Tuesday, August 11, 2009

French Tale of the Fairy Sisters' July Wedding

A Fairy Tale from the French Alps:
Fairy Sisters Want to Marry

Once there lived two brothers who were twins, Each was as beautiful and handsome as the day itself. They were proud and courageous. No one was their equal in all the kingdom. One evening as they were returning home from the annual market, they had to traverse an immense forest. It was the summer month of July and almost nine o’clock in the evening. The moon was full. Suddenly the two brothers could hear bright, ringing laughter coming from within the bushes. They pulled on the reins of their horses and stopped. “Listen, brother, do you hear that sound!” the older one asked.

“Yes, it sounds like the laughter of a young maid, a bright, cheerful sound.”

In that very moment two young beauties emerged from behind the bush. They were dressed in gold and silk and were as lovely as angels. “Good evening, young gallants!” their voices rang out like bells.

“Good evening, young maidens!” was the reply.

“We are not maidens. We are fairies and twin sisters. You are twin brothers. If you marry us, we will make you as rich as the sea and will give you many children, who are as beautiful, strong and brave as you yourselves are.”

The older brother said “Let’s marry. I will take the older twin.”

“Yes, let’s marry. I will take the younger one,” the younger brother said.

“Good,” both fairy sisters replied. “We will marry tomorrow morning, bright and early. Now go home but at daybreak you must already be standing at the church door facing the forest. Make sure that you neither eat nor drink in the meantime. If you do, a great misfortune will befall us.”

“Fairy sisters, your words shall be followed!” And the twin brothers rushed home. They did not talk; they went to bed without eating or drinking. At two in the morning they got up and silently left the house. “Quickly, quickly! We have just enough time to reach the church at the edge of the forest.”

On the way, the twins passed a corn field. The corn was almost ripe. Without thinking, the younger brother picked an ear, took a kernel and pressed it between his teeth to see if it was completely dry.

Before day broke the two stood before the church at the edge of the forest. The doors were open, the altar was decorated and the candles were lit. Both fairies were waiting. They were dressed as beautiful brides , each wearing a white dress and veil, a wreath of flowers on her head and a fragent posy tied into her belt.

“My friend,” the younger of the two fairies said sadly, “You forgot that you weren’t supposed to eat or drink. Now you have caused a great misfortune to befall us. By marrying you, I would have become a woman like all others. But now I must remain a fay forever.”

With that the younger of the two fairy twins left the church and her groom never saw her again. The priest read the mass for the older twins. Then the younger brother spoke to the couple “Fare thee well! I am going far away and shall enter a monastery as a monk. Tell my father and my mother they will never see me again.” And with these words he departed, while his older brother took his bride home to his parents.

In the evening before they went to bed, she said to her husband “Listen! If you love me then pay heed. Never call me fey or crazy. If you do a great misfortune will befall us.”

“Dear wife, don’t worry, I will never call you fey or crazy.”

For seven years they lived happily as man and wife. They were as rich as the vast ocean, lived in a castle and had seven children.

One day the husband went to the annual market and the wife stayed behind to act on his behalf. It was mid-July. The weather was beautiful, the grain was almost ripe. The lady of the castle looked out and gazed at the heavens. “You man servants and maid servants, up and out!” she cried. “Quickly cut the grain! A storm and hail will soon be here!”

“But lady, what are you thinking? It is the most wonderful weather in the world and the grain isn’t even ripe.”

“Do what I say, quickly! Hurry, hurry!”

The farm hands followed her orders. They were still working when the master of the house returned from market. “Wife, what are the workers doing?” he asked.

“They are doing what I ordered them to do!” the wife replied.

“But look, wife, the cut grain isn’t even ripe. You must be crazy!”

As soon as these words were spoken, the wife got up and left. In the same evening, hail and storm ravaged the entire land. Despite it all, the fay returned to the castle every morning. She entered the room of her seven children, and while crying combed their hair with a golden comb. “You must never tell your father, that I come every morning at dawn to your room and comb your hair with a beautiful golden comb. A great misfortune will happen if you do.” The children replied “Mother, we will never tell!”

But the father was amazed at the beautifully combed hair of his children. Every morning he asked “Who combed your hair so beautifully, my little ones?” And his children always said “It was the servant girl.”

But the father remained skeptical. One evening when he went to bed he hid himself in the room of his seven children. When dawn broke their mother came and while crying, combed their hair with a golden comb. The man lost control “My poor wife,” he called. “O come home, I beg you, come!”

But she vanished as fast as lightening. From then on neither the husband or his children ever saw her again.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Secret Lives of Gnomes Revealed Here: Tree Gnomes

Grimm's Saga No. 148: The Gnomes in the Tree

In summer months it often happened that a flock of gnomes would migrate from the upper mountain meadows down into the valley, where they banded together sociably. They either helped the farm laborers or watched them as they mowed and gathered the hay. They loved to sit on the long, thick branches of a shady oak tree and look down at the work. Once some mean-spirited people, who knew of their habit, came during the night and sawed the branches through so that they were only weakly attached to the tree trunk. When the unsuspecting creatures climbed up the next morning, the branches came crashing down in pieces. The gnomes likewise fell to the ground and were jeered by the onlookers. Thus enraged, they screamed:

“As high as the sky
Deception does fly!
Here today, tomorrow gone!”

They were as good as their word and were never seen again in all the land.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer Fairy Tale: To Catch A Gnome

The Many Ways to Catch a Garden Thief:
Fairy Tale of the Smithy Riechert

On the east side of the Dardesheim mountain there is a place called Gnome-Berg where the fields are especially rich and fertile. These acres were once owned by a smithy by the name of Riechert, who planted a crop of peas there. He noticed that when the peas hung on their vine and were the most ripe and succulent, they were soon all picked. To catch the pea-thief, Riechert built a little hut in his field and watched over his crop night and day. During the night, he did not detect any change, but in the morning he saw that despite his watch, the entire field had been robbed of peas. His wasted efforts annoyed him to no end and so he decided to plow under the entire crop. When dawn broke, Smithy Riechert began his work. But he had barely plowed under half his field when he heard wretched crying. Looking down to find the source, he saw a gnome lying under the pea stalks on the ground. His skull had been bashed by the threshing blade and he was now visible because his haze or fog cap had been knocked from his head. The gnome got up quickly and fled back into the mountain.


In fairy tale lore, gnomes are invisible because they wear a Tarnkappe or Nebelkappe (cap conferring invisibility). Nebel means fog or mist in German and connotes confusion or cloudy and muddled thinking. Gnomes love gardens and the acres they visit are always lush and bountiful. Even though they pinch the produce, it is very beneficial to have garden gnomes as regular visitors and very unlucky to drive them away. A wise farmer woos the gnomes and does what he can to keep them happy.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fairy Tale Magic and Mystery Found in Toadstools

Grimm’s Saga No. 223: The Toadstool

Notweiler Castle lies in the Alsatian region of Wasgau. Long ago a duke’s beautiful daughter lived in the castle. But she was a very proud maiden. None of her many suitors were good enough for her and many vainly lost their lives trying for her hand in marriage.

As punishment, a spell was cast over the maid and from then on she had to live in a forlorn cave dwelling. She was doomed to live this way until the spell could be broken, at which time she would be saved. Once a week on Friday she was allowed to appear in visible form. The first time she appeared it was in the form of a snake, the second time in the form of a toad and the third time in her natural form as beautiful maiden. 

Every Friday she bathed in a spring near the cliff, which today is still called Toadstool. While washing, she always cast glances in every direction to see if anyone was approaching to save her. Whoever undertook such a daring deed found a shell lying on the toadstool. It bore three symbols: a scale from a snake, a piece of toad skin and a yellow lock of her hair. Carrying these three things, the youth had to climb the sheer barren rock up to the castle on a Friday afternoon, wait until the maiden appeared bathing and then kiss her on the lips three weeks in a row and in each of her forms without fleeing. Whoever could withstand this trial, would receive peace and all her treasures. 

Many a lad had already found the shell with the three symbols and had dared to climb the rocks toward the old castle. And many a lad had died by being overcome by fear and loathing. Once a brave fellow had already touched the lips of the snake with his own and was willing to wait for the other figures to appear, but he was gripped by such horror that he ran downhill. She pursued rustling and raving in toad form until they both reached the toadstool. 

Through the ages she has always stayed the same and has never aged. She is most frightening in serpent form. But following the old adage “She is as big as a haystack, but in toadly form as large as an oven and then she spits fire.”

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Something Terrible in the Trees

Something Terrible in the Trees

will not be afraid of death and bane
Till Birnam forest come to Dunsinane.

Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene III

As we know from both the Grimm’s Saga of King Greentree (see below) and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, advancing trees can only mean doom. However, in the Shakespeare play, Macbeth’s death-by-trees is foretold by three witches, who have conjured up a ghostly apparition of a crowned child bearing tree in hand. It speaks:

Be lion-mettled, proud and take no care
Who chafes, who frets or where conspirers are.
Macbeth shall never vanquished be until
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill
Shall come against him.

Though meant as a warning, this tree-bearing ghost instills a sense of false security in Macbeth. For as every student of Shakespeare knows, Malcolm’s soldiers will soon be reaching Dunsinane camouflaged by the green boughs of the Birnam forest and Macbeth will soon meet his death. Shakespeare based his play on Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1577), which in turn was based on earlier works, including that of Andrew Wyntoun (1350 – 1420) the Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland. Though put forth as a true record of events, these accounts provide a strange amalgam of history and legend. The tree references seem to be more legend than truth, but they might actually describe a real military conflict. It is easy to imagine that camouflage by trees was conceived on the ancient battlefield as a useful tactic for hiding the actual number of men in an approaching army thus heightening the defending army’s uncertainty and terror.

Our earliest written chronicles therefore often combine accurate descriptions of historical events with outright fictions. Mostly the authors do not seem to be bothered by any need to draw a clear line between history and legend. Holinshed considers the precise nature of the three witches in his Chronicles, but never questions their existence. He says : “But afterwards the common opinion was, that these women were either the weird sisters, that is (as ye would say), the goddesses of destinie, or else some nymphs or feiries, inbued with knowledge of prophesie by their necromantical science, because euerie thing came to passe as they had spoken.” In fact, in a world where men firmly believe in goddesses of destiny and prophecy, one might actually expect to find people who claim to be such creatures. So Holinshed’s account might be accurate to the extent that three women, alleged to be witches, prophesized Macbeth’s fate.

Grimm’s Sagas likewise seamlessly combine historical fact and popular lore. To the modern reader, an approaching army of trees portending doom might seem like a mere dramatic device. But the saga also suggests another interpretation, namely that it echoes underlying beliefs toward trees held by pre-Christian tribes in Europe. The pagan attitude might have been that there really was something terrible in the trees, a supernatural power that could control one’s destiny. The king's daughter in King Greentree, understands the significance of the marching trees immediately and does not need a prophecy to decipher her fate: "When dawn broke on that day, the daughter looked out of her window and saw the enemy’s army approaching: an enormous procession of green trees. She was terrified because she knew that all was lost." She did not lose heart merely because she saw the approaching army; her castle had been besieged for years. There was something in the trees themselves that warned her all was lost. This suggests a cultural context that was most probably shared by the original audience of the saga but the precise meaning is now long-forgotten.

Grimm’s Saga of King Greentree offers an important clue as to what that meaning might be. The king was able to defend his castle from onslaught until May Day. On that day his daughter spied the green forest approaching on the distant plain. Like Macbeth, she knew that all was lost when she recognized the enemy behind the green trees. But unlike Macbeth, she did not need witches or necromantical science to understand her situation. She immediately grasped the significance of the approaching trees. May Day was a pagan celebration, widely practiced throughout Europe. In some places the May Day custom was celebrated by a throng of villagers processing out into the woods, cutting down a tree and green branches and bringing it all back to the village amidst song and revelry. The tree was then erected on the village green in the form of a May pole. Other accounts reference May Day as the time when evil forces allegedly were at their height. Preparations in the days before culminated in “burning out the witches”, a rite which purportedly expelled all wandering ghosts and devils from the vicinity. The saga King Greentree accurately recalls May Day activities such as cutting and carrying boughs, trees and greenery and marching about, but here the pageantry turns out to be a military exercise. The trees likewise announce defeat on the inauspicious day of May when evil powers were thought to be most potent.

According to Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough, the intention of these May Day customs was clear: to bring back to the village the blessing and power of the tree spirit. Tree worship was prevalent in pre-Christian Europe. In some places “remarkable oaks and other great shady trees” were revered “and oracular responses could be received from them.” Trees were believed to be inhabited by a soul, god or spirit. But the tree itself was not the deity, rather, it was the dwelling place of the deity. In other words, trees were representatives of divinity. Based on his analysis of the different Germanic words for “temple”, Jakob Grimm concluded that sacred groves themselves were the original sanctuaries or churches of early tribes. The power of trees included all things associated with reproductive power, including the ability to make rain fall, sun shine, crops grow, flocks and herds multiply and the capacity to ease child bearing. Osiris is one of the earliest mentioned gods renowned for his skill in farming and animal husbandry. Egyptian myth tells that Osiris was imprisoned in a chest, which was then enveloped by a growing tree. The wood of this tree was subsequently cut down and worshiped in the temple of Isis. And in Jakob Grimm’s saga of St. Boniface (see link to right), we find the saint cutting down the sacred oak of Jupiter, inextricably linking the saint’s own demise with that of the tree. He was soon murdered by ungrateful pagans.

Boniface’s hatchet job was not the only assault on pagan trees, groves and temples. Tacitus reports in his Annals that “Caesar, to spread devastation widely, divided his eager legions into four columns, and ravaged a space of fifty miles with fire and sword. Neither sex nor age moved his compassion. Everything, sacred or profane, the temple too of Tamfana, as they called it, the special resort of all those tribes, was levelled to the ground.” And in 772 AD Charlemagne destroyed the sacred Saxon settlement of Irminsul, which according to Grimm’s linguistic analysis of the word was probably designed around a sacred tree or pole. Because of their special status in pagan religion, trees became the object of physical attack. Across the ages they also became associated with warfare and battle. In his book Indo-European Poetry and Myth, M.L. West identified the term “tree of battle” as a poetic phrase or kenning for “warrior”in early Welsh and Norse poetry. Grimm alludes to this further by citing the ancient adage “A sacred oak grows out of the mouth of a slain king.” Folk tradition has it that an acvattha-branch can destroy one’s enemies and a sacred tree cannot be cut down without causing one’s own downfall. This fragmentary evidence suggests that trees were imbued with a meaning that we can’t fully reconstruct today and that the ravagers of sacred trees were successful, for in destroying them the memory of their past significance was also lost. We are left with inklings, remnants of stories and our imaginations to fill in the gaps.
One last attempt at deciphering terror in the trees as illustrated in the saga of King Greentree and Macbeth: According to Germanic mythology, giants had such enormous strength they could pull trees out by their roots and hurl them or use them as clubs in battle. Walking trees on the battlefield could mean that giants, other supernatural forces or the indwelling dieties of the trees had allied themselves with the approaching army. An army bolstered by such forces could not be defeated and thus signified all was lost.)

Fairy Tales on this website in which trees are prominent (click on title to access):

Fairy Tale in which a sacred grove is used as temple:

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Bibliography for further reading:

The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer
Deutsche Mythologie, Jakob Grimm
Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, Raphael Holinshed
Meetings with Remarkable Trees, Thomas Pakenham
Indo-European Poetry and Myth, M.L. West 

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Walking Trees Portend Defeat in the Saga of King Greentree

Grimm’s Saga No. 92: Koenig Gruenewald

Long ago a king lived in Upper Hesse at Christenberg, where his castle stood. He had only one daughter, whom he loved dearly and who also possessed many splendid fineries. Now it happened that his arch-enemy, King Greentree, came and besieged his castle. When the siege lasted many years, the king spoke to his daughter and urged her to be courageous. Their dire circumstances, however, continued until the first day of May. When dawn broke on that day, the daughter looked out of her window and saw the enemy’s army approaching: an enormous procession of green trees. She was terrified because she knew that all was lost. She ran to her father and said:

“Father, give up and turn yourself in
Green trees are coming amidst all the din.”

Her father sent her into the camp of King Greentree and they agreed that she would be allowed free departure and could take all the possessions that her one donkey could carry. She took her own father, packed him along with her best treasures, and departed. When they had gone quite a distance and were exhausted, the king’s daughter spoke: “We shall rest here!” (“Hier wollemer ruhen!”) For that reason the village is called Wollmar, an hour away from Christenberg on the plain). They continued through the wilderness into the mountains until they finally found a congenial spot. “Here is a field!” the daughter exclaimed (“Hier hat’s Feld!”). So they remained there and built a castle and called it Hatzfeld. You can still see the ruins of their abode and the city nearby also has taken the name of the castle (Hatzberg, a village on the Eder River in the hills, about four hours from Christenberg to the West).

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse Chapter 8: In the Werewolf's Den

Walpurga, the Abbess of Heidenheim

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse Chapter 8, in the Werewolf’s Den.As the brightness of day faded, the horse carried the prince further and further into the woods. The sun was hanging low in the sky, when the prince awoke as from a dream. Horse and rider continued on a crooked path twisting deeper and deeper into the woods. At last they left the cold and dewy forest and emerged on a steep road, which became stonier with each step. As a full moon rose in the sky, a small hut could be seen and through its window glimmered candlelight.

The prince dismounted from his exhausted horse, its body damp from exertion. Looking through the window, he spied an old woman setting the table with what looked like a banquet feast. He heard a raspy voice command from within “Enter! The food is ready and you shall be fed the very best!”

She was a hunched woman with a mane of silvery-brown hair. Shuffling back and forth through the room, she never looked into the prince’s face as she carried heaped platters of food and pitchers full to the brim. A broad leather belt girdled her dark and dank dress. Her hair was matted, her skin wrinkled and moist. The prince returned to the horse, who whispered in his ear: “I would advise using a silver spoon when you eat her fare!” The prince removed from the horse’s saddlebag a shiny silver spoon and entered the clammy and dark hut. A chill ran down his spine as he sat at the table. Although a fire burned in the fireplace, the room was cold and the prince could not shake the chill that seized him.

True to her promise, the food was indeed delicious and plentiful. But alas, the old woman placed a tin spoon on the table. Carefully slipping the silver spoon from his pocket, the prince began eating from the splendid assortment. He was soon satisfied and somewhat drowsy from the strong drink.

“You were hungered!” the woman said approvingly. Her chest heaved with each word and her breathing was loud and uneven. “It is good to understand true hunger, food tastes better,” she muttered. The old woman then began a raspy monologue while she cleared the table. She said her name was Walpurga and had lived in the region since birth. She was the last surviving member of a noble family. The prince dozed off as she prattled on about her extensive land holdings, the servants who tended the fine herd of sheep, the succulent little lambs, the sinewy cattle. Soon the prince was snoring. The old woman cautiously rose from her chair and unbuckled her leather belt. It slipped from her waist and she was a wolf.

With lightening speed the wolf lunged across the table toward the sleeper. In the nick of time the prince, now roused and still gripping the silver spoon, held it up to ward off the blow of the wolf’s powerful body. The dreaded snout hissed, the stench and foulness of its breath could be felt against the prince’s cheek. In the last second, the animal veered off to the side howling pitifully. “Quick!” the horse cried out, “You are no match for a werewolf! We must invoke the mistletoe.

“Mistletoe, Mistletoe, Where do you grow?” the steed cried out.

With the prince still holding the silver spoon to keep the wolf at bay, the horse chanted this magic charm:

“Mistletoe, mistletoe, where do you grow?
Neath the full moon glittering?
Neath the owl twittering?
Climb up and around,
Without a sound.

Mistletoe, mistletoe, where do you grow?
Neath the full moon glittering?
Neath the owl twittering?
Form strong bands,
Round werewolf hands.”

Grow fast,
Grow round,
Grow up,
Grow down.
Mistletoe, Mistletoe grow!”

Small voices could be heard from the floor of the cabin as buds sprouted swiftly around the werewolf, who stood subdued by the shining silver spoon:

“Here we grow, here we grow.
All fat-stemmed blossoms.
Your cry was heard,
Like cuckoo bird.
We grow fast,
We grow round,
We grow up,
We grow down. “

The mistletoe grew up on all sides of the werewolf, encircling the beast in a ring of green leaves. The wolf could not step beyond the ring of vegetation and the silver spoon sparkling in the candlelight seemed to terrify the creature even more.

“You must shout out her Christian name three times to break the werewolf spell. Then, she shall serve you and you both will be allied!”

“Walpurga, Walpurga, Walpurga!” the prince screamed out as loudly and forcefully as his lungs permitted.

Where the wolf had stood, a young woman in an abbess’s frock now appeared. At that moment a warmth spread through the room and the prince could feel it in his bones.
“I am Walpurga, the Abbess of Heidenheim. Welcome!” she said.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fairy Tales to Read Under a Full Moon: The Werewolf Stone and Werewolf Lullaby

Grimm’s Saga No. 215: The Werewolf Stone
Otmar, pages 270 – 276

Near a village in Magdeburg called Eggenstedt, not far from Sommerschenburg and Schoenigen, a huge rock juts out of the Anger Mountain near Seehausen. Folks call it the W o l f or W e r e w o l f Stone. A long, long time ago a stranger was staying near the Brandsleber Forest (otherwise known as a place where the pick axe was used). No one knew this stranger or where he came from. They only knew him as the “old man”. He often appeared in villages, offered his services and then accomplished his tasks to the utmost satisfaction of the townspeople. He especially liked to tend the sheep.

Now it happened that there was a nice little dark-hued lamb among the herd that Shepherd Melle tended. The stranger relentlessly urged the shepherd to give the lamb to him. The shepherd wouldn’t hear of it. On shearing day, Melle brought along the old man who was helping him. When he came back, everything was as he had left it and the work was done; only the old man and the lamb could not be found. No one heard from the old man for a long time. Finally he appeared unexpectedly to Melle, who was grazing his flock in the Katten Valley. He called to him scornfully “Good day, Melle, your colorful lamb sends greetings!” In anger the shepherd reached for his staff to take revenge. Suddenly the stranger changed shape and lunged at him in the form of a werewolf. The shepherd recoiled in fear but his hounds fell upon the wolf in rage and the wolf fled. Pursued, the wolf ran through forest and valley until he was close to Eggenstedt. The hounds surrounded him there and the shepherds cried “Now you must die!” But suddenly the old man stood there again in human form and pleaded for his life. He cried out for mercy to all. The shepherd in his rage fell upon him with his staff – but before him now stood a budding rose bush. The shepherd was bent on revenge and did not stop, but brutally cut down the branches. Once more the stranger turned into a man and asked that his life be spared. The hard-hearted Melle was unyielding. The werewolf attempted to flee but one blow from Melle struck him dead and he fell to the earth like a stone. Where he fell and was buried, a rock marks the spot and has been called the Werewolf Stone for all ages.

The Werewolf Lullaby
If I were, were, were, were a werewolf,
Not werebear or were-mouse,
Not were-pig or were-louse,
Free of wem, stainless,
Free of scar, blameless,
I would walk with the wedders and their sheep wives,
Always even-tempered past the bee hives.
I would do no harm, ther'd be no alarm.
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fairy Tales to Read Under a Full Moon: The Werewolf

Grimm’s Saga No. 213: The Werewolf

Oral tradition from Hessen.
See Braeuner’s Curiostiy Pages

A soldier told the following story, which supposedly happened to his own grandfather. His grandfather once went out into the forest to cut wood with his cousin and a third person. They both suspected something wasn’t right with this third person, but couldn’t lay their finger on it. Now the three had finished their work and were tired. The stranger proposed that they should all sleep it off. And so it happened, each lay down on the ground. The grandfather lay down and only pretended to sleep and opened his eyes a little. The stranger looked around to see whether the others were sleeping and when he believed that they were, he threw off his belt and became a werewolf. A werewolf doesn’t look exactly like a natural wolf but looks a bit different. He ran away to a nearby meadow where a young foal was grazing. He attacked and ate it, skin, hair and all. Returning to his two sleeping comrades, he buckled the belt around his girth and lay there as before in human form. After a short time they all got up and made haste to get to their homes in town. As they stood at the edge of the town, the stranger complained about a fearsome bellyache. The grandfather whispered secretly into his ear: “That I do believe, when one devours a horse, skin and all!” But the stranger replied: “If you had said those words in the forest, you wouldn’t be speaking now.”

A woman took on the form of a werewolf and fell upon the flock of a shepherd, whom she hated. She would have done him enormous harm. But the shepherd wounded the wolf by throwing a hatchet into its hip and the wolf crept into the bushes. The shepherd followed the wolf into the brush and thought he would subdue him. But instead he found a woman trying to stop blood from flowing out of a hip-wound with a torn-off scrap from her dress.

Two magicians were executed in Luettich in 1610 because they had turned themselves into werewolves and killed many children. They kept a young boy of twelve years their captive, whom the devil transformed into a raven when they tore to pieces and devoured their prey.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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