Sunday, April 4, 2010

Fairy Tale of King Redbeard

King Friedrich Redbeard Sleeps in Kyffhaeuser Mountain

There are many legends circulating about this king. They say he is not really dead but will live until doomsday. No other kings shall come after him. Until he returns, he shall sit hidden in the Kyffhausen Mountain. But when he emerges from his slumbers, he will hang his shield upon a withered tree. The tree will at once begin to blossom and a better time will come. In the meantime, he speaks to all the people who happen to wander into the mountain and occasionally he even looks outside. But usually he sits on a bench before a round stone table. Holding his head in his hands, he sleeps while his weary head nods off and his eyes blink drowsily. His beard has grown long. Some say it has even grown through the stone table. But according to others, it has only grown round the table twice. Folks say it must grow around the table three times before the king can awake. But for now, it only reaches twice around the table.

In 1669 a farmer wanted to take his crop of corn from Reblingen to Nordhausen. A man of small stature led him into the mountain where he had to empty his sacks of corn and fill them with gold. The farmer saw the king sitting at the table, but he did not move.

Once it was told that a shepherd was whistling a tune that pleased the king. A gnome led the shepherd inside the mountain. At once the king stood up and asked: “Are the ravens still flying around the mountain?” When the shepherd replied that they were, the king cried out: “Now I must sleep one-hundred more years.”


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

German Fairy Tale of King Thrushbeard

King Thrushbeard

There once lived a king whose daughter was beautiful beyond measure. But the girl was so proud and arrogant that no suitor was good enough for her. She haughtily rejected one gallant after the next, but what is worse, she ridiculed them. One day the king gave an enormous feast and invited all the eligible young men from far and wide. He lined them up in rows according to their rank and circumstance. First came the kings, then the dukes, counts, earls, barons and finally all the noblemen. When the king’s daughter was led through the ranks, she found fault with each and every one. He was too fat: “What a wine barrel!” she said. The other was too tall: “Long and slack, has no back!” The third was too short: “Short and fat, has no knack!” The fourth was too pallid: “Pale as death!” The fifth was too ruddy: “Red as a beetroot!” The sixth did not stand straight enough “Green wood, dried behind the oven!”

And so the princess found something wrong with each suitor, but she especially poked fun at a goodly king with a crooked chin, who stood at the very front of the line. “Oh,” she cried and laughed. “He has a chin just like the thrush has a beak!” And from that moment on he was called Thrushbeard. But when her father, the old king, saw that his daughter only mocked and scorned her assembled admirers, he was filled with rage. He swore she would marry the first beggar who crossed the threshold.

A few days later, a street musician stopped below the window to sing and earn a few alms. When the king heard him he said “Let him come in.” The musician entered wearing his dirty, dilapidated clothing, sang for the king and his daughter, and when he had finished, asked for a small token. The king replied “Your song pleased me so well, that I will give you my daughter as wife!”

The king’s daughter was terrified, but her father spoke: “I have sworn an oath to give you to the first beggar and I shall keep my word.”

It was no use to argue, the priest was called and she had to marry the street musician on the spot. When it was done, the king said “Now it is no longer fitting that you, as a beggar’s wife, should remain any longer in my castle. You must move out with your husband.”

The beggar led her by the hand and she had to leave with him on foot. When they reached a huge forest she asked:

“Oh, to whom belongs the pretty wood?”
“It belongs to King Thrushbeard;
Had you only taken him, this would now be yours.”
“I, poor maid so delicate and tender,
Had I only taken King Thrushbeard!”

Then they came to a meadow, there she asked again:

“Oh, to whom belongs the pretty green field?”
“It belongs to King Thrushbeard:
Had you only taken him, this would now be yours.”
“I, poor maid so delicate and tender,
Had I only taken King Thrushbeard!”

Then they came to a big city, there she asked again:

“Oh, to whom belongs the pretty big city?”
“It belongs to King Thrushbeard;
Had you only taken him, this would now be yours.”
“I, poor maid so delicate and tender,
Had I only taken King Thrushbeard!”

“I don’t like it,” the street musician said, “that you are always wishing for another husband. Am I not good enough for you?” Finally they arrived at a small hut and the maiden spoke:

“Ach God! The house is so small,
To whom does this miserable tiny hut belong?”

The street musician replied: “This house is mine and yours, where we shall live together.”

She had to bend over to squeeze through the low door.

“Where are the servants?” the king’s daughter asked.

“What servants!” replied the beggar. “You must do for yourself what you want done. Make a fire immediately and put on some water so that you can cook my dinner; I am very tired.”

The king’s daughter didn’t know anything about making a fire and cooking. The beggar had to do it himself because things were going so badly. When they had eaten their meager fare, they went to bed immediately. But in the morning, he woke her very early because she had to tend the house. They lived a few days like this and finally had eaten their entire larder.

The husband spoke: “Wife, we can’t go on like this! We eat everything and earn nothing. You shall weave baskets.” He went out, cut willow branches and brought them home. She began to weave but the harsh willow cut her delicate hands until they were quite sore. “I see that this won’t work,” the husband said, “you should spin instead. Maybe you can do that better.”

She sat down and tried spinning, but the hard threads soon cut into her soft fingers, so that the blood ran down. “You see,” her husband said, “you aren’t good for any work! I made a poor bargain with you! Now I will try to start a business with pots and utensils. You shall sit at the market and sell the wares.”

Oh, she thought, if people from my father’s kingdom come to the market and see me sitting and selling goods, they will laugh at me!”

But it didn’t help. She had to bend if she didn’t want to die of hunger. The first time, things went well. People liked to buy goods from the woman because she was pretty and so they paid what she asked. Many even gave her money and left the pots behind. Now husband and wife could live from their earnings as long as it lasted. The husband bought more new utensils. The wife sat down at a corner of the market and set up her wares and began to sell. Suddenly a drunk Hussar raced through the market and rode directly into her pottery. Everything was smashed into a thousand bits. She began to cry and was so terrified, she did not know what to do. “Ach, what shall happen to me!” she cried, “What will my husband say?”

She ran home and told him of the misfortune. “Who is so dumb as to sit in the corner of the market selling wares?” the husband said. “Stop crying, I see that you are not good for any ordinary work. I have gone to our king’s castle and asked if they need a kitchen maid. They promised me they would take you and you will get a free dinner there.”

Now the king’s daughter had to become a kitchen maid, had to help the cook and do the most undesirable work. She filled her pockets with a pot-full of food and brought home what was left over. That is how they fed themselves.

Now it happened that the eldest of the king’s daughters was to marry. The poor wife went to the ballroom door and wanted to catch a glimpse of all the finery. When all the lights were lit, people entered the room, each one more beautiful than the last. Everything was illuminated in splendor and grandeur. It was with heavy heart that she remembered her fate. She cursed the pride and arrogance that had brought her so low and had pushed her into such poverty. From the exquisite dishes that were carried in and out, a pleasant aroma drifted over to her and a servant threw her a few crumbs. She was just about to take them home when all at once the king’s son entered. He was dressed in satin and silk and had a gold chain around his neck. And when he saw the beautiful woman standing by the door, he took her by the hand and wanted to dance with her. But she declined and recoiled because she saw it was King Thrushbeard. He had been her suitor before but she had rejected him with disdain. Her protestations did not help; he pulled her into the ballroom. The belt on which her bags were strung fell open so that the soup ran out and the crumbs floated all around. When the people saw it, they broke out in laughter and mocked her. She was so ashamed, she would rather have been lying a thousand fathoms below the ground. Jumping toward the door, she attempted fleeing. But standing at the stairs was a man who caught her and brought her back. And when she looked into his face, she saw it was King Thrushbeard. He spoke to her gently: “Fear not, I am one and the same as the musician. I lived with you in the miserable little hut. For you I have disguised myself, and the Hussar, who rode through your pottery, that was also me. This all happened to bend your proud heart and punish you for your arrogance, and the scorn you heaped upon me.”

The princess cried bitterly and said: “I have done great injustice and am not worth being your wife.”

But he replied “Console yourself, the hard days are over. Now we shall celebrate our wedding.”

The chambermaids arrived and dressed the maid in the finest of clothes. Her father and the entire court arrived and wished her much happiness in her marriage to King Thrushbeard. Now the real joy began. I wish you and I had been there.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fairy Tale of Knight Goldbeard

A Swiss Fairy Tale: know them by the color of the their beards.Knight Goldbeard

Once a black horse appeared in the Visper Valley. On its back rode a proud knight, who did indeed look noble, but no one knew him. His saddle was sewn with bright strips of gold and the bridle of his horse was cut from the finest red leather. On his head he wore a silver helmet with an eagle’s plume, but his face was adorned with a beard that seemed to be spun from the finest golden threads. All the young maidens fell in love with this knight for he knew how to flatter them with his fine speech. They thought he had to be rich and he must be a prince because every day he took gifts from his pocket. First he gave presents to this one, then to that one, and then to everyone.

He lived in the largest house in the village. This house belonged to a family with one grown son and three beautiful daughters. The two older daughters were hated by all the villagers because they were haughty. But the youngest was loved by all and held in high esteem because of her gentleness and modesty. The youngest daughter loved music and often played her dulcimer so sweetly and fine that the birds themselves fell silent and the river through the valley rushed forward very softly when she sang. The knight often joked with the three sisters and teased them. First he took the older one aside and then the second sister. To each he said she was the chosen one of his heart’s desire. He whispered into the ear of each maid that she was the dearest of all. But she should not reveal this to the others. And so, each believed he loved her alone and guarded the secret.

Now the knight’s room was above the room of the youngest daughter. Each morning when the knight arose from bed, the youngest daughter heard three types of singing. The girl had never heard anything so beautiful; the sound was more wonderful than the string playing of the dulcimer. From the bottom of her heart she longed to learn this singing. For a long time she didn’t dare speak to the knight about it. But finally, when he declared that she was his dearest and would be his bride and stole a kiss, she asked him to teach her how to sing with three voices. He stroked her cheek and replied “Tomorrow in the afternoon we shall go out walking together, my little bride, high up in the woods. There I will teach you how to sing, so that you will fall silent when you hear your own song!” The girl rejoiced and could hardly wait until the next day.

The next morning she ran back and forth through the village, telling all that she would soon learn how to sing like the knight. He had promised it to her and a knight would surely keep his word. Knight Goldbeard had told the other two sisters the same thing. That morning bright and early he took the oldest daughter with him into the woods. She hung on his arm, looked around arrogantly and was filled with pride and joy. But soon he told her to kneel down, then he tied a a cord around the beautiful girl’s neck and hung her on a tree. He went back into the village and found the second daughter, who had been longing for him and waiting. She did not know what terrible fate awaited her. With pretty words he lured her into the woods, then tied the rope around her neck and hung her next to her sister on the tree.

After lunch, he took the third and youngest daughter out walking. She laughed and jumped like a mountain goat, was filled with joy and imagined how wonderful it would be when she could sing like the knight with three voices. He took her like the other two on his arm and told her beautiful stories. In the middle of the wood, he suddenly changed his voice and had her kneel down. She became terrified, folded her hands and gazed up to heaven. There she saw her two sisters hanging dead on the tree. She let out such a penetrating scream, rung her hands and begged him for mercy. But the knight said:

Now you too must die,
Two now hang on the pole I spy,
but the third shall be you!

When she saw that her pleading did not move the beast, she asked him to let her scream three times before he killed her. He replied with a hellish grin “Sing as you will my little turtledove. It won’t help you!”

They were in the thick forest where the larch trees grow close together and the view of the village was completely obstructed by the dense foliage. She let out the first of her screams

“Father come quickly come fast,
Or I shall breathe out my last!”

Everything remained silent. The knight stood next to her with rope in hand and small birds sang their evening song on the branch overhead. She sighed deeply and let out the second scream:

“Oh mother, come quickly come fast,
Or I shall breathe out my last!”

The wind rushed through the trunks of the trees and softly in the distance a hunting horn could be heard. She looked in to the stone-hard face of her murderer, who indicated she should hurry up and let out the third cry:

“Oh brother, come quickly come fast,
Or I shall breathe out my last!”

Her knees shook and full of terror she gazed on the man, who held the noose in front of her.

Suddenly something crashed through the brush; it was her brother. He had come from the hunt and had heard her screams. When he saw his sister kneeing before the villain, deathly pale and trembling like the needles of a fir tree, he called out:

“Your reward I shall now give,
Let my sister live!”

He slung back his rifle and shot the maiden-murderer through the head. Then he took the shaking girl by the hand and led her home saying:

“Here you can prosper and live,
But nevermore your trust to a knight give!”

The next day the two murdered sisters were buried.

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From the original German Text

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fairy Tale of Knight Bluebeard

Fairy Tale of Knight Bluebeard
(Translated from the German Text of Ludwig Bechtstein)

There once lived a powerful knight who had such enormous amounts of money and vast properties, that all his subjects led marvelous and lovely lives in his castle. Because he had a blue beard, everyone called him Bluebeard, but his true name has been lost in time. This knight had been married more than once. Some folks whispered behind their hands that all of his wives had died in quick succession, one after another. But no one could ever find out what the actual illness or cause had been. Now Knight Bluebeard went out courting again because there was a noble woman in his neighborhood. She had two beautiful daughters and several chivalrous sons and these siblings loved each other dearly. When Knight Bluebeard wanted to marry one of these daughters, neither one really had any desire. They were afraid of his blue beard and didn’t want to live apart. But the knight invited the mother, the daughters and the brothers to his large and very beautiful castle and provided them with pleasant pastimes and amusements, like hunting, feasting, dancing, playing and other happy festivities. Finally the youngest sister plucked up her courage and decided to become Knight Bluebeard’s wife. Soon thereafter a very splendid wedding ceremony was held.

After some time, Knight Bluebeard said to his young wife: “I must go away and give you charge of the entire castle, house and court, and everything belonging to it. Here are the keys to all the rooms and chambers. You can enter these rooms at any time. But this small golden key locks the farthest and smallest room at the end of the large hallway filled with rooms. Into this chamber, my dear, I prohibit you from going, as dear as my love is for you and as dear as your life is. If you open this chamber door, the most horrible punishment would await your curiosity. I would have to separate your head from body with my own hands!”

After hearing this speech the woman didn’t want to take the golden key. But she had to take it to keep it safely. And so she took leave from her husband with the promise that she wouldn’t think of opening the chamber door or entering the room.

When the knight had departed, the young wife received a visit from her sister and brothers, who liked to go hunting. Now they enjoyed the many pleasant things in each of the many castle chambers. Finally, the sisters arrived at the small room.

The wife did not want to open the door even though she was needled by enormous curiosity. But her sisters laughed at her concern and thought that Knight Bluebeard was keeping the most desirable and valuable treasures locked within because of his own stubbornness. And so with some trepidation, the wife put the key in the lock and the door flung open with a deep thump. In the poorly lit room could be seen – how horrible and shocking – the bloody heads of all the previous wives of Knight Bluebeard. Like the current wife, they had all suffered from their insatiable curiosity, which they could not overcome. The evil man had cut off their heads with his own hands. Shook to the core, the wife and sister now retreated. But in her horror the wife dropped the key and when she stooped over to pick it up, she saw drops of blood on it that she could not remove. It was also impossible to open the door again because the castle was enchanted. Soon the sound of horns announced the arrival of the knight before the castle gate.

The wife breathed a sigh of relief and thought it was her brothers who were returning from the hunt. But it was Knight Bluebeard himself, who had nothing better to do than ask his wife what she had done. When his wife approached him pale, trembling and troubled, he asked for the key. She said she would fetch it and he followed on her heels. When he saw the red droplets on the key, his expression was transformed into a rage and he screamed “Wife, you must now die by my own hand! I had left all power to you! Everything was yours! Your life was rich and beautiful! Your love to me was so miniscule, you bad maid, that you could not grant my one little request, you could not follow my earnest command. Prepare to die! It’s over for you!”

Filled with mortal terror, the wife ran to her sister and asked her to quickly run up to the tower and look out for her brothers. As soon she saw them, she should give a sign of dire distress, while she threw herself on the floor and pleaded for her life. And in between she called out “Sister! Don’t you see anyone?” --- “No one,” came the hopeless reply. – “Wife! Come down here!” Knight Bluebeard screamed. “Your time is up!”

“Sister, don’t you see anyone?” the maid cried. “A cloud of dust – but that is sheep!” the sister replied. “Wife! Come down here!” Knight Bluebeard screamed.

“Have mercy! I will come at once! Sister! Don’t you see anyone?”
“Two knights are coming mounted on steeds, they see my sign, they are riding like the wind!”

“Wife! Now I will come for you myself!” Knight Bluebeard thundered and he ran up the steps. But his wife gathered her courage, threw shut the door and held it fast. She and her sister cried out with all their might for help. Their brothers hastened like lightening, stormed up the stairs and were just arriving as Knight Bluebeard broke open the doors and entered the room with raised sword. After a brief fight, Knight Bluebeard lay dead on the floor. The wife was redeemed but could not overcome the pangs of her curiosity for a long time.

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Translation Copyright

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 175: The Moon

Nebra Sky Disk

The days are getting longer as we approach spring! Soon we will be setting our clocks forward so I encourage you to read the following fairy tale about the moon, the cosmos, and time itself (and follow the link below to read about a 3,600-year-old bronze age clock that told man it was spring).
Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 175: The Moon

In ancient times there was a land where night was always dark. It was as if the heavens were covered by a black cloth that hung over it because there was no rising moon  and no star to blink through the vault of darkness. When the world was created, evening light had sufficed.

From this land four young men went out traveling. They reached another realm, where the sun vanished behind the mountains at night and where a bright ball stood on an oak tree pouring soft light far and wide. In this light you could still see everything and distinguish objects even if the light wasn’t as bright as the sun. The wanderers stood still and asked a farmer, who was driving by in his wagon what kind of light it was. “That is the moon,” he answered. “Our mayor bought it for three talers and fastened it to the oak tree. Every day he pours oil into it, keeps it clean, and makes sure it always burns brightly. For this work, he receives one taler from us every week.”

When the farmer had driven away, one of the four said “We could use a lamp like that. At home we have an oak tree that is just as big. We could hang the light there. How happy we would be if at night we didn’t have to grope around in the darkness!”

“Do you know what!” the second fellow said, “Let’s get a wagon and a horse and take the moon away with us. They can buy another one here.”

“I’m a good climber,” the third one said. “I will go and bring it down!” The fourth brought the wagon and horse and the third climbed the tree, drilled a hole in the moon, pulled a rope through and lowered it to the ground. When the glimmering sphere lay safely in the wagon, they placed a cloth over it so that no one would notice the theft. They brought it safely to their country and put it high up in an oak tree. Old and young alike rejoiced when the new lamp spread its light over all the fields and illuminated the rooms and chambers. The gnomes came out of their rock caves and the brownies in their red jackets danced their lovely roundelay in the meadows.

The four fellows filled the moon with oil, tended the wick and each week received one taler in exchange. But they became old men and when one took ill and foresaw his death, he arranged that the quarter of the moon that was his own would be buried along with him in his grave. When he died, the mayor climbed up the tree and using a hedge shear, cut a quarter off and placed it in his coffin. The light of the moon diminished, but not noticeably. When the second fellow died, the second quarter was placed in his grave and the light diminished again. It became even weaker with the death of the third fellow, who also took his portion. When the fourth man was laid in his grave, the old darkness returned. If people went out of their homes without lanterns, they bumped their heads against each other.

But when the portions of the moon were reunited in the underworld, the dead became restless where once darkness had ruled. They awoke from their sleep. They were amazed that they could see again: the light of the moon was enough, because their eyes had grown so weak they could not bear the light of the sun. They got up, became happy and resumed their old way of life. One group went out dancing and playing, others went out to taverns, where they demanded wine, got drunk, went wild and argued with each other. Finally, they raised their clubs and beat each other. The noise became louder and meaner and finally reached heaven itself.

Saint Peter, who guarded heaven’s gate, believed that the underworld had fallen into rebellion. He called out to the heavenly host to come together and fight back the evil one, who wanted to storm the domain of the blessed. But when they never arrived, he mounted his horse and rode through heaven’s gate down into the underworld. There he calmed the dead and told them to return to their graves. And he took the moon with him, where he hung it in heaven.

To read more about the Sky Disk of Nebra, a 3,600-year-old Bronze Age clock that told man it was spring and the oldest visual representation of the cosmos known to date, hit the link:

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Translation Copyright

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 37: The Remarkable Travels of Young Thumbling

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 37: The Remarkable Travels of Young Thumbling

There once was a farmer who sat by his hearth in the evening stoking the fire while his wife sat and spun. He said “It is so sad that we don’t have any children! It is so quiet in our house and in the other houses it is so loud and happy!”

“Yes,” his wife replied and sighed, “If we only had a wee child, even if he were as small as a thumb, I would be satisfied. We would love him anyway!”

Now it happened that the wife became ill and after seven months bore a child. All of the child’s limbs were properly shaped but it was not any bigger than a thumb. The couple said it was as they had wished and now the dear child was theirs. They named him Thumbling after his shape. They did not let the child lack for food but still he did not grow. Instead he remained as small as he had been in his first hour of life. But the child was quick-witted and there was a spark of understanding in his eyes. Soon he proved to be a very clever and nimble creature and was successful at everything he undertook.

One day the farmer was getting ready to go out into the forest to cut wood. He murmured to himself “Now I wish there was someone who could bring the wagon after me.”

“O father!” the Thumbling cried, “I”ll bring you the wagon, rest assured it will be there in the forest at the designated time.”

The farmer laughed and said “How will you do that? You are much too small to lead the horse by the rein.”

“That doesn’t matter, father. If only mother will harness up the horse, I will sit in the horse’s ear and call to him which way he should go.”

“Well,” the father replied, “we’ll try this once.”

When the hour came the mother harnessed the horse, placed Thumbling in the horse’s ear and then Thumbling called out which way the horse should walk. “Jueh and joh! Hott and har!” Everything went quite well as if an expert were driving the wagon. The horse followed the correct path into the forest. Now it happened that when he went around a corner and called out “Har, har!”, two strange men observed him. “My, my,” the one said, “what is this? A wagon is moving and a driver is calling to the horse, but I can’t seen anyone!”

“Something is foul,” the other one said. “Let’s follow the wagon and see where it stops.” But the wagon continued driving into the forest and stopped at the right place where the wood was being chopped. When Thumbling saw his father, he called “See father, I have come with the wagon, now get me down.” The father held the horse with his left hand and with his right hand picked up his son from the horse’s ear. Thumbling was so happy as he sat on blade of straw. When the two strange men saw Thumbling, they did not know what to say in their amazement. The one took the other to the side and whispered “Listen, the little lad could be our fortune if we let people see him in the big city for a lot of money; let’s sell him.” They went to the farmer and said “Sell us the little man, he will have it good with us.”

“No,” his father replied “He is my heart’s desire, my little darling! He’s not for sale for all the money in the world!”

But Thumbling, when he heard of the deal, climbed up the folds of his father’s coat, sat on his shoulder and whispered in his ear “Father give me to them, I will come back.” So the father gave him to the two men for a pretty penny.

“Where do you want to sit?” they asked him.

“Oh I will sit on the rim of your hat. Then I can walk back and forth and see something of the world and still I won’t fall down.:

They did what he asked and when Thumbling had said adieu to his father, they went on their way. They walked until it became dark. Thumbling spoke “Take me down, I have a need.”

“Stay up there,” the man replied, on whose head he sat. “What you do up there doesn’t matter to me. Even the birds leave their droppings on me now and then.”

“No,” Thumbling replied, “I know what is right and proper. Put me down quickly.”

The man took off his hat and placed Thumbling on a farmer’s field near the path. Thumbling jumped away and crept in between the clods of earth, then suddenly disappeared inside a mouse hole. “Good night gentlemen, you can go home without me,” he called out and laughed at them. They ran around the field, poking the ground with their sticks. But it was all for naught: Thumbling crept deeper and deeper into his mouse hole. Because it was getting dark, they went home angrily without their prize.

When Thumbling noticed that they were gone, he crawled out of his underground passage. “It is dangerous to walk on the farmer’s field in the dark.” he said. “How easy it would be to break your neck and legs!” But luckily he found an empty snail shell. “Praise God,” he said, “I can spend the night in safety here!” and he sat down inside. It was not long after, just when he wanted to go to sleep, that he heard two men walking by. The one man said to the other “How shall we go about robbing the rich parish priest of his money and silver?”

“I can tell you,” Thumbling interjected. “Who was that?” the one thief asked frightened. “I heard someone speaking!” They stopped and listened and Thumbling continued “Take me with you, I want to help you.”

“Who are you?”

“Look down at the ground and take note where the voice is coming from,” he replied.

The thieves finally found him and lifted him up. “You little shrimp! How could you possibly help us?”

“Look,” he replied, “I will creep between the iron bars of the priest’s chamber, then reach out and give you whatever you want.”

“Great,” they said, “We’ll see what you can do.”

But when they arrived at the priest’s home, Thumbling crawled into the parlor and screamed with all his might “Do you want everything that’s here?”

The thieves became frightened and said “Speak softly, so that no one wakes up!”

But Thumbling pretended he didn’t understand and screamed again “What do you want? Do you want everything that’s here?”

The cook sleeping in her bedchamber sat up in bed and listened. But the thieves had run in terror down the path. After collecting their wits and gathering their courage, they thought to themselves “The little rascal wants to tease us.” They came back and whispered “Now be serious and reach us something through the bars!”

Thumbling screamed out again, with all his might “I will give you everything, just reach inside with your hands!

The maid heard this quite clearly, jumped out of bed and stumbled to the door. The thieves ran away as if wild hunters were following them. But the maid, when she didn’t find anything amiss, made a light. While she was thus engaged, Thumbling snuck out into the barn. The maid carefully searched every corner; but finding nothing, she went back to bed. She thought she had dreamt it all, even with her eyes wide open.

Thumbling climbed into a blade of straw and was ready to make a comfortable spot for the night. He wanted to rest until daybreak and then return to his parents. But that was not to be! There is much grief and misery in the world! The maid got out of bed just as day was dawning. She went out to feed the cattle and her first stop was the barn, where she seized an arm full of hay. She happened to grasp precisely the piece that Thumbling was sleeping in. But he was so fast asleep, he didn’t notice anything until he was in the mouth of a cow, who had gathered him up along with the hay.

“Ach, God!” he cried out. “How did I get in this grinding mill?” But he soon figured out where he was. He had to be careful not to get caught and crushed between the cow’s teeth. Finally he slid down into the cow’s stomach. “They forgot to put in windows here,” he sputtered, “ No sun shines here and no light shines either.” In fact he was quite uncomfortable in these new quarters and the worst was that more and more hay landed on his head. It was becoming tighter and tighter around him. He finally called out in fear, as loud as he could “Don’t bring me any more food! Don’t bring me any more food!” The maid, who was milking the cow, heard the speech without seeing anyone. She noticed it was the same voice she had heard during the night. She was so frightened, she slipped off her stool and spilled the milk. She ran in haste to her master and cried “Ach God! Ach priest! The cow has spoken!”

“You’re crazy,” the priest replied and he went out to the barn himself to inspect the situation. He had hardly placed his foot in the door when Thumbling cried out again “Don’t bring me any more food! Don’t bring me any more food!”

The priest himself was extremely frightened. He thought an evil spirit had entered the cow and ordered it killed. When it was slaughtered the stomach, where Thumbling lay, was thrown on the manure heap. It was all Thumbling could do to break through the stomach’s walls. Finally he was able to stick out his head, but then another mishap occurred. A hungry wolf ran in and swallowed the stomach in one gulp. Thumbling did not lose courage. “Perhaps,” he thought to himself “the wolf will listen to reason.” He called to him out of his belly “Dear Wolf, I know a wonderful meal for you.”

“Where can I get it?” the wolf replied.

“In the house down the lane. Just creep through the back way and you will find cake, bacon and sausage, as much as your heart desires!” He described the precise way to his father’s house. The wolf did not have to hear this twice. At night he found the lane and ate a swath through the pantry. When he was finally satisfied, he wanted to leave, but he had become so fat, he could not take the same way out. Thumbling had already thought of this and now began to make a mighty noise in the belly of the wolf. “Be quiet!” the wolf said, “you will wake up the people!”

“Oh, what!” the little man replied, “You have eaten your fill, I want to have some fun too!” He began to scream again at the top of his voice. Finally his father and mother woke up, they ran into the room and looked through the crack into the pantry. When they saw the wolf lying there, they ran out. The man fetched his axe, the woman the scythe. “Stay back!” the man said when they entered the room. “If I hit him with the axe and he still isn’t dead, you must slice into him and cut his body.”

Thumbling heard the voice of his father and cried out “Dear father, I’m here. I’m inside the body of the wolf!”

The father cried out in joy “Thank God! Our dear child has found his way home again!” He had his wife put away her scythe so that Thumbling would not be harmed. He then hit the wolf so hard on the head, so that it fell down dead. The two then found knife and scissors and cut open the wolf’s belly. They pulled out the little man and the father said “Oh, how we worried about you!”

“Yes, father, I have traveled much in the world, but thank God I can breathe fresh air once more!”

“Where have you all been?”

“Oh father, I was in a mouse hole, a cow belly and the body of a wolf. But now I am back here with you!”

“And we will never sell you again for all the riches in the world,” the parents promised. They hugged and kissed their dear little Thumbling. They gave him food and drink and had new clothes made for him because his own clothes had become ruined on the trip.

To read more fairy tales, click on the link:

Translation Copyright
Please read and enjoy and pass on to friends.
Do not copy, plagiarize or pilfer. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reading Grimm's Fairy Tale The Crystal Ball

Thinking About the Future: a Riddle Inside a Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma

Thinking About the Future in Fairy Tales: an Egg Yolk, Wrapped in an Eggshell, Locked in a Fire Bird, Concealed in a Wild Ox

(This blog entry discusses Grimm’s Fairy Tale The Crystal Ball. To read the fairy tale before reading the article, hit the link at right Crystal Ball Gazing).

In the very first sentence of Grimm’s fairy tale The Crystal Ball, we are introduced to a powerful sorceress, whose three sons are filled with deep brotherly love for each other. One can only expect trouble in such a family hierarchy and true to fairy tale form, the looming crisis is described succinctly. In many folk traditions wizards are persons of enormous importance. Others can only gaze upon them in a mixture of fear and wonder. This is the situation we find at the start of the tale and whether by intention or not, the sorceress’s three rather defenseless sons now find themselves up against powerful magic.

In pagan cultures sorcerers were doctors, conjurers, magicians, soothsayers, high priests and consultants in all things regarding war and peace. They were perhaps the most important individual in the community and were “obeyed more than the chief.” * The sorceress in this story seems to be engaged in a type of activity associated with shamans and referred to as blood-brotherhood. Here an alliance with a wild animal is sought in order to bring back to the magician the creature’s specific powers. This might even be alluded to in the brotherly love reference in the narrative. It was believed that the wizard could assume the form (or have others assume the form of) of an animal, and thus could enter the beast’s realm. The purpose was often to retrieve a sick or dying person, fetch the person’s soul or acquire mantic or divine knowledge. In this tale, the two older brothers are turned into eagle and whale, but the hero is left on land in the realm of the living. Thus, the story is laid out as a three-fold quest, with the seekers exploring land, air and water. The goal of the hero’s quest is the Castle of the Golden Sun.

But heroes are prone to be side-tracked and it is interesting that the first creatures the youngest brother encounters are two giants. In Deutsche Mythologie Jakob Grimm says that folk tradition viewed giants as the oldest creatures living on earth; they belonged to a stone age and represented the old nature-gods. They are unintelligent and their dim-wittedness is often juxtaposed with the keen intelligence of mortals. The giants confer on the protagonist his wishing cap, an indispensible aid to get wherever he needs to go. In other words it is the seeker’s encounter with the past that successfully catapults him forward into the future.

Instead of finding a lovely princess, the hero finds a shriveled and wrinkled hag. The fairy tale knows that human perception cannot grasp some truths directly. By gazing into a looking glass, the hero catches a glimpse of the most beautiful woman in the world. Perhaps we could say he has recognized the essence of her being, the divine self or the divine spark within. His first words of response are “How can you be redeemed? I will not avoid any danger.” But we know that his own redemption is also on the line.

It is only toward the end of the story we actually come to the crystal ball. In this tale it is not the typical spherical crystal used to foretell the future. Surprisingly it appears as a meager egg yolk, locked within an eggshell, embedded in a fire bird, concealed in a wild ox. (In other words a riddle inside a mystery wrapped in an enigma.) Our future has the promise and mystery of life itself but it is locked deep within our being and awaits transformation. This future is our own unfolding potentiality, but we must free ourselves from the powers that control us. It is perhaps fitting in this forward-looking tale that the couple is united by a pledge to their common future (but not by a wedding).

After overcoming obstacles aided by his spiritual helpers eagle and whale, the youth is crowned King of the Castle of the Golden Sun. This is reminiscent of other tales, most strikingly the Sun Prince (see link at right) and might be referencing the afterlife. Gold is the color associated with the gods and their dwellings and the realm of the gods would be an appropriate destination for a proper hero when he leaves this life.

Modern day rituals for thinking about the future seem meager compared to the world of the fairy tale. Perhaps we associate the act with worry or even fear of our own mortality. But we are still obsessed with the future, even if this longing is frequently only expressed in making New Year’s resolutions about weight loss. Imagining the future has always been a part of what it is to be human.

To read more about the fire bird or phoenix symbolism hit the following wiki-link:
(Sorry, the link doesn't work very well. Once you get to the Wikipedia site, keep clicking on the options for Phoenix_(mythology) and you eventually you'll get there).

* Writing about the nature of wizards/sorcerers in pagan cultures. Sir James Frazier says in The Golden Bough that “In all tribes … doctors are conjurers – are magicians – are sooth-sayers, and I had like to have said high-priests, inasmuch as they superintend and conduct all their religious ceremonies; they are looked upon by all as oracles of the nation. In all councils of war and peace, they have a seat with the chiefs, are regularly consulted before any public step is taken and the greatest deference and respect is paid to their opinions... the shaman was, and still is, perhaps the most important individual ... In the absence of any definite system of government, the word of a shaman has great weight: as a class they are regarded with much awe, and as a rule are obeyed much more than the chief.”” (Page 101 Sir James Frazier, The Golden Bough).

To read more about the high priests and prognosticators in fairy tales:

Or about a crystal ball:

Read more fairy tales by clicking on link:


Monday, March 1, 2010

A Flibbertigibbet Named Squire Ludwig

Grimm’s Saga No. 285: The Doomed Surveyors

In times of old flibbertigibbets* were believed to flitter along the banks of streams, and in  fields they would move in-and-out of the stone boundary markers. It was said they had been surveyors, who had been deceitful when they measured the boundary markers. That is why they are damned for all time and after their lives must guard the boundaries forever.

(*Flibbertigibbets = phosphorescent lights that often appear at night in marshy places).

A Flibbertigibbet Named Squire Ludwig
Grimm’s Saga No. 286: Moved Boundary Stones
In a field near Eger a ghost can often be seen in the shape of a man. People call him Squire Ludwig. In times of old, someone by the same name had deceptively moved the boundary and border stones in the field. Soon after his death, this man began to wander about and frightened many who encountered him. In ancient times a girl from the city even saw him. She wandered out beyond the city gate and soon ended up in the notorious area. At the place where the boundary stones had allegedly been moved, a man approached her. He was said to have looked just like the evil squire. The flibbertigibbet approached, brushed past the maiden and touched her on her chest with his fist, then vanished. Horrified the girl returned home and said “I’ve had my full share!” They found the spot on her chest where the flibbertigibbet brushed against her and it had become black. She lay down in bed and three days later was dead.

To read more about Flibbertigibbets or strange fairy lights, click on the link:

To read more fairytales hit the link:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Future in Fairy Tales: the Prophesiers

The Future in Fairy Tales
The Prophesiers: Newsy Norns and Wee Wives

In ancient Germanic mythology, prophesy and magic were most often associated with women. Illustrious seers went by various names; they were often called the Three Fates, the Goddesses of Destiny or Norns. In Scandinavian mythology, their number was usually three (but we also find them in groups of twelve or other numbers in fairy tales). The three sisters of fate were named Urd (The Past), Verdandi (The Present) and Skuld (The Future). Legend has it that they lived near the Urd Fountain, a deep spring which flowed over the root of the Tree of Life and formed a lake around it. Beautiful, brilliant white swans swam on this lake. The Norns never ceased dipping their silver horns, which the gods themselves had given them, into the water of the spring to drench the roots of the Tree of Life so that it never withered.
In Fairy Tales, Norns often appear at the birth of a child, bestowing gifts of fortune or a curse, often tied to premature death. Perhaps the two most famous tales with an appearance of a prophesying Norn are Sleeping Beauty and The Doomed Prince (be sure to hit the links at the right for examples of these prophesiers: Norns, Sleeping Beauty and Doomed Prince, where they are Hathors.) Two other fairy tales posted on this website Godfather Death and Godmother Death feature deities that have a distinct Norn-likeness.
Many tales reflect the cultural importance attached to seers and their visions. A fairy tale protagonist often derives his success in life from the foresight conveyed to him either in the form of an apparition, auditory revelation or some other sensory or extra-sensory experience. Visions (or prior knowledge obtained in many different ways) seem to be something most fairy tale characters welcome, but not all can experience. A seer, who has supernatural or even semi-divine qualities, may even bestow the vision as a gift upon the seeker. The recipient then assumes protégée status. Why a certain person is selected is never fully revealed. It is interesting to compare and contrast the varieties of revelatory experience as described in the Icelandic tales and the Legend of St. Meinrad. The legend suggests that Meinrad has the ability to see the future because of his godly life. Through prayer, meditation, and an existence entirely devoted to the love of God, St. Meinrad has achieved enlightenment. However, his unique powers are fostered by isolation from community. In Icelandic sagas, the opposite is the case, the seers are elevated members within a social framework and the strong bonds among clans and persons are reflected in the narrative. Prophetic ability among these seers seems to be innate. One can only surmise that the first hermits and contemplatives who deviated from tradition and sought a life outside of a strong community were probably perceived as true revolutionaries. Both Christian legends and pre-Christian fairy tales stress the importance of accepting one’s destiny. It is important to love your life, embrace your fate and become what you are. The fairy tale frequently describes such identity-shaping transformations, sometimes even involving acceptance of the final metamorphosis, death itself. Abnegation might actually be seen as the ultimate form of self-realization (and not to be confused with self-loathing in any of its loathly forms).

The following tales involve further permutations of the Norn-function:
(Germanic tribes did not have priests or druids, instead they had Wise Women, Weisse Frauen, who appeared in white linen robes to their people and acted as seers in times of war and peace. The most famous of all was Velleda, who lived near the Rhine River. At a time of immense danger for the Roman army, she foretold the fall of the Roman Empire. Not only did the capital city burn, but huge campaigns were launched against the Romans. )

The Acorn Stone
The Roman Field Marshal Drufus had penetrated Germany as far as the Elbe River. He stood thoughtfully on its banks, contemplating his next move, when a giant woman in white robe appeared to him. She was the most famous of all Germanic seers, who also appeared during battles and urged sons, husbands and lovers to fight honorably. She called to him “Where are you going Young Drufus, who cannot be satisfied? You want to have all of our lands, but fate does not will it! Flee! Flee! You stand at your life’s end!” Because of this apparition, Drufus retreated. He fell with his horse and broke his leg. Carried by his companions to Mainz, he died immediately. He was thus considered to be the founder of the City of Mainz. He was beloved by his legions. They therefore built a monument to honor his remains and it is called the Acorn Stone. It rises up from the ground and appears as a dark-gray, round, tower-like mass. The markings have long vanished, the height and shape of the stone have suffered many changes. Only the iron-hard core remains, which testifies to the human skill and artistry of the Romans.

And in this Saga of the Brothers Grimm, a farmer ignores a Wee Wife’s gift of second sight, with dire consequences:

Grimm's Saga 47
The Wee Mossy Wife

In 1635 a farmer by the name of Hans Krepel lived near Saalfeld. One day in the afternoon he went out to the heath to cut wood, where he met a wee mossy wife. She spoke to him: “Father, when you stop chopping wood for the day, carve three crosses in the trunk of the last tree you fell. Luck will be with you.” After these words, the mossy wife went on her way. The farmer, a coarse and crude fellow, thought to himself “What good is such blabber to me and what do I care about such bogies?” He refrained from carving the three crosses and instead went home that night. The next day just when he was about to go back to the wood to continue chopping, the wee mossy wife returned and spoke: “Ach you man! Didn’t you carve the three crosses yesterday? That would have helped both you and me, for this afternoon the wild huntsman shall chase us and at night we shall have no rest and he will kill us in a gruesome fashion. We shan’t have any peace from him if we cannot sit on such carved tree trunks. He can’t do anything to us when we sit there, then we are safe.” The farmer answered: “Haha, what good would the crosses be? I’m not going to carve any just to please you.” The wee mossy wife was seized by such a rage that she assailed the farmer and pressed him fiercely, a man otherwise strong of nature, until he became quite ill and wretched. Since that time he carefully follows the advice he receives. He has never ceased carving crosses in wood and has never again encountered anything so frightful.

War and Peace
In the year 1644, on the 18th of August, the Prince Elector Johann Georg I moved his army past the city of Chemnitz. There, his men captured a wild little wife in the thicket of the area. She was only one ell high but otherwise had a human shape. Her face, hands and feet were smooth, but the rest of her body was rough. The wee wife began to speak: “I prophesy and bring peace to all the land.” The Prince Elector ordered that the wee wife be released, because twenty-five years earlier a wee husband had been found with the same shape. He foreboded unrest and war for all the land.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Legend of Saint Meinrad and his Ravens

‘Tis destiny unshunnable, like death. (Othello)

In this legend from Switzerland, a saint acquires the gift of second sight through prayer and meditation.

In ancient times, when St. Gall, St. Columba and St. Fridolin roamed the earth, they eventually arrived in Switzerland, where they found the Helvetii, the first inhabitants of Switzerland. There are many stories about these saints, but the miracles they performed were often only witnessed by the stone cliffs, ancient trees, babbling streams or wild animals they encountered. Still they toiled on, leaving behind many chapels, churches and cloisters. A long time ago, a God-fearing hermit took up residence in one of the saints’ abandoned abodes he found in ruins on Etzelberg Mountain. This is where the Alps begin and where the Helvetii built their pole-dwellings. The hermit’s name was Meinrad and he was of Hollenzollern lineage.

One day he sat in his small chapel reading a book. Deep in thought he turned his gaze to the blue lake lying below him. He looked out over the valley; the numerous fruit trees surrounding the cloister had burst into bloom and a large hawk circled high above the nearby Santis Mountain.

Now Meinrad loved his solitary life on snow-capped Etzelberg Mountain. But soon the people living in the valley below heard of his piety. More and more began making the journey up the steep path to his dwelling, but this disturbed the hermit’s meditations.

One day, when people once again had climbed the arduous path they no longer found the recluse. He had departed beyond the wild Sihlbach forest stream and had penetrated deep, deep inside the wilderness, where only wild animals lived. But he was not afraid. On his way he found a fir tree with a nest. The mother bird flew round 'bout his head, but he took the baby birds from the nest, placed one on each shoulder and continued on his way. He walked until he came to a spring, with bubbling water as fresh and cold as the ice around him. Here he built a hut and a chapel. He stayed at this lonely and desolate spot and now lived once more in complete isolation in the wilderness.

Day and night he lay prostrate on the floor of his hut in deep prayer and meditation, while the two raven babies played and frolicked outside his dwelling. At night when the fog enveloped the mountain side, creaking noises could be heard coming from the forest, the voice of bear and wolf sometimes penetrated the walls and often frightful spooks could be heard raging around the chapel at night. But he was not afraid, because the angels always came and helped him and comforted him.

After many years of living in the wilderness, pilgrims once again began to come to him, drawn by stories of his holy life. Finally two robbers crept in secretly toward St. Meinrad’s chapel. They thought they might find valuables in his hut and relieve the Saint of such articles that were of no use to him. But the Saint saw the thieves coming toward him in a vision and so he prepared a meal for them.

When they finally arrived, he extended a warm welcome and gave them as much food and drink as they wished. But falling into a rage in the face of such meekness, the thieves overcame him. They beat him with their clubs until he was dead. The two large ravens of St. Meinrad descended on the thieves, flattering about and scratching them with their talons; they soon became frightened for their lives. Thinking it best to light a candle near the Saint’s feet, they stooped over to find one already lit.

Now they were even more afraid. They realized they had murdered a saint and fled through the dark forest. But the ravens followed high over head, just above the tops of the fir trees. Finally the robbers came to the city of Zurich and hoped for protection there. Here they entered a tavern and wanted to laugh out in relief. But the raven pair flew through the open window, fell upon the two robbers and caused the other guests to take notice. It dawned on the other guests that these ravens were no other than the ravens of St. Meinrad, who lived in the dark wood high up on the mountain. The murderers realized that fleeing was of no use, they admitted their deed and were put to death. The villagers ascended the mountain and buried St. Meinrad in the wilderness where later Cloister Maria Einsiedeln was built. The ravens took up watch on a nearby fir tree, where they still reside today.

More fairy tales can be found at:

Translation Copyright

Fairy tales about prognostication and the future:

Or about a pagan religious tradition transformed into a Christian rite:

Or about Saint Dionysisus and King Dagobert:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Of Preeners and Prognosticators: The Bird, Who Tells the Truth

The Bird, Who Tells the Truth, a Fairy Tale from the Rhaeto-Romansh Region of Switzerland

One morning a miller found a large and heavy chest resting on his millwheel. He quickly removed the heavy box and opened it. Inside he found three children, like wine and milk, each with a golden star on its forehead. They were two boys and one girl. Astonished the miller brought the children to his wife and because they had no children of their own, they took in these three and raised them. When the children had grown, the miller let the truth slip out and he revealed, he did not know where they came from. The two boys would not give the miller any rest. They urged him to reveal the person who knew of their parentage. After many hours of pleading and needling, the miller finally said: “The bird who tells the truth knows it and he lives in the castle!”

Now the youngest of the boys could no longer be kept at home. The next day he took the miller’s black horse and went out riding to find the bird who tells the truth. He rode many days and the youth did not return. The next spring, the older brother left home to look for his brother and the bird who tells the truth. He, too, did not return. Now it was the sister’s turn. Her name was Amalia and she, too, no longer wanted to stay at the mill. She took the white horse of the miller and rode out into the world to search for the bird who tells the truth. The miller and his wife cried bitter tears so that their eyes were quite red, for Amalia was beautiful and good, like an angel.

The maid bravely traversed the wide, dark wood until she met an old withered wife, who said to her “I know you want to find the bird who tells the truth and your two brothers. If you want to be successful in both things, you must never look back, regardless what happens!”

The maid gratefully promised she would not forget such wise counsel and continued riding. She came to a dark and deep sea, beside which lay a steep mountain. At the summit could be seen a large and beautiful castle. As quickly as she could, she jumped off her steed, took up her walking stick and began climbing the mountain. She heard calling after her: “Amalia! Amalia!” and a loud noise followed her. But Amalia never looked back. She continued on her way, walking ever more quickly. Finally she arrived at a castle made of beautiful green marble, with high towers and golden roof. But in front of the gate stood a fearsome wild man of the forest who grasped a fir tree in each hand. He guarded the entry and let no one enter. Amalia was quick as a weasel and ran through the legs of the wild man and entered the castle. Everywhere she looked there were rooms filled with gold, silver and glistening gems. But the most beautiful room was filled with cages containing every type of bird. Some were red, others white, yellow, green, black-brown, in short, they were of every color. When the maid entered the room, each bird called out to her “I am the bird who tells the truth! Take me, take me!”

In the corner sat a small bird, who said nothing. Amalia took this one. The gray bird was very happy and said: “I was not allowed to say that I am the bird who tells the truth, but you have found the right one! You must go into the rose garden, take the divining rod next to the clear spring in the middle of the garden. When we descend from the mountain, touch every stone you see with the rod!”

The maid found the rod in the garden and together with the bird, made her way down the mountain. Every stone she touched with the rod was transformed into a knight or lady. The two brothers of Amalia also emerged from two stones and with tears in their eyes, they now embraced their dear sister. The bird, however, warbled that they were all king’s children. Their uncle had placed them in a chest while their father was at war and the waves had carried them far away. The evil uncle had told the king, that his wife had instead bore three kittens.

Full of rage the brothers, accompanied by many knights and ladies, went to the realm of the king. There, the bird told the king the story of his children. Overcome with happiness, he embraced his children and released their mother from prison. They all sat down at a splendid table and celebrated a feast. But the uncle was torn into four pieces by four horses. Amalia became a fine and tender queen while her brothers became brave and goodly kings. This is the story of the bird who tells the truth!

To read more fairy tales, about seers and prognosticators, click on the link:

And a wonderful fairy tale about a horse that tells the truth:

Hit the link Seers  in the right hand column of the first page of this blog for more fairy tales about discerning the future.

Translation Copyright

Please read and enjoy and pass on to friends.
Do not copy, plagiarize or pilfer, Thanks!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Animal Prognosticators in Fairy Tales: The Goose Girl

The Future in Fairy Tales:

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 89: The Goose Girl

There once lived a queen who was no longer very young; her husband had died many years before, and this queen had a beautiful daughter. When the girl grew up, she was promised to a king’s son in a distant realm. When it came time for her to marry, the old woman packed up immense treasures: every manner of utensil, gold and silver, cups and gems. In short she included everything belonging to a royal dowry, because the queen loved her child dearly. She also gave the girl a lady-in-waiting to accompany her on her travels. This lady was to deliver the girl into the hands of her bridegroom. Each received a horse for the trip, but the horse of the king’s daughter was called Falada and could talk.

When the hour of departure arrived, the old mother entered the bedroom of her daughter, took a little knife and cut her finger until it bled. Then she held a white cloth underneath it and let three drops of blood fall, one after another. She gave the cloth to her daughter and said “Dear child, guard these drops well. You shall experience harm on your journey.”

So both sadly took leave of each other: the king’s daughter placed the cloth close to her breast, mounted the horse and rode out to her bridegroom. They had ridden an hour when the girl felt hot pangs of thirst and said to her lady-in-waiting : “Dismount and fetch me my cup that you have brought for me. Take water from the stream, I so long for a drink.”

“If you are thirsty,” the lady replied, “get off your horse, lay down at the water and drink. I don’t want to be your lady.”

The king’s daughter dismounted because she was very thirsty, bent over the water and drank from the stream, but was not allowed to use the golden cup. She said to herself “Dear God!” and the three droplets of blood responded: “If your mother only knew, her heart would break in two.” But the king’s bride was meek, she didn’t say anything, and mounted her horse again.

They rode endless miles and the day was hot. The sun was piercing and soon she was as thirsty as before. When they came to a river, she called to her lady-in-waiting , “Dismount and give me my golden cup to drink.” She had long forgotten the lady’s evil words. But she answered even more haughtily than before “If you want to drink, so drink alone. I do not want to be your lady!”

The king’s daughter dismounted from her horse because she was so thirsty, she bent over the flowing water and cried. “Dear God!” and the droplets of blood answered ““If your mother only knew, her heart would break in two.”And as she drank, the little cloth with the three droplets of blood fell from her breast and was swept away by the water, without her noticing anything in her distress. Her lady had seen it all and rejoiced that she now would have power over the bride. Because she had lost these three droplets of blood, she was now weak and powerless. When she wanted to mount her horse Falada, the lady-in-waiting said “I belong on Falada and you belong on my old nag!” So the girl had to submit. Then the lady-in-waiting ordered her with harsh words to take off her royal clothing and to put on the lady’s poorer dress. Finally she had to swear under the open sky that when they arrived at the king’s court she would not tell anyone what had transpired. If she had not taken this oath, she would have been killed immediately. But Falada saw it all and was wary.

The lady-in-waiting now mounted Falada and the true bride sat on the poor horse and they continued on in this way. Finally they arrived at the royal castle. There was enormous joy upon their arrival. The king’s son hastened to meet them, lifted the lady-in-waiting from the horse and thought she was his true bride. She was led up the steps while the true king’s daughter had to remain standing below. But the old king looked out of his window down to the courtyard below and saw how beautiful and delicate the girl was. He went to his royal chamber and inquired of the new bride about who had arrived with her and was standing below in the courtyard. “I took the girl standing below in the courtyard for company; give the girl some work so she doesn’t stand around idly.” But the old king did not have any work for her and did not know anything else except to say “I have a small boy who guards the geese. She can help him.” The boy was called Kurdchen or little Konrad. So the true bride was given the task of helping him tend the geese.

Soon the false bride spoke to the young king “Dear husband, I ask you to do me a favor.” He replied “I will do it gladly!” “Call the rawhider, and have him chop off the head of the horse I rode on, he annoyed me so on the journey.” But in reality she was fearful that the horse would tell how she had treated the king’s daughter. Now it happened that the dear and true Falada was to die. The rightful king’s daughter heard the news and she promised the rawhider a coin, if he would do her a service. In the city was an enormous, dark gate, through which she had to pass every evening and morning with the geese. “Under the dark gate, nail the head of my Falada so that I can see him still.” The rawhider promised to do what was asked, struck off the head and nailed it fast to the gloomy gate.

In the morning, when she and Kurdchen passed under the gate, driving the geese before them, she spoke:

“Oh you, Falada, hanging there,

And the head responded,

“O you young princess, walking by,
If your mother only knew,
Her heart would break in two.”

She withdrew far from the city and drove the geese into the field. And when she arrived in the meadow, she sat down and untied her tresses that glistened like pure gold.
Kurdchen saw it all, was enamored by how her hair sparkled and wanted to pull out a few strands for himself. She spoke:

“Blow, blow little breeze,
Take from Kurdchen his little hat,
Make him chase and follow that,
Until I have plaited and braided
And bound up my tresses.”

The wind blew off the little hat from Kurdchen’s head, so that he had to chase after it. When he returned, she had long finished plaiting her hair and he couldn’t snatch a single hair. So the two guarded the geese until it was evening.

But in the evening, when they returned home, Kurdchen went to the old king and said “I don’t want to guard the geese with the maid.” “Why not?” the old king asked. “Oh, she angers me the entire day.” The old king ordered him to tell him everything that happened with her. Kurdchen said “In the morning, when we pass through the gloomy gate with the flock, there hangs the head of an old nag, with whom she speaks:

“Oh you, Falada, hanging there,

And the head responds,

“O you young princess, walking by,
If your mother only knew,
Her heart would break in two.”

Kurdchen continued to tell what happened out in the goose meadow, how he had to chase his hat in the wind.

The old king ordered him to go out the next day. And when it was morning, he himself sat behind the gate and listened to how she talked to the head of Falada. Then he went out to the field and hid behind a bush. He now saw with his own eyes how the goose girl and the goose boy drove the flock out, how after a while she sat down, undid her hair, and her tresses glistened like gold. She spoke:

“Blow, blow little breeze,
Take from Kurdchen his little hat,
Make him chase and follow that,
Until I have plaited and braided
And bound up my tresses.

A burst of wind seized Kurdchen’s hat so that he had to run. While the maid combed and plaited her tresses, the old king observed it all. He returned unnoticed and in the evening when the goose girl came home, he called her aside and asked why she acted so. “I cannot tell you, and can tell no one of my pain, for I swore under the free sky, and I would otherwise have lost my life.” He urged her and would not leave her in peace, but could not find out anything. He said, “If you won’t tell me, so tell the iron stove of your misery,” and went away. She crept into the iron oven and began to cry, poured out her heart and said “Here I sit abandoned by the world, and I am a king’s daughter and the false lady-in-waiting has forced me under violence to take off my royal clothing. She took my place with my groom and I must do work as a goose girl. If my mother knew, her heart would break in two.” The old king stood outside at the stove pipe and listened and heard what she said. He came in and told her to come out of the oven. She put on her royal clothing and it was a miracle to see how beautiful she was. The old king called his son and revealed to him that he had the false bride. She was just a lady-in-waiting , the true bride now stood before him, the former goose girl. They young king was filled with joy when he gazed upon her beauty and virtue. A feast was prepared and all people in the kingdom and good friends were invited. At the head of the table sat the bridegroom, the king’s daughter on one side and the lady-in-waiting on the other. But the lady-in-waiting no longer recognized the princess in her radiant finery. When everyone had eaten and drunk and were merry, the old king gave the lady-in-waiting a riddle to solve. What fate did a person deserve who had lied? He told her the entire tale and asked “Of what judgment is such a person worthy?” The false bride spoke “She is not worth anything better than to be stripped naked and placed in a barrel lined with nails. Two white horses must be harnessed and they shall pull the barrel up and down the lane until she is dead.”

“You are the person,” the old king said “and you have declared your own judgment, which we must now abide.” And when the judgment was executed, the young king married his rightful bride

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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.
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