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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Saga of Wilhelm Tell

Grimm’s Saga No. 518: Wilhelm Tell

Now it happened that the Kaiser’s bailiff named Grissler rode out to Uri. And when he had lived there some time he erected a pole under the linden tree and everyone had to pass by it. On this pole he placed a hat and ordered a farmhand to sit there and keep watch. He ordered the following public proclamation: Whoever passes must bow to the hat as if the master himself stood there. And if a person did not see the hat and did not bow, he would be punished and have to pay a hefty fine.
Now a pious man resided in the land; his name was Wilhelm Tell. He stood before the hat but would not bow. The servant who guarded the hat now accused Tell before the bailiff. The bailiff had Tell brought before him and asked why he did not bow before the tree and hat, as was commanded. Wilhelm Tell answered: “Dear sir, it is something like this; I do not believe that Your Grace is held in high regard. If I were a funny fellow, I would not be called Tell.”
Now Tell was a good marksman, his equal could not be found in all the land. He also had handsome children whom he loved. The bailiff had the children brought before him and when they arrived he asked Tell, which child was the dearest of all. “I love them all the same,” Tell replied. Grissler replied “Wilhelm, you are a good shot. One cannot find your equal in all the land. You shall now prove it to me. You shall take your children and shoot an apple from one of their heads.”
The goodly Tell recoiled. He begged for mercy for what was asked was not natural. He would do anything else asked. But the bailiff forced him with his servants and placed the apple on the child’s head himself. Now Tell saw that he could not avert the issue. He took the arrow and placed one in his quiver. With the other hand he took another arrow, loaded it in the crossbow and asked God to protect his child. He aimed and shot and the arrow happily struck the apple on the child’s head. Geissler said it was a master shot. “But one thing you shall tell me: What does it mean that you hold another arrow behind in your quiver?”
“It is the habit of marksmen.” But the bailiff would not cease needling him and wanted to hear an explanation. Finally Tell admitted that he feared for his life if he told the truth. When the bailiff promised to preserve his life, Tell spoke: “I did it because of this: if I had missed the apple and shot my child, I wouldn’t have missed hitting you with the next arrow. When the bailiff heard this he said: “Your life has been promised you; but I want to put an end to all this so that sun and moon cease shining for you!” He had him seized and bound and placed in a boat so that he could be conveyed back to Schwyz. As they were traveling on the sea and came near Axen, they met a strong wind. The ship swayed back and forth and they all thought they would meet a miserable end. None of them knew how to steer the vehicle through the waves. One of the servants spoke to the bailiff: “Unbind Tell. He is a strong and powerful man and understands what to do in such weather. We want to escape this calamity.” The bailiff spoke and called to Tell: “If you help us and do your best so that we can escape, I will have you unbound.”
Tell replied: “Yes gracious sir. I will do it gladly. Trust me.” Tell was then unbound and stood at the helm of the ship in good faith. And so he waited for his advantage, espying his crossbow lying on the floor. They now approached a large rock which since has been called Tell’s Plate and is stilled called that today. It dawned on him that he might now escape and cried out to them all to row hard until they arrived at the base of the rock, because when they passed it they would be through the worst of the waves. So while they rowed close to the rock he forcefully turned the ship as he was a strong man. He reached for his crossbow and jumped onto the rock, pushing the boat back where it rocked back and forth on the water.
Quickly retreating into the shadows of Schwyz (through the dark mountains), he finally arrived in the empty streets of Kuessnacht. There he waited for the bailiff and his men. When the bailiff arrived with his men, Tell stood behind a brushy shrub and heard the noise of the attackers coming his way. He spanned his crossbow and shot an arrow into that man, who fell down dead. Tell ran away quickly over the mountains to Uri, found his comrades and told them all that had happened.  


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Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Fairy Tale for January: Mistress Berta or the Woman in White


268. Mistress Berta or the Woman in White
A woman in white appears in castles of many royal families, especially at Neuhaus in Bohemia, Berlin, Darmstadt and Karlsruhe, wherever the blood of an ancient family has mingled with her own race through marriage. She is gentle, harming no one and when encountered, she bows her head and says nothing. Her visit portends the imminent death of a loved one but may also foretell a happy event: as long as she is not wearing black gloves. She carries a ring of keys and wears a bonnet with white veil. Some folk say her name was Perchta von Rosenberg and she lived in Neuhaus in Bohemia. She was married to Johann von Lichtenstein, a mean, mulish man. After her husband’s death she lived as a widow in Neuhaus and began to build a castle to the great distress of her subjects, who had to work like slaves. While they were working, she called to them and urged them to work diligently: “When the castle is finished I shall give you and yours a sweet porridge,” for this is how old folk spoke when they invited someone as guest to dinner. In the autumn after the building was complete, she not only kept her word, but also established the custom that throughout the ages the Rosenbergs would always give their people such a meal. And this tradition continued. If there was a lapse, she would appear with a stern countenance. It was said that sometimes at night she would visit the nursery of a princely house, while the nursemaid slept. She rocked the children in their cradle or carefully carried them to and fro. Once an unknowing maid woke up alarmed and asked “What are you doing with that child?” and scolded her severely. Mistress Berta replied “I am not a stranger in this house like you are, I belong to this house. This child has sprung from my own blood, from my children’s children. But because you have not shown the honor due me, I will never more return here.”


Fairy Tale Factum:

According to Jakob Grimm, Perchta (Berchta or Berta) is mentioned in Old High German in the 10th century as a white-clad Germanic goddess. She is known in the upper regions of Germany from Alsace to Austria and is associated with ancient hunting cultures and with spinning and weaving. She thus shares many similarities with Frau Holle (see Christmas Tales). In Christian traditions she is often associated with St. Lucia and her festival day is January 6. Her name means the Shining One. Wise folk in fairy tales do not provoke the wrath of Mistress Berta and make sure they eat the traditional meal of porridge on her feast day.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

A Visit from St. Nicholas
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; 

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. 
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer, 



With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen



To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky; 



So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—



And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.



As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.



He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;


The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” 

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 FairyTaleChannel.com
(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:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/03/vernal-equinox.html

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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.