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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Grimm's Fairy Tale of the Crystal Ball


Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 197: The Crystal Ball

There once lived a sorceress, she had three sons who were filled with brotherly love for each other. But the old woman did not trust any of them and thought they wanted to rob her of her powers. She turned the oldest son into an eagle. He had to sit high up on a rocky cliff and often could be seen circling the heavens, soaring up and down. She turned the second into a whale who lived deep in the ocean. You could only see him when he blew a mighty blast of water into the air. Both brothers took their human shape for only two hours each day. The third son fled in secret, because he feared the sorceress would also turn him into some wild beast, a bear or wolf perhaps. He had heard that an enchanted princess sat in the castle of the golden sun, waiting for her redemption. Each suitor had to risk his life and twentythree gallants had already died a miserable death. There was only one left and after him, no one else would come. Because his heart knew no fear, the youth made a decision to seek out the castle of the golden sun.

He had already been looking for some time and had not found it, when he lost his way in a deep forest and did not know which way out. At once he saw two giants in the distance, they waved at him with their hand and when he approached they said “We are fighting over a hat, and because we are both equally strong we cannot decide who should own it. One of us cannot overcome the other. You smaller people are smarter than we are. That is why, we will leave the decision up to you.”

“How could you fight over an old hat?” the youth said.

“You don’t know the qualities of this hat, it’s a wishing hat. Whoever wears it can wish to go wherever he wants. In that very moment, he will be there.”

“Give me the hat,” the youth replied. “I will walk a short distance, and when I call you, run a race. Whoever reaches me first, will own the hat.”

He put on the hat, walked away and thought about the king’s daughter, forgot the giants and continued walking. Once he sighed from the depths of his heart and said “Oh, I wish I were in the castle of the golden sun!” The words had barely passed over his lips and he stood on a large mountain before the gate of the castle.

He entered and went through all the rooms until he found the king’s daughter in the last one. But how frightened he was when he saw her: she had an ashen face full of wrinkles, cloudy eyes and red hair. “Are you the king’s daughter, whose beauty is famous throughout the land?” he cried.

“Oh,” replied the maid. “This is not my true form. The eyes of men can only see me in this frightful state. But so that you know how I look, gaze into the mirror and don’t be confused. I will show you my true image there.”

She gave him the mirror in hand and he saw the image of the most beautiful maiden in the world. He saw how the tears rolled down her cheeks in sadness. He spoke “How can you be redeemed?” I will not avoid any danger.”

She answered “Whoever finds the crystal ball and holds it before the sorceress, that person shall break her power and I can return to my true form. Oh,” she added, “so many have already died before you and I am fearful for your young blood, if you should place yourself in this great danger.”

“Nothing can stop me,” he said, “but tell me what I must do.”

“You should know everything,” the king’s daughter replied, “When you descend the mountain on which the castle stands, there will be a wild ox standing at the spring below. You must fight with him. And when you are able to kill him, a fire bird will rise out of his carcass. The bird carries a firey egg in its body and in the egg there is an egg yolk, which is the crystal ball. The bird will not let go of the egg until he is forced. But if it falls to the earth, it will ignite and burn everything nearby. The egg itself will melt, along with it the crystal ball and all your efforts will be for naught.”

The youth walked down to the spring where the ox snorted and bellowed. After a long battle, he stuck his sword in its side and the beast sank to the ground. At that moment the fire bird flew up and wanted to fly away, but the eagle, the brother of the youth who flew between the clouds, commenced the chase. It flew after him to the ocean and picked him with his beak so that in his need, the fire bird let the egg drop. But it didn’t fall into the ocean but onto a fisherman’s hut on shore. The hut immediately began to smoke and was about to burst into flames. But waves as big as the house rose up from the ocean, crashed down on the hut and extinguished the flames. The other brother, the whale, swam up to shore and blew water into the air. When the fire was extinguished, the youth looked for the egg and luckily found it. It had not yet melted but the shell was cracked because of the sudden cooling by cold water. He was able to remove the crystal ball without damaging it.

When the youth returned to the sorceress, she accused him and said “My power is destroyed and you are now the king of the castle of the golden sun. You can also return your brothers’ human forms.” The youth hastened to the king’s daughter and when he entered her room she stood before him in the full splendor of her beauty. Filled with joy, they both exchanged rings.
Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com

To read more about seers and prognosticators:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2010/03/reading-grimms-fairy-tale-crystal-ball.html

Monday, January 25, 2010

Divining the Future in Fairy Tales: Crystal Ball Gazing


The future casts long shadows on these fairy tale characters.

Grimm’s Saga No. 119: Crystal Ball Gazing

A noble and beautiful maiden and a distinguished young man bore an intense love for each other; but because of the girl’s step-parents, they did not receive permission to marry. This caused them both to live in extreme sadness. It happened that an old woman, who had access to the house, came to the maiden and comforted her. She said, the one she loved would certainly become her own. The maiden, who heard these words gladly, asked how the woman could know this. “Oh, my young mistress,” the old woman said “I have received grace from God and know future things before they happen. That is why the chance that this could remain hidden from me is slight. To take away any doubt you may have, I will show you clearly in my crystal ball so that you shall praise my art. But we must choose a time when your parents are not at home; They should not witness this wonder!”

The maiden waited until her parents were visiting a neighboring estate and then she went to the teacher of her brother, Johann Ruest, who later became the famous poet. She told him of her intentions and begged him to accompany her and be present when she gazed into the crystal. The teacher tried to dissuade her from such an impertinent and sinful act, which could be the cause of great misfortune. But it was all for naught, she held fast to her plan. Finally the teacher let himself be persuaded by her incessant pleading and accompanied her. When they entered the chamber, the old woman was busy removing her utensils from a small basket. She was not happy that this man, Ruest, accompanied the maid and said, she could see in his eyes that he did not hold much of her art. Then she spread out on the table a blue silk cloth, on which were embroidered strange pictures of dragons, snakes and other animals. On this cloth she placed a green glass bowl and in this vessel she placed a gold-colored silk cloth. Finally she placed in this cloth a rather large crystal ball, but she covered it again with a white cloth.

The woman began making strange gesticulations, murmuring to herself and when this was over, she took the ball into her hand with great reverence, called the maid and her escort to the window and told them to gaze inside.

At first they saw nothing, but soon the bride was visible in the crystal, dressed in priceless finery; her costume was so magnificent, it was as if it were her wedding day. As beautiful as she appeared, she still looked troubled and sad. In fact her entire countenance had such a deathly pale hue, that one could not look at her without feeling pity. The maiden gazed at her own image with horror. Her terror became even greater when she saw her dear swain appear. He had a horrible and dreadful look on his face, and he was usually such a friendly man. This caused the girl to shake in fear. Her love was dressed as one returning from a trip, wearing boots and spurs, with a gray overcoat and golden buttons. Out of the folds of this garment he took two new and shining pistols, with one in each hand he pointed one at his own heart and the other he placed on the maiden’s temple. The onlookers were frozen in terror. Finally, trembling they stumbled out of the chamber and attempted to regain their composure.

Even the old woman, who had not been expecting the situation to end this way, was not feeling well. She rushed out and did not show herself for quite some time thereafter. But the frightful experience could not extinguish the maiden’s love for her swain, even though her stepparents held fast to their decision to deny their consent to her marriage. Finally with threats and force, the girl became engaged to a distinguished court official in the neighborhood. It was then that the maiden really began to suffer heartache. She spent her time sobbing and weeping and her true love was torn by wrenching despair.

In the meantime, the wedding date was set and because several members of the royal family were to be present, every detail of the wedding was to be much more splendid than any other wedding. When the day arrived, the maiden was to be picked up in pomp and ceremony by a splendid procession. The duchess sent her own carriage drawn by six steeds and several court servants and riders in accompaniment. Added to this pageantry were distinguished relatives and friends of the bride. The first lover had found this out in advance and because of his desperation, he decided not to relinquish his love to his rival. For this purpose, he had purchased a pair of good pistols and planned to kill his bride with one and himself with the other. There was a house about ten to twelve paces in front of the gate, which the bride had to pass. He decided this would be the place to perform the dreadful deed. When the entire parade of carriages and riders passed by, accompanied by a huge throng of people, he shot one pistol into the bride’s carriage. But he fired a bit prematurely and the bride was not touched by the bullet. The noble woman sitting next to her, however, had her headgear shot off. Because this woman fell unconscious and everyone hastened to help her, the culprit had time to flee through the back door of the house. Leaping across a rather wide body of water, he was able to make his escape. As soon as the terrified woman revived, the procession started anew and the wedding was celebrated in great ceremony. But the bride suffered from a sad heart, amplified by her memory of gazing into the crystal ball and this weighted down on her spirits. Her marriage was also unhappy, because her husband was a harsh and mean man. He gruesomely mistreated his sweet and virtuous wife, who nevertheless bore him a dear child.


To read more about divining the future:
http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2010/03/reading-grimms-fairy-tale-crystal-ball.html

And more fairy tales:

Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
Please read and enjoy. Do not plagiarize or pilfer!
Thanks!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Icelandic Voice in Fairy Tales and Saga


The importance of seeing the future.

Of all the fairy tale genres presented on this website, the Icelandic form is most interested in human relationships. The first paragraphs are often filled with a roll call of character names and a meticulous description of personal associations. Protagonists in these tales are identified by their position within a web of relationships, which in turn is anchored in a specific locale. This sometimes threatens to overload the story for modern readers. but we can only assume ancient audiences were enthralled. German sagas are also concerned with the precise naming of persons, places and times but this naming never suggests a world where the social framework itself is of ultimate importance. Of interest here is also that descent and relationship are often defined through the female line (see the Finnwife's Prophecy: "because you are the daughter's son of Jarls Ingimund."), yet society does not strictly follow a matriarchal structure. This is a land where powerful chieftains determine the fate of underlings and violence seems to lie just beyond the next snow drift.


It is perhaps not surprising in this world that women, who can travel freely and possess their own property, also occupy the important role of seer. But what exactly is the nature of this role? In the tale Groa's Magic the hero is visited in his dreams by a "woman who accompanied his ancestors." She endeavors to change his course of action, but when her arguments flounder, she places her hands on his eyes, perhaps alluding to the woman's own far-sightedness and prescience, which she is attempting to transfer to the hero. In other Icelandic tales women gifted with prophetic foresight often place their hands on the person to facilitate a vision. In Thorstein's case, the seer helps him make decisions crucial for his survival. This type of action is referred to as taking a turn in one's life and underscores an abrupt departure from the past. And although the tale attributes the seer's powers to magic, the goal is quite practical: aligning oneself with the power of destiny and fate to secure money, love, power and prestige.

In the second tale, the Finnwife's Prophecy, the Finns themselves are presented as a race imbued with special powers of prophecy. Their abilities include both on-the-spot prognostication (as in the case of the Finnwife) and bilocation (as in the case of the three Finns dispatched to find Ingimund's lot). In this tale, traveling to Iceland is synonymous with having a prophetic vision, even though the seers remain locked up in a house. Their out-of-body traveling poses enormous danger to them but they are richly rewarded for their efforts. The tale stresses that knowledge of the future is neither good nor bad. However, not heeding its warnings can be disastrous. The protagonists in these stories all initially resist their fate, and the stories spell out the trouble caused by willful disobedience. In the case of Groa's Magic the unlucky ones end up under a heap of rock, snow and mud. It might seem strange that the story is called Groa's Magic, after all, Groa is the one lying under the avalanche in the end. But I would suggest Groa offers a model of the ultimate acceptance of fate: one's own demise. The description of Groa confidently stepping into the last rays of sunshine, equipped with all her riches tied up in a cloth, signals she is ready for safe passage to the afterlife. The sunset on the horizon was considered to be the portal into the next life by many pagan cultures and this might be an allusion to an actual funerary ritual.

Why the Finns were associated with the supranormal powers of prophecy is anyone's guess. German Sagas frequently refer to seers as white women (weisse Frauen), which is often translated as women in white because of the awkwardness and also uncertainty of meaning. This might also be a reference to the stereotypical pale complexion and white-blond hair of many Finns.

The three Icelandic tales provided on this website explore the notion that each person has an individual fate which he must embrace to be successful in life. The characters in these stories use the assets at their disposal to accomplish self-realization: first and foremost strong relationships and the magic of seers. These stories have a sense of weighty pragmatism, where the secrets of redemption are locked in ice and snow.

Please read & enjoy, don't plagiarize or pilfer! 
Thank you!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Where is the Sooth in Soothsaying? The Finns as Skilled Fairy Tale Prognosticators




Part II: Finn-magic. Ingimund commences the trip to Iceland.


King Harold had retired, the mightiest of all kings in the Northern Kingdoms. He remembered what his friends had foretold and now held a great festival to bestow high honor. He invited Ingimund and when that man arrived, the king received him graciously and said "Your diligence and position among men, I hear, is considerable. But you are lacking one thing, you do not have a wife. I have selected a woman to be your spouse. I remembered her, when you put your own life in danger for mine. The daughter of Jaris Thorir the Silent. Her name is Vigdis, she is a very beautiful wife and very rich. I will be your advocate to her." Ingimund thanked the king and said he very much wished the union. The king held the festival with great splendor and ceremony and the guests traveled home.


Ingimund prepared himself for the wedding and when everything was ready, King Harold appeared and many other great men. Ingimund married Vigdis per the agreement. The wedding feast was celebrated with great honor; the king did his part with gifts and other honors.


Ingimund spoke to the king: Now I am quite satisfied in my station. It is a great honor to stand in your favor. But I intend to do what the Finnwife prophesied about the turn in my life. I wish it weren't true that I will sever the attachment to the inheritance from my father.


The king replied: "I can't do anything to stop you and there might be something to it. Frey will allow his lot to be taken there, where he shall establish his chair of honor." Ingimund said, "I want to call three Finns who will disclose to me the fruitfulness of the district and the nature of the land where I am to dwell. I want to send them to Iceland."


The king said, he would grant permission "But I suspect you shall travel there and I am not sure whether you shall obtain my permission or steal away, as is now often customary."


"That I shall never do," Ingimund spoke "that I would travel under your banishment." Then the King departed from him. Ingimund went home to his property.


He sent for the Finns; three came out of the north. Ingimund said, he wanted to strike a deal with them "I shall give you butter and tin, but you shall travel on an errand for me to Iceland, search for my lot and report on the nature of the country." They replied "A dangerous mission for the messengers, but because you have requested it, we shall try. Now you should lock us alone in a house and do not allow anyone to call us by name." And so it happened as the Finns described.


After three nights Ingimund went to the three Finns, who jumped up and all breathed uneasily. One spoke "Hard work for messengers and enormous trials did we have. But we bring such signs to ensure you will recognize the country when you arrive; all shall be according to our description. It was difficult for us to find the lot and the magic words of the Finnwife have great meaning; we have put ourselves in the utmost danger. We came to the country where three Fjords intersect out of the Northeast and large seas lay beyond. Then we came to a deep valley and in the valley below the mountain there were several copses. There we found the usual little valley and in the small forest we found the lot. When we wanted to snatch it up, the brush shot up all around us and (impeded us) and the lot always slipped through our fingers. When we reached after it, a veil always covered it and we could not seize it. You shall have to go there yourself." He said he would ride immediately and thought it would be useless to resist. He richly rewarded the Finns and they departed. But he continued to live on his property, was rich and an honorable man.


Soon thereafter he visited the king and reported to him what had happened and what he had decided. The king said this was not unexpected. He said, it was difficult to act against magic words. Ingimund agreed it was true "I have tried everything." The king replied "Regardless of the country you reside in, you shall be respected." Once again, he gave honor to the king. Ingimund called a feast and invited his friends and chieftains. They celebrated in great splendor. He demanded silence at this feast and spoke "I have decided to make an enormous turn in my life. I am considering going to Iceland, more in consideration of fate and the overwhelming power of magic words than because of any desire on my part. Those who want to go with me, are free to do so. Those who wish to stay, may do this also. What all our friends decide is the same to me."


There were loud outcries in response to his speech and the people said the departure of such a man would be a loss. "And still, there are fewer things stronger than fate." Many decided to travel with Ingimund, who were well-respected farmers and men. Those who decided to go, did not have their own house or farm.



* It is common belief that calling a person by name interrupts the magic.

* Apparently the three southern branches of the Wespenbotten: Widder Fjord, Mittel Fjord and Welpen Fjord.

Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Past, Present and Future in Fairy Tales and the Reluctant Fairy Tale Hero


Themes:
The Finnwife as prognosticator and the Finns themselves as powerful seers.
Destiny versus fortune. Things that can versus things that must happen.
The nature of fate and aligning yourself with the forces of your destiny.
And lastly: In winter, it seems, fairy tale characters stay put if they reside in a northern climate.



A Fairy Tale from Iceland : The Finnwife’s Prophecy

After the battle at Bocksford, Ingimund in splendid finery hastened home to his father, Thorstein, who received him with open arms. He said Ingimund’s path had been full of great fortune, but this was not astonishing, “because you are the daughter’s son of Jarls Ingimund, the luckiest of all men.”
Ingimund stayed the winter and it was that winter Ingjald also visited Thorstein and they celebrated a happy reunion. Ingjald said Ingimund had become all that his ancestors had promised. “But I will hold a festival for you, my foster son, with all the splendor at my command.” Ingimund consented. Ingjald accompanied him and invited many men. Then each rode out and the festival was proclaimed.
Ingjald and his clan practiced magic, according to the custom of the time, that people inquired about their fortune. A Finnish woman, well-versed in magic, came to the festival. Ingimund and Grim appeared at the banquet with a large following. A tall chair was prepared for the Finnwife and it was adorned and decorated for the ceremony. The men approached, one-by-one, rising up from their seats and asking a question about their fate. The woman prophesied for each man, as it was, but each prophecy was quite different from the next and all were satisfied.
The foster brothers sat in their places and did not get up to pose a question. They also did not heed the Finnwife’s prognostications. The seer spoke “Why are those young men not inquiring about their fortune? It seems they are the most magnificent of all persons assembled here.” Ingimund replied “I don’t want to know my fate in advance and I do not believe my destiny rests under the root of your tongue.”
She replied “But nonetheless I will tell you: you shall cultivate the land called Iceland ; it is mostly a wild place now. You shall raise yourself up and become a highly honored man. You shall become old and gray. Your descendents will also be many excellent men in that country.”
Ingimund replied: “That is well said, because I am certain in my decision never to move to that place. Surely I would not be a good merchant if I sold the many beautiful goods of my family and moved to that desolate spot.”
The Finnwife said: “It will happen as I have said. And take this as sign: the lot in your bag has vanished, that lot which King Harold gave you as present. It is lying in the forest where you shall live. The word Frey has been emblazoned in silver on the lot. When you take up your farm, my words shall be fulfilled.”
Ingimund replied: “If it weren’t going against my foster father, you would receive your reward broken over your skull. But because I am not a violent man and don’t want an argument, let us keep it at this.” She said there was no need to become angry.
Ingimund said she had come to bring him misfortune; she replied that it was his fate and would remain so, regardless of how he felt, good or bad about it. She continued “Grim’s fortune will also lead him there, also the fate of his brother, Gromund, and they will both become rich farmers.”
The next morning Ingimund searched for his lot and could not find it. This seemed to him a bad sign. Ingjald asked him to be of good cheer and not let it bother him or dispel his joy. He said: Many splendid men are sailing to Iceland . “I only had good intentions when I invited the Finnwife here..” Ingimund said he could not thank him for it, “But our friendship shall not be severed.” Then Ingimund traveled home to his father and stayed there the winter.
When spring came, he asked his foster brother, what they thought about their travels. Grim said, he thought it was no use struggling against one’s fate. “In summer I will go to Iceland , we two brothers. Many are going there even though they are rich here. Much good has been told me about the country, that the cattle finds nourishment even in winter; there are many fish in the sea and enormous forests. The land is free from the violent acts of kings and evil doers.”
Ingiumund replied “I shall not go there, we must then separate.” Grim said that may well be the case “But it shall not come as a surprise to me, if we meet again in Iceland .” It is difficult to escape one’s fate.” Ingimund said his departure caused him much pain.
Grim sailed out in summer. Both brothers arrived in Borg Fjord and sailed up to the Angelroot Strand. Grim said he would take this land for settlement. He took into possession so much land, that many farms today are still standing on the same ground. Gromund said he would go up to the highlands because he would like the area near the mountains. Grim said it would be a good thing because they would have both benefits from the rich mountain land and abundance from the sea. Gromund settled on Querachenhalde and was considered by all in the land to be a splendid man. Juugi the Black is his descendent. Grim’s line was also blessed and many famous men descended from him, even though they are not named here.

To read more about fairy tale prognostication:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2010/03/reading-grimms-fairy-tale-crystal-ball.html

More fairy tales can be found by clicking on link:


Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com

Please read and pass on to others but don't plagiarize or pilfer if you can help it!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Fairy Tale from Iceland: Groa's Magic



Seers in the New Year:
Good Luck, Bad Luck or Out of Luck
A Fairy Tale from Iceland: Groa’s Magic

It is said that many summers ago a ship sailed up the Widder Fjord in Iceland. On board were two sisters, Thorey and Groa. After disembarking from the ship, the two went to Tempel and stayed the winter there with Thorstein. In the spring, the two sisters approached Thorstein and asked him to assign them dwellings. With Thorstein’s approval, Thorey purchased land and settled on it. But Thorstein gave a house to Groa, which was close to where he lived. This caused Thorstein’s wife, Thurid, to accuse her husband that he had set his sights on Groa because she had enchanted him with her magic.

Soon thereafter Groa purchased malt and prepared a feast. Then she invited all the sons of Ingimund to the meal, because it was well known that the sisters were comely. She also invited Mar from the Farm of Mars and many other men from the district.

Three nights before Thorstein was to ride out from home, a woman came to him in his dreams. It was the same woman who accompanied his ancestors. She came and begged him not to ride out. But he told her, he had promised. She replied “That seems unintelligent to me and it can only bring you misfortune.” And so, she came three nights in a row and issued her reproaches. She warned it would not be good for him and laid her hands on his eyes.

It was the custom of the people living in Seetal, that when Thorstein rode out, everyone who wanted to ride with him, came to Tempel that day. They all arrived, Jokul and Thorir, Mar and the other men, who wanted to ride out. Thorstein told them to return home because he was sick. And so they all returned.

On that day, when the sun had set, a shepherd saw Groa come out of her house. She walked into the rays of the sun and circled her farm and said “It is hard to resist the fortune of Ingimund’s sons!” She looked up to the mountains and swung a sack or cloth, which held much gold, all her property, and it was knotted into the fabric. She said “Come, what must come.” She then went inside and closed the door behind her. An avalanche of rock and mud immediately slid down upon her farm, killing all who lived there. And when this became known, the brothers chased away Thorey, her sister, from the district. Since then, the place has an eerie feel to it and no one has wanted to live where Groa’s farm once stood.


More tales about divining the future:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2010/03/reading-grimms-fairy-tale-crystal-ball.html

More fairy tales:
Copyright Translation FairyTaleChannel.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Book Notes on FairyTaleChannel


To help you navigate the various Christmas links on this blog, sort through the many different Christmas themes and perhaps provide impetus for further reading, here are some book notes from FairyTaleChannel.org. We wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Much has been written about the themes addressed in Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Many critics see it primarily as a condemnation of social injustice and poverty. But few have identified the many fairy tales, folk traditions and popular beliefs much of the story is based on. The whole notion of ghosts and spirits haunting the Christmas season comes from the world of the fairy tale, as does the idea of three spirits from the past, present and future illuminating and interpreting one’s destiny. See the links on this website to read more, in particular, the links for Ghosts, Ghost Theory and Norns.

Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie

The story Peter Pan shares the major themes and plot points of the Doomed Prince, a tale from ancient Egypt. Hit the link Doomed Prince to read an original translation of this tale.

Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro

So what does ghost theory have to do with this latest book of short stories by Alice Munro? The title story of this collection is based on the life of 19th century Russian mathematician Sophia Kovalesvsky, the first woman elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences and the great-great granddaughter of Johann Ernst Schubert, the Lutheran theologian whose ideas about Ghost Theory are featured on this blog. See link to find out more.

Christmas Carols relating to the fairy tale themes explored on this Blog can be heard sung in German and English if you hit the Christmas Carols link.

Christmas Fairy Tales on this Website Featuring Christmas Hauntings:
The Advent Flibbertigibbet (Flibbertigibbet link)
Hille Bingel’s Wedding
The Troll’s of Winter
Marriage of King Wilt and Lady Lee
Ghosts of Christmas Past (Christmas Ghosts link)

The Lives of the Christmas Saints:
Saint Joseph in the Forest
Child of Mary
Saint Andrew, the Protocolete (Saint Andrew’s Eve link)
Saint Nicholas
Saint Lucy (Christmas Saints link)

The season is also a popular time for auguring one’s future, especially in regard to the New Year and designing your own New Year Celebration. See the links about

St. Andrew’s Eve,
The Lover Invited to Dinner
Augury/Text
Augury for the 21st Century

And finally, who would have thought the Christmas Season would be such a good time for Nose Fairy Tales? A Nose Trilogy appears on this blog, the links are:

Nose Fairy Tale
Hille Bingels Wedding
St. Joseph


Happy Reading and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

The Wild Way / Vicentine and Veronese Alps

From a remote area of the Italian Alps, a fairy tale about Christmas spirits haunting the Wild Way (place known as the Wildbahn mountain region).
Grimm’s Saga No. 151: The Wild Ghosts of Christmas

Among the Vicentine and Veronese Germans (who inhabit the Italian Alps), it is widely known that from the second half of December until mid-January it is ill-advised for even the most daring hunter to visit the Wildbahn. All fear the Wild Man and Wild Woman. During this time shepherds do not drive their cattle. Instead children fetch water in containers from the nearest available source and water their herds in the stable. The women spin a piece of their hair onto spindles to appease the wild woman or woods wife, as she is known. Then they throw it into the fire to placate this spirit. On Christmas Eve, every place in the house with a chimney or an opening, through which air enters, is spread with ash. In the morning the footprints in the ash are carefully studied to see their position, size and whether they are moving into or out of the house. This tells which good or bad ghosts are visiting the dwelling.



Another Christmas story:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2009/12/trolls-of-winter-for-dark-days-of.html

Translation FairyTaleChannel.com

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tree Tales and Christmas Carols for the Bleak Midwinter



Christmas: a Time of Carols, Trees and Hauntings

Christmas trees figure prominently in modern celebrations of the season. However the custom of illuminating a fir tree and bringing it into the house is probably based on a pre-Christian tradition that extends deep into the distant past. Before Europe was widely Christianized, pagan celebrations marked the winter solstice in December. Many of the traditions from these long-forgotten celebrations were subsequently absorbed by the Christmas holiday which displaced them. Legends and fairy tales contain remnants of these long-forgotten pagan customs but they have been blended with the gospel narrative and are barely recognizable today. There are common markers of these older traditions in fairy tales, saga and even Christmas carols, which include a reverence for fir trees and also branches, in particular blossoms or fruit springing forth from dead wood often during the deep midwinter or at time near the winter solstice; the offering of gifts; miracles or legends associated with animals in forest or field; processions and lighted candles; strange lights and spooks; hauntings of all sorts and augering the future; but most importantly accounts of incredible transformations when linked to one of the saints but especially the Virgin Mary. (to read more, hit the Christmas Saints link at right). At this time of year the fir tree, hazel branch and lily became associated with Saint Mary and all three appear in many tales of the season (see Grimm’s Saga, the Hazel Branch). It is assumed that the Virgin was replacing an older pagan deity who was similar to her in temperament and importance and that the plants themselves were believed to have certain powers. German Christmas carols may also reflect this blending of Christian and pre-Christian sentiment and I think the carol Oh Tannenbaum is a good example. Provided below is a more literal translation of the popular song that was written around 1820, which has a slightly different emphasis than the more common version:


Oh Christmas Tree (Oh Fir Tree) (Text ca. 1820)

(The evergreen as symbol of life continuing on during the harsh winter months.)
Hit the following link to hear this carol sung in German and English:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56FnDj-_bJI


1. Oh fir tree, Oh fir tree
How true are your leaves!
You not only bloom in summer,
But also in winter when it’s snowing.
O fir tree, Oh fir tree,
How true are your leaves.

2. Oh fir tree, Oh fir tree
How you please me! (Or: How I love you!)
How often at Christmas time,
Oh tree, have you delighted me!
O fir tree, Oh fir tree,
How you please me.

3. Oh fir tree, Oh fir tree
Your leaves shall teach me:
Hope and constancy
Give me comfort and strength always.
Oh fir tree, Oh fir tree,
Your leaves shall teach me.


Saint Barbara is also one of the saints mentioned at Christmas time. Her feast day is December 4th and in the following German song, the miracle of winter transformation is celebrated in the form of dead twigs (for another “dead twig legend” see Grimm’s Saga No. 349: Image of Mercy in the Larch Branch at Waldrast provided under the link Three Legends of the Virgin Mary).

German Christmas Carol: I broke off three barren branches. (Ich brach drei duerre Reiselein)


1. I broke off three barren branches
from the dead hazel bush,
I placed them in an earthen jar,
warm was the water, too.

2. On Saint Barbara’s Feast Day,
I broke the twigs away.
Christmas, it came,
and with it the miracle.

3. Soon two little branches burst into bloom,
and they blossomed on Christmas Eve.
I broke off the third twig,
and my heart also blossomed anew.

4. I broke off three barren branches,
from the hard hazel bush.
God let them turn green, it thrives,
just like our own lives.

Another favorite German tree carol, or rather, life-springing-forth-from-stump carol (Es ist ein Ros entsprungen):

An older arrangement of the same tune, capturing the mystery but perhaps even the spookiness of the season:

Perhaps the most poignant story of all is the Singing Fir Tree, my favorite tale for the Christmas season, which features the Virgin Mary and a sort of transformation in reverse, the mystery of going from something living to something seemingly dead, but ultimately still living on.
And here is a carol of Mary (Maria durch ein Dornwald ging), the setting is a thorny forest landscape. it is hauntingly beautiful and I think a wonderful backdrop for reading the legend of the Singing Fir Tree:


The Singing Fir Tree, a Swiss Fairy Tale
In Switzerland, a story is told about a man named Hans Kreutz, who lived with his wife on Thun Lake in Ralligen. In the year 1555, a thick black fog descended on the village and it would not dissipate. The alarmed villagers retreated to their homes, closed doors and sealed the windows tightly. But a light blue vapor crept under the window sill and the wife breathed in this vapor and in the evening she lay in bed motionless. Hans looked into her eyes and saw no reflection there and in the morning she was dead.


Many villagers died that year and the survivors buried their loved ones in the church yard at the outskirts of town, where the mountain and forest swept down abruptly into the valley. While the bells in the church tower were ringing, Hans buried his wife and returned home. For days he did not leave his house. He neither ate nor slept but could not forget the vacant stare of his beloved wife and the sound of the church bells as he lowered her into the grave.

One evening when Hans sat by the fire, he heard the church bells ring out the Ave and they rang and rang and he lost track of the time. He raised his head, for he thought he heard wonderful and sweet singing up high in the Hohlbach Forest near the tree line. But when the church bells stopped ringing, he heard it no more. The next day he sat with longing and waited for the evening church bells to ring out the Ave. At first he heard only the faintest sound of distant singing, but then the melody grew stronger until there could be no mistake. A woman’s voice sang a mysterious and beautiful song, the words of which he could not quite decipher.

But Hans spread word among the townspeople. At night the entire village listened while the church bells rang and soon everyone heard the wonderful singing daily. The singing was soothing and the villagers listened at the edge of the village until the snow began to fall and then they returned to their homes. All but Hans, who wanted to know where the singing came from. The next night when the church bells were ringing, the villagers assembled in the church yard. Hans lit a torch and climbed the mountainside, following the mysterious melody. He did this every evening until one night he finally found a giant fir tree, and its voice was sweet and clear. He shyly gazed upon the tree and in amazement listened to its gentle song.

But Hans could find no rest. The singing fir tree occupied his waking and sleeping hours and he wanted to be in the presence of its song always. In secret he climbed up the mountain during the day and spent long hours near the tree. Some time passed and Hans was called away to visit his family in the next valley.

While he was away, a wood carver from among the villagers, who had seen the beautiful fir tree, decided he needed it to make a wood carving. Because the tree was so magnificent, tall and straight, with perfectly formed branches and trunk, he had it felled and brought down to the valley. From the wood, he selected an enormous block of the trunk that had no scars or branches. From this piece of wood he began to carve an image of the Virgin Mary. He worked day and night on this carving and saw nothing more beautiful than the image of the Virgin growing out of the wood. And after some time, the villagers came to his workshop and marveled at the beauty of the image, its heavenly countenance and mild authority.

When Hans returned to the village after some months, he climbed the mountain and went directly to where the singing fir tree had stood. In its place was only a stump and Hans was gripped by such melancholy, that a loud moan issued from his lips. It was like the howling of a wounded wolf or the shriek of an eagle flying overhead. The loud cries filled the valley, echoing off the cliffs and rocks. When the villagers heard the loud cries from above, they gathered below near the church. And soon in the distance they heard the beautiful, long-missed song. They turned and saw the woodcarver, carrying his statue and saw that it was singing. He placed the statue in the church, where it stands today. And some say, they have heard it singing when a loved one dies. The place where the tree once stood is now called Marienstein. There is a smaller rock nearby, where Hans once gazed upon the fir tree. It is said that in his grief, Hans turned to stone and the place is now called the Kreutzantisch.



The Singing Fir Tree Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Fairy Tale: Child of Mary



Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 3: Child of Mary

There was once a woodcutter, who lived with his wife outside a deep forest. He had only one child, a little girl three years old. They were so poor, they had neither crust nor crumb nor did they know what they would feed the child. 

One morning, the wordcutter went into the forest with a heavy heart. As he chopped his wood, a beautiful and tall woman suddenly stood before him. She had a crown of twinkling stars on her head and spoke to him: “I am the Virgin Mary, the mother of the Baby Jesus: you are poor and needy. Bring me your child. I will take it with me, be its mother and care for it.”

The woodcutter obeyed, fetched his child and gave it to the Virgin Mary, who took it with her to heaven. There the child prospered, ate sugar-cake and drank sweet milk. Its clothes were made of gold and angels were the child’s playmates. When the girl turned fourteen, the Virgin Mary called her and spoke “Dear child, I have a long journey ahead of me. Take the keys to the thirteen doors of the Kingdom of Heaven: you may open up twelve of them and view the splendor within. But the thirtheenth door, to which this small key belongs, is prohibited: take care, that you do not open it, otherwise you will become unhappy.”

The girl promised to be obedient, and when the Virgin Mary had departed, she began to view the rooms of the kingdom of heaven: each day she opened one door, until she had gone around to all twelve. Behind each door sat an apostle, who was enveloped by a brilliant light and the child delighted in their splendor and magnificence. The angels, who always accompanied the girl, rejoiced with the child.

Now only the forbidden door was left unopened and the child felt such a huge desire to know what was hidden behind it. The girl spoke to the angels: “I won’t open the door completely and I don’t want to go inside, but I do want to open it so that we can see just a little bit through the crack.” “Oh no,” said the angels. “That would be a sin: the Virgin Mary forbids it and it could easily result in your unhappiness.”

The child was silent but the desire in its heart would not diminish. The yearning gnawed and pecked and would not leave the child in peace. When the angels had all left, the child thought “now I am entirely alone and can look inside. No one will even know that I did it.” The girl took out the key and felt it’s cold metal in the palm of her hand, she then placed it in the latch. And when she had inserted it, the lock turned over. 

The door sprang open and inside the child saw the Trinity seated in fire and brilliance. The girl stood still for a while and considered everything with astonishment, then held out her finger a bit and touched the brilliant glow. Her entire finger was turned to gold. Immediately the girl was gripped by fear. She slammed the door shut and ran away. The terror would not subside and try as she may, her heart raced and raced and would not be calm: the gold stayed on her finger and would not wash off, no matter how much she washed or rubbed.

It was not long before the Virgin Mary returned from her journey. She called the girl and asked her for the keys to heaven. When she held up the key ring the Virgin Mary looked into her eyes and said “Did you open the 13th door too?” “No,” the girl responded. She placed her hand on the girl’s heart and felt how it raced and raced and noticed that she had violated her command and had indeed opened the door. She asked again “Are you sure you didn’t do it?” “No,” the girl said a second time. Then the Virgin Mary looked at her finger, which had become golden from touching the heavenly fire. She saw that the girl had sinned and asked a third time: “Did you do it?” “No,” the girl replied a third time. The Virgin Mary spoke “You have not obeyed me, and what’s more you have lied. You are not worthy to live in heaven.”

The girl sank into a deep sleep and when she awoke, she was lying below on earth, in the middle of a wilderness. She wanted to call out, but she could not bring forth any sound. She jumped up and wanted to run away, but wherever she turned, she was held back by a thick rose bush and the girl could not break through. There was an old hollow tree in the wilderness, where the girl sought shelter. The tree had to be her home. She crept inside when night fell and slept there. And when it stormed and rained she found protection inside: but this was a wretched existence and when she thought how beautiful it had been in heaven and remembered how the angels had played with her, the child cried bitter tears. Roots and wild berries were her only sustenance. The girl searched for these as far as she could go. In the fall, she collected fallen nuts and leaves and carried them to her cave. The nuts were her food in winter and when snow and ice came, she crept like some poor animal into the leaves so that she would not freeze. It was not long before she tore her clothes; one piece after another fell from her body. As soon as the sun shone warmly, the girl went out and sat in front of the tree and her long hair covered her on all sides like a coat.

She sat there one year after another and felt the pain and misery of the world. Once, when the trees stood in their green foliage again, the king of the land went out hunting in the forest and pursued a stag. Because the animal had fled into the bush, which enveloped the woods, he dismounted his horse, tore away the undergrowth and with his sword hacked out a path. When he had finally gotten through, he saw a beautiful maid sitting under the tree. She sat there and was covered from head to foot by her golden hair. He stood still and gazed upon her full of wonder. Finally he spoke and said “Who are you? Why are you sitting here in the wilderness?” The maid only nodded a bit with her head. The king picked her up in his arms, carried her to his horse and rode home. When he arrived at the royal castle, he had the finest clothes made for her and gave her everything in excess. And although she could not speak, she was still beautiful and charming so that she won his heart. It was not long before he married her.

About a year went by and the queen bore a son. In the night when she lay alone in her bed, the Virgin Mary appeared and spoke “Will you not say the truth and admit that you opened the forbidden door. If so, I will open your mouth and return to you the gift of speech: but if you persist in your sin and stubbornly continue to lie, I will take your new-born with me.” The queen was embarrassed to answer, she remained stubborn and said “No, I have not opened the forbidden door,” and the Virgin Mary took the newborn child from her arms and vanished.

The next morning when the child could not be found, a murmur went through the castle. The queen was a child eater and had killed her own child. She heard it all but could not say anything in her defense. The king would not believe it because he loved her so. After a year the queen bore another son. Once again at night the Virgin Mary appeared to her and said “Will you admit that you opened the forbidden door, I will return to you your child and release your tongue. If you stubbornly insist in your sin and lie, I will also take this newborn with me.” The queen spoke again “No, I have not opened the door.” And the Virgin took the child from her arms and returned to heaven.

The next morning when it was discovered that this child had also vanished, the people were quite bold and said the queen had eaten it. They demanded the king’s council be called and that she should be executed. The king loved her so dearly that he would not believe and ordered the councils not to speak about it upon bodily pain to death. The next year the queen bore a beautiful little girl. For the third time the Virgin Mary appeared and said “Follow me.” She took her by the hand and led her to heaven and showed her the two oldest children, who laughed and played with the terrestrial orb. When the queen rejoiced, the Virgin Mary spoke “Has your heart not yet softened? When you admit that you have opened the forbidden door, I will return both of your sons to you.” But the queen responded a third time “No, I have not opened the forbidden door.” The Virgin let her sink back to earth and took her third child too.

In the morning when this news was heard, all the people cried out loudly “the Queen is a child eater, she must be condemned.” The King could no longer rebuke his council. A court was called to pass judgment on her and because she could not answer and defend herself, she was carried away and tied to a pole and the fire began to burn all around her. The hard ice of pride soon melted, her heart moved by such remorse thatshe thought “If I could only admit before my death that I opened the door.” Then her voice returned and she cried out “Yes, Maria, I did it!” And as soon as this was said the heavens began to rain and put out the flames and a light broke over her. The Virgin Mary came down from heaven with both little sons at her side and the newborn daughter in her arm. She spoke to her in a kindly manner: “Whoever is sorry for his sins and confesses them is forgiven” and gave her the three children, released her tongue and granted her happiness for her entire life.


More fairy tales can be accessed by clicking on the link:

Translation: FairyTaleChannel.com
Please read and enjoy or link to this fairy tale.
Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!