Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fairy Tale of Allerleirauh: of Cover-Ups and Urged Silence

(Illustration Tatjana Hauptmann, Das Grosse Maerchenbuch, Diogenes Verlag)

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 65:


There once lived a king, whose wife had golden hair. She was so beautiful that her equal could not be found in all the world. When she lay ill and knew she would soon die, she called the king and said to him

“When you wish to marry again after my death, do not choose anyone who is not as beautiful as I am and who does not have golden hair like I have; this you must promise me.” When the king had promised it to her, she closed her eyes and died.
For a long time the king was inconsolable and didn’t think about taking a second wife. But finally one of his advisors spoke “Nothing else can be done. The king must marry again so that we have a queen.” Messengers were now sent out far and wide to find a bride who equaled the beauty of the dead queen. But no one in the entire world could be found. Even if she could have been found, there was no one who had such beautiful hair. The messengers returned without having accomplished anything.

Now the king had a daughter who was as beautiful as her dead mother and also had beautiful golden hair. When she was grown, the king gazed upon her and saw that she was similar to his deceased wife in every way and suddenly felt a burning love for her.
He spoke to his advisors “I will marry my daughter because she is the image of my deceased wife and otherwise I will not be able to find a bride her equal.”

When the advisors heard this, they were terrified and said “God has forbidden that a father marry his daughter. Nothing good can spring from this sin and the kingdom shall fall into ruin.” The daughter was even more terrified when she heard the decision of her father. But she held out hope that he would be dissuaded from his intent. She said to him “Before I fulfill your wish, I must first have three dresses. One, as golden as the sun. One as silver as the moon. And one that shines like the stars. Moreover I shall require a coat made from thousands of little pieces of fur and pelt. Every animal in your kingdom must provide a piece of his hide.” She thought to herself “It is quite impossible to do this and I will then bring my father away from his evil thoughts.” But the king did not relent and the cleverest maidens in his kingdom had to weave three dresses: one as golden as the sun, another as silver as the moon and another as shiny as the stars. His hunters had to catch all the animals in his entire kingdom and have a piece of their hide pulled off; from this, a coat was made from the thousands of little pieces of their rough skins. Finally it was all finished. The king had his servants bring him the coat, spread it before his daughter and said “Tomorrow will be the wedding.”

When the king’s daughter saw there was no more hope of turning her father’s heart, she decided to flee. In the night when everyone slept, she got up and took three things from her treasures: a golden ring, a golden spinning wheel and a golden bobbin; she placed the three dresses of the sun, moon and stars into a nutshell, put on the coat made of many hides and blackened her face and hands with soot. Then she commended herself to God and went out. She walked the entire night until she came to an enormous forest. And because she was tired, she crawled into a hollow tree trunk and fell asleep.

The sun went up and she kept on sleeping. She was still sleeping and half the day had passed. Now it happened that the king who owned the forest was hunting there. When his hounds came running up to the tree, they sniffed around it and barked. The king said to his hunters “Go see, what kind of wild animal is hidden there.” The hunters followed the command and when they returned they said “A strange animal is lying in the hollow tree, the likes of which we have never seen before. There are thousands of pieces of fur on his skin. But the animal itself is lying there sleeping.”

The king said “See if you can catch it alive. Then tie it to the wagon and bring it along.” When the hunters touched the maiden, she awoke full of fear and called out “I am a poor child, abandoned by my father and mother. Have pity on me and take me with you.” They replied “A l l e r l e I r a u h, you are good enough for the kitchen. Come along, you can sweep the ashes.” So they placed her on the wagon and drove home to the king’s castle. Once there they gave her a little stall under the stairs where the light of day did not penetrate. They said “You rough little animal, here you can live and sleep.” When she was sent into the kitchen, she had to carry wood and water, make the fire and pluck the feathers from the fowl, prepare the vegetables, sweep the ash and do every manner of lowly work.

For a long time Allerleirauh lived quite pitifully. Oh, you beautiful king’s daughter, what shall become of you! But it happened that a festival was celebrated in the castle. She spoke to the cook “May I go up and watch a little while? I will stand outside the door.” The cook replied “Yes, go ahead, but you must return in a half-hour and carry out the ashes.” She took her little oil lamp, went into her little stall and took off her coat of fur and washed the soot from her face and hands so that her full beauty came to light again. Then she opened up the nutshell and pulled out her dress, the one that shone like the sun. And when she had done all this, she went up to the celebration and all moved out of her way because no one knew her. Everyone thought that she was a king’s daughter. The king approached her, extended his hand out toward hers, and danced with her. He thought deep in his heart “I have never seen one more beautiful.” When the dance was over, they both bowed. When the king looked around, she had vanished. No one knew where she had gone. The guards standing before the castle, were called and questioned, but no one had seen her.

She had run back to her little stall, quickly removed her dress and blackened her face and hands. She put on her coat of pelts and fur again and once more she was Allerleirauh. When she returned to the kitchen and resumed her work of gathering up the ash, the cook said “Leave it be until morning. Cook me now a soup for the king, I want to go upstairs and watch a while.” But make sure you don’t let a single hair fall into the soup. If you do, you shan’t receive any more to eat!”

The cook left and Allerleirauh cooked the soup for the king and made a bread soup, as good as she could. When she was finished, she took from her little stall the golden ring and placed it in the bowl, in which the soup was prepared. When the dance was over, the king had his soup brought to him and ate it. It tasted so good he thought no one had ever made such good soup. But when he got to the bottom of the bowl, he saw a golden ring lying there and could not understand how it came to rest there. He commanded the cook to come before him. The cook was terrified when he heard the order and spoke to Allerleirauh “You must have let a hair fall into the soup. If it’s true, you shall be beaten.” When he came before the king, he asked who had cooked the soup. The cook replied “I cooked it.” But the king answered “That is not true, because it was a different kind and cooked much better than usual. The cook replied “I must admit I did not cook it, instead the rough little animal did it.” The king answered “Go and bring it to me.”

When Allerleirauh came, the king asked “Who are you?”
“I am a poor child, who no longer has a father or mother.”
He asked further “Why are you in my castle?”
The girl replied “I have no skills except for boots to be thrown at my head.”
He asked further “Where did you get the ring, which was in the soup?”
She replied “I know nothing about the ring.” So the king could not find out anything and sent the girl away again.

Some time passed and there was another celebration. Allerleirauh asked the cook as before for permission to gaze on the festivities. He replied “Yes, but come back again in a half hour’s time and cook a bread soup for the king, which he likes to eat.” She ran to her little stall, washed herself quickly and took the dress out of the nutshell, the one that was as silver as the moon, and put it on. Then she went up to the ball and looked like a king’s daughter. The king approached and was happy to see her again and because a dance was just starting, they danced together. But when the dance was over, she disappeared again so quickly that the king could not notice where she went. She jumped back into her little stall, turned herself into the rough little animal and went into the kitchen to cook bread soup. When the king was upstairs, the girl fetched the golden spinning wheel and placed it in the bowl so that the soup covered it. This was then brought to the king, who ate it and it tasted as good as before. He had the cook brought before him and he had to admit that Allerleirauh had cooked the soup. Allerleirauh came once again before the king but she answered, she was only there so that boots could be thrown at her head and that she knew nothing of the little golden spinning wheel.

When the king prepared a feast for the third time, the same thing happened. The cook spoke “You are a witch, a rough little animal who always puts something in the soup so that it tastes so good and the king likes it better than what I cook.” But because the girl requested it, the cook gave her permission to watch the celebration for a certain amount of time. Now the child pulled on the dress that shone like the stars and entered the hall. The king danced again with the beautiful maiden and thought she had never been more beautiful. While they danced, he placed on her finger the golden ring, without her noticing it and he ordered the dance to be quite long. When it was over, he wanted to hold onto her hand firmly, but she tore loose and ran quickly among the guests and vanished before his eyes. She ran as fast as she could back to her little stall under the stairs and because she had stayed too long, far longer than half an hour, she could not take off the dress. Instead she threw the fur coat over it. In her haste, she could not entirely blacken herself. One finger remained white. Allerleirauh ran into the kitchen and cooked the king a bread soup and placed the golden bobbin in the bowl when the cook was gone. When the king saw the bobbin lying in the bottom of the bowl, he had Allerleirauh called. He saw the white skin on her finger and the ring he had placed there during the dance. He seized the hand and held it fast. When the maid wanted to free herself and jump away, the fur coat opened a bit and the dress of stars shone out. The king grabbed the coat and pulled it off. Her golden tresses now fell out and she stood there in full splendor and could no longer hide herself. When the soot and ash had been washed from her face, she was more beautiful than anyone else on earth. The king said “You are my dear bride and we shall never more leave each other.” The wedding was then celebrated and they lived happily until their death.

Further reading: http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2010/09/reading-fairy-tale-allerleirauh.html

More fairy tales can be accessed by clicking on the link:
Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Swan Song

The community grieved the loss of its swans.
Read more

To read the full story of the Swan Slaying click on link.
To read Fairy Tale Detectives Solve the Mystery of the Swan Slayer click on link.

Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com

Friday, August 27, 2010

Plumed Pogrom or Fairy Tale Ethos?

Plumed Pogrom or Fairy Tale Ethos

In August 2009 my husband and I visited one of the prettiest little patches of land (should I say water) near our farmhouse. Some see only a dismal pond, paved over by intersecting roads. But we see a marsh filled with waterfowl, waders and exotic birds. We like this swampy spot because it attracts a variety of wildlife, mainly cranes, herons, different duck species and egrets. On that particular August evening we felt ambitious and not only remembered to take our binoculars but also a spotting scope. The scope turned out to be entirely unneeded because the primary attraction that evening, a family of trumpeter swans (father, mother and two fledglings), was resting at the side of the road. But since we had dragged the scope along, we set it up cattycorner to the birds. The two elder birds soon lifted their heads and began a melancholic song. We watched for some moments in silence, completely engrossed. Lost in the moment, we didn't even notice when a huge yellow Hummer SUV pulled up alongside us. It rolled down the window and yelled out “Get a life!” The tires then screeched and we heard laughter as the vehicle sped off. We packed up the spotting scope and chuckled; we must have looked ridiculous using a telescope-like contraption when we could have driven the car right up to the birds.

But that’s not the end of the story. Several days later when we returned to this favorite spot, instead of finding the swan family, we found swan effigies, that is, numerous stuffed animals in swan shape, hand-drawn signs, pictures and photos at the spot the swans had once frequented. The posters reported that two swans had been killed, even suggesting the birds had been viciously murdered. A $5,000 reward was offered to find the swans’ slayer. It was believed the cygnets had first been lured into the road and then shot by someone. The next morning the adult male was found alive, however because of broken wings and severe injuries this third swan also had to be euthanized.

Township residents went into mourning for their swans and the authorities promised a prompt investigation that would surely lead to prosecution of the culprit(s). But amidst the outcry, some criticism could also be heard. One of the more interesting comments posted on the annarbor.com website was this by a contributor named Jordan:

Raise your fist in anger, but I'm going to say it: They're just swans. They're animals. Yes, it is sad that they won't be there anymore. And if the swans were maliciously killed by people, which seems to be the general, albeit unproven, consensus, then it was a disgusting act. But when I saw that a group had already managed to raise $5,000 for information on the "slaying of the swans," I couldn't really believe it.”

Jordan put it all in perspective: the local food bank was experiencing a critical shortage of food. As more and more people lost their jobs, they were relying on this support and local agencies had reported an increase in demand and ever-diminishing resources to meet the need. Now that was truly something you could get angry about. But the passionate and spontaneous response to an attack on birds was startling.

Most people seemed to believe the swans were intentionally killed. Later the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported they hadn't died from gunshot wounds but rather from blunt trauma, consistent with having been hit by a car or truck. Regardless of how they received their injuries, the act was premeditated in the mind of the public. The outpouring of grief for the birds was swift. A makeshift shrine appeared on both sides of the road. People brought stuffed swan animals, posted pictures, wrote little prayers, and erected crosses. I guess I had always thought few people actually paid any attention to the birds. But as it turned out, I was only one of many swan-admirers. Many local residents had been following the swan family saga: they watched as the adults first built their nest in the marsh, they looked on as the parents patiently sat on their eggs, and when the eggs finally hatched they saw the nestlings’ heads peeking out from matted straw. Soon carloads of people were stopping to watch the swan family and some even photographed them on their way to work. The swans had become an important part of people's every-day routine, an important element of their landscape.

But what does all this have to do with fairy tales? Folk tradition often likens the swan to an immaculate or faultless person. In folklore the creature is often described as one without blemish, and is often associated with bards or poets. (How sinful then to kill such a creature!) According to myth, the swan portends its own death when it sings its famous swan song. German mythology is filled with swan lore, ascribing magical properties to them (see Swan Mythology on this website). When carefully read, many of the fairy tales presented on this website seem to offer a distinct "fairy tale attitude" toward the natural world and toward animals in particular. A good example of these "fairy tale values" is provided by the stories The Little Ringed Snake and The Fairy Tale of Horse and Fox. Here an inherent respect for animals is evident. This appreciation of nature, some would even say fervent love of the landscape and all it contains, is matter-of-fact in fairy tales. Often there is an invisible inter-connectedness between people, place and thing, which is the whole point of the story. These unseen links are often interpreted as mere dramatic devices, a bit of curious magic or silly enchantment, but actually reflect a much deeper fairy tale ethos (perhaps one might even call it "moral imagination").

Here is one example of what I mean:
In popular German folklore, the snake often represents a house spirit or ancestral ghost. Jakob Grimm has suggested these spirits were probably linked to popular notions about ancestors or even ancestor worship. House-snake-as-ancestral ghost would have been understood by the original audience of the tale (just like today most Americans would readily know what is meant the words cellphone or McMansion). Similar to a Tomte, this spirit lived alongside the family, frequently enjoying a separate parallel existence but not perceived by all family members.
(In the tale of the Little Ringed Snake, the creature appears as companion to a lonely child but the mother is unaware of its existence). Folk belief emphasized that such beings were actually the heart of the household. Should this creature be harmed, the family, its security and livelihood would also be threatened. In the world of the fairy tale, a thoughtless act of violence toward a helpless being is tantamount to bringing about one's own sudden (and usually dramatic) demise.

So a year later what is the status of the swan controversy? No swan-killers were ever identified. The little shrine at the side of the road has vanished. And I wrote out a check to the local breakfast program for the homeless.

To view pictures of the swan memorials click on link Swan Song
To read Fairy Tale Detectives Solve the Mystery of the Swan Slayer click on link.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tale of the Orphan Child, a Belly-Wriggler and a Patch of Blue

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 105, The Little Ringed Snake Version II

An orphan child sat at the city wall spinning. The girl saw a little snake sliding on its belly along the stone wall. Quickly the child spread out her blue-silk kerchief, a thing little snakes love with all their heart (and the only thing to which they are irresistibly drawn).

As soon as the creature saw the cloth, it turned around and slithered toward that patch of blue carrying a small golden crown, which it placed there. Then the little snake wriggled away. The girl picked up the glittering crown and saw it was spun from the finest and most delicate golden thread. Soon the snake returned a second time: but when it no longer saw the crown, it crept away along the city wall. It beat its head against the stone until it no longer had the strength to continue. Finally it lay there dead. 

If the girl had left the crown lying in its place, the little snake surely would have brought even more treasures to her from out of its crevice.

To read more fairy tales, click on the link below:

Copyright Translation FairyTaleChannel.com

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fairy Tale of the Little Ringed Snake

(Illustration by Tomi Ungerer, Das Grosse Liederbuch)

Fairy Tale of the Little Ringed Snake, Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 105 Version I

There once lived a little child and every day its mother gave it a small bowl with milk and broken pieces of bread. The child always took the little bowl and went out into the yard, sat down and ate.

But when the child began to eat, a house snake would often creep out of a crack in the wall. It lowered its little head and lapped up the child’s milk, eating right along. The child was pleased with its companion and if it sat alone with its little bowl and the snake did not appear immediately, it cried out:

“Snake, come fast, come swift,
Come here you little thing,
Take from me these crumbs,
And lick the milk refreshing.”

The snake came slithering out and enjoyed the refreshing milk. It also showed its gratitude by bringing the child secret treasures, all manner of pretty things, sparkling stones, pearls and golden toys. But the snake only drank the milk and left the crumbs alone.

Once the child took its little spoon and rapped the snake’s little head and said “You silly thing, you must eat the crumbs too!” When the mother, who was standing in the kitchen, heard the child talking and when she saw that it was hitting a snake with its spoon, she ran out with a piece of firewood and killed the goodly animal.

From that time forward there was a change in the child. The child had grown big and strong as long as the snake had eaten beside it. But now it lost its rosy cheeks and became thin. It wasn’t long until the bird of death appeared at the child’s window one night and began to cry. And the robin gathered leaves and twigs and wove a funeral wreath and soon thereafter the child lay on the bier.

Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.org

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Roadside Revelation on a Summer Trip through Switzerland

Grimm’s Saga No. 14: The Heavy Baby

In the year 1686, on June 8, two persons of noble birth made their way to Chur, Switzerland. On the road they found a small infant lying near a bush. It was swaddled in linen. One nobleman took pity on the child and ordered his manservant to climb down from the carriage and pick up the babe so that it could be taken to the next village and arrangements made for its care. When the servant had dismounted, he seized hold of the child and wanted to lift it up, but found he didn’t have the strength to do it. The two noblemen sitting in the carriage were amazed and ordered the other servant to help him. But the men using both their hands could not budge the child from the spot where it lay. After some time had passed and the servants were tired of lifting and pulling, the child began to speak and said: “Leave me lying here. You won’t be able to move me from this spot on the earth. But I want to tell you, this will be a delicious and fruitful year, but few people will experience it.” As soon as the child had spoken these words, it vanished. Both noblemen and their servants appeared before the city council in Chur and had their sworn statements entered in the public record.

Read more fairy tales by clicking on the link:

Copyright Translation FairyTaleChannel.com

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Oath Against Tyranny

Grimm’s Saga No. 517: The Confederacy in Ruetli

(Part of the Wilhelm Tell Saga from Switzerland)

A man from Schwyz called
Stoeffacher lived near Steinen, the fortress. Here he built a very fine house. One day Grissler rode by, the magistrate of the Kingdom of Handen in Uri and Schwyz. He called out to Stoeffacher and asked him whose fine little house it was. The man replied: “It is your grace and my land in fee.” The man did not dare say it was his own. Grissler said nothing and rode home.Now Stoeffacher was a smart and intelligent man. He also had a pious and wise wife. And so he took the matter to heart and believed the magistrate would soon take all of their earthly possessions. His wife, seeing how her husband despaired, asked him to tell her everything. She said “Go and tell your friends, they will give you wise council.” So quickly three men were called together, one from Uri, one from Schwyz and one from Unterwaldner (the one whose father had been made blind). In secret these three men swore the first oath marking the beginning of the eternal Swiss confederacy. This oath elevated the rule of law and justice, suppressed unfairness and punished evil deeds. That is why God blessed the men with good fortune. But if they wanted to carry out attacks, they would assemble at Mittenstein, at the end as it is called in Bettlin, where they met to confer in Ruetli.

Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Mid-Summer Revelry of Fairy Folk

Grimm’s Saga No. 31

The Wee Folk’s Wedding Feast

Wee folk lived in Eilenburg Castle in Saxony. Once these fairy folk wanted to celebrate a wedding feast and so it happened that they crept through every key hole and window crack of the great house. They jumped down onto the smooth wooden floor like little peas being poured onto a threshing mat. But the old duke, who was sleeping in the room in his high four-poster bed, awoke. He was exceedingly amazed when he gazed upon the wee folk assembling in his chamber. One of them approached, wearing a costume like a herald. Using fitting words, he invited the duke to participate in the feast.

“But one thing we ask,” he added. “Only you may attend the celebration, none of your household may gaze upon the party, and may not in stealth take even one peek.”

The old duke responded courteously: “Because my sleep has already been disturbed, I will stay with you.” A delicate little wife was brought before him, small lamp carriers positioned themselves on either side and the sweet sounds of music started up. The duke had trouble keeping up with the little wife while dancing. The fairy sprang and jumped so sprightly and finally whirled around so swiftly, that he could hardly catch his breath. But in the middle of this cheerful dance suddenly everything fell quiet. The music stopped and the entire lot scurried through door cracks, mouse holes and every other escape hatch. But bride and groom, heralds and dancers all looked up at an opening high up in the ceiling of the room. There they discovered the face of the old duchess, peering down on the merry scene. With that they all bowed before the duke and the herald, who had invited him, stepped forward once more and thanked him for his kind hospitality.

“But because our joy and our wedding have been interrupted by another human’s eyes gazing upon us, from now on your descendants shall not count more than seven Eilenburgs at one time.”

And then they all scurried out one after another from that place. Soon it was quiet and the old duke found himself alone in his dark room. The enchantment has lasted to the present day and always when there are six living knights of Eilenburg, one dies before the seventh is born.

Copyright fairytalechannel.com

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Wild Fairies of Wunderberg Mountain

The Wild Fairies of Wunderberg Mountain, Grimm's Saga No. 50

Folks and farmers of Groedicher reported in 1753 that wild fairies of Wunderberg Mountain came down from the hills and visited young children, maids and lads alike. At first these wild fairies or Woods Wives of Wunderberg as they were called, offered the children pieces of bread when they grazed their cattle in the clearing near Glanegg.

Time and again the wild fairies visited this clearing in the meadow during the grain harvest. They came down from the hills early in the morning and in the evening when other people went home after work, these wives went out and entered Wunderberg without taking their evening meal.

Once it happened that a small chap sat on his horse next to Wunderberg Mountain and his horse was harnessed to the wagon his father was using for threshing the field. Once again the Wild Wives came down from the hill and wanted to carry the boy away using force. 

But the father, who knew the secrets and habits of these mountain fairies, rushed toward the women without fear and took the child from them with the words: “What audacity! What cheek! To visit my field so many times and now you even want to take away my little boy! What do you intend to do with him?” 

The fairies replied: “We will take better care of him and he will have it better with us! We will dote on the little fellow, nothing bad will befall him if he comes with us!” But the father would not let go of the child, and gripped him tightly in his hands. The wild women cried bitter tears but finally departed.

Once the wild women came out of the Wunderberg near the Grinding Mill or the Ball Mill, which was called Place of the Ball because it was close to the summit. They snatched a boy, who was grazing cattle in the meadow. This boy, whom everyone knew, was first seen again by woodcutters more than a year later. But now he was wearing a green shift and sat on a tree trunk. The next day his parents went out to find him, but it was all for naught. The child was never seen again.

It often happened that a wild fairy came out of the Wunderberg walking toward the village of Anif. This village lay one-half-hour away from Berg. Once there, the wild wife dug holes and storage caches in the mountain. She had extraordinarily long and beautiful hair, which almost touched her heels. A farmer from the village often saw this woman walking back and forth. He fell in love with her immediately, mainly because of her beautiful hair. He could not help himself from going to her, gazed upon her longingly with pleasure and finally, in his simple-mindedness, entered her little cave-hole without being shy at all. No one said anything or even mentioned how unseemly it was. 

But the second night the wild fairy asked the farmer if he didn’t have a wife of his own. The farmer lied about his wife and said no. But his true wife was wondering where her husband spent the nights and slept. She therefore followed him and found him sleeping in the meadow beside the wild fairy. “May God save your beautiful hair!” the woman said to the wild fairy. “What are you doing here with each other?” 

After saying these words the farmer’s wife left them, but the farmer was terrified. The wild fairy wife accused the man of unfaithfulness and said “If your wife had expressed hatred or anger toward me, you would now be unhappy and no longer able to depart from this spot. But because your wife wasn’t so angry, go home to her and love her and do not try again to come here. For it is written: “Each shall live faithfully with his wedded wife! Alas the power of these words has diminished over time along with the fortune of married couples! Now take this shoe full of gold, go home and never turn around again.” 

More tales about wild faeries:




And about gnomes:


Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com

Monday, July 12, 2010

The King of all Carrots

(Illustration Tomi Ungerer, Das Grosse Liederbuch, Diogenes Verlag)

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 146 The Carrot King

Once there lived two brothers, both serving as soldiers. One brother was rich, the other poor. The poor one, seeking to alleviate his dire need, took off his soldier’s uniform and became a farmer. Now he spent his time digging, hoeing and hacking his little acre and sowed a row of carrots. The seed sprouted and a carrot soon grew that was so large and strong and noticeably thicker than the others. In fact, it would not stop growing. One could even say it was the Crown Prince or Ruler of all Carrots because never again has there been such a carrot (nor, I suspect, shall there ever be another one like it). Finally it was so big that it filled up an entire wagon and two oxen were required to pull it. The farmer did not know what to do with the thing, and he wondered whether the carrot was his fortune or misfortune. Finally he thought to himself “If you sell it, what great reward will you fetch? And the smaller carrots are just as good for eating. It is best that you present it to the king and honor him with the gift.”

So he loaded the carrot on his wagon, hitched up two oxen and drove to court to present the carrot to the king. “What kind of strange thing have you brought?” the king asked. “I have seen many odd things in my day, but never such a monster. From what type of seed could this have grown? Or perhaps, the vegetable has only grown this way for you because you are a child of fortune.”

“Oh no,” the farmer replied. “I am no fortune’s child. I am a poor soldier who could no longer feed himself. So I hung my soldier’s uniform on a nail and now tend the soil. I have a brother who is rich, whom you certainly know. But I have nothing and have been forgotten by the world.”

The king felt compassion for him and said “You shall overcome your poverty and will receive presents from me so that you shall be the equal of your rich brother.”

The king gave him enormous amounts of gold, farmland, fields and cattle and made him stone-rich, so that the riches of his brother did not compare. When his brother heard what had been accomplished with a single carrot, he was overcome with jealously and plotted how he, too, could secure such fortune for himself. But he wanted to do it in a much smarter way so he took gold and horses and brought them to the king. He thought the king would give him much greater riches in return, because his brother had received so much for a single carrot. The king received the brother’s gift and said, he did not know what to give him in return that could be rarer or better than the large carrot. So the rich brother had to accept his brother’s carrot as present from the king. He put it in his wagon and drove home. At home he did not know on whom he could take out his rage and anger until finally an evil thought came to him. He decided to kill his brother and so he hired murderers, who were instructed to lay in waiting. He now went to his brother and said “Dear brother, I know a secret treasure. Let us go out together, unearth it and share it.”

The brother let himself be convinced and innocently went along. But when they were walking, the murderers fell upon him, tied him up and wanted to hang him on a tree. They were just about to carry out the evil deed when the sound of song and the beating of hooves could be heard in the distance. Such a terror seized them, that in their haste they pushed their prisoner into a sack, hung it on a tree and took flight. But the prisoner worked nimbly with his fingers until there was a hole in the sack, through which he could stick his head. But who should be the next one to come down the path but a wandering student, a young fellow who rode through the forest singing loudly. When the one hanging in the sack noticed that someone was passing below he called out “Greetings to you in this fine hour.”

The student looked all around and did not know from where the voice came. Finally he said “Who is calling me?” From the treetop the prisoner now called “Raise your eyes. I am sitting up here in the sack of wisdom. In only a short amount of time I have learned many things, among them that all learning is as elusive as the wind. Soon I will have mastered everything, will come down and be wiser than all humankind. I understand the stars and can read the signs of the heavens, can decipher the blowing of the winds, the sand in the sea, know all manner of healing sickness, recognize the powers of herbs, birds and stones. If you sat here in my place, you too would soon understand the wonder that flows out of my sack of wisdom.”

When the student heard all this he was amazed and said “Blessed be the hour when I found you. Couldn’t I too sit a while in the sack?” From above the prisoner replied as if he did not relish the idea. “I will let you sit here for a very short time in return for a reward and good words. But you must wait another hour; I still have to learn a bit more.”

When the student had waited a bit, he began to be restless. The time seemed too long and he begged immediate entry to the sack; his thirst for wisdom was far too great to wait any longer. The prisoner in the sack pretended he had finally given in and said “So that I can emerge from this cocoon of wisdom, you must lower the sack by that rope tied to the tree. Then you can crawl inside.”

The student lowered the sack, opened it and freed the man inside. Then he called out eagerly “Now pull me up into the tree quickly!” He wanted to walk into the sack standing upright. “Stop!” cried out the other. “That won’t do at all!” He grabbed him by the head and pushed him in backwards, tied the opening around his head and pulled the disciple of wisdom up into the tree, where he swayed back and forth in the air. “How do you fare up there my dear fellow? See, don’t you already feel wisdom dawning with experience? Now sit quietly until you become much smarter than you already are.”

And so he mounted the student’s horse, rode away and after an hour sent out someone to let the fellow out of the tree.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ringo Starr, Teutonic Knights and Peace in Time

Grimm’s Saga No. 535: Andreas von Sangerwitz, Grand Master of Christburg

600 years ago (plus one week) a famous Teutonic knight broke with tradition and wished for love and peace in his time: his pleas went unheard and the consequences were dire (see fairy tale below). Today on July 7th 2010, we find ourselves wishing for the same thing as Ringo Starr celebrates his 70th birthday with a concert at Radio City Music Hall. Today Ringo instructs us to break with tradition and wish for peace and love in our time. (Click here to read about about Ringo's Birthday with a Little Help from his Friends.) But back to the world of the fairy tale.

The saga below recalls a bloody and violent historical event, which ended poorly for the knights involved. After the battle described in the story, the power and influence of the Teutonic Knights were greatly curtailed (perhaps ultimately bringing a bit more peace and love to the region). The self-igniting beard and other weird hair themes of this story should be read within the overall context of supernatural hair, which you can read about by clicking on the link.

And finally, to find out more about Teutonic Knights, hit the Wiki-link.

On July 15 in the year 1410 near Tannenberg a great battle was fought in Prussia between the Teutonic Knights and Vladislav, King of Poland. It ended in utter defeat for the order of Teutonic Knights. Even Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen was killed in battle. The Polish King Vladislav had the Grand Master’s corpse sent to the Brothers of Osterode and they buried him in Marienburg. But the Grand Master’s chin and beard were cut off and sent to Krakau, where they are still shown today (that is, in the time of Caspar Schuetzen). But at the war council when the Grand Master consulted his advisors, the Grand Master of Christburg, Andreas Sangerwitz a German nobleman by birth, called out for peace even though almost everyone was in favor of war and the enemy was already advancing in the country. This vexed von Sangerwitz to no end for everyone thought he held back out of fear or timidity. But he, having no less heart and even more good humor and intelligence, said: “I have advised Your Grace to strike up peace, because I think and understand it to be the best option in these trying times. But because God has determined otherwise and it is also Your Grace’s pleasure, I must follow you into the future battle, come what may. I will stand by you like a man and give life and limb for you as faithfully as I advised you to seek peace.” As an honorable knight, Andreas Sangerwitz also did what he said. Like the Grand Master, he fell in battle at Walstatt after fighting bravely against the enemy. When Grand Master von Sangerwitz was riding out to battle in full armament, he met the Master of the Choir who ridiculed him and asked him scornfully whom he had left behind in charge of his castle during his absence. Enraged he replied: “I leave it to you and the devils who have advised this war!

Afterward, when the battle was over and the Grand Master was dead, devilry and ghostly specters began to shake and rule that place, so that no human being could remain or dwell within the castle. As soon as the brothers of the order sat down to eat, all bowls and goblets were instantly full of blood. (But when the surviving knights ate outside of the castle, nothing of the sort happened.) When the servants wanted to enter the stable, they found themselves in the cellar instead and drank so much wine that they could not remember their actions. When the cook and his helpers entered the kitchen, they found horses standing there. The room had become a stall. If the master of the cellar wanted to do his work, instead of finding wine and beer barrels in the cellar he found pots, bellows and water troughs. The same nonsense occurred in all matters and in all places. Things were even stranger and much worse for the new Grand Master who came from Frauenberg. Once he was hung up by his beard in the castle fountain. Another time he was thrown onto the top-most roof of the castle. It was only with enormous difficulty and great peril to his person that he was brought down safely from the roof. A third time his beard self-ignited and began to burn, so that his face was severely injured. He also could not extinguish the flames with water and only when he ran out of the doomed castle did the fire go out. That is why no more Grand Masters wanted to live there. It was abandoned by all successors and called the devil’s dwelling according to the deceased Grand Master’s prophecy.

Two years after the battle a man from Christburg returned home. He had been on pilgrimage to Rome during the war. When he heard of the ghostly presence in the castle, he went there at noon one day. He wanted to experience the truth himself or perhaps he had brought a relic with him, which he thought to use against the ghosts. He met the Grand Master’s brother on the bridge, who had also laid down his life in the battle. He quickly recognized the man, because he had stood as godfather for one of his children. His name was Otto von Sangerwitz and because he thought it was a living man that he met, he approached and said: “Dear Godfather, how happy am I to see you so healthy and fresh; someone tried to convince me you had been killed. I am happy that things are better than I thought. And how are things in this castle, of which so many strange things are said?
The devil’s ghost replied: “Come along and you shall see how house is kept here. The smithy followed him up the spiral stair; when they reached the first floor, they found it jammed full people playing cards and throwing dice; everyone was laughing, cursing both the wounded and martyrs alike. In the next room throngs of people sat crowded around a table. Only gluttony and drinking could be seen in that room. From there they went into the great hall where they found many men, women, maidens and gallants. But only the music of strumming, singing and dancing could be heard and only wanton behavior and disgraceful acts seen. Now they entered the chapel. A priest stood before the altar as if he wanted to say mass, but the members of the choir sat on their chairs sleeping. Afterward when they left the castle, they immediately heard such mournful howling, crying and screaming, that the smithy became scared and thought the place couldn’t be more wretched than hell itself.His godfather spoke to him: “Go and tell the new Grand Master what you have seen and heard.” With these words he vanished, but the smithy was so terrified that a shudder went through his body, chilling him down to his toes. Still intending to follow the command, he returned to the new Grand Master and told him everything as it had happened. The Grand Master was enraged, said these were only imagined things that would bring shame upon his honorable order. And so, he had the smithy thrown into a pool of water and drowned.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Legend of Charlemagne and the Snake

Grimm’s Saga No. 459: Charlemagne and the Snake

When King Charlemagne lived in Zurich in the house called Loch, he had a column erected with a bell on top. Attached to this bell was a rope, which anyone desiring justice on a certain matter could pull. Every day when the King sat for his noon meal, he made himself available to those seeking fairness and just treatment. One day it happened that the bell rang. The servants went outside but could not find anyone ringing the bell. When they returned inside, the bell rang again. Now the King commanded the servants to go out and find the source of the ringing. Following his command, they found an enormous snake wrapped around the rope, ringing the bell. The servants, who were deeply dismayed, reported the situation back to the King. He immediately got up from his meal and insisted on speaking justice for the creature, like he would for any human being. After the worm reverently bowed before the monarch, it led him to the banks of a body of water, where, on its nest and its eggs sat an enormous toad. Charlemagne examined the state of things and decided the dispute between the two animals by damning the toad to fire and conceding the snake was right. This judgment was spoken and executed. Several days later the snake returned to court, bowed, and turning toward the King’s table, raised the cover of the goblet standing there. It took from its mouth and placed a costly gem into this goblet, bowed again and went its way. At the place where the snake’s nest had stood, the King erected a church and named it Wasserkilch. But the gem he gave to his dear wife, whom he loved dearly. This stone had the secret power of attraction and the King was now irresistibly drawn to his wife. When he was not in her presence he felt only sadness and a deep longing for her. That is why at the hour of her death, the empress placed the stone under her tongue, knowing that if it came into the hands of another, the King would soon forget her. The empress was now buried with the stone but poor Charlemagne could not take leave from her corpse. He had her body disinterred and carried it around with him for eighteen years. In the meantime a courtier had heard about the hidden powers of the stone. He searched the corpse and finally found the gem lying under the empress’s tongue. He removed the stone and kept it hidden on his own person. Immediately the King’s love was transferred from his dead wife to the courtier, to whom he now was irresistibly drawn. In indignation the courtier threw the stone into a hot spring on a trip to Cologne. After that no one was able to recover it. The King’s fondness for the knight did indeed cease, but now he felt himself miraculously drawn to the place, where the stone lay concealed. Here he founded the city of Aachen, which became his favorite place of residence.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Bevy of Butterflies

The butterfly is a symbol of transformation and rebirth in many folk traditions. Emerging from its cocoon as a beautiful, winged being, the butterfly underscores the impossibility of our seeing things as they really are. When we gaze upon cocoon or larva, we can barely grasp the creative energies at work below the surface. It is this astonishing process of transformation that is the heart of many a fairy tale. Some folk tales view the butterfly as a manifestation of the soul and in this capacity butterflies are also tied to elves and fairies.

I can only encourage you to take up the task of making your own butterflies. The pictures provided here do not really express the sheer joy conveyed by a bevy of such winged beings. Hand-made butterflies are the perfect token to commemorate all manner of life changing events. The good-humored butterfly looks gorgeous as a valentine, great as a birthday greeting and delightful around the anniversary cake. In short, it is appropriate to give a butterfly for any of life’s transformative events. All you need is paper, scissors and pipe cleaners. In some cases a bit of glue. Or if you prefer, order a butterfly-making kit. But do make the butterflies.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

A Bevy of Butterflies

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