Monday, November 5, 2018

Clever Gretel, Grimm's Fairy Tale No. 77

Clever Gretel's Thanksgiving Feast, a Tale for Cooks and Culinary Goddesses 

It is best to act with confidence, no matter how little right you have to it.
(Lillian Hellman) 
Translation: Copyright
(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

There was once a cook named Gretel and she wore shoes with red heels. Whenever she went out, she swayed back and forth before the mirror, was exceedingly gay and thought to herself “You are indeed a very pretty maid.” And when she came home she was so merry, that she took a gulp of wine. And because the wine made her hungry, she tried some of the best victuals she had cooked that day. She ate until she was satisfied and always said “The cook must know how the food tastes!”

It happened that the gentleman of the house came to her and said “Gretel, this evening a guest shall visit. Prepare two splendid chickens.” “That I shall do, sir,” Gretel replied. She slaughtered the chickens, boiled them, plucked them and skewered them. And toward evening she placed them over the fire so they could roast. The chickens began to brown and would soon be done, but the guest had not yet arrived. Gretel called to the master, “If the guest does not come, I must take the chickens off the fire. But what a shame if they are not eaten immediately when they are in full juice and so succulent.” The master spoke “I shall run out and fetch the guest myself.” As soon as the master had turned his back, Gretel put aside the spit with the chickens and thought to herself “Standing so close to the fire all day makes one sweaty and thirsty. Who knows, when they will get here! While I wait, I’ll go down to the cellar and take a little nip.” She ran down the stairs, picked up a jug and took a gulp. “Good wine should be enjoyed,” she said and continued “it’s not good to stop in mid-gulp.” And so, she took another full swallow. Then she went and placed the chickens over the fire again, brushed them with butter and happily turned the spit. The roasted meat smelled so delicious that Gretel thought to herself “No one shall notice if a small bit is missing. I must of course try it!” She poked and pulled off a bit with her finger and said “Ah, what delicious chickens indeed. It’s a crying shame if they aren’t eaten immediately! She ran to the window to see if the master was returning with the guest, but saw no one. Turning back to the chickens, she gazed upon the plump birds. “Better that I should eat this little wing before it burns.” And so she cut off the wing and ate it. It tasted good and when she was done she thought, “The other wing must now come off, otherwise the master shall notice that the first one is missing.” When the two wings had been eaten she returned to the window and looked for the master. He was no where to be seen. “Who knows,” she thought, they might not even come and have probably already turned back.” She thought to herself “Gretel, be happy, you’ve started eating the one chicken, go get a fresh drink and eat up the rest. When it’s all gone you shall have your peace. Why should God’s gifts be wasted? And so she ran down into the cellar, took an honorable gulp and then ate the chicken in complete contentment. When the chicken was gone and the master still was not home, Gretel gazed on the other bird and said “Where the first chicken has gone the second must follow! The two belong together. What’s right for the one is only fitting for the other. And if I should take another sip of that wine, it surely won’t hurt me.” And so, she took another hearty gulp and the second chicken joined the first.
And as it often happens with the best of dinners, the master of the house finally returned home and called out “Hurry, Gretel, our guest shall arrive promptly.” “Yes, sir, I’ll get things ready,” Gretel replied. The gentleman looked to see whether the table was laid, took out the big knife to cut the chickens and sharpened it in the hallway. When the guest arrived, he knocked politely on the door. Gretel ran and looked to see who it was. Seeing the guest she laid a finger on her mouth and said “Quiet, quiet!, go quickly while you can. If my master catches you, you shall be sad indeed. He did invite you to supper but he intends to cut off both your ears. Listen to how he is sharpening the knives.” The guest listened to the sharpening sound coming from the hallway and retreated down the stairs as fast as he could. Gretel was not a lazy maid. She ran screaming to her master and called out “That’s quite the guest you invited!” “Why is that, Gretel? What do you mean?”

“He took both chickens from the platter, which I was just about to place on the table, and ran off with them!” “That’s a fine way to act!” the master cried. And he felt badly about losing two delicious chickens. “If he had at least left me with one, I would have something to eat.” He called after the man imploring him to stay. But the guest pretended he didn’t hear. The master ran after him with the knife still in his hand and cried “Only one, only one!” He meant the guest should leave only one of the chickens and not take both. But the guest understood he was to relinquish only one of his ears and so he ran as if a fire were raging behind him. And so, he arrived safely home with both of his ears. 

Bechlboschen or Christmas Bush, Feast Days, the Color Red and Christmas Goddesses

(Please read, enjoy, link to or pass this story on to friends. Please do not plagiarize, copy or pilfer. Thanks!)

In Salzburg Land, the Bechlboschen is a Christmas bush. The special significance of this bush or why it was tied to Christmas is unclear but it is probably based on a long forgotten pagan belief. A Christmas bush is also traditional in Bavaria in a region near Guenzburg. It was said the bush marked the spot frequented by the dirneweibl (female child) dressed in a bright red cloak, who carried pretty red apples in a basket. She always offered these as gifts to the unsuspecting passerby (probably in the winter season around Christmas time?). Should the person accept her gift, it turned into pure gold. But if the person did not follow her, the dirneweibl retreated into the forest, crying pitifully. The color red for her cloak is significant and marks her as one of the many forgotten pagan goddesses of German mythology. One of the most famous fairytale figures of all is dressed in similar garb and likewise retreats into the forest: Little Red Riding Hood.
In the tale of Clever Gretel (full text above), the protagonist wears shoes with red heels, a similar marker. But Gretel is not the typical Christmas Goddess of times past. Red shoes mark a strong-willed, socially deviant person in fairy tales, who could signal trouble. Still, her cooking is sublime.

It is easy to imagine that Gretel would have liked to cook even bigger birds than mere chickens, given her lusty appetite. I can imagine her cooking a turkey or goose-sized bird to satisfy her cravings. As we move into the dark days of of the year, food and friendship help us persist toward the light we know will return. So eat and be merry and share a hearty meal with those you love. 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sparks of Light on the Halberd

Fairy Tale Factum:
This story mentions two types of shafted weapons that were used primarily in the Middle Ages. The German Hellebarde (English: Halberd)) and the Partisan, a subsequent form of the halberd. Early forms of the halberd were a combination of spear for military purposes and farm implement for work in the fields. The farmer in the story is carrying this type of combination tool, referred to first as a hay- or pitchfork and then as a partisan. The Swiss Guard, the oldest army in the world, still uses the Hellebarde to guard the Vatican.

Grimm's Saga 280:

The following story is told about the ancient Castle Lichtenberg in Hanau, perched on a tall cliff in Lower Elsass, an hour’s journey from Ingweiler:
When a storm or violent weather advances, one can see many small blue lights on the rooftops and spires of the castle, even on the tips of halberds. The lights have been seen for many years and according to some folk, this is how the old castle comes by its name.

Two farmers went out walking from the village Langenstein (close to Kirchhain in Upper Hesse) and walked toward Embsdorf with their pitchforks on their shoulders. On the way, one of the farmers saw a little light on the partisan of his comrade, who removed it from his shoulder and laughing, swept the eery glow away with his fingers so that it disappeared. After they had walked another hundred steps, the little light was once more at the prior spot and was brushed away again. But a few moments later it returned. The other farmer pushed it away with several harsh words, wiping it roughly once more and then it did not return. Eight days later at the same spot where the one farmer had brushed away the light for the third time, these two farmers met again. Normally they were old friends, but they became irritated with each other and their angry words led to blows. The one farmer stabbed the other to death.

More fairy tale factum:

Monday, October 8, 2018

Scary Stories for a Dark Season

Grimms' Saga No. 277: The Advent Flibbertigibbet

On the mountain road to Haenlein, but also in the area around Lorach, people call the Ignis fatuous (or phosphorescent lights that can be seen there), flibbertigibbets.  Purportedly they only appear during advent and a funny rhyme has been composed about them:

“Flibbertigibbet, ho, ho,
Burn like straw, oh, oh,
Strike me like lightening if you will!
Flibbertigibbet wisp-o-will!”

More than thirty years ago a young girl saw a flibbertigibbet in the evening and recited the old rhyme But the flibbertigibbet ran after the girl pursuing her into the house of her parents.  It followed quick on her heels and entered the room at the very same time she did.  It struck all the people assembled there with its fiery wings so that from that time forth her family was both dumb and blind.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Field Guide to Werwolves

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse, Chapter 12, Part 3

Walpurga continues: During the day, the werewolves, meerwolves, beerwolves, Werwatz werewolves and Blitzwolf himself have no power over you. You must make your way to the Elfmound during the day. At night you must sleep within the confines of a holy refuge. Your silver spoon will tell you if a place is holy or foul. If it rests peacefully on your palm, the place  is godly. But should the spoon agitate, you must not linger another moment. 

In this manner prince and horse made their way to the Elfmound. The prince was determined to free his bride, celebrate the long-postponed nuptials and finally make it back to his kingdom. The horse was dedicated to supporting this endeavor and looked forward to bright days in green pastures.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Werwatz Werwolves and the Berserkers

Chapter 12, Part 2, Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse

Walpurga speaks:  the reason you hear the Werwolf lullaby is because  some werewolf mothers sing a Wolfslied to their young wolf pups. These young dogs then grow into giants, They are the Werwatz Werwolves, shape-shifters, sometimes wolves, sometimes monstrous behemoths.  One particularly giant werewolf is named >>>>>  BLITZWOLF. His power is unleashed in a burst of lightening when he takes on the form of giant, but his ferocious strength is of limited duration. He mows down all he encounters eviscerating his prey in a blink of an eye; seconds later he returns to his prior form. Those who have witnessed the Blitzwolf’s carnage say no human, once attacked, can survive. Others have said those assailed become Berserkers.  Unable to die, they can only rage on.

But their cruelty only controls the night. The sun dispels their power, and goodness and love return at dawn.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Peregrinatio Religiosa

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse, Chapter 12

Willibald and Winibald Announce their Departure, Embrace a Life of Pious Rootlessness,and Embark on Peregrinatio Religiosa,Walpurga Arrives

Willibald looked off to the distance, past the garden gate and the monastery walls while Winnibald stood near.
“There is a time and season for everything under heaven!” he said.

Winnibald continued: “A time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,”

“A time to weep and a time to laugh,” Willibald added, and 
 then he paused and smiling at Winibald grasped his hand: 

“A time to come and a time to go.”

With that the two walked toward the monastery gate, opened it and then departed. Thus began their peregrinatio religiosa*. Soon only their small silhouette could be seen on the dusty road leading from the monastery.

The heavy gate remained open. Prince and horse stood silently, they didn’t know what to do next.  But gradually another figure came into focus on the horizon. It approached slowly now visible, now concealed by the damp morning fog. Obscured by a black cucculus and cape, the figure arrived at the gate.  Prince and horse slowly approached the hooded figure. It was Walpurga, Abbess of Heidenheim.

* Religious rambling.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse
Life in the Monastery
Chapter 11, Part 5

Prince and horse lived in the monastery seven years. The garden provided nourishment and the beehives sweetness. Each night the two friends lay down in a grassy pasture to sleep, but the werewolves always bedeviled them. In darkness they tossed and turned in restless agitation while the lycanthropes raged outside the cloister walls. Just before the first rays of dawn announced the end of night, the werewolf mother sang her lullaby to the were-pup and the demons were silenced.  Prince and horse then awoke and followed Winibald and Willibald as they attended to their monastic duties. And so the time slipped by.

One morning the prince was deep asleep, his horse was snoring loudly and the sun was rising rapidly. He felt a boot nudging his ribs. Then it tapped and finally, it was planted firmly on his breast. The mounting pressure caused him to wriggle and squirm. Pushing it away, he jumped up. 

Willibald and Winibald stood before them. “The old things have passed away; “ Willibald stated flatly, “And behold,” Winnibald continued  “new things have come.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Willibald and Winibald in Heidenheim

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse

The Aphorisms of Willibald and Winibald, Chapter 11, Part 4

The prince spoke haltingly as he emerged from his strange slumber: “Dear horse, we have made it to Heidenheim!”  The horse jumped up and replied “We have survived the onslaught of werewolves and reached a blessed sanctuary!”

Willibald and Winibald stood before them silently. Their bright eyes glistened, their countenance friendly.  But they said not a word.  The prince spoke “We have come so far!”  And the horse continued this thought “and endured so much to get here!”

Willibald and Winibald, ignoring them both, stared straight ahead and walked toward the monastery garden. “He who holds his tongue” Willibald muttered and Winibald promptly added “is wise!’ 

The two brothers continued down a tidy garden path; prince  and horse followed. Birds chirped, butterflies flapped their wings, and bees hummed busily in sweet harmony.

The prince continued “I have lost my true love through my own folly and shall never more find her.”   And the horse stated mournfully “She is long lost I fear.”

Willibald walked meditatively along rows of vegetables with Winibald at his side.  Now the two brothers gazed upon neat rows of sprouting carrots and peas.  Willibald smiled “There is nothing covered that will not be revealed,”  “Or hidden that will not be known,” Winibald finished the sentence for him.

The prince followed the two saintly brothers.  “I am a fool!”  he cried. The horse suggested “At least very foolish!” The group continued along one row of peas and then the next. Finally Willibald halted and nodding approvingly said “Wisdom belongs to the aged!” to which Winibald replied “and understanding to the old!”

“I am crushed in my misery” the prince said dejectedly. “Perhaps squeezed is more accurate,” the horse proffered.

To which Willibald said: “We are hard pressed on every side,” and Winibald added “but not crushed.”

The prince lamented: “I am an idiot!” But the horse chided “Perhaps too quick-tongued!”

To which Willibald replied “He who walks with the wise,”  “becomes wise!” Winibald added.

“I have always endeavored to follow my heart honestly!” the prince stated flatly. And the horse continued “You have a strong heart!”

Willibald now stood before a row of carrots and nodding approvingly offered “Wisdom is on the lips of him,” “who has understanding” Winibald said.  

“When pride comes,” said Willibald, “then comes disgrace” Winibald completed the thought for his brother and added "But with humility comes wisdom," and the two vanished from the garden. Prince and horse stood gazing at the plants and finally the prince pulled up a carrot and shared it with his horse.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Werewolf Lullaby

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse
Chapter 11, Part 3
If I were, were, were a werewolf.

Were they sleeping? Were they dreaming? Whose voices whispered “hwisprian — hwisprian”. The howling raged on and the onslaught continued for hours it seemed, deep, deep into the night. The prince could not move his limbs they were so heavy. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the horse lying close by, its snorting breath chopped and rasped. Then all went dark. It was cold; doleful yowling continued on into the night and enveloped the two like a heavy wet blanket. They lay there for hours until finally the first light could be seen on the horizon.  Then warmth slowly returned, and the sun rose high in the sky. The prince heard a soothing lullaby now, at first it murmured faintly:

If I were, were, were, were a werewolf,
Not werebear or were-mouse,
Not were-pig or were-louse,
Free of wem, stainless,
Free of scar, blameless,
I would walk with the wedders and their sheep wives,
Always even-tempered past the bee hives.
I would do no harm, ther'd be no alarm.
Sweet dreams, sleep deep little were-pup. 

The prince awoke and two bright sets of eyes returned his gaze. It was the two Balds: Willibald and Winibald. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Werwatz Werewolves: Dark night of the soul!

The Werwatz Werewolves
Chapter 11, Part 2
Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse

Prince and horse scuttered to the protective walls of Heidenheim while howling and hissing could be heard in fast pursuit. The werewolves were approaching fast on their heels; there was no time to delay. They must seek shelter within the walls of the monastery and request the protection of Winibald and Willibald.

Now the silhouette of the monastery could be seen through the woods. A light burned within and they hastened to reach the sanctuary. The howling grew louder, the snapping of jaws more distinct and a cacophony of barking soon enveloped them. “Faster!” the horse encouraged the faltering prince. “Quick, alight on my back and I will carry you more swiftly!” And so it happened: they breached the walls of Heidenheim and horse and man collapsed within.

Exhaustion overwhelmed and a deep sleep fell upon them while a raging storm of meerwolves and beerwolves encircled them. It was the clan of Werwatz that now girdled the castle as they lay listlessly under the fetid stench and baleful bark of the Werwatz Werewolves.

Dark night of the soul! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse, Chapter 11: The Werewolf's Frenzied Distemper

Chapter 11
The Werewolf’s Frenzied Distemper

Prince and steed lost no more time; what else could they do but flee? The werewolves were encroaching on the monastery of Heidenheim; the sanctuary of Winibald and Willibald beckoned. Speed was of the essence. And so the prince and horse scurried toward its protective walls.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fairy Tale of Prince and Horse, Chapter 10

Part 1, Crystalball Gazing

“But back to practical matters,” Walpurga said kindly. “I have grace to see future things before they happen. The future cannot remain hidden from me! And doubt? I shall take it from you when we gaze into the crystal and clearly see your future, your destiny.”

She retreated to her cabinet and removed a basket containing her utensils: a silk-blue cloth impressed with wonderful images of dragons, snakes and other animals, a green-translucent bowl shimmering, and a crystal ball. Placing the crystal in the bowl, she then draped the silk over it before beginning.  

Walpurga fell silent for several minutes. The prince leaned forward as she began to murmur, eyes closed. Then she removed the silk and asked the prince to gaze inside the crystal ball. 

First he saw nothing. Then his bride appeared in beautiful costume, adorned for her wedding day. As lovely as she seemed there was also a trace of sadness in her countenance and while he gazed more intently he noticed her pallor and how she trembled.  Her face was such a deathly white that you could not see her without feeling pity. Then her features convulsed into something horrible and cruel as a gallant approached. As if coming from a long trip he still wore boot and spur, but his gray mantle with golden buttons was covered in dust still plentiful.  As he approached her he removed two shiny flashing pistols one in each hand from under his coat and then he pointed at her heart. The prince looked on in horror as the gunman placed the pistol on his bride’s breast, released the clasp and squeezed the trigger. Then he heard a dull far-off sound and shuddered. Who was this gallant brandishing a weapon? He peered more intently into the crystal ball and saw his own face. 

Part 2, 
The sheltering sump.

Walpurga placed the silk on the glass and trembled. “The future is harsh and we scarcely desire to know it.!”

“That isn’t so!” the prince gasped. Clutching her arm tightly he implored “You must show me more. My heart shall otherwise break in two.”

“As you wish,” the abbess closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Soon it seemed  as if she panted, then croaked, then rasped and finally made no sound at all. Even though her eyes were closed, the lids trembled in their sockets and her lips tightened. All color had faded from her cheeks when the silk fell from the crystal ball once more.

Inside the glass tiny figures could be seen running through a forest. They ran and ran past mighty oaks. Down, down they ran into a swamp, through  marsh and muck until finally, pushing forward they reached a mound on which more fat oaks stood. Now they pushed upward, up up through tall thick grasses following a well-trodden damp and dewy way. The prince gazed intently at the tiny figures fleeing and then noticed one, a maid.  His maid! His intended one! Running through the mud and leading her trusted steed through the sheltering sump. 

Part 3

The maid spoke:

My home is the impenetrable elfmound where sump meets hillock.  Once I pledged my heart to a prince but I was kidnapped by a king; my swain freed me from the king’s cruel advances only to abandon me soon after. Were it not for my horse or help from the fairy folk I would have been lost. But by and by I came to this place of moss and mold. I have put on the wings of the fairies as armor and here I shall live for all time forth. For in the muck every army sinks, every villain is swallowed, and love is unknown. 

Part 4

Walpurga explains the nature of fairy folk.

The elfmound faded from view within the crystal ball and Walpurga covered the glass once more with silk cloth. “Your intended one has gone to the fairies or the Night Folk as some call them. The Elf Queen lives in the bush and night is the fairies’ time of joy. That is when elf-throngs join in dance and sing boisterously. Only fairy rings in the dewy grass tell of their dancing. But woe to him who by chance happens upon them. He that speaks to them shall die! You must find your maid and remove her from the elfmound. Then she will lose her wings and return to you. But once you step inside the elfmound, you are under their spell and have no power to resist. You must then take on their winged armor and join the ethereal horde.”

Part 5

The crystal ball will not be silenced.

The prince sat dejectedly at the table contemplating what to do. Walpurga, ball and silk in hand, shuffled toward the cabinet to return the crystal. Her hands gripped the slippery surface and moved in zig-zag fashion as she struggled to contain the sphere. The cloth slipped from its surface and new images could now be seen within.  The prince rushed toward her and held up the crystal to the light. Within the glass sphere he could see a mobilized army of witches, werewolves and giants, dust hurling up, the ground shaking.  “They are coming for you!” Walpurga rasped.  You must quickly retreat to Heidenheim, where such evil is kept at bay. It is the only refuge secure against such treachery. A holy sanctuary. Flee! Flee!”  The prince rushed to the door and looked for his trusted steed. He turned once more to Walpurga before rushing out. “Are all these things foretold true and inevitable? Can nothing be altered? Is there no balm for remorse?” But Walpurga only urged him forth. “Flee! Flee!” she repeated.