Obscure German Folktales (part 1)

I was heading to bed and the title seemed to call to me from the bookshelf. A translation of the Brothers Grimm. I wasn’t sleepy yet, so I thought I’d peruse a few of the lesser known stories. It was fascinating.

First of all, what I encountered, for the most part, were not fairy tales. These were more  morality tales  told around the hearth in the cold, dark nights of winter. There were obvious  religious overtones and a definite moral to each one.

Here is a sampling:

-a story where a cat convinces a mouse to set up housekeeping with him. They buy a pot of fat to hold them through the winter and keep it stored at the church. The cat gets a craving for the fat and lies to the mouse, on three different occasions, saying that he is attending the baptisms of nieces and nephews as a sponsor. Each time he goes to the church and eats some of the fat, until it is all gone. Winter arrives, the fat is gone, and the mouse confronts the cat. The cat eats the mouse. The stated moral is: this is how the world works, be careful!

-a poor child is adopted by the Virgin Mary and raised in heaven. Mary is going on vacation and leaves the child 13 keys. She is allowed to use 12 of them to unlock 12 doors, but not the thirteenth. The child opens all 13 doors. Mary asks her about it and gives her 3 opportunities to tell the truth before kicking her out of heaven. She lies 3 times and is kicked out of heaven.

The girl grows up as a wild woman incapable of speech. A king sees her in the wilderness and falls in love, taking her home to become his wife. The night her firstborn son enters the world, Mary comes to her and gives her an opportunity to tell the truth. She refuses and Mary takes her firstborn son into heaven. The villages accuse her of being an ogre who ate her baby, but the king will not hear of it.

Another son is born, and again Mary comes to the girl, giving her an opportunity to repent. Again the girl lies, and again the villagers are upset when the child disappears

The last time a daughter is born, and by now the villagers are so up in arms that the woman is to be burned at the stake.  As the fires lick her ankles, she finally repents. The Virgin Mary comes down from heaven, puts out the fire, and returns the three children with the admonition: :There is always forgiveness for those who will repent

Stay tuned tomorrow for the story of a naughty child whose mother is punished and a boy who wanted to know fear.


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