Friday, May 1, 2015

Cinderella: A tale of peas and lentils, turtledoves and of course silver slippers

The Fairy Tale of Cinderella

A rich man’s wife became ill and when she felt that the end was near, she called her only daughter to her bedside and said “Dear child remain pious and good and the dear Lord will always stand by you. I will look down from heaven and be with you.” She then closed her eyes and departed.  Every day the girl went out to her mother’s grave and wept. She remained pious and good and when winter came, white snow blanketed the grave. When spring sunshine melted the white blanket of snow, her father took another wife.

The woman brought her own two daughters into the house, beautiful and fair of face but ugly and black of heart. The stepchild now had to endure a terrible time.  “Shall the stupid goose sit with us in our chamber?” they asked. “Whoever wants to eat bread must earn it: out with the kitchen maid!” They took away her beautiful clothes and dressed her in a gray frock and gave her wooden shoes.  “Look at the proud princess now, how fine she is dressed!” they cried and laughed and led her to the kitchen. There she had do heavy work from dawn until dusk; rise early before daybreak, carry the water, make the fire, cook and wash. On top of it all the sisters caused her the greatest heartache, ridiculed the girl and poured her peas and lentils in the ashes so that she had to sit and pull them out again. At night when she had worked herself to exhaustion she didn’t go to bed but rather had to lie next to the stove in the ashes. And because she became so dusty and dirty they called her Cinderella.

Now it happened that the father wanted to go away to a fair so he asked his two stepdaughters what he should bring them. “Beautiful clothes,” one replied. “Pearls and gemstones,” the other said. “But you, Cinderella,” he asked,  “what do you want?”  “Father, the first sprig that brushes against your hat on your return journey, break that off for me.”  So he bought beautiful clothes, pearls and gemstones for the two stepdaughters. And on his return, when he rode through the green brush a hazel branch brushed against him and knocked off his hat. He broke off the branch and took it along. When he returned home he gave the stepdaughters what they had requested and to Cinderella he gave the sprig from the hazel bush.  Cinderella thanked him, went to her mother’s grave and planted the sprig and cried so pitifully that her tears fell on the twig and watered it. It grew and became a beautiful tree.  Cinderella went to it each day, cried and prayed and each time a little bird came and sat on the tree. And when she had spoken her wish the bird threw down what she had wished for.

Now it happened that the king was giving a celebration that was to last three days and all beautiful maidens in the land were invited so that his son could select a bride. When the two stepdaughters heard that they were to appear they were of good cheer. They called to Cinderella and said “Comb our hair, brush our shoes and fasten our buckles; we are going to a wedding at the king’s castle.”  Cinderella obeyed but cried because she would have liked to go along to the dance and asked her stepmother to allow it.  “You, Cinderella, she said “are covered in dust and dirt and want to go to a wedding? You don’t have any clothes or shoes and want to dance!” But because she continued her pleading she finally said “I have poured a bowl of lentils in the ashes, if you can pick out the lentils in two hours, you can go.” The girl went through the back door to the garden and called “Tame turtledove, turtle dove, all little birds under heaven come and help me pluck out

“the good ones in the pot
  the bad ones not”

Now two white doves flew through the kitchen window and then the turtle doves came flying in, and finally with a whir all birds under heaven swarmed inside and swooped down into the ashes. And the doves bowed their little heads and began to pick, pick, pick, pick and the others also began to pick, pick, pick, pick and dropped all the good grains into a bowl. Barely an hour passed and it was all done and they flew back out. The girl now brought the bowl to her stepmother and was happy and believed she could now go to the wedding.  But her stepmother said “No Cinderella. You don’t have any clothes and cannot dance: you would only be laughed at.”  But when she began go cry the stepmother said, “If you can pick out two bowls full of lentils from the ashes, you can go.” But she thought “she won’t be able to do it.” When she had poured the two bowls of lentils in the ashes, the girl went out the back door to the garden and cried out “You doves, turtle doves, all birds under heaven, come and help me pluck out

“the good ones in the pot
  the bad ones not”

Two white little doves came flying through the kitchen window, the turtle doves followed, and finally all birds under heaven whirred and swarmed inside before plunging into the ashes. And the doves bent their little heads and began to pick, pick, pick, pick and the others started to pick, pick, pick, pick and placed all the good grain into bowls. And before an half hour had passed, they were finished and flew out again.  The girl carried the bowl to her stepmother and now thought she would surely be able to go to the wedding. But her stepmother said “This doesn’t help you; you can’t go because you don’t have clothes and cannot dance; we would be ashamed of you.” She turned her back and hurried away with her two proud daughters.

When no one else was at home, Cinderella went to her mother’s grave under the hazel tree and called

“Little tree shake shake
“Throw gold and silver over me.”

The birds threw down a gold and silver dress and slippers embroidered with silk and silver.  The girl quickly donned the dress and went to the wedding. Her sisters and stepmother did not recognize her and thought she was a foreign king’s daughter, she was so beautiful in the golden dress. They never thought about Cinderella and supposed she sat at home in dirt picking lentils out of the ashes.  The king’s son approached, took her by the hand and danced with her. He didn’t want to dance with anyone else and wouldn’t let go of her hand and when another one came and asked he said “She is my little dancer.”

She danced till evening and when she wanted to go home the king’s son said “Let me go with you.” He wanted to see to whom the beautiful maiden belonged. But she got away and jumped into the dove house. Now the king’s son waited until her father came and said the strange girl had jumped into the dove house. But the old man thought “Could it be Cinderella?” And they had to bring an axe and pick so that he could chop the dove house in two: but no one was inside.  And when they returned home Cinderella lay in her dirty clothes in the ashes and a dirty oil lamp burned in the chimney;  for Cinderella had quickly jumped out of the dove house and ran to the hazel bush. There she pulled off her beautiful clothes and placed them on the grave and the bird took them again and she put on her gray smock and sat down in the ashes.

The next day when the party again approached and the parents and step sisters went away, Cinderella went to the hazel tree and said

“Little tree shake shake
“Throw gold and silver over me.”

Now the bird threw down an even more sublime dress than the day before. When the girl appeared at the marriage feast in this dress, everyone was astonished by her beauty.  The prince had waited until she came, immediately took her hand and only danced with her. When the others came and asked he said “this is my little dancer”. When night fell she wanted to leave and the king’s son pursued her and wanted to see which house she entered: but she jumped away and hid in the garden behind the house.  A large beautiful tree stood there on which the most beautiful pears hung.  She climbed between the branches nimble as a squirrel and the king’s son did not know where she had vanished.  But he waited until her father came and said to him “the strange girl got away and I believe she jumped into the pear tree.”  The father thought “Could it be Cinderella?” and he called for an axe and chopped the tree down. But no one was in it.  When they entered the kitchen, Cinderella lay in the ashes as before because she had jumped down on the other side of the tree and the beautiful bird in the hazel tree took away her beautiful clothes and brought her little gray shift.

On the third day when her parents and sisters were gone, Cinderella returned to her mother’s grave and spoke to the little tree

“Tree, tree shake your branches
Throw gold and silver in avalanches.”

Now the bird threw down a dress that was more splendid and glittering than it ever had, and the slippers were entirely golden.  When the maid arrived at the wedding in this dress, no one knew what to say in their amazement.  The king’s son wanted only to dance with her and if someone else asked he replied “this is my dancer.”

When it was evening Cinderella wanted to leave and the king’s son wanted to accompany her, but she escaped quickly and he could not follow. But the king’s son had thought up a trick and had the entire stairway covered with pitch. When the girl jumped away the left slipper of the girl remained stuck.  The king’s son lifted it and it was small and delicate and entirely golden.  The next morning he went to the man and said to him “no other shall become my wife than the one whose foot fits into this golden shoe.”  Both sisters rejoiced because they had pretty feet. The oldest went into the chamber with the shoe and wanted to try it on and the mother stood by. But she couldn’t get her big toe in, the shoe was too small so she handed her mother a knife and said “Hack off the toe, when you are a queen you won’t have to walk any more.”  The girl hacked off the toe, forced her foot into the shoe, swallowed her pain and went out to the king’s son. He took her on his horse as bride and rode off with her. But they had to pass the grave where two little doves sat on the hazel tree and they called out

“Loop dee hoo, loop dee hoo.
Blood in shoe.
The shoe is too small
The true bride sits at home”

He looked down at her foot and saw that blood oozed out.  He turned his horse around and brought the false bride back to her house. He said she wasn’t the right one, the other sister should try on the shoe.  This one went into the chamber and all toes happily fit inside the shoe, but her heel was too large.  The mother gave her a knife and said “lop off your heel: when you are queen you won’t have to walk on your feet.”  The girl lopped off a piece of her heel, forced her foot into the shoe, swallowed her pain and went out to the king’s son.  He took her as his bride on his horse and rode off. When they passed the hazel tree, the two doves sat there and called out

“Loop dee hoo, loop dee hoo.
Blood in shoe.
The shoe is too small
The true bride sits at home”

He looked down at her foot and saw blood oozing out and the white stockings were soaked crimson. He turned his horse around and returned the bride to the house. “This is also not the right one,” he said. “Do you have another daughter?”  “No,” the man said, “only the child from my dead wife is a small stunted cinderella. It is impossible that she could be the bride.”  The king’s son said he should send her up; but the mother said “Oh no, she is much too dirty, you can’t look at her.”  But he insisted and Cinderella had to be called.  First she washed her hands and face, then went and bowed before the prince, who held out the golden shoe.  She sat on a footstool, pulled her foot out her heavy wooden shoe and placed it in the slipper. It fit like a glove.  And when she rose and the king looked into her face he recognized the beautiful maiden that had danced with him and cried out : “this is the rightful bride”.  The stepmother and both sisters became frightened and pale with rage.  But he took Cinderella and placed her on his horse and rode off.  When they passed the hazel tree the two white doves called out:

“Loop dee hoo, loop dee hoo.
No blood in shoe.
The shoe is not too small
The true bride goes with him home.”

And when the birds had finished their song, they flew down and landed on Cinderella’s shoulders. One on the right, one on the left.

When the marriage was to be celebrated the two false sisters came and wanted to ingratiate themselves and share their sister’s good fortune.  When the married couple arrived at church, the oldest daughter stood at the right, the youngest one at the left and the doves picked out one of their eyes. Afterward when they went out, the oldest was on the left side and the youngest one one at the right side: now the doves picked out their other eye.  And so they were punished for their malice and falsehood for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fairy Tales for the Milder Month of May: Frouwa, Portrait of a Witch as a Young Woman

Diminutive Ancient Wagon, Pergamon Museum, Berlin

The Germanic goddess Frouwa was the sister of the sun god Fro. Because of this solar connection, she is associated with things that shine and glisten, such as brilliant gems and the perfect sunshine of a cloudless spring day. As goddess of love, fertility and beauty, she was held in high esteem by Germanic tribes. But by the Middle Ages she had become associated with witches, devils and other demonic beings.

Frouwa had endured hardship as a young goddess. The source of her trial was that she was not married to a god, but rather to a human, who in stealth abandoned her. Full of longing, she searched the world over for her lost love. She had barely caught up with him, when he vanished again. Tears that fell from her eyelashes touched down on the ground as pearls or droplets of gold. That is why the pearl often represents a tear in German mythology.

The greatest hope of a Germanic woman was to become part of Frouwa’s sacred realm after death. The heavenly palace where Frouwa received these departed women was called Freistatt.

Like other gods, Frouwa also held a procession that lasted twelve nights. On these nights she often appeared riding a boar with golden bristles (witches were also known to ride boars on Walpurgis Night). But usually she traveled in a wagon that was pulled by cats. The cat was sacred to Frouwa and that is why her realm was filled with a vast number of these animals. Carefully tended and revered, no one was allowed to touch them.

The ladybug (or ladybird) was given a special place of honor by Frouwa. It was said that the number of black spots on its back foretold the number of Talers a bushel of corn would cost in the coming year. Later Christian priests renamed this insect after the Virgin Mary, because it was thought the Virgin was most similar to the goddess in regard to purity, goodness and beneficence. The ladybug in German is therefore often called Marienkaefer. Likewise, the church transformed Frouwa’s cats into witches or devils and these became known as the fearful creatures accompanying her on her night flight.

As leader of the Valkyries she also had a swan-feather shirt, which gave her the power to take on the shape of swan and travel through both air and water, doing the gods’ bidding. By some accounts she could also transform herself into a falcon or bird of prey. However, her actions were always honorable and she was therefore considered to be the model of feminine virtue.
By the time of the poet Snorri (12th century AD), Frouwa was the only pagan goddess that was still venerated in Iceland.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Fairy Vision on Easter in the Ruins of an Old Castle

In this fairy tale for Easter: the blasphemy of harp playing, the incredible power of the first blossoms of spring, and a fairy vision. 

From the village of Kesseling you can take the road near Weidenbach and travel toward Kaltenborn. About three hours past the Aare River you arrive at the Castle of High Regard. This fortress belonged to one of the knights of Kaltenborn. Later in life this knight had to relinquish the fort to the Archbishop of Cologne,  only to seize the property back from this powerful cleric when it became a well-fortified and protected fief. In the last century the ruins of the old castle finally vanished when the last of its owners abandoned it once and for all. These owners lived in Cologne but were not of the Hoacht lineage and did not bear the name. 

In ancient times a wild and dissipated robber-baron lived at Hoacht. On the Eve before Easter he and his knights profaned the holy feast with vile dancing, harp music and gluttony. Suddenly the heavens blackened and the sound of their raucous boozing was interrupted with a loud roar. From black clouds came bolts of lightning and thunder could be heard louder and louder. All of the revelers whitened in fear and froze in terror. A lightning bolt hit the chamber and soon flames burst through the doors and windows. The walls crackled and caved under the terrible raging storm, finally crushing the assembled and burying them in the debris. 

It was said the robber baron had unimaginable treasures of gold, silver and gems, also valuable utensils and objects hidden in the chambers of his castle. But all trace of such things had vanished in the rubble.

Many years after the fall of the castle, a knight appeared on the Eve before Easter. Alighting on the shore of the Rhine River, his oarsman told him the legend of Hoacht Castle. According to the saga, only one without blemish and pure of heart would be granted a vision of the castle’s treasures. This was the Easter Eve of legend and the oarsman urged the young knight not to hesitate but hasten up the path to the fortress before midnight. 

Together oarsman and knight hurried up the stony path. It seemed to widen as they went along, until finally at the top of the mountain it opened into a huge chasm. There stood a maiden clothed in snow-white garments. She motioned to the knight with her hand that he should approach while she slowly placed a lily on the ground. If the knight had been thinking properly, he would have immediately seized the flower. But alas, he did not. She motioned a second time and pointed to a hidden spot below the ground.

The knight believed she was pointing to the place the treasure lay buried. That is why he approached the spot but left the lily lying where she had placed it.

At one o’clock there was a terrible noise. The robber baron of yore now stood before the young knight with drinking cup in hand, just as he had stood hundreds of years before. His drinking companions surrounded him, throwing silver and gold coins into the air. But before the knight and oarsman could pick up one of the gold pieces, they all vanished. The lily which the maiden had placed on the ground now became an enormous viper, with thrashing tail and hissing tongue. The knight and oarsman had to retreat from the mountain to safety and were not able to retrieve any of the castle’s treasures.
As they ran down the steep path to the river, scornful laughter followed.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring Approaches the Fairy Tale Universe: a Tale for all Times

Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 175: The Moon

Nebra Sky Disk 

The days are getting longer as we approach spring! We have set 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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mysterious Fairy Tale of the Frog Prince and Iron Heinrich

A wonderful and strange fairy tale for the frozen days of March: only iron bands can keep a true heart from breaking.

In times of old when wishing still helped, there lived a king, whose daughters were all extremely beautiful. But the youngest one was so beautiful that the sun, which had seen so much in its day, was amazed whenever it gazed upon her face. Near the king’s castle lay a dark wood and in the wood underneath an old linden tree there was a water well. If the day was very hot, the king’s child went out to the forest and sat at the edge of the cool spring. And if the child was bored, it took a golden ball, threw it in the air and caught it; and that was the child’s favorite plaything.

Now it happened that the golden ball of the king’s daughter did not fall into her little hands, but rather hit the ground and rolled directly into the water. The king’s daughter followed it with her eyes, but the ball disappeared and the well was so deep that it was impossible to see the bottom. She began to cry and cried louder and louder and was inconsolable. And as she cried, some one called to her “You, daughter of the king, what are you doing? You are crying in a manner that even a stone would take pity.” She looked round to see where the voice was coming from, and there she saw a frog that poked its hideous head out of the water. “Oh it’s you, you old puddle splasher,” she said. “I am crying over my golden ball, which fell into the well.” “Be still and do not cry,” the frog replied. “I can help. But what will you give me if I fetch your plaything?” “Whatever you want, dear frog,” she said. “My clothes, my pearls and jewels, but also the golden crown that I am wearing.” But the frog replied “I don’t want your clothes, your pearls or jewelry. And your golden crown, that I surely don’t want. But if you will love me and I will be your mate and play fellow, I will sit at the little table next to you, eat from your little golden plate, drink from your little cup and sleep in your little bed. If you promise me that, I will dive down and fetch the golden ball.” “Oh yes,” she answered. “I promise you everything you want as long as you bring me the ball.” But she was really thinking “How that simple frog prattles on. He sits in the water with his own kind and croaks and can never be the mate of a human.”

The frog, when he had received her promise, dipped his head below the surface, sank deep into the water and after a while he swam to the top again. He held the ball in his mouth and threw it on the grass. The king’s daughter was filled with joy when she saw her wonderful plaything. She picked it up and jumped away with it immediately. “Wait, wait,” the frog yelled. “Take me with you, I can’t run like you.” But what good did it do that his loud croaking followed her, cry as he may! She didn’t listen, hurried home and soon forgot about the poor frog, who had to climb back to his water well.

The next day, when she sat down with the king and his entire court to dinner and ate from her little golden plate, something crept up the marble steps, plitsch, platsch, plitsch, platsch. When it reached the top it knocked on the door and cried “King’s daughter, youngest one, open the door for me.” She ran and wanted to see who it was. But when she opened the door, there stood the frog. She shut the door hastily and returned to the table and was very frightened. The king saw that her heart was pounding and said “My child, what do you fear, is a giant standing at the door to snatch you away?” “Oh no,” she answered, “It is no giant but a loathsome frog.” “What does the frog want with you?” “Oh dear father, when I went to the wood yesterday and sat by the well and played, my golden ball fell into the water. And because I cried so, the frog fetched it. And because he demanded it, I promised that he would be my mate. I never thought that he would creep out his water. Now he is outside and wants to come in.” And the frog knocked on the door a second time and called

“King’s daughter, youngest one,
Open the door for me,
Don’t you remember yesterday?
What you promised me
By the cool water well?
King’s daughter, youngest one,
Open the door for me.

The king said “What you have promised, you must also keep. Go now and open the door for him.” She went and opened the door and the frog hopped inside, followed right behind her feet and went to her chair. There he sat and called “Lift me up to you.” She shuddered, until finally the king commanded it. When the frog sat on the chair, it wanted to be on the table and when it sat there it said “Now slide your little golden plate over to me, so that we can eat together.” She did it, but one could see she did not do it gladly. The frog ate heartily but almost every bite lodged in the princess’s throat. Finally he said “I’m full now and tired. Carry me into your little chamber and make up your silk bed, where we can lay down.” The king’s daughter began to cry and was scared of the cold frog, which she didn’t even want to touch. And now he wanted to sleep in her beautiful clean bed. But the king became angry and said “Whoever has helped you when you were in need, you should not forget later.” She picked him up with two fingers and carried him up and put him in the corner. But when she lay in bed, he crept over and said “I’m tired, I want to go to bed like you. Lift me up or I will tell your father.” She was seized by such a bitter rage that she snatched him up and threw him against the wall with all her might. “Now you will have the rest you seek, you loathsome frog.”

But when he fell down, he was no frog but rather a prince with beautiful and friendly eyes. It had been her father’s will that he become her dearest mate and husband. He told her he had been hexed by an evil witch and no one but she could save him from the water well. Tomorrow they would go to his kingdom . They fell asleep and the next morning when the sun woke them, a carriage drove up with eight white horses. The horses had white ostrich feathers on their heads and walked in golden chains and behind stood the servant of the young king. It was True Heinrich. True Heinrich was so aggrieved when his master had been turned into a frog, that he had three iron bands placed round his heart so that it would not burst for pain and sadness. The carriage now fetched the young king to take him to his kingdom. True Heinrich lifted up both, stepped behind and was filled with joy over the prince’s redemption. And when they had traveled some distance, the prince heard a loud sound behind him, as if something was breaking. He turned and called

“Heinrich, the carriage is breaking.”
No, dear sir, not the carriage,
But the band round my heart,
In pitiable suffering,
Whilst you sat in the spring
And were a frog.”

Again and again the sound was heard and the prince thought the wagon was breaking. But it was only the bands around the heart of True Heinrich, as they broke, because his master was redeemed and now was exceedingly happy.

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Translation: Copyright

Monday, February 23, 2015

Spring is in the Air in Fairy Tale Land: But there is one more cold night (or a few)!

A cold night (in fairy tale land)!

A Swiss fairy tale from Binn

One cold night!

In the foothills of Binn a man got it into his head to spend an entire winter alone in his cabin!  One night a Gogwargi gnome came to him and very much astonished inquired if it wasn't too cold for him there alone as he was.

"Yes, yes," came the reply, "it is indeed cold". "But whatever shall you do here alone in this poorly insulated chamber cut off from human contact and far, far away."

The Gogwargi motioned that the man should come with him to a place where a large haystack stood. The Gogwargi pushed away some of the hay and both slipped into the neat little hollow.  

"Cover yourself well with the hay", the gnome admonished, "tonight will be quite frigid!"

The man from Binn slept quickly and when he awoke he found no trace of the little Gogwargi gnome.  Crawling out from his neat little hollow he suddenly found himself in a green meadow. He began to laugh and sing and dance and had such joy for winter was over!

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Happy Winter Fairy Tale Enthusiasts: When the Stars Fell From Heaven

When the stars fell from heaven:  Sterntaler

There was once a small girl, whose father and mother were dead. The girl was so poor that she didn’t have a room to live in or a bed to sleep in and finally had no more than the clothes on her back and one little piece of bread in her hand, which a compassionate soul had given her. But the girl was good and pious. And because the child had been abandoned by the entire world, she went out in the fields in faith to meet dear God. The girl met a poor man, who said “Oh, give me something to eat, I am so hungry.” The girl gave him an entire piece of bread and said “God bless you and yours,” and continued walking. The girl came to a child who was crying and said “I am freezing and my head is so cold, give me something to cover it.” The girl took off her cap and gave it to the child. And after the girl had walked a while, it met another child who didn’t have a wrap and was freezing: the girl gave it her wrap; and then a bit further another child asked for the girl’s jacket, she also gave it to him. Finally it reached the forest and it was already dark. A child came and asked for her shirt and the pious girl thought “It is darkest night, no one will see you, you can give him your shirt,” and she took off her shirt and also gave it away. And as it stood there and had nothing left in the world, the stars fell from heaven and they were hard, shiny coins: and although the girl had just given away her little shift, she had a new one and this one was made of the finest linen. She collected the coins and was rich all the days of her life.

Further fairy tale reading: a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about the cosmos:

Further reading for a cold winter's night:

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Happy Valentines Day Rapunzel

Rapunzel,  Grimm's Fairy Tale:

The Fairy Tale of Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm

There once lived a man and his wife who yearned for a child of their own. But their longing remained fruitless. At long last, the wife began to entertain hopes that God would fulfill her wish. The couple had a small window in the back of their house from which they could see a splendid garden full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. But this garden was enclosed by a high wall and no one dared enter because it belonged to a sorceress. She had enormous power and was feared throughout the entire world. One day, the woman stood at the window and looked down into the garden. She saw a vegetable bed planted with the loveliest Rapunzel: it looked so fresh and green that she felt an enormous desire and great craving to eat some Rapunzel. Each day her appetite increased and because she knew that she could not get any, her countenance fell and she became pale and miserable. Her husband became frightened and asked “What is wrong dear wife?” “Oh,” she replied, “if I don’t get any Rapunzel from the garden behind our house, I will die.” The man, who loved her dearly, thought “before I let my wife die, I will fetch her some Rapunzel, cost what it may.” In the evening twilight he climbed over the wall into the garden of the sorceress, quickly cut a handful of Rapunzel and brought it to his wife. She immediately made a salad and ate greedily. But it tasted oh so good that the next day she had three times the yearning. To have any peace at all her husband would have to climb into the garden once again. At dusk he made his way. But when he climbed down the garden wall, he received a terrible shock, for he saw the sorceress standing before him. “How dare you,” she said her face filled with rage, “climb into my garden and like a thief steal my Rapunzel? You shall live to regret it.” “Ach,” he replied “Temper justice with mercy! I only acted out of dire need: my wife saw your Rapunzel from the window and was seized by such a powerful craving that she would perish if she did not get some of it to eat.” The sorceress’s wrath abated somewhat and she replied “If things are as you say, I will allow you to take some Rapunzel, as much as you desire, but under one condition: you must give me the child that your wife shall bear. The child will do well and I will care for it like a mother.” The husband in his terror promised everything and when his wife lay in childbed, the sorceress appeared immediately, named the child Rapunzel and quickly snatched it away.

Rapunzel was the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve years old, the sorceress locked her in a tower in the forest. It had neither stair nor door, only at the top was a very small window. When the sorceress wished entrance, she stood at the bottom and called

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair.”

Rapunzel had long, gorgeous hair, as fine as spun gold. When she heard the voice of the sorceress, she untied her plaits, bound them round a window hook and then her hair fell down twenty ell and the sorceress climbed up.

After a few years, the king’s son was riding through the forest and passed the tower. He heard a song so lovely that he stopped and listened. It was Rapunzel who in her solitude passed the time sounding her sweet voice. The prince wanted to climb up to her. He looked for a door to the tower but there was none. He rode home but the song had touched his heart so deeply that he went out to the woods every day and listened. When he was once standing behind a tree he saw the sorceress come and heard how she called

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair.”

Rapunzel lowered her plaited hair and the sorceress climbed up to her. “If that is the ladder which you climb to get in, I will try my luck, too.” And the next day, when it began to get dark, he went to the tower and cried

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair.”

Immediately the hair was lowered and the prince climbed up.

At first Rapunzel was violently frightened that a man, such as she had never seen before, had come to her. But the prince began to speak cheerily and said that her song had moved his heart. He had no peace and had to see her for himself. Rapunzel lost her fear and when he asked whether she would take him as husband and she saw that he was young and handsome, she thought “He will love me more than old Mistress Gotel does.” She said yes and placed her hand in his. She replied“I will happily go with you but I don’t know how I can get down. Each time you come, bring a strand of silk and I will weave a ladder. When it is finished, I will climb down and you will take me away on your horse.” They arranged that he would come to her every evening, because the old woman visited during the day. The sorceress noticed nothing until Rapunzel chanced to say “Tell me Mistress Gotel, how is it that you are much harder to pull up than the young king’s son, who will be with me in a moment.” “Ach, you godless child,” the sorceress cried. “What must I hear from your lips. I thought I had kept you separate from the world and still you lied to me!” In her rage she grabbed the beautiful hair of Rapunzel, beat her a few times with her left hand and grabbed scissors in her right. Snip - snap, her hair was cut off and the beautiful plaits lay on the ground. She was so merciless that she cast poor Rapunzel out into the wilderness, where she was forced into a miserable and wretched life.

The same day that she banished Rapunzel, the sorceress tied the severed plaits to the window hooks and when the prince came and called

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your hair”

she lowered the hair. The prince climbed up. But he did not find his dear one, Rapunzel, but rather the sorceress, who greeted him with evil and malice in her gaze. “Aha,” she cried scornfully, “You want to fetch your dear wife, but the pretty bird no longer sits in the nest. She sings no more. The cat caught her and will now catch you and scratch out your eyes. Rapunzel is lost to you, you will never see her again.” The prince was gripped by such pain that in his despair he jumped from the tower: his life was spared, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes. He wandered through the woods blind, ate only roots and berries and did nothing but lament the loss of his dearest wife. Thus he roamed several years in misery until finally reaching the wilderness where Rapunzel lived in wretchedness with the twins she had borne, a boy and a girl. He heard a voice that sounded so sweetly familiar: he went toward it and as he approached, Rapunzel recognized him and flung her arms round his neck and cried. As two tears fell into his eyes, they became clear again and he could see as before. He led them back to his kingdom, where he was received with joy and they lived a long time thereafter cheerful and gay.

For further reading:

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Own Private Fairy Tale

The Puzzling Mystery of the Swan Slayers

Fairy Tale Detectives Heidi and Tom go bird-watching. Lucky for them, they live in an area with lots of birds and little detective work.

"Look at the cranes flying overhead!" remarks Heidi.

"Look at that heron sitting on a log!" replies Tom.

"Look at that family of swans!" Heidi and Tom enthuse.

The next day:
"Heavens to Betsy, Heidi! We have to get to the bottom of this!"

"Goodness gracious, Tom, could the killer be the driver of that yellow Hummer with the swan carcass on its hood?"

"No, that swan carcass is much too old. I would guess that SUV has been driving around for years like that!" Tom replies.

"What about that woman in the red truck? Isn't that hood ornament plastered with swan feathers and blood?" Heidi asks.

"No, I think those feathers and blood are actually from that whooping crane we saw last week. You know, the only whooping crane ever seen in this neck of the woods in the last 50 years."

There's nothing else that can be done except for the two detectives to drive aimlessly around the countryside with their binoculars and spotting scope, hoping the culprit will somehow reveal him- or herself.

Finally after a week:
"Goodness gracious, Tom. This sign says the swan-slayer has turned himself in and got the $5000.00 reward!"
"Our work on this fairy tale mystery is done, Heidi. And we can continue to believe that people, in the end, will do the right thing!"

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Happy Valentines from the Pied Piper of Hameln

(click on image to enlarge)

To read the story of the Pied Piper of Hameln click on the link:

Or to read about the magical properties of pipe-playing:

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ancient Egyptian Fairy Tales

Two melancholic tales for the moody month of January:

The Possessed Princess

Place:   Ancient Egypt, Northeastern Syria and the Land of Bechten (somewhere in Asia. 

Time:  The original papyrus claims the story took place in 1350 B.C. but a more realistic date is closer to around 100 B.C. The story concerns his majesty, King Ramses, residing in his palace in Neharina. Hit the link to read more:

The Doomed Prince

A manuscript dating to approximately 1000 B.C. bears the designation Papyrus Harris 500, marking it as the property of Mr. Harris at the British Museum in London. It contains two fairy tales in addition to a number of love poems. The first tale is about the Doomed Prince; the second is a story about the capture of the city of Joppa. Click on the link below to read about the incredible life of a doomed prince:

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Brides Beware of Bearded Bridegrooms: The German Bluebeard

Fairy Tale of Knight Bluebeard by 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 inside his castle. Because his beard was blue everyone called him Bluebeard although his true name has been lost in time. This knight had been married more than once. Some folks whispered behind their hands that all his wives had died in quick succession, one after another. But no one ever found 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 the 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 merry 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 now 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 will await your curiosity. I will have to separate your head from your body with my own hands!”

After hearing this speech the woman didn’t want to take the golden key. but take it she must for safeguarding. 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 many pleasantries in each of the numerous castle chambers. Finally, the sisters arrived in the small room.

The wife did not want to open the door even though she was needled by enormous curiosity. Her sisters only 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 and she could not remove them. 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 at 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 quick on her heels. When he saw the red droplets on the key, his expression was transformed into rage and he screamed “Wife, you must now die by my own hand! I  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, the sister should give the sign of dire distress, while the maid threw herself on the floor and pleaded for her life. And as the maid waited she called out “Sister! Do you see anyone?” --- “No one,” came the hopeless reply. – “Wife! Come down here!” Knight Bluebeard screamed. “Your time is up!”

“Sister, do you see anyone?” the maid cried. “A cloud of dust – but that is only sheep!” the sister replied. “Wife! Come down here!” Knight Bluebeard screamed.

“Have mercy! I will come at once! Sister! Do 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 as 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 did not overcome the pangs of her curiosity for a very long time.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Ghost in the Glass

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 99: The Ghost in the Glass (Also known as The Spirit in the Bottle or The Genie in the Bottle)

There once lived a poor woodcutter, who worked from morning until late at night. When he had finally saved some money, he said to his son “You are my only child. I want to use the money I have earned with the sour sweat of my brow for your education. You should learn something honest and decent so you can support me in my old age. The time will come when my limbs become stiff and I will have to sit at home and cannot work.”

The youth went to a school of higher learning and studied so diligently that all his teachers praised him. There he stayed for some time. But when he had learned his way through quite a number of subjects he realized he still had not mastered everything there was to know. The little bit that his father in poverty had put aside was all spent, so he returned home. “Ach,” the father said distressed “I cannot give you any more money. In these lean times I cannot even earn my daily bread.”

“Dear father,” the son replied. "Don’t worry about it. If it is God’s will, things will go well for me. I will make the best of it.”

When the father went out into the forest to earn something, his son said “I will go with you and help you.” 

“Yes, my son,” the father replied, “but it will be difficult for you, you are not used to hard work, you won’t be able to manage. I only have one axe and not enough money left  to buy another.” 

"Then go to the neighbor,” the son replied. “He will loan you his axe until I have earned enough to buy my own.”

The father borrowed an axe from his neighbor and the next morning at the break of day, they went out together into the forest. The son helped his father and was happy and joyful. When the sun stood high overhead in the sky, the father said “We shall rest now and have lunch. Afterward, we will continue.” 

The son took his bread in his hand and said “You rest, father. I am not tired. I will walk a bit in the forest and look for bird’s nests.” 

“Oh, you fool,” the father replied. “Why would you want to run around idly in the forest? Afterward you will only be tired and won’t be able to lift your arms; stay here and sit with me.”

But the son went out into the forest, ate his bread, was very happy and looked behind the green branches to see if he could find a nest. He went back and forth until finally he came to a large, menacing oak tree, which must have been many hundreds of years old for it would have taken more than five men holding hands to circle it’s girth. He stopped and gazed at the tree thinking “Many a bird must have built its nest in such a tree.” 

Suddenly he thought he heard a voice. He listened and finally could hear a low, muffled sound “Let me out, let me out!” He looked around but could find nothing. Finally he thought the voice was coming from below the earth. He called out “Where are you?” The voice replied “I am stuck here under the roots of the oak tree. Let me out, let me out!” 

The student began to dig below the tree and search around the tree roots until he finally found a small hollow in which there was a glass bottle. He raised it in the air and held it up against the light. There he saw a little thing, it had the shape of a frog. It jumped back and forth in the glass. “Let me out, let me out!” it cried again. 

The student, who didn’t think any harm would come by it, removed the cork from the bottle. Immediately a spirit emerged and began to grow. It grew so quickly that it soon became a frightful fellow, as big as half the tree where the student stood. “Do you know what your reward shall be for letting me out?” “No,” replied the student without fear, “How should I know that?” “I will tell you,” the spirit called out, “I will have to break your neck!” “You should have told me beforehand,” the student replied. “I would have let you stay stuck where you were. My head might be able to withstand you, but more people will have to be asked about this matter.”

“More people, ha!” the spirit cried out “You shall get what you deserve!” Do you think I stayed locked in there for so long out of charity? No it was my punishment. I am the powerful Mercurius. I must break the neck of whoever releases me.” 

“Wait,” replied the student. “Slow down, haste makes waste! First I must know that you really were sitting in that small bottle and that you are a true spirit. If you can go inside again, then I’ll believe it. Then you can do with me as you will.” 

The spirit replied scornfully “That is not much to ask and easier to do,” he said as he pulled himself together becoming as thin and small as he was before. He went through the same opening and crept through the neck of the bottle. He was barely inside when the student popped the cork back on the top and threw the bottle under the oak roots back to its prior place. The spirit had been deceived.

Now the student wanted to return to his father but the spirit called out mournfully “Ach, let me out, let me out.”
“No,” answered the student. “I won’t do it a second time. I won’t release the thing that threatened my life once before.”
“If you release me,” the spirit cried, “I will give you so much that you have plenty all the days of your life!” “No,”replied the student. “You are lying to fool me as you did the first time.”

“Don’t throw away your luck,” the spirit replied. “I won’t do anything to you, but will reward you richly.”

The student mulled it over, “I’ll take up the wager. Perhaps he will really keep his word and I don’t think he can harm me.” He removed the cork and the ghost emerged again, grew in size and ballooned into a large giant. “Now you shall reap your reward,” the ghost said and he gave the student a small cloth, the size of a small bandage. “When you rub a wound with the tip of this cloth, it will be healed. If, on the other hand, you touch steel or iron with the other end, it will become pure silver.”

“I’ll have to try that,” the student said. He went to a tree, cut the bark with his axe and rubbed it with the end of the bandage. Immediately the wood closed, grew together and was healed. “I see the things you said are correct,” the student said to the spirit. “We can now part ways.” The ghost thanked him for redeeming him and the student thanked the ghost for his gift and returned to his father.

“Where have you been?” the father asked “Why did you forget your work? I always told you that you would never amount to anything."
“Be of good cheer, father, I will make it up to you.”
“Yes, make it up,” the father replied angrily. “How do you propose doing that?”

“Watch, father. I will chop down the tree, so that it crashes to the ground.” He then took the bandage, rubbed his axe with it and struck a mighty blow. But because the iron had turned to silver, the blade bent upward. “Oh father. You have given me a bad axe, it is now bent.” The father became frightened and said “What have you done! Now I will have to pay for the axe and I don’t know where I shall get the money! That’s some benefit I have reaped from your labors!”

“Don’t be angry,” the son replied. “I will pay for the axe.”
“Oh you blockhead!” the father cried. “How will you pay for the axe. You have nothing but what I give you; the only thing in your head are student schemes! You don’t understand a thing about chopping wood.”

After a while the student spoke: “Father, I can’t work anymore. Let’s call it quits.”
“What is the matter with you,” the father replied. “Do you think I want to go home and twiddle my thumbs? I still have to work, but you can leave.”
“Father, I am in these woods for the first time. I don’t know the way back alone, please come with me.” Because his anger had subsided, the father finally relented and went home.

“Go and sell the ruined axe and see what you get for it. The remainder I will have to earn to pay the neighbor.” The son took the axe and went to the city to a goldsmith. The goldsmith tested it, placed it on a scale and said “It is worth four-hundred talers but I don’t have so much cash with me.” The student spoke “Give me what you have, the rest I shall loan you.” The goldsmith gave him three-hundred talers and owed him one-hundred. The student went home and said “Father I have the money. Go and ask the neighbor how much he wants for his axe.”
“I already know the answer” the old man replied. “He wants one-taler and six groschen.”

“So give him two talers and twelve groschen, that is twice as much and plenty enough. You see, I have the money,” and he gave his father one-hundred talers.  “You shall never lack anything again and shall live your life in comfort.”
“My God,” the old man replied. “How did you acquire such riches?” The son told him everything that had happened and how he had entrusted himself to luck to snag such riches. With the remaining money he returned to school and continued learning. And because he could heal every wound with his bandage, he became the most famous doctor in the world.

Reading the Fairy Tale The Ghost in the Glass

However far-fetched it might seem, the claim that this fairy tale has been thousands of years in the making is probably not an overstatement. We find clues to bolster this notion in three rather puzzling words: Mercurius, the name of the spirit in the glass, and the words dangerous oak describing the enormous and forbidding tree, which is the scene of enchantment in this tale.

First let’s take a look at the dangerous oak tree in the narrative. The ancient forests of Germany purportedly produced many incredible oaks and some of them were true giants. Thomas Pakenham in his book “Remarkable Trees of the World” cites an historical description of such a tree, quoting a 16th century writer who says of its enormity that it was “130 feet from the ground to the nearest bow” and another German tree had “a girth of over 90 feet”. Sadly, no trees of this stature have survived to this day, but we do have fragmented references in folklore and oral tradition attesting to the ancient notoriety of such trees. They are still described as “menacing, eerie, sinister” because they allegedly mark the spot where, according to Pakenham, pagan shrines once stood and “the dark rites of Woton” were performed. Pakenham goes on to explain that the so-called Feme-Eiche (Feme-Oak), which can still be seen today at Erle/Germany, was made a secret court of justice in the 13th century to try opponents of the king, but by the 19th century the practice had lapsed. One can only imagine the verdicts pronounced in the shadows of this oak!

A 17th century reference to a “deity-locked-inside-a-tree” can be found in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”. In the following lines Prospero explains how the witch Sycorax imprisoned the spirit Ariel within the confines of a pine tree:

”And for thou wast a spirit too delicate 
To act her earthy and abhorr’d commands,
Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee,
By help of her more potent ministers,
And in her most unmitigable rage,
A dozen years; within which space she died,

Into a cloven pine, within which rift
Imprison’d, thou didst painfully remain 
And left thee there, where thou didst vent thy groans…” 

And in Goethe’s famous poem The Erlkoenig, the child-grabbing hobgoblin is probably a reference to a spirit inhabiting an Erle or Alder Tree, most likely another reference to popular folk tradition (although disputed, I think the claim is ludicrous that the word  Erlkoenig entered German literature as a result of a translation error, see the Wiki page on Erlking to read more). Jacob Grimm suggests as much by placing the origin of the word in the French aulne, aune, and German Erle and daemon).

These are all trees with strong personality (per Pakenham). Likewise the oak tree in our fairy tale, The Spirit in the Bottle, also conceals a forceful presence, nothing less than the God Mercurius. So who is this Mercurius and how does he get into a German fairy tale?

In short, the Romans brought their gods with them when they conquered Europe. Statues of the god Mercury dating from the 2nd and 4rd centuries have been found in present-day Switzerland (one such statue can be seen in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, CA), but these statutes still bear the Gallic name for the god (Cobannus, Deo Cobanno, or a variation Gobannus) . Gradually Latin displaced native languages in conquered regions, and Cobannus became Mercury (these two gods presumably merged into one because the Gallic deity was very similar in temperament or function to the Roman god Mercury). Over time the Gallic term disappeared altogether. As god of commerce and business, Mercury was a very popular figure. Edith Hamilton in Mythology describes Mercury as “the most entertaining of all the gods, the shrewdest and most resourceful.” He was Jupiter’s favorite companion. Graceful and swift, this god wore winged sandals and a winged hat. He was the gods’ cunning messenger and protector of traders and business people. He understood that speed was often a prerequisite for business success and the essence of his character seems to be he could be everywhere and anywhere at once (like the Internet?). In short, he was a god that any MBA could appreciate and all those who aspired to entrepreneurial verve revered him. How fitting that he should appear in a fairy tale about a parent’s concern for his child and musings about whether all the book-learning in the world can translate into practical business sense. Some themes, it appears, are timeless.

Photo of bronze statue of the God Cobannus, private collection S. While/L. Levy, New York, Height 17.2 cm. Inscription on the shield: To the King and the God Cobannus dedicated by Marcus Tutus Cassio. Late 2nd century B.C., from Helvetia Archaeologica, No. 37/2006 - 145

Mercurial = of or pertaining to the god or planet Mercury. Characteristics include: eloquence, ingenuity, aptitude for commerce. Present day usage especially:  lively, sprightly, ready-witted, but also volatile. Grimm notes that this god was among those who accepted (possibly demanded) human sacrifice, where many of the other gods were appeased with animal or vegetable offerings.


The god Cobannus