prudence. The mother promised to do this. She alone would feed him and place him in his cradle. She would not allow another living person to even take him in arm. And so, the boy grew quickly like a radish.

In his fifth year, he was as big as a ten year old and had good sense and understanding. When he was eight, the young prince had already grown into a strapping young fellow, whose sole yearning and longing was to brandish a sword. He said: “Dear little mother, there is nothing for me to do at home, I want to go into the world and look for father.” “Good, good my dear son. Prepare yourself and go into the world. I also want to see father again.”

In the early morning hour, before the cock had crowed, the prince was on his way. Toward evening he reached a large wood and directly at the edge of this wood, he saw a man’s head. It was as large as a haystack and below the head lay a sword. He wanted to remove the sword but the head spoke: “Dear son, if instead you undertake to kill the magician who struck off my head with this sword, the sword will be yours, otherwise not.”

“Well and good Dear Head, I will help you. But can you not tell me where my father is?” “Dear son, when you have slain the magician and have returned to me, I will tell you where your father is. But listen well! The magician lives in a rocky cliff. Do not go to him as you are, but instead put on my armor and mount my steed. In the hollow of the that tree you will find armor and steed. And one more thing: stagger him a single blow, do not strike him twice. Otherwise, the miscreant will come back to life.”

The prince mounted the swift-hooved steed and flew like the wind to the rocky cliff. He suffered the magician such a severe blow, that his head dropped to his shoulders but did not fall off entirely. The magician said: “Have pity on me and strike off my head completely, so I suffer no pain.” But the prince replied: “A true warrior hews only once. I will not hew a second time.”

“Then I must die at once for your are my superior,” the magician replied and drew his last breath. Prince and steed flew back to the Head, which said: “Be joyful for you have released me from the spell. I will help you in the future in every way you have helped me. Take my horse, for the horse runs in freedom and has the understanding of all wild things. In times of dire distress, beseech the horse three times and he will give you wise counsel. Now return home, for your father will also be on his way and will meet you there.” The prince turned his horse and in one leap he found himself home.

As the sun set behind the hills, the father's figure could be seen on the horizon. The mother was exceedingly happy. She embraced her husband. She embraced her son. Her joy found no bound or limit. And so they lived in peace and contentment for some time. But after a while the son said: “Father, let me go out into the world to seek my fortune and test my strength.” Good, the father was satisfied. He gave his son the swift-footed steed and escorted them to the border of his kingdom.
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Friday, April 17, 2009

Grimm's Saga No. 538, Siegfried and Genofeva

Genofeva in the Forest


When Hildolf was Archbishop of Trier, the Palatinate Count Siegfried lived with his wife Genofeva, the daughter of a Duke from Brabant. She was fair and pious. It happened that a campaign was launched against the pagans and Siegfried had to go to war. He ordered Genofeva to live a quiet life of reclusion at his castle in Meifelder Gau. To Golo his trusted servant, he encharged his wife and requested that he be vigilant in watching over her. The last night before his departure, Genofeva received a child from her husband. When Siegfried was gone it did not take long for Golo to be aroused by sinful desire for the fair Genofeva. Finally, he could restrain himself no longer, but declared his intentions to the Palatinate Duchess. Filled with repugnance, she rejected him. In response, Golo wrote false letters pretending that Siegfried had drowned with all his men at sea and read them aloud to the Duchess. The entire kingdom belonged to him, he said, and she could love him without fear of sinning. But when he wanted to kiss her, she hit him hard in the face with her fist and he noticed that he would not accomplish anything. He changed tack, took away from the noble woman all her servants and maids so that she suffered enormously in her pregnancy. When her time came, Genofeva bore a beautiful son and no one but an old washer woman stood by and comforted her. Finally she heard that the Palatinate Duke was still alive and would return soon. She questioned the messenger and approached Golo, who had received the same news. Golo was beside himself with fright and thought all was lost. In his distress he turned to an old witch for counsel. She asked why he was so forlorn. The Palatinate Duchess bore her child at a time when no one could know who the father was, whether it be the cook or some one else. “Tell the Palatinate Duke that she took the cook as lover. He will have the cook killed and you will live in peace.” Golo said “That’s good advice,” and so he hurried to his master and told him the entire lie. Siegfried was mortified and sighed mournfully. Golo said “It is not proper for you to keep this woman as your wife.” The Palatinate Duke replied “What should I do?”
The unfaithful servant said “I will take her and the child to a lake and drown them both in the water.” After Siegfried agreed, Golo seized Genofeva and the child and gave them to the servants with instructions to kill them. The servants led them into the forest, but one among them said “What have these innocents done?” And they exchanged words but no one knew anything bad that could be said of the Fair Genofeva and no reason why she should be killed. “It is better,” they said, “that we let wild animals tear them apart than stain our hands with their blood.” And so they left Genofeva alone in the wild wood and went out. But because they needed a sign to bring to Golo, one of them said it would be best to cut out the tongue of their hound. And when they came to Golo, he said “Where have you left them?” “They are murdered,” the servants replied and showed them the tongue.

Genofeva cried and prayed in the desolate wilderness. Her child was not yet 30 days old and she could no longer nurse the child. She prayed to the Holy Virgin Mary for help and suddenly a roe deer leapt through the bush and sat down next to the child. The deer was able to suckle the child and he drank. Genofeva stayed at this place for six years and three months. She nourished herself on roots and herbs that she found in the forest. They lived under fallen tree trunks that Genofeva was able to pull together in layers to form a kind of dwelling.

After some time, the Palatinate Duke rode out into the forest to hunt. As the hunters rushed their hounds, they saw the same roe deer that nourished the boy with her milk. The hunters pursued the deer and because there was no way out, it fled to the spot where the two walked daily. It threw itself as usual at the feet of the boy. The hounds pressed forward while the child’s mother took a stick and warded off the hounds. At that moment the Palatinate Duke arrived, he saw the miracle and he ordered the dogs to be called back. He asked the woman whether she was Christian. She replied “I am a Christian, but completely uncovered. Give me your coat so that I can hide my shame.” Siegfried threw down his coat and she covered herself. “Woman,” he said “Why don’t you get food and clothing for yourself?” She replied “Bread I have none; I eat the herbs that I find in the wood; my clothing became worn and fell apart a long time ago.”
“How many years have you been here?”
“Six years and three moons is the time I have been living here.”
“To whom does the boy belong?”
“He is my son.”
“Who is the child’s father?”
“God alone knows.”
“How did you come here and what is your name?”
“My name is Genofeva.”
When the Palatinate Duke heard the name, he thought of his wife, and one of the Duke’s men stepped forward and said “By God that looks like our lady, who died some time ago and she had the same beauty mark on her face.” And every one saw that she had the same mark. “Does she still have her wedding ring?” Siegfried asked. The two went out and saw that she still wore the ring. The Palatinate Duke embraced her and took the child in his arms “This is my wife and this is my child,” he said. The good wife now told him everything that had happened, word-for-word. And everyone cried tears of joy. The faithless Golo was also found and brought forth. The crowd wanted to kill him but the Palatinate Duke cried out: “Hold him until we can determine whether he is worthy of dying.” It happened and Siegfried ordered four oxen, who had not yet pulled the plow, to be tied to the four parts of the body, two on his feet and two on his hands and then to make the oxen move forward. When they were tied in this way, each oxen moved forward and Golo’s body was torn into four pieces.

The Palatinate Duke wanted to bring his wife and child home. But she refused and said: “At this holy site the Virgin saved me from the wild beasts and preserved the life of my child by sending a roe deer. I will not leave this place until it is properly consecrated and honored.” The Palatinate Duke immediate sent word to Bishop Hildolf and everything was reported to him. The Bishop was happy and consecrated the site. After the consecration, Siegfried led his wife and son to the spot and they ate a solemn meal. She asked her husband to build a church there, which he promised. The Palatinate Duchess could no longer eat food, but instead ate the herbs she was used to and had gathered from the wood. She lived only a few days and then returned to God in heaven. Siegfried had her bones buried in the Forest Church, which he had built. This Chapel was called Our Lady (not far from Meyen) and many miracles happened there.


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Monday, April 13, 2009

Ostara, Easter Bunnies and Colored Eggs



Ostara is the Germanic goddess of spring and the rising morning sun. She represents nature’s resurrection from its deep winter sleep. A daughter of Woton and Fricka, she accompanied her brother Donar when he led the many processions celebrating victory over the winter giants in spring. She was also called the May Queen and the figures known as the May Count and May Countess, who often presided over Easter pageantry and spring festivals, most certainly are references to Donar and Ostara.

Reverence for the goddess was so firmly rooted in ancient ceremonies celebrating the vernal equinox that her name was subsequently transferred to the Christian feast day commemorating the resurrection of Christ. “Ostar” means morning, or rather, the direction from which the first spring rays of sunshine emanate. Easter month is the month of April, the time of nature’s reawakening and the Christian festival of resurrection.

On Easter Sunday the sun purportedly took three leaps of joy – delighting over the return of spring according to early pagan beliefs. The priests said these “jubilatory jumps” honored the risen Christ.

According to folk tradition, Easter water must be collected from a flowing stream at daybreak and the person who carries it home must not let any sound escape from his lips. If he forgets, the Easter water becomes babbling water and it loses all of its healing properties. The water must be scooped up at the precise moment the sun rises and the collector must bow three times in the direction of the sun. Sealed bottles of this holy water were stored in dark places and used throughout the entire year as healing agent against eye ailments and other sufferings.

The rabbit, considered to be Ostara’s favorite animal because of its fecundity, and the egg, considered to be a symbol of germinating life, were therefore dedicated to the goddess and forever associated with springtime celebrations. This gave rise to the belief that the Easter Bunny laid Easter Eggs on Maundy Thursday. Naturally, the eggs were dyed the colors of Donar and Ostara, red and yellow. Such colorful eggs were then brought to the gods as spring offerings. The custom of dying and presenting eggs at Easter has survived to this day.

The first night in the mild month of May was dedicated to the goddess Ostara. Giant fires were lit symbolizing the power of Donar and May flowers were strewn to honor the goddess Ostara. There were celebratory processions and in some locations it was popular to burn an effigy representing the giant-winter. Conquered by Donar’s superior power, this ritual burning signified winter’s power now broken. As Europe became Christianized, this spring narrative changed from “Nature is awakening” to “Christ is risen”.

Later, an attempt was made to remove the fervently revered goddess Ostara from the picture altogether, replacing her with the Holy Saint Walpurga. The saint’s feast day was set on the eve of April 30 to May 1st. Easter bonfires were now referred to as the devil’s fire and Ostara and her attendants became witches. The festival associated with the goddess was now referred to as the witch’s Sabbath and was supposedly held at Blocksberg Mountain. Blocksberg is the Brocken, the highest mountain in the Harz region of Germany. This mountain is closely tied to German folklore as is the Teutoburg Forest. On Walpurgistnacht witches were said to ride their firey broomsticks through the air and meet at this dancing site.

To protect against such dreadful demons, a farmer was advised to paint three crosses on his barn door and place a broom across the threshold because malevolent spirits were said to retreat at the sight of a cross and broom. Whoever did not take such precautions might find that his cows had been visited by a dreadful disease in the morning, or that they now gave red instead of white milk.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Theme of Death and Resurrection in Fairy Tales



Embraced by thorns: the Fairy Tale of Sleeping Beauty, in which a maid is brought back to life.

A long time ago there lived a king and a queen. Each day they said to each other “If only we had a child!” for it was their most fervent desire. But alas, they never had one. Now one day it happened that the queen was sitting in her bath and a frog came out of the water. It crept onto the shore and said to her “Your wish shall be fulfilled, before a year passes you shall have a daughter.” What the frog foretold did indeed happen and the queen bore a little girl. She was so beautiful that the king was beside himself with joy and called together a celebration. He not only invited relatives and friends, but also the Wise Women, so that they would be well disposed toward the child. There were thirteen Wise Women in his kingdom, but because he only had twelve golden plates for them to eat from, one would have to stay home. The party was celebrated in splendor and when it was over, each of the Wise Women presented the child with a wonderful gift: one bestowed virtue, the other beauty, the third riches, and so on and so forth with everything that could be wished for upon the earth. When eleven of these wise women had bestowed their blessings, the thirteenth suddenly appeared. She was ready to take revenge because she had not been invited to the party. Without greeting or even looking at any of the guests, she called out in a loud voice “The king’s daughter shall prick her finger in her fifteenth year and fall over dead!” She did not utter another word, but turned around and left the hall. All were aghast. But the twelfth wise woman still had one wish left over. Because she could not negate the evil spell but could only mitigate it she said “The king’s daughter shall not die, but only fall into a deep sleep lasting one hundred years.” The king, who wanted to save his dear child from this misfortune, sent out the command that all spindles in the entire kingdom should be burned. But all the blessings of the Wise Women were fulfilled for the child. She was so beautiful, demure, friendly and attentive that anyone who saw her had to love her. It happened that on the very day she turned fifteen, the king and queen were not at home and the girl remained all alone in the castle. She wandered through all the rooms and chambers and finally came to the old tower. She climbed the tight spiral staircase and reached a small door. In the lock was a rusty key and when she turned it, the door sprang open. In a small chamber sat an old woman with a spindle and spun her flax skillfully. “Good day, old grandmother,” the king’s daughter said. “What are you doing here?” “I am spinning,” the old woman replied and nodded her head. “What kind of thing is this that spins around so cheerfully?” the girl asked and picked up the spindle and also wanted to spin. She had barely touched the spindle, when the magic spell was fulfilled and she pricked her finger. In the moment she felt the sting, she fell onto a bed beside her and was soon in a deep sleep. A heavy slumber soon spread throughout the entire castle: the king and queen, who had just come home and entered the hall, fell asleep and the entire court with them. The horses fell asleep in their stall, the dogs in the courtyard, the doves on the roof and the flies on the wall. Even the fire in the oven flickered, became quiet and died down and the roast stopped roasting. The cook, who was pulling the hair of the kitchen servant, let go and fell asleep. And the wind quieted until not a single leaf moved in the trees in front of the castle. A thorn hedge began to grow around the castle, which was higher each year and finally encircled the entire castle. It grew over the castle walls and soon, nothing more could be seen, not even the banners on the roof. The story circulated throughout all the land that a beautiful Thorn-Rose slumbered inside, because that is what the king’s daughter was called. From time to time the sons of kings came and tried to penetrate the hedge and enter the castle. But it was not possible. It was as if the thorns had hands, which were clenched firmly together. The youths got stuck in the thick branches, could not free themselves and died a mournful death. After many years another king’s son arrived in the land and heard an old man tell of the thorn hedge. A castle supposedly stood behind it, in which a beautiful king’s daughter, named Little Thorn Rose, was already sleeping one hundred years, and with her slept the king and the queen and the entire court. The man also knew from his grandfather that many princes had already come and tried to penetrate the thorn hedge, but they all became entwined in the bramble and died a miserable death. The youth spoke “I am not afraid. I will go out and try to see the beautiful Little Thorn Rose.” The old man tried to dissuade him, but he did not listen to his words. One hundred years had just passed and the day had arrived when Little Thorn Rose was to awake. When the king’s son approached the thorn hedge, it was full of beautiful flowers. The branches opened for him and the thorns parted and let him through unharmed. Behind him, the hedge closed again. In the courtyard he saw the horses and hunting hounds lying asleep and on the roof sat the doves with their heads tucked below their wings. When he entered the house, the flies on the wall still slept, the cook still held his hand in the air as if he wanted to strike the servant and the maid sat before the black hen that was to be plucked. He entered the hall and saw the entire court lying asleep and the king and queen lay on their thrones asleep. He walked further and everything was quiet, you could hear a person breathing. Finally he came to the tower and opened the door to the small chamber where Little Thorn Rose slept. She lay there and was so beautiful that he could not turn away his eyes and bent over and gave her a kiss. When he touched her mouth with a kiss, little Thorn Rose opened her eyes, awoke and blinked joyfully at the prince. They walked down the winding staircase and the king and queen and the entire court awakened. They all looked at each other in amazement wide-eyed. The horses in the courtyard stood up from their sleep and shook themselves; the hunting hounds jumped and wagged their tails; the doves on the roof pulled their heads from under their wings, looked around and flew out to the field; the flies on the wall began to hum; the fire in the kitchen rose up, flickered and cooked the food; the roast began to get crispy; the cook boxed the youth’s ears so that he cried out and the maid plucked the chicken. The marriage of the king’s son and Little Thorn Rose was celebrated in splendor and they lived happily ever after.

To read more about the Wise Women in this fairy tale, hit the Norns link at the right.
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To read more fairy tales about death and resurrection of fairy tale characters, please hit the link Path to Paradise or Little Red Riding Hood.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Queen Berta the Palm Sunday Fairy


An Apparition in the Forest



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 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. (I am sure there are still people who know what this is out there!) 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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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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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Grimm's Saga No. 362: Food from God


Guardian Angel Protects against the Last Fierce Onslaught of Winter

Not far from Zwickau in Vogtland parents once sent their young boy into a deep forest to drive home the oxen, which had wandered off. But when the boy did not return and night fell, the parents became fearful. A heavy snow was falling and the entire mountain would soon be covered with deep snow. The boy could not have returned from the forest if he had desired it. But when he did not return the following day, the parents were not so much worried about the oxen as they were about the boy. They could not go out and look for him because of the deep snow. On the third day, after the snowfall had diminished, they went out to find the boy. They finally found him sitting on a sunny hill, where no snow had fallen. When the boy saw his parents, he laughed. When they asked him why he had not come home, he answered that he decided to wait until evening and was unaware that an entire day had lapsed. No harm had befallen the child and he appeared happy and healthy. When they asked him if he had eaten anything he replied that a man had come to him and offered him fresh cheese and bread. Without doubt this child had been fed and sustained by an angel sent by God.

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