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Presumed innocent, yet dirty dark secrets are imbedded in the bedtime stories told to children. Fairy tales are magical narratives that pervade the young minds of children so deeply, leaving imprints on their subconscious that can mold their every-day lives. According to Bruno Bettelheim, the 20th century child psychologist and author on autism, ancient cultures had no hard lines: “separating myths from folklore and fairy tales; all these together form the literature of preliterate societies.”
The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm (1916)
Fairy tales contain well refined messages of a spiritual nature which not only emulate truths about how to live life, but they hold watered-down versions of some pretty dark historical occurrences. Involving social crimes such as incest, rape, cannibalism and bestiality the original fairy tales were a lot darker and so much is this the case that many would be way too terrifying for today’s snowflake millennials to consume.
Illustration in The fairy tales of Charles Perrault 1628-1703; Clarke, Harry, 1889-1931, illustrator. London: Harrap (1922).
The Ancient Origins of Fairy Tales
The original stories which inspired later fairy tales were either told orally or dramatically reenacted, but they were never written down. This causes a lot of obscurity and uncertainty in determining not only their origins but their course of development. According to a recent BBC article, researchers at universities in Lisbon, Portugal and in Durham, England, claim some fairy tales date back more than 6,500 years.
These stories also openly exchange plots, motifs, characters and events with one another and as global travel increased, they became blended with stories from foreign lands. The Arabian Nights was compiled around 1500 AD and Chinese Taoist philosophers such as Liezi and Zhuangzi recounted fairy tales in their philosophical works, but the first famous Western fairy tales are those of Aesop written around the 6th century BC in ancient Greece.
At the earliest stages of culture ancient stories were loaded with magical and supernatural themes, for example, The Golden Ass or The Metamorphoses of Apuleius, which is according to Augustine of Hippo the: “only ancient Roman novel in Latin to survive in its entirety.” The protagonist of the story, Lucius, at the end of the novel, is revealed as having been born in Madaurus, the hometown of Apuleius and the plot revolves around his ‘curiosity’ ( curiositas) and burning desire to experience and practice magic.
A fairy (also fay, fae, fey, fair folk, or faerie) is a type of mythical being or legendary creature found in the folklore of multiple European cultures (including Celtic, Slavic, German, English, and French folklore), a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural, or preternatural.
Myths and stories about fairies do not have a single origin, but are rather a collection of folk beliefs from disparate sources. Various folk theories about the origins of fairies include casting them as either demoted angels or demons in a Christian tradition, as deities in Pagan belief systems, as spirits of the dead, as prehistoric precursors to humans, or as spirits of nature.
The label of fairy has at times applied only to specific magical creatures with human appearance, magical powers, and a penchant for trickery. At other times it has been used to describe any magical creature, such as goblins and gnomes. Fairy has at times been used as an adjective, with a meaning equivalent to "enchanted" or "magical". It is also used as a name for the place these beings come from, the land of Fairy.
A recurring motif of legends about fairies is the need to ward off fairies using protective charms. Common examples of such charms include church bells, wearing clothing inside out, four-leaf clover, and food. Fairies were also sometimes thought to haunt specific locations, and to lead travelers astray using will-o'-the-wisps. Before the advent of modern medicine, fairies were often blamed for sickness, particularly tuberculosis and birth deformities.
In addition to their folkloric origins, fairies were a common feature of Renaissance literature and Romantic art, and were especially popular in the United Kingdom during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The Celtic Revival also saw fairies established as a canonical part of Celtic cultural heritage.
9 The Seven-League Boots
The Seven-League Boots are a recurring artifact in numerous European fairy tales, and the boots themselves allowed one to travel seven leagues (roughly five kilometers or three miles) per step. The boots aren&rsquot very well known, and they are featured primarily in the French fairytale Hop-o&rsquo-My-Thumb.
In the story, Hop-o&rsquo-My-Thumb is a small boy who is extremely intelligent. When his parents abandon him and his brothers, he becomes the (very tiny) man of the house. When an ogre decides to make a meal of the brothers, Hop-o&rsquo-My-Thumb steals their magical boots to escape and make his fortune for his family.
10 Unusual Little-Known Fairy Tales
Here are ten lesser-known but fascinating stories which I hope will illustrate the many different aspects of the twisted little land of Fairy Tales&mdasha world full of impossible situations, mythical creatures, bizarre happenings, violence, vengeance and greed. Originally fairy tales were designed to entertain and to teach morals and reflected the spiritual and cultural beliefs of the time but some of these stories&mdashlike The Red Shoes&mdashare all too clearly designed to put the fear of god into little children and many of them emphasize the fact that it is okay to react with violence when violence is done unto you. Though many of these ideas are outdated in today&rsquos society, there is no doubt that these are still wonderfully entertaining little yarns.
A stunningly beautiful young princess, whose name is Nella, is having a secret affair with a handsome prince who lives many miles away. The two lovers build a glass tunnel that runs under the ground&mdashfrom the prince&rsquos castle into the princess&rsquos bedroom. Every night the prince runs through the tunnel butt-naked at top-speed to &lsquospend time&rsquo with his young princess.
Nella&rsquos two sisters, who are ugly and evil, learn of the affair and smash the glass tunnel. That night, the prince is running so fast to reach his young lover that he doesn&rsquot see the broken glass, and because he is butt naked, the skin all over his body is sliced to ribbons. Because the glass that cut him was enchanted his wounds will not heal. The prince&rsquos father vows that the woman who can find a remedy for the enchanted wounds will be the prince&rsquos wife.
Nella is heartbroken upon hearing of her mortally wounded prince, and goes out into the wild to find a remedy that will heal him. Luckily, she overhears two ogres telling each other that the only thing in the whole world that will heal the prince is to smear the fat from their own bodies all over the prince. Nella, pretending to be lost in the woods, begs the ogres to let her into their house. The ogre husband, fancying a bit of human flesh, lets her in eagerly but sadly he drinks so much alcohol that he passes out before he gets to eat her.
Nella quickly gets to work and slaughters him then collects all the fat from his body in a bucket. She then rubs dirt all over her face to disguise herself and makes her way to the princes palace. She smears the fat into the prince&rsquos wounds and he is healed as if by magic, then she reveals her identity and the marriage is swiftly arranged. And her sisters? They are burned alive of course.
You can read the first volume of Il Pentamerone here.
A King feeds a flea on his own blood until it is the size of a sheep, then he slaughters it, skins it and promises his daughter to the man who can guess what animal the skin came from. Suitors come from far and wide, but none can guess the origins of the pelt. Then a hideously ugly old ogre decides to try his luck&mdashhe sniffs the pelt and identifies it immediately as that of a flea.
The king, true to his word, hands over his daughter. She begs and pleads with him, but he sends her away calling her names like &lsquo&lsquobreath of my arse&rsquo&rsquo and threatening that he will &ldquoleave her not a whole bone in her body&rdquo if she refuses to marry the ogre.
The princess is horrified to find that her new home is made from human skeletons, and more horrified still when her new hubby prepares her a feast made from human carcasses. She begins to vomit repeatedly and the ogre promises to catch her some pigs to eat until she can stomach human flesh. While the ogre is hunting, an old woman hears the maiden wailing and sends her seven sons (who are all endowed with magical powers) to rescue the princess. They eventually defeat the ogre, by shooting out his eyeball and beheading him, and the princess returns home to her father who is (surprisingly) overjoyed to see her returned home safe to him.
While searching for her stray black sheep in the woods, a woman comes across the path of a witch who turns the woman into a sheep. The witch then disguises herself as the woman and returns to the house where woman&rsquos husband and daughter live. The witch convinces the husband to slaughter the sheep to prevent it from wandering again. Their daughter weeps, but her mother (still a sheep) tells her not to eat of her flesh once she is slaughtered and to bury her bones at the edge of the field. The father slaughters the sheep and the witch makes soup from the meat and bones. The daughter buries what&rsquos left of her mother in the field and a birch tree grows from the bones.
The witch hates her new step-daughter, but eventually her and the husband have a daughter of their own. One day a king declares that a festival is to be held for three days. The step mother sets the girl an impossible task, threatening to devour her if she is unable to complete it before they return from the nights festivities. The girl weeps over the birch tree, and the spirit of her dead mother completes her task for her and sends her off to the feast in beautiful garments&mdashthe prince falls instantly in love with the maiden.
As they dine the witches daughter gnaws bones under the table and the prince, thinking she is a dog, boots her so hard he breaks her arm. The beautiful sister flees before her family can return home to find her missing, but her ring is stuck on the palace door handle which the prince has spread with tar. The next two nights go the same way, with the prince breaking the witches daughters leg on the second night and dislodging her eyeball the third night.
The beautiful girl loses her bracelet, then her golden shoe in the tar the prince spreads to trap her. The prince wishes to marry the woman who will fit the lost items, and the witch forces her ugly daughter into them. However, when the prince discovers who the real bride is, they throw the ugly sister across a river to act as a bridge so they can escape the clutches of the witch.
Read The Wonderful Birch story here.
A young king falls madly in love with the princess of the golden palace after laying eyes on a portrait depicting her likeness, and devises a plot to kidnap her. The young king and his faithful servant Johannes travel to the golden kingdom, trick the princess into coming onto their boat and then set sail when she is below deck. Initially she is terrified, but when her kidnapper reveals he is a king all is forgiven and she agrees to marry him.
As they are sailing, faithful Johannes overhears three ravens conversing with each other. They predict three misfortunes that will befall the king: A fox-red horse, a poisoned shirt, and the death of his wife. The only way to save the king is if someone shoots the horse in the head, burns the poisoned shirt, and takes three drops of blood from the right breast of the new queen.
However, the saviour must not utter a word of his tasks or he shall turn to stone. When they arrive ashore, the king leaps onto the back of a fox-red horse which faithful Johannes promptly shoots in the head. When they arrive at the palace, the king finds a shirt that looks to be made of gold, but faithful Johannes throws the shirt in the fire. At the wedding dance, the queen falls down as if dead on the palace floor but faithful Johannes quickly takes three drops of blood from her right breast, saving her life.
The king, angered at the sight of his servant fondling the new queen&rsquos breast, sentence&rsquos faithful Johannes to hang. Johannes reveals the plot, but turns to stone. The king and queen eventually have two children and one day the statue of Johannes tells the king that if he will slaughter his own children, his trusty servant will be brought back to life. The king eagerly takes his sword and lops off his own children&rsquos heads. He smears his children&rsquos blood onto the stone and faithful Johannes comes back to life.
As a reward for the kings willingness to execute his own children, faithful Johannes places the children&rsquos heads back onto their corpses and brings them back to life they continue to run around as if nothing had happened.
You can read the full story of Faithful Johannes here.
A starving dog runs away from its cruel master and meets a sparrow&mdashthe two become great friends. The sparrow steals meat and bread for the dog and when the dog has eaten his fill he goes to sleep on the road. A wagon drives by, and the sparrow flutters about the drivers head telling him to watch out for the dog, but the driver pays no heed and runs the dog over, killing it. The sparrow swears vengeance, saying &lsquo&rsquothou hast killed my brother dog, it shall cost thee thy cart and horses!&rsquo&rsquo
The sparrow then pecks out the eyes of one of the horses. The driver swings his axe at the sparrow, but chops open his horse&rsquos head instead. The sparrow pecks out the eyes of the other two horses and the unfortunate beasts also get their heads chopped open as their master swings his axe at the sparrow. The sparrow then sings &lsquo&rsquoIt shall cost thee thy home&rsquo&rsquo and flies to the driver&rsquos house.
The sparrow flutters from room to room as the driver, blind with rage, smashes up his entire house in his attempts to kill the bird. Now the driver sits amongst the rubble and says &lsquo&rsquo&rsquowhat an unfortunate man I am!&rsquo&rsquo &lsquo&rsquoNot unfortunate enough&rsquo&rsquo says the sparrow, &lsquo&rsquoIt shall cost thee thy life!&rsquo&rsquo. The driver catches the sparrow in his hand, and wanting it to suffer a fate worse than death, he swallows it whole&mdashbut the bird begins to flutter about his body and pokes its head out of the drivers mouth. The driver tells his wife to kill the sparrow with the axe as the bird sits in his mouth, but as the wife swings the sparrow flutters away and the wife chops open the drivers head instead, killing him.
Here is the above version of The Dog and the Sparrow.
After his wife dies, a King decides that the only woman in the world who matches his dead wife&rsquos beauty is his own daughter Preziosa &ndash therefore, Preziosa must now marry her deranged father. He tells her that if she will not marry him that very evening then &lsquo&rsquowhen I am finished with you there will be nothing left but your ears&rsquo&rsquo.
An old woman then gives the terrified girl an enchanted bit of wood that will turn her into a bear when she puts it in her mouth. Preziosa &ndash now a bear&mdashflees into the forest and resolves never again to reveal her true form lest her father learns of her whereabouts. A prince discovers the wonderfully friendly she-bear in the woods and takes her home to be his pet.
One day when she believes she is alone, Preziosa takes the bit of wood out of her mouth to brush her hair. The prince looks out his window, spies a gorgeous maiden in his garden and rushes out to find her, but she hears him coming and quickly puts the wood back into her mouth. The prince searches throughout the garden but he cannot find the maiden anywhere&mdashin her place is only his pet she-bear.
The prince becomes sick with lust for the bear-girl and begins to waste away. On request from her son, the prince&rsquos mother sends for the she-bear who is now to reside in the princes bedroom, cook his meals and make his bed for him. The prince becomes overcome with lust for the bear, and begs his mother to let him kiss the animal.
While the mother watches and encourages them enthusiastically, man and bear lock lips. They are kissing so passionately that the bit of wood slips from Preziosa&rsquos mouth and the prince finds that he now holds a stunningly beautiful maiden in his arms. Rejoicing, they get married, and presumably everybody lives happily ever after.
Karen is a very poor girl who goes barefoot until an old lady adopts her and buys her a beautiful pair of red shoes. When Karen is old enough to be confirmed, she chooses to wear her beautiful red shoes to church. During the church service, Karen can think only of her red shoes. After the service the old lady scolds Karen, telling her now that she is a grown-up christian she must never wear red shoes to church again.
The next Sunday, Karen chooses to wear her red shoes to communion and again can focus only on how pretty she looks for the entire service. As they are leaving the church, her shoes start to dance on their own and when Karen climbs into the carriage, she kicks the old woman violently before the coachman removes the shoes from Karen&rsquos feet. The old lady falls ill and it is Karen&rsquos job to care for her, but Karen is invited to a ball and decides to wear her red shoes to the dance rather than care for the sick old woman.
When Karen begins to dance, the shoes take on a life of their own. They dance Karen away into the dark woods. Terrified, she tries to tear the shoes off but they have become one with her feet&mdashshe continues to dance through field and meadow, rain and shine for many days. While dancing through a graveyard she sees an angel who tells her she shall dance until she is cold and dead, and will continue to dance even when she is nothing but bones.
Karen dances unceasingly over hill and heath, and over thorns and branches until her skin is torn and bleeding. She eventually comes to the house of an executioner and begs him to chop off her feet, so that she can finally rest. The executioner does as Karen wishes and the shoes dance away with her little feet still in them. She kisses the hand that wielded the axe and he fashions her little wooden feet and a pair of crutches.
Karen now wishes to go to church to repent, but the red shoes, with her feet still in them, dance in front of the church doors so that Karen cannot enter. Karen weeps bitter tears in her narrow bare room and eventually the angel returns to her: He transforms her room into a church and as the organ plays, Karen becomes so full of peace and joy that her heart breaks and she dies.
A witch&rsquos ugly daughter grows jealous of her step-sisters beautiful apron, so mother and daughter plot to kill the step-daughter. When the girls go to bed, the witch&rsquos daughter is to lie near the wall, and the mother will chop off the step-child&rsquos head as she sleeps. The step-daughter overhears this conversation, so when the step-sister falls asleep the beautiful sister pushes the ugly one to the edge of the bed, and lies by the wall.
In creeps the witch and chops off her own child&rsquos head, then she goes to bed. The step-daughter then takes her sister&rsquos dismembered head and drips the blood around the house one drop of blood by the stove, one on the stairs and one by the bed &ndash she then steals the witches wand and flees with her lover Roland.
In the morning the witch calls for her daughter and the first blood drop sings from the kitchen &lsquo&rsquoI am here warming myself&rsquo&rsquo, the second blood drop calls &lsquo&rsquoI am on the stairs&rsquo&rsquo and the third calls out &lsquo&rsquoI am here by the bed&rsquo&rsquo. Then the witch finds her own daughters beheaded body lying in a pool of blood. In a rage, the witch puts on her many-league boots which can fathom a mile in an hour but when she catches up to the lovers, the girl turns her lover into a lake and herself into a duck.
The witch cannot entice the duck from the water, so returns home. The next day the girl turns herself into a flower in the middle of a bramble hedge and her lover turns into a fiddler. The witch comes by hunting for the lovers and spies the beautiful flower whom she recognizes as her step-daughter. As the witch reaches into the hedge to pick the flower, Roland begins playing the fiddle. The music is enchanted and the witch begins to dance around the bramble bush as the thorns tear at her clothes until she is naked. She continues to dance wildly round and round as her skin is shredded to ribbons and eventually she falls down dead.
This twisted little tale begins with a prince and princess who are brother and sister. The brother has to go away to war, and entrusts his beloved rose garden to his sister who must tend to it day and night. The princess pines away amongst her brothers roses, then quite mysteriously, she gives birth to a baby girl. The princess is deeply ashamed of the baby girl, who was born with a rose on her forehead. As the little girl grows the princess swears to her daughter every day that she will kill her if the girl should reveal her identity.
After 5 years the prince returns, and the princess swears to her daughter repeatedly that if she should reveal who she is to the prince her mother will kill her. The prince visits the little girl&rsquos school but she refuses to eat the cherries he offers her. The other girls in her class eagerly eat the cherries, but become so excited that they begin to throw the fruit around and a cherry becomes lodged in the daughter&rsquos hair. The next day the mother finds the cherry stuck in her daughters locks.
The mother, assuming the girl has removed her hood and revealed herself in the prince&rsquos presence, stabs her comb violently into her little girls head, killing her. She then puts the girl into an iron chest and locks the chest in a room in the palace. The mother grows ill with guilt and eventually dies, entrusting the key to her brother and beseeching him never to open the door that the key belongs to. Once his sister is dead, the prince becomes lonely and takes a wife.
One day the prince goes away on a hunt and leaves the key with his wife, telling her not to open the locked door. His wife&rsquos mother convinces her to open the door and they find the iron chest which they open to discover a beautiful young woman sitting inside happily sewing. Thinking the prince is keeping her in the chest for his own enjoyment, the mother and daughter pull the fair maiden out and burn the skin all over her face and body with a heated iron. When the prince comes home they tell him she is their new slave.
The prince eventually overhears the young slave telling her sorrowful story to a talisman, and realizing she is his niece (and possibly his daughter) he releases her and asks her how his wife should be punished. Mother and daughter are both burned all over with hot irons, then buried alive inside a wall to die slowly and miserably. The prince and his niece/daughter remain alone together in the castle and the prince never remarries because presumably she is all the company he needs. Now that&rsquos one messed up family.
An Egyptian princess dons the garb of a wild swan, and flies to a distant marsh to gather a flower that will heal the king of Egypt. The princess removes her plumage and climbs naked into the marsh to gather the healing flowers, but the Marsh King pulls her down into the murky black depths beneath the water and rapes her. Many months pass and eventually a water lily opens on the surface of the water, inside the flower is a baby girl. A stork carries the baby to the wife of a Viking lord who names the little-girl Helga.
As Helga grows she becomes ever more beautiful, but she is evil and black of heart. She likes to splash about in the blood of animals and bite the heads off roosters. However, by night she turns into a hideous dwarf-sized frog that has a kind soul but can only croak mournfully.
When Helga is 16, the Viking lord captures a Christian priest. Helga begs that savage dogs be let loose upon the priest, but the Viking lord insists the priest is to be sacrificed upon the death-stone according to tradition. Helga gleefully stabs her knife into a dog, just to make sure the blade is sharp enough.
When night comes, the gentle frog Helga rescues the priest and they ride away together on Helga&rsquos horse. In the morning however, the beautiful Helga tries to stab the priest but he enchants her with a symbol of the cross he makes out of two sticks and she becomes dumb and silent until they are confronted by a band of robbers. In the hopes of getting their hands on Helga, the robbers slice the horse&rsquos neck with an axe and blood spurts out, then they smash the Christians head open with an iron hammer and his blood and brains are spattered around. The group of men then seize Helga but luckily for her the sun is setting and she turns back into a monstrously ugly frog. The terrified men flee.
Helga eventually makes the sign of the cross and her frog skin falls away as if by magic, never to return. She falls asleep and when she wakes she finds the ghosts of the dead priest and his dead horse standing before her. They ride away together to the marsh where Helga was conceived and the priest lifts Helga&rsquos birth mother from the water. Then the phantoms of priest and horse vanish and Helga and her birth mother are left alone beside the marsh.
They return to Egypt where Helga is eventually married to an Arabian prince, but on the night of the wedding the spirit of the priest comes to Helga to show her what heaven looks like. After three minutes have passed in heaven she returns to Earth but finds that hundreds of years have gone by. Helga&rsquos body turns to dust and all that is left of her is a faded water lily.
3) Zombies &ndash
Commonly known as the walking dead, these are described in popular folklore as dead people who have come back to life but do not have any thinking or judgemental capability. They are mostly shown in movies, as individuals with the neck twisted in one direction and rather with a slow and bizarre gait.
In modern days, many Hollywood movies have tried to portray it like some kind of infection &ndash mostly viral. World war Z was a very popular Hollywood blockbuster, which scientifically explored the fictional concept.
Medical Facts &ndash
Luckily to date, there has been no medical disease that exactly replicates the condition of zombies as described in the literature, but there are some medical conditions that do mimic certain selective features. Some of these are &ndash
1) Walking Corpse Syndrome &ndash
This is also known as Cotard Delusion, this is a mental disease. The people suffering from this syndrome believe that they are already dead, and their body is decaying, and they have lost their internal organs, but despite all these - they are immortal. They ignore their hygiene and health, thereby getting a rather unpleasant appearance.
&ndash This is rather a much simpler condition, in which the patients are mentally fit but the only problem is that neck is twisted in one direction, with restricted mobility. There are multiple reasons, which may cause this condition and so, this can be either temporary or permanent.
The patient may have one shoulder higher than another, and chin tilted to one side. Sometimes a patient may have difficulty in performing routine tasks and difficulty in normal social interactions, along with difficulty in walking in a normal fashion thereby causing depression and isolation.
Ancient Fairy Tales: Written for this Generation
I HAVE BEEN reading fairy tales lately. They are generally thought of as stories meant to entertain and teach the young, but that is selling fairy tales short. They have the capacity to speak to adults and provide a framework for examining our mysterious inner world. According to Sheldon Cashdon, “The fairy tale journeys into unexplored worlds paralleled by an inward journey. As the protagonist travels deeper and deeper into forbidden territory, so is the reader transported into unexplored regions of the self.” 1
During my exploration of fairy tales, I’ve noticed certain common features among them. For example, physical objects are often imbued with great supernatural power, allowing the possessor of the object to do extraordinary things. There are also a myriad of enchantments and spells, some of which put the victim into a deep sleep or trance others transform the victim into an animal, reptile, bird, or a very ugly person. These spells are cast by both the naughty and the nice. Similarly, both the naughty and the nice make use of deception—honesty is not a prerequisite to goodness or success. It is perfectly acceptable for the good guys to use deceit to gain something valuable. In fact, we’re supposed to admire the hero’s wisdom and cunning in knowing when to lie and how to do so effectively. And killing is standard fare. Many, many heads get lopped off in fairy tales, and in the cases where the heads aren’t cut off, they are often bludgeoned to a pulp.
There is plenty of darkness in fairy tales. Often the hero enters a deep, dark forest or explores a black cavern. Menacing characters chase the protagonist or block his or her way forward. Fairy tales often employ sets of three. There are, for example, three pigs, three wishes, three guesses, three challenges. It’s a bit remarkable that in the days before reliable methods of family planning, so many fairy tales would involve three siblings. Fairy tales are often about three brothers or three sisters, where the eldest two are depicted as being egotistical, arrogant, misguided, and often physically unattractive. The youngest is pure of heart, kind, comely, and likely to suffer at the hand of the older siblings. Think of Cinderella.
To illustrate some of the characteristics of a fairy tale, I’ll share the gist of the story “Jack and the Golden Apples.” 2
Once upon a time there was an old king who had three sons and the old king fell very sick one time and there was nothing at all could make him well but some golden apples from a far country. So the three brothers went on horseback to look for some of these apples. They set off together, and when they came to crossroads they halted and refreshed themselves a bit, and then they agreed to meet on a certain time, and not one was to go home before the other. So Valentine took the right, and Oliver went straight on, and poor Jack took the left.
In fairy tales, it is life rather than divine intervention that offers the gifts that assist the hero on his or her journey or pilgrimage. Sometimes these gifts are born of life’s vicissitudes other times they occur by happenstance. For example, in the Rumpelstiltskin tale (or the English version, “Tom Tit Tot”), it is by happenstance that one of the queen’s messengers tells her of seeing a funny little man deep in the forest dancing around a fire chanting his own name. Fairy tales that involve three brothers usually show how each brother responds to the gifts life offers him. Generally the same gifts are offered to each brother, but the older two are so focused on quickly achieving a certain goal that they ignore or reject outright the directional cues being offered them. For example, in “Jack and the Golden Apples” an old hag approaches each brother, but the older two haughtily shoo her away, while the younger respectfully acknowledges her. The old woman tells him he will come to a house where he should ask to spend the night, but during the night, snakes will crawl all about and over him. However, if he lies perfectly still, he will be aided on his quest the next morning.
Jack follows the old woman’s guidance, acquires the golden apples, and returns to the crossroads. But while waiting for his two older brothers, he falls asleep. They come along, see his apples, quietly substitute their inferior apples for his golden ones, and ride home. The king is already healed when Jack finally arrives. When the King sees Jack’s poor apples, he orders him beheaded. Without going into details, I’ll simply say that the truth emerges, Jack prevails and marries the beautiful, wealthy princess, and they live happily ever after.
Let me provide one more illustration of this “three brothers” theme. You are probably familiar with the basic story, but maybe not the particulars of this version.
Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, though it was neither in my time nor in your time, nor in any one else’s time,” there was an old man and his wife and their three sons. The old man was warned in a dream to take his family and hide in the wilderness because terrible things would happen in the city where they lived. So they packed up and traveled deep into the forest where the light barely shone and goblins abided. There, the old man was told in a second dream to send his sons back to the city to obtain a book of mysteries kept by a powerful ogre.
The sons returned to the city and conferred about how to obtain the book. The oldest brother said, “Let’s just ask the ogre for the book.” They did, and ended up running for their lives. The second brother said, “Let’s purchase it with gold.” The ogre took the gold, kept the book, and again the brothers scrambled for their lives. The two older brothers, their plans having failed, wished to quit the whole thing, but the younger brother insisted that they must achieve what their father had asked them to do. The older brothers began to abuse the younger brother verbally and physically until a fairy godfather appeared and cast a spell upon the two older brothers with words of such power that they could not help but cease abusing their younger brother. Then the fairy godfather, with an upraised hand, caused the younger brother to resemble the ogre.
Meanwhile, the real ogre had been afflicted with a spell that left him comatose. The younger brother, being of incredible strength, cut off the ogre’s head, and then, because he resembled the ogre, moved freely about the ogre’s castle, found the book of mysteries, and carried it away.
The younger brother was changed back to his normal handsome physical state, but not before frightening his older brothers. They returned and presented the book of mysteries to their father, and they all rejoiced and lived happily ever after—for a little while.
You recognize, of course, that I pulled that story from the Book of Mormon, with a few word changes to sharpen the resemblance between it and a fairy tale. Indeed, I have been struck at the many resemblances I find between Book of Mormon stories and fairy tales. For example, in fairy tales it is common for the hero to acquire some magical object or talisman that benefits, often in miraculous ways, whoever possesses it and learns its secrets. And of course, there are several such objects in the Book of Mormon. There is the fine brass ball of curious workmanship Lehi finds outside his tent one morning it not only points the wandering pilgrims in the direction they should travel (and remember, they had no idea where they were going), but also, under certain circumstances, writes out messages “plain to be read.” Mosiah possesses a device that allows him to read the words of any language. And not quite as dramatic but perhaps more practical, the Jaradites have magical stones that emit light, enabling the voyagers to see in their otherwise dark barges.
A rather wonderful Book of Mormon story that easily fits fairy tale parameters is that of Ammon. As you recall, Ammon goes off to the land of the Lamanites, equivalent to the deep forest of fairy tales, and, like so many fairy tale heroes, is captured by hostiles. Just to hit some of the high spots, Ammon is offered the king’s daughter in marriage (common in fairy tales), but he declines the offer (which also sometimes happens in fairy tales). Ammon possesses superhuman strength (again common in fairy tales) and protects the king and the kingdom. Ammon can take his place right alongside of Jack the Giant Killer, who, as you might expect, slays the giants who have long terrorized the countryside.
Ammon, like Jack, protects his fellow servants and the king’s livestock by killing and quite literally disarming a band of marauding thieves. The king’s servants who witness his display of Ammon’s strength gather up, like pieces of cord wood, the severed arms of Ammon’s victims to show the king. Seeing the evidence of this great feat, the king is overwhelmed, and Ammon, in true fairy tale fashion, seizes the opportunity and casts an enchanting spell on the king, queen, and their servants, causing them to fall to the floor in a swoon, as though dead. After a while, Ammon raises them as though restoring them to life, and they are overcome with joy and live in happiness and peace for the remainder of their days. Well, maybe not all their days.
However, as I have thought about it further, I have realized that there are some very important ways in which Book of Mormon stories are completely unlike fairy tales. In fairy tales, those who discover fidelity to self live happily ever after, and those without fidelity to self usually end up with their heads cut off. But in the Book of Mormon, no one lives happily ever after. It is a book of suffering. The narrative tells us that there are periods of peace, but those instances seem to occur because the people are obeying commandments, not because they have found a way to unify their souls. Were they, in fact, happy? Were they whole? It does not seem so, because they always fall back into their old ways. It seems that if the Nephites weren’t engaged in a physical war with a known enemy, they were in deep battle with their ego, and the ego almost always won.
Another difference between Book of Mormon stories and fairy tales is that everyone acknowledges that fairy tales are fictional and symbolic. But the Book of Mormon, with the Church’s insistence that it is a historical and literal account, resists being treated symbolically. When was the last time you heard a general conference speaker give a Jungian reading of Ammon, casting his journey as symbolic of wading deep into one’s shadow self? When I read a fairy tale about a rolling ball that can lead one to his or her destination, the symbolic value of this mythical compass is contained within the story. That is not the case when I read of a brass ball found one morning outside Lehi’s tent. For that story to have symbolic value, a complex set of beliefs about events and objects outside the story is required. Consequently, the brass ball, a literal object, resists symbolic value, and I will leave it to you to decide if it ever uttered, “Recalculating.”
Additionally, Book of Mormon heroes seem to never make a mistake. They are all diligent, obedient, and led by a never-failing spiritual guide with a clear and audible voice. And (to my mind quite significant) they never seem to notice or woo pretty women. Even when they fall into the clutches of evil enemies, they take comfort in the certainty that they are justified and right. Only the wicked make mistakes, and if they somehow manage to recognize their mistakes, they pay for them with a sore repentance that wracks their very being. Alma the Younger paid for his sins with sore repentance, but after he had been wracked, he is recorded as having never made a mistake again.
But fairy tale heroes, like normal human beings and unlike almost everyone in the Book of Mormon, make mistakes and have lapses of judgment. They fail to heed instructions, lingering too long here, or ignoring a detailed requirement there. They get impatient and commit a rash act just as we do in real life. But it isn’t the end of the world. The situation just requires a readjustment and persistence and openness to where life is taking them, and ultimately treasures are uncovered, lovers are united, and people live happily ever after
ONE DAY, I was on Temple Square in Salt Lake City looking at the Seagull Monument. As I appraised the monument, I thought of the travails of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. At one point, they encountered poisonous snakes, and as a remedy, Moses constructed a pole with a bronze snake affixed to the top. Those who looked upon the hand-crafted snake were healed of their snake bites. Looking up at those bronze seagulls atop a granite column, I wondered what might happen to people (like me) who really looked at that monument. Would we be healed of our gullibility?
And what is our gullibility? I remember one of mine. When I returned home to Georgia following the completion of my mission in February 1962, I enrolled in the nearby junior college for spring quarter and took a course in classical mythology. I loved the course, and was fascinated by the myths we studied. But I was amazed that these Roman and Greek myths were grounded in their tellers’ religious practice. Having just returned from a mission, I knew the facts about God and true worship. Not only did I have true accounts of events, as opposed to mythical stories, I possessed a God-given certitude that my modern-day prophets would always set the record straight. I had the benefit, not of tall tales concerning human-like gods and goddesses, but of the factual account of a boy who had been visited by God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. It happened in reality, not in the imaginings of primitive and superstitious people.
As I sat in class hearing of Athena popping fully grown from the head Zeus, and Alodae trying to stack three mountains one atop the other to reach heaven, I wondered if anyone every really believed such stories. On Sunday, I would sit in Gospel Doctrine class and discuss how Eve emerged fully grown from Adam’s rib, or hear once again that the languages of the world originated when people attempted to construct a tower to heaven.
I was also amazed that people could believe in gods who were not only jealous of one another, but often of mortals as well. Yet the openly jealous and vindictive God of the Old Testament was one I swallowed without any mayonnaise. And then there were the sexual escapades. How was it possible that people could have gods who were so immoral? On the other hand, since it made perfect sense to Brigham Young that Elohim had sexual intercourse with Mary, it made perfect sense to me. (And never once did I wonder if they had simultaneous orgasms.)
In the Poetics, Aristotle famously argues that “Poetry is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular.” In modern-day terms, Aristotle would say that fiction is superior to nonfiction. Nonfiction gets weighted down in documenting and explaining what did happen to particular people in particular times. Fiction, on the other hand, wants to explore what could happen—to anyone, anywhere. As the Reverend Larry Maze said, speaking particularly of the creation story in Genesis, “Nothing takes the power away from myth more quickly than to take it from the hands of the artist and the poet and put it in the hands of one who has been trained to report the facts.”
Perhaps our greatest gullibility is that we believe our myths are literal, as I did, and therefore become fact-seekers rather than poets.
Joseph Campbell once remarked that too many people rely on others “to learn what they ought to do, how they ought to behave, and what the values are that they should be living for.” He says, “The world is full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.” Or, to put it another way, the world is full of people who have stopped recognizing or making choices about the stories they live by—or live in. I do not want to be one of those people, and so I have sought out guides to aid me in listening to myself, and in thinking about the stories I wish to live by.
Here is a fairy tale that has been resonating in me recently, “The Three Sillies.”
Once upon a time, there was a farmer and his wife who had one daughter, and she was courted by a gentleman. Every evening, he used to come and see her, and stop to supper at the farmhouse, and the daughter used to be sent down into the cellar to draw the beer for supper. So one evening, she had gone down to draw the beer, and she happened to look up at the ceiling while she was drawing, and she saw a mallet stuck in one of the beams. It must have been there a long, long time, but somehow or other she had never noticed it before, and she began a-thinking. And she thought it was very dangerous to have that mallet there, for, she said to herself, “Suppose him and me was to be married, and we was to have a son, and he was to grow up to be a man, and come down into the cellar to draw the beer, like as I’m doing now, and the mallet was to fall on his head and kill him, what a dreadful thing it would be!” And she put down the candle and the jug, and sat herself down and began a-crying.
When the daughter doesn’t return, the mother goes to the cellar. She doesn’t return either, so the father descends.
Now the gentleman got tired of stopping up in the kitchen by himself, and at last he went down into the cellar, too, to see what they were after and there they three sat a-crying side by side, and the beer running all over the floor. And he ran straight and turned the tap. Then he said: “Whatever are you three doing, sitting there crying, and letting the beer run all over the floor?” “Oh!” says the father, “look at that horrid mallet! Suppose you and our daughter was to be married, and was to have a son, and he was to grow up, and was to come down into the cellar to draw the beer, and the mallet was to fall on his head and kill him!” And then they all started a-crying worse than before. But the gentleman burst out a-laughing, and reached up and pulled out the mallet, and then he said: “I’ve travelled many miles, and I never met three such big sillies as you three before and now I shall start out on my travels again, and when I can find three bigger sillies than you three, then I’ll come back and marry your daughter.” So he wished them good-bye, and started off on his travels, and left them all crying because the girl had lost her sweetheart.
On his travels, the gentleman encounters a woman trying to get her milk cow to climb a ladder up to the roof of her house to eat the grass growing there. The gentleman asks if it wouldn’t be easier to cut the grass on the roof and throw it down to the cow. The woman doesn’t like that idea and finally gets the cow onto her roof. She ties a rope to the cow’s neck, runs it down the chimney, and then ties it to her wrist so she will know what the cow is up to. The cow falls off the roof, jerking her up the chimney where she becomes stuck, and both she and the cow die.
One night, the gentleman stops at an inn and shares a room with another man. In the morning, the stranger gets up, hangs his trouser on a knob of a chest of drawers, and runs and tries to leap into them.
At last he stopped and wiped his face with his handkerchief. “Oh dear,” he said, “I do think trousers are the most awkwardest kind of clothes that ever were. I can’t think who could have invented such things. It takes me the best part of an hour to get into mine every morning, and I get so hot! How do you manage yours?” So the gentleman burst out a-laughing, and showed him how to put them on and he was very much obliged to him, and said he never should have thought of doing it that way.
Another evening, the gentleman comes upon a village where all the people are pulling rakes, pitchforks, and brooms through the waters of the mill pond. When he asks what they are doing, they tell him that the moon has fallen into the pond, and they are trying to get it out. He urges them to look up and see that the moon is in the sky—that what they are seeing is the moon’s reflection in the water. Not only do they refuse to look up, but they abuse him terribly, motivating the gentleman to escape as quickly as he can.
“The Three Sillies” illustrates our capacity to create stories virtually out of thin air (or a mill pond) and convince others to embrace the story so deeply that they willingly spill both their tears and their beer over it. People can become so committed and loyal to a story that even when given a helpful alternative, they refuse to consider it.
So in “The Three Sillies,” the gentleman suitor returns home and marries the farmer’s daughter, “and if they didn’t live happy for ever after, that’s nothing to do with you or me.” But it does have to do with you and me, because most fairy tales end with “And they lived happily ever after.” But we know that people don’t live happily forever. Happy Street isn’t a gated community that refuses to admit tragedy or misfortune. Disappointments and heartbreaks can show up as regularly as snow on conference weekend. Why then do fairy tales so often have the protagonist living happily ever after? Because, embedded in most fairy tales is the recognition that mastery and wholeness come from honoring what your deepest voice tells you.
All the ogres, giants, witches, and beasts of various descriptions represent not only our shadow side, but our controlling ego. That is not to say that the tales do not represent outer conflict, but if you confine them to that reading, then you miss the power of the inner conflict that manifests itself, one way or another, in all of us. “The ultimate dragon is within you,” says Campbell. “It is your ego clamping you down.” Dear Emily Dickinson says it this way: “Lad of Athens, faithful be / To Thyself, / And Mystery— /All the rest is Perjury—.” How do we perjure ourselves? By pretending we have no doubts, by denying our questions, by clutching a story to our breast as though without it we would cease to exist.
May Sarton spoke of the same thing in her poem “Now I Become Myself.”
Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before—”
She ends the poem with these lines:
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun! 3
So I ask myself, what story or myth do I wish to live by? How do I avoid perjury and stay true to mystery and myself? I encounter mystery at every turn, and I need all the help I can get in understanding it. Fidelity to self requires me to admit that there are some things I know, some things I don’t know, and some things I simply believe (and one of the things I believe is that often my beliefs simply don’t matter). 4 Frankly, I think that what is known is like a small island surrounded by a vast sea of mystery. Our stories, including myths and fairy tales, are like stepping stones out into the water. As long as we remember that they are only stepping stones, they work to our advantage and help us travel into the ocean so that we can peer down into its depths. But when we convince ourselves that those small rocks—those stories we tell—are large and secure and firm enough that we can build homes and even whole villages upon them, and live there, on a teeny tiny rock in the middle of the ocean, we are likely to find that it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain that carefully constructed story.
I have been telling you a story about the stories we choose to live by. My prejudices are pretty clearly revealed, but I think I should end with the words of the fiction writer Hillary Mantel. She said of one of her novels about a historical period: “I am not claiming authority for my version I am making the reader a proposal, an offer.” 5
1. Sheldon Cashdon, The Witch Must Die: The Hidden Meaning of Fairy Tales, (New York: Basic Books, 1999).
2. There are multiple sources that present various versions of fairytales. I have relied upon the website http://www.sacred-texts.com/ as a source for the tales I refer to or quote.
4. Having a belief about things which you cannot know may in and of itself be provocative, and at times deeply comforting, but when it is accepted as certain knowledge then it becomes less of a rudder and more of a misapplied anchor.
5. Hilary Mantel, Bringing Up the Bodies, (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2012), 409.
10 Lesser-Known Fairy Tales That Should Get More Love
The "little glutton" who travels through the woods in Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales carries a basket filled with pancakes, bread, and wine for Uncle Wolf. The path is long, and the girl can't resist the goodies. She replaces the pancakes with donkey manure, the loaf of bread with lime from a stonemason, and the wine with dirty water. Uncle Wolf is outraged by the deception, and the girl races back home, hiding in a corner of her bed. No fool, Uncle Wolf chases her down and declares, "Ahem, here I go!" After all, he has a reputation to defend. An expert at doing away with "greedy little girls," he swallows the child whole. Calvino admires the primal quality of the story, a favorite all over Italy, and praises "rudimentary elements" such as "gluttony, excrement, and a steady intensification of terror."
There are several versions of "Little Red Riding Hood" in Italian Folktales, and in the notes Calvino appears to be compulsively fiddling with a story that none of his sources seem to get just right. The tale about a girl and a wolf stages an encounter between innocent prey and fanged predator, and today the girl almost always emerges triumphantly from the belly of the wolf. But in many versions -- most famously in Charles Perrault's "Little Red Riding Hood" -- she is never disgorged. The wolf snaps his jaws, swallows the girl whole -- end of story (save for an occasional moral about the perils of talking to strangers and straying from the path). The consuming idea in most variants is innocence versus seduction, but "Uncle Wolf" turns Red Riding Hood from a pretty child, adored by everyone (as the Grimms tell us), into a girl who is both greedy and lazy. While the other girls at her school are knitting, she has the audacity to go to the privy and fall asleep--a truly deserving victim, especially in light of her other transgressions, which include a love of pancakes.
Italo Calvino, "Uncle Wolf," in Italian Folktales, trans. George Martin (New York: Pantheon Books, 1956), pp. 152-54.
Remember Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach? Or the Japanese folktale about Momotaro, the Peach Boy who battles monstrous creatures on a distant island? Who knew that Sendak and Dahl may have plundered Japanese folklore to construct their stories about boys who set sail in search of adventure? We will never know why Dahl changed his title from James and the Giant Cherry and gave James Trotter a "great big beautiful peach" to navigate the waters, and there are no doubt multiple sources for Sendak's Wild Things (the "Jewish relatives" disguised as horses until an editor pointed out that the artist was not very good at drawing them). Both authors might have fallen under the spell of the celebrated Japanese story about a boy who floats down the river in a peach and is adopted by a childless couple. Momotaro (his name derives from momo, or peach, and taro, or eldest son) grows up and sails to an island, where he meets a talking dog, monkey, and pheasant, all of whom become his sidekicks and allies. Collectively they slay demons known as Oni, and return home triumphantly, laden with treasures.
Momotaro has always been a popular figure in Japan, and during World War II he became an intrepid warrior, fighting military demons. In a 1944 feature-length animated film called Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors, the boy grows up to be a general and teams up with a bear, monkey, dog, and pheasant, all of whom have become high-ranking officials. Together they invade an island and liberate it from British rule. The film ends with children playing at parachuting onto a map of the continental United States.
Sun, Moon, and Talia (Sleeping Beauty)
Some years ago, feminists did their best to make the story of Sleeping Beauty go away. In books with titles such as Kiss Sleeping Beauty Good-Bye and Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty, they fretted that fairy-tale women are doomed to passivity, silence, sleep, always playing the waiting game. Unlike Bruno Bettelheim, who saw in the story a parable of puberty and recommended the tale as therapeutic bedtime reading for girls, they condemned the cult of the beautiful, dead woman promoted by the tale.
Imagine the outrage had these critics discovered "Sun, Moon, and Talia," a version of "Sleeping Beauty" in Giambattista Basile's Pentamerone, a Neapolitan collection of tales published in 1634. Basile's Talia falls into a deep sleep when a piece of flax slides under her nail. One day, a king discovers a comatose princess sleeping on a velvet throne in a secluded mansion. One look at the young woman, and his blood begins to "course hotly through his veins." He takes her to the bedroom and picks "the fruits of love." After returning home -- to his wife -- he becomes so immersed in the business of running his kingdom that he forgets all about Talia who, in the meantime, has given birth to twins. When the king is finally ready for a repeat visit, he reveals that he is the father of the twins. How does Talia react? The two "make friends" and establish "a strong bond." Enter the queen, who is less forgiving and so consumed by envy that she orders Talia's children slaughtered and served up to her husband for dinner (a compassionate cook substitutes lambs for the boy and girl). Her plan to burn Talia at the stake backfires, and she herself becomes the victim of the flames. Basile adds a disconcerting moral: "For those who are lucky, good rains down even when they are sleeping."
Is it any surprise that the Brothers Grimm changed the rape to a chaste kiss and replaced the married king with a bachelor prince in their more child-friendly collection of fairy tales? Today, Sleeping Beauty continues to haunt our cultural imagination -- it will not go away -- with philosophers meditating on the Sleeping Beauty Problem, filmmakers probing motivation in productions like Catherine Breillat's Sleeping Beauty and Robert Stromberg's Maleficent, and celebrities like Lady Gaga reenacting a 24-version of Beauty's sleep in a bid to sell perfume. Sleeping Beauty may wake up to the perils of mortality, but her story retains a perverse vitality.
"Sun, Moon, and Talia," in Giambattista Basile, The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones, trans. Nancy L. Canepa (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2007), pp. 413-17.
The Singing Tortoise
There are many variants of this African tale about a hunter (known as Ama in some versions) who learns harsh lessons about beauty, art, and sustainability at a time when environmental concerns were not of less burning cultural relevance. "Humans violate nature nature does not impose itself on them" is the constant refrain in a story about a tortoise with a voice so enchanting that the man who hears it takes the creature home with him. Removing the tortoise from its natural surroundings was already a violation revealing its secret becomes a profound betrayal. Unable to resist the impulse to broadcast the wonders of the tortoise's song (and what else is that but the storytelling instinct?), the hunter's report is received with deep skepticism. And the tortoise, in an act of controlled passive-aggressive behavior, refuses to sing on command. Branded a liar who misrepresents, talks nonsense, and tells "fantastic tales," Ama is publicly shamed by the chief.
Central to "The Singing Tortoise" is the cult of beauty, with a tortoise that sings with a human voice and plays a small piano-like instrument known as a sansa but also feels freed of the obligation to court an audience. Humans have an obligation to protect that self-contained, natural beauty. Advertising its allure is condemned in a story that can be seen as an exercise in the very same activity of telling in which Ama engaged. The story captures paradoxes about concealment and revelation in the image of the tortoise, which can open up to the world but also withdraw into its shell. Many African tales have an emphatically self-reflexive quality, one that often challenges us to think about the power of story in general as well as to decode narrative mysteries.
"The Singing Tortoise," in The Cow-Tail Switch and Other West African Stories, ed. Harold Courlander and George Herzog (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1947), pp. 65-71.
Vasilisa the Fair
The Russian answer to the Brothers Grimm, Alexander Afanasev collected hundreds of folktales, among them a hybrid of "Cinderella" and "Hansel and Gretel." An orphaned eight-year-old girl is persecuted at home by her stepmother and stepsisters in the woods, she is exposed to the threats of an ogress eager to turn her into her next meal. On the orders of her stepmother to secure fire from Baba Yaga, Vasilisa makes the trek out to her hut in the woods. What does she see there? "The fence around it was made of human bones. Skulls with empty eye sockets stared down from the posts. The gate was made from the bones of human legs the bolts were made from human hands, and the lock was a jaw with sharp teeth." With the help of a doll bequeathed to her by her mother, Vasilisa carries out household chores -- sweeping, cleaning, cooking, washing, and sorting grains. She becomes a consummate spinner and seamstress, who wins the heart of the tsar with her beautiful fabrics and handicraft.
Vasilisa's story traces an odyssey from rags to riches, but it also turns the girl into a cultural heroine who brings light, in the form of fire, back home. Three magnificent steeds also gallop through the story, sending an apocalyptic shudder through the woods and frightening Vasilisa out of her wits, with each horse and rider a different color (white, red, and black) to match the times of day at which Vasilisa sees them (dawn, high noon, and night). Fairy tales like "Vasilisa the Fair" are syncretic, constructed by borrowing tropes and motifs, along with bits and pieces of plot, not only from the cultural surround in which the tale is told but also from other tales, legends, and myths.
"Vasilisa the Fair," in Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, ed. Maria Tatar (New York: W.W. Norton, 2002), 172-85.
The Juniper Tree
The raw energy of "The Juniper Tree" has fascinated writers ranging from P.L. Travers of Mary Poppins fame to J.R.R. Tolkien. Both fell under the spell of the tale, rhapsodized about the story's "exquisite and tragic beginning" and its combination of "beauty and horror." How does it begin? A mother dies in childbirth. Her husband remarries, and the new wife is determined to do away with her stepson. She lures him to his death by offering him an apple from a chest, and then, bam! She slams the lid down "so hard that the boy's head flew off and fell into the chest with the apples." To get rid of the evidence, she chops the boy up into little pieces and cooks him up in a stew, served to the boy's father, who can't get enough of the "tasty" dish.
Is there a way to engineer a "happily ever after" after the uncompromising brutality of these opening scenes of carnage? Folklorists know the tale as "My Mother Slew Me My Father Ate Me," and a recent anthology of reimagined fairy tales uses that identifying label as its title. Can there by redemption after the slaughter of an innocent and a meal with all the mythical horrors of the one prepared by Atreus? The boy, buried under a juniper tree, comes back to life as a bird, with red and green feathers, eyes that sparkle like stars, and a band of pure gold around its neck. Its rainbow beauty and alluring song fill the world with sparkling sunshine and aromatic wonders. But this bird is also out for revenge, and it exchanges a song for a millstone, using it to crush the stepmother, then returning to human form and sitting down for dinner with father and sister.
"The Juniper Tree," in The Annotated Brothers Grimm, ed. Maria Tatar (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012), pp. 214-29.
The Enchanted Quill
"Pull one of my feathers out, and if you use it to write down a wish, the wish will come true, " a crow tells the youngest of three sisters in Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's "The Enchanted Quill." The girl reluctantly plucks the feather, uses it as a pen, and what does she do first but write down the names of the very finest dishes. The food promptly appears in bowls that sparkle and glow. This microdrama packs wisdom about fairy tales into a small golden nugget. Wish fulfillment often takes the form of enough food to eat, and in this case it means that the heroine, who lacks culinary skills and burns all the dishes she tries to prepare, will no longer be the target of ridicule. In fairy tales, the highest good, whatever it may be, is always bathed in an aura of golden light, luminous and radiant, yet also contained or framed with metallic substantiality. And finally, in a self-reflexive gesture, the crow's magical writing instrument reveals the power of words to build fairy-tale worlds, sites that move us out from reality and enable us to feel the power of what-if in ways that are palpably real. You can almost see and smell the dishes, even if you can't necessarily touch and taste them. With the magic quill, an instrument that signals the power of the pen, the youngest of the three sisters in the tale succeeds in duping a trio of would-be suitors and inflicting bodily punishments on them and the monarchs in the tale.
Closely related to "Cupid and Psyche," as well as to "East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon," in addition to Beauty and the Beast tales, this story gives us a beast less ferocious and slimy than the frogs, goats, dragons, dogs, and chimeras found in many tales.
Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, The Turnip Princess, ed. Erika Eichenseer, trans. Maria Tatar (New York: Penguin, 2015), pp. TK.
Lulu Young, a 25-old African-American woman living in North Carolina, sat down with the folklorist Elsie Clews Parsons about a century ago and told her the story of Bluebeard. A few decades later, Richard Wright would report the transformative childhood experience of having "Bluebeard and His Seven Wives" read to him by a boarder on the front porch: "Enchanted and enthralled, I stopped her constantly to ask for details. My imagination blazed." Wright felt alive, inventive, inquisitive, and inspired in ways that he had never felt in real life. Never mind the content of the story, with its portrait of a marriage haunted by the threat of murder. It is astonishing that a story we are accustomed to think of as European (the Frenchman Charles Perrault was the first to write it down in 1697) circulated orally in the deep South.
Lulu Young's Bluebeard tale takes up all the key tropes of the story in its many cultural variations: a forbidden chamber, a curious wife, and a husband who tests his wife's "obedience" by giving her the key to the locked room. Presto! the forbidden chamber turns into a blood-spattered chamber, filled with the corpses of Bluebeard's previous wives, in this case all sisters. Wife number seven summons her seven brothers, "jus' as he went to kill her." In most versions Bluebeard is slain by the heroine's brothers, but Lulu Young's version ends like this: "An' he ran away into the woods, an' never been seen since."
Elsie Clews Parsons, "Tales from Guilford County, North Carolina," Journal of American Folklore, 30 (1917): 183.
Hans Christian Andersen's story begins with the description of a palace, "the most magnificent in the world," that belongs to the Emperor of China. The Emperor, an erudite man with exquisite aesthetic sensibilities, reads about nightingales and secures one for himself. The bird has a voice so "lovely" that its music goes straight to his heart. One day a large package arrives with the word "Nightingale" written on it. Inside it is a mechanical bird, covered with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. The bird's song is "very close to the real thing," but it fails the emperor when he is ill, for he is unable to wind it up. Enter Death, and the dreadful silence in the emperor's chambers is broken by a nightingale -- the living one -- who sings the ruler back to health.
A tale that reveals Andersen's deep commitment to natural beauty over the artful and artificial and that takes up the nature/culture divide, "The Nightingale" also challenges us to consider what separates us from machines. The modesty, generosity, and passion of true art produced by those devoted to their craft contrasts sharply with the empty pleasures of technological wonders that can do little but engage in vacuous mimicry. Andersen may also have been writing about his own literary voice. His friends called him the "nightingale from Fyn," and he once referred to himself as a male Jenny Lind ("her voice stays with me forever," he wrote about the woman known throughout Europe as the "Swedish nightingale"). And what genre is less artificial and lacking in artifice than the fairy tale, a spontaneous expression of human desires and fears?
Hans Christian Andersen, "The Nightingale," in The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008), pp. 78-98.
Yeh-hsien, the Chinese Cinderella
Cinderella lives happily ever after in nearly every version of her story, but her stepsisters rarely fare well. Who can forget the final scenes of the Grimms' "Cinderella," with the stepsisters cutting off toes, then heels, to make the dainty shoe fit. Doves peck out the eyes of those same young women as they enter and exit the church where Cinderella weds. An Indonesian Cinderella forces her stepsister into a cauldron of boiling water, then has the body cut up, pickled, and sent to the girl's mother as "salt meat" for her next meal. A Japanese stepsister is dragged around in a basket, hits a deep ditch, and tumbles to her death. In "Yeh-hsien," recorded by a scribe in the 9th century, the stepmother and her daughter are stoned to death. Their burial site, called "The Tomb of the Distressed Women," becomes a shrine for courtship rituals.
Yeh-hsien, who is described as both "intelligent" and "clever," is befriended by a magical golden fish. The stepmother kills it, but the girl recovers the bones, and they provide her with everything from food and drink to a cloak of feathers and tiny golden slippers that make her look like a "heavenly being." Rushing home from the ball, Yeh-hsien loses a slipper, which is sold to a warlord who tracks her down and makes her his "chief wife."
Yeh-hsien is only one of many Chinese Cinderellas. As in every culture, there are thousands of variants of this rag-to-riches stories, some less obvious than others. The sociologist Wolfram Eberhard published a book of Chinese fairy tales in the 1960s. In that collection was "Beauty and Pock Face," a Cinderella story in which Beauty loses her mother, who returns to life as a yellow cow slaughtered by Beauty's stepmother. Beauty keeps the bones in a jar, and when she shatters the jar in a fit of rage, a horse, a dress, and a lovely pair of shoes materialize. She loses one of the shoes at a local festival, and marries the man who retrieves it -- a man of erudition. This class-conscious Cinderella earlier refused the advances of a fishmonger, a merchant, and an oil trader. Pock Face tries to usurp her stepsister's role, but in the end, Beauty triumphs after a contest in which both young women have to walk on eggs, climb a ladder of knives, and jump into boiling oil. The stepsister perishes in the last of the contests Beauty triumphs and sends Pock Face's body back to the stepmother.
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were two of 10 children from their mother Dorothea (née Zimmer) and father Philipp Wilhelm Grimm. Philipp was a highly regarded district magistrate in Steinau an der Straße, about 50 km from Hanau. Jacob and Wilhelm were sent to school for a classical education once they were of age, while their father was working. They were very hard-working pupils throughout their education. They followed in their father's footsteps and started to pursue a degree in law, and German history. However, in 1796, their father died at the age of 44 from pneumonia. This was a tragic time for the Grimms because the family lost all financial support and relied on their aunt, Henriette Zimmer, and grandfather, Johann Hermann Zimmer. At the age of 11, Jacob was compelled to be head of the household and provide for his family. After downsizing their home because of financial reasons, Henriette sent Jacob and Wilhelm to study at the prestigious high school, Lyzeum, in Kassel. In school, their grandfather wrote to them saying that because of their current situation, they needed to apply themselves industriously to secure their future welfare. 
Shortly after attending Lyzeum, their grandfather died and they were again left to themselves to support their family in the future. The two became intent on becoming the best students at Lyzeum, since they wanted to live up to their deceased father. They studied more than twelve hours a day and established similar work habits. They also shared the same bed and room at school. After four years of rigorous schooling, Jacob graduated head of his class in 1802. Wilhelm contracted asthma and scarlet fever, which delayed his graduation by one year although he was also head of his class. Both were given special dispensations for studying law at the University of Marburg. They particularly needed this dispensation because their social standing at the time was not high enough to have normal admittance. University of Marburg was a small, 200-person university where most students were more interested in activities other than schooling. Most of the students received stipends even though they were the richest in the state. The Grimms did not receive any stipends because of their social standing however, they were not upset by it since it kept the distractions away. 
Professor Friedrich Carl von Savigny Edit
Jacob attended the university first and showed proof of his hard work ethic and quick intelligence. Wilhelm joined Jacob at the university, and Jacob drew the attention of Professor Friedrich Carl von Savigny, founder of its historical school of law. He became a huge personal and professional influence on the brothers. Throughout their time at university, the brothers became quite close with Savigny and were able to use his personal library as they became very interested in German law, history, and folklore. Savigny asked Jacob to join him in Paris as an assistant, and Jacob went with him for a year. While he was gone, Wilhelm became very interested in German literature and started collecting books. Once Jacob returned to Kassel in 1806, he adopted his brother's passion and changed his focus from law to German literature. While Jacob studied literature and took care of their siblings, Wilhelm continued on to receive his degree in law at Marburg.  During the Napoleonic Wars, Jacob interrupted his studies to serve the Hessian War Commission. 
In 1808, their mother died, and it was hard on Jacob because he took the position in the family as a father figure, while also trying to be a brother. From 1806 to 1810, the Grimm family had barely enough money to properly feed and clothe themselves. During this time, Jacob and Wilhelm were concerned about the stability of the family.
Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano were good friends of the brothers and wanted to publish folk tales, so they asked the brothers to collect oral tales for publication. The Grimms collected many old books and asked friends and acquaintances in Kassel to tell tales and to gather stories from others. Jacob and Wilhelm sought to collect these stories in order to write a history of old German Poesie and to preserve history. 
The first volume of the first edition was published in 1812, containing 86 stories the second volume of 70 stories followed in 1815. For the second edition, two volumes containing the KHM texts were issued in 1819 and the Appendix was removed and published separately in the third volume in 1822, totaling 170 tales. The third edition appeared in 1837 fourth edition, 1840 fifth edition, 1843 sixth edition, 1850 seventh edition, 1857. Stories were added, and also subtracted, from one edition to the next, until the seventh held 210 tales. Some later editions were extensively illustrated, first by Philipp Grot Johann and, after his death in 1892, by German illustrator Robert Leinweber. [ citation needed ]
The first volumes were much criticized because, although they were called "Children's Tales", they were not regarded as suitable for children, both for the scholarly information included and the subject matter.  Many changes through the editions – such as turning the wicked mother of the first edition in Snow White and Hansel and Gretel (shown in original Grimm stories as Hänsel and Grethel) to a stepmother, were probably made with an eye to such suitability. Jack Zipes believes that the Grimms made the change in later editions because they “held motherhood sacred”. 
They removed sexual references—such as Rapunzel's innocently asking why her dress was getting tight around her belly, and thus naively revealing to the witch Dame Gothel her pregnancy and the prince's visits—but, in many respects, violence, particularly when punishing villains, was increased. 
The brothers' initial intention of their first book, Children’s and Household Tales, was to establish a name for themselves in the world. After publishing the first KHM in 1812, they published a second, augmented and re-edited, volume in 1815. In 1816 Volume I of the German Legends (German: Deutsche Sagen) was published, followed in 1818, Volume II. However, the book that established their international success was not any of their tales, but Jacob's German Grammar in 1819. In 1825, the Brothers published their Kleine Ausgabe or "small edition", a selection of 50 tales designed for child readers. This children's version went through ten editions between 1825 and 1858.
In 1830, Jacob became a professor at University of Göttingen and shortly after, in 1835, Wilhelm also became a professor. During these years Jacob wrote a third volume of German Grammar and Wilhelm prepared the third revision of the Children’s and Household Tales. 
In 1837, King Ernst August II revoked the constitution of 1833 and was attempting to restore absolutism in the Kingdom of Hanover. Since Göttingen was a part of Hanover, the brothers were expected to take an oath of allegiance. However, the brothers and five other professors led a protest against this and were heavily supported by the student body since all of these professors were well renowned. Jacob left Göttingen immediately and Wilhelm followed him a few months later back to Kassel. 
In Kassel, the Grimms devoted themselves to researching and studying. A close friend of theirs, Bettina von Arnim, was also a talented writer. Savigny and others convinced the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, to allow the brothers to teach and conduct research at the University of Berlin. In March 1841, the brothers did just this and also continued to work on the German Dictionary. 
Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children and Household Tales) is listed by UNESCO in its Memory of the World Registry. 
The Grimms believed that the most natural and pure forms of culture were linguistic and based in history.  The work of the Brothers Grimm influenced other collectors, both inspiring them to collect tales and leading them to similarly believe, in a spirit of romantic nationalism, that the fairy tales of a country were particularly representative of it, to the neglect of cross-cultural influence.  Among those influenced were the Russian Alexander Afanasyev, the Norwegians Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, the English Joseph Jacobs, and Jeremiah Curtin, an American who collected Irish tales.  There was not always a pleased reaction to their collection. Joseph Jacobs was in part inspired by his complaint that English children did not read English fairy tales  in his own words, "What Perrault began, the Grimms completed".
W. H. Auden praised the collection during World War II as one of the founding works of Western culture.  The tales themselves have been put to many uses. Adolf Hitler praised them as folkish tales showing children with sound racial instincts seeking racially pure marriage partners, and so strongly that the Allies of World War II warned against them  for instance, Cinderella with the heroine as racially pure, the stepmother as an alien, and the prince with an unspoiled instinct being able to distinguish.  Writers who have written about the Holocaust have combined the tales with their memoirs, as Jane Yolen in her Briar Rose. 
Three individual works of Wilhelm Grimm include Altdänische Heldenlieder, Balladen und Märchen ('Old Danish Heroic Songs, Ballads, and Folktales') in 1811, Über deutsche Runen ('On German Runes') in 1821, and Die deutsche Heldensage ('The German Heroic Saga') in 1829.
The Grimm anthology has been a source of inspiration for artists and composers. Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane and Rie Cramer are among the artists who have created illustrations based on the stories.
"Grimms' Fairy Tales in English" by D.L. Ashliman provides a hyper-linked list of 50 to 100 English-language collections that have been digitized and are available online. They were published in print from the 1820s to 1920s. Listings may identify all translators and illustrators who were credited on the title pages, and certainly identify some others. 
Translations of the 1812 edition Edit
These are some translations of the original collection, also known as the first edition of Volume I.
- , ed., tr. (2014) The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: the complete first edition. 
- Loo, Oliver ed., tr. (2014) The Original 1812 Grimm Fairy Tales. A New Translation of the 1812 First Edition Kinder- und Hausmärchen Collected through the Brothers Grimm [self-published source?]
Translations of the 1857 edition Edit
These are some translations of the two-volume seventh edition (1857):
- , ed., tr. (2014) Grimm’s Household Tales, with Author’s Notes, 2 vols (1884). [a] , tr. (1977) Grimms’ Tales for Young and Old: The Complete Stories. New York: Doubleday. [b] McKay, Gilbert Schofield, Philip tr. (1982) Brothers Grimm: Selected Tales. [c]
The code "KHM" stands for Kinder- und Hausmärchen. The titles are those as of 1857. Some titles in 1812 were different. All editions from 1812 until 1857 split the stories into two volumes.
This section contains 201 listings, as "KHM 1" to "KMH 210" in numerical sequence plus "KMH 151a". The next section "No longer included in the last edition" contains 30 listings including 18 that are numbered in series "1812 KHM ###" and 12 without any label.
Volume 1 Edit
- (Der Froschkönig oder der eiserne Heinrich): KHM 1 (Katze und Maus in Gesellschaft): KHM 2 (Marienkind): KHM 3 (Märchen von einem, der auszog das Fürchten zu lernen): KHM 4 (Der Wolf und die sieben jungen Geißlein): KHM 5 or Trusty John (Der treue Johannes): KHM 6 (Der gute Handel): KHM 7 or The Strange Musician (Der wunderliche Spielmann): KHM 8 (Die zwölf Brüder): KHM 9 (Das Lumpengesindel): KHM 10 (Brüderchen und Schwesterchen): KHM 11 : KHM 12 (Die drei Männlein im Walde): KHM 13 (Die drei Spinnerinnen): KHM 14 (Hänsel und Gretel): KHM 15 (Die drei Schlangenblätter): KHM 16 (Die weiße Schlange): KHM 17 (Strohhalm, Kohle und Bohne): KHM 18 (Von dem Fischer und seiner Frau): KHM 19 or The Valiant Little Tailor or The Gallant Tailor (Das tapfere Schneiderlein): KHM 20 (Aschenputtel): KHM 21 (Das Rätsel): KHM 22 (Von dem Mäuschen, Vögelchen und der Bratwurst): KHM 23 or Mother Hulda or Old Mother Frost (Frau Holle): KHM 24 (Die sieben Raben): KHM 25 (Rotkäppchen): KHM 26 (Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten): KHM 27 (Der singende Knochen): KHM 28 (Der Teufel mit den drei goldenen Haaren): KHM 29 (Läuschen und Flöhchen): KHM 30 or The Handless Maiden (Das Mädchen ohne Hände): KHM 31 (Der gescheite Hans): KHM 32 (Die drei Sprachen): KHM 33 (Die kluge Else): KHM 34 (Der Schneider im Himmel): KHM 35 ("Tischchen deck dich, Goldesel und Knüppel aus dem Sack" also known as "Tischlein, deck dich!"): KHM 36 (Daumesdick) (see also Tom Thumb): KHM 37 (Die Hochzeit der Frau Füchsin): KHM 38 (Die Wichtelmänner): KHM 39
- Second Story (Zweites Märchen)
- Third Story (Drittes Märchen)
- KHM 143 in the 1812/1815 edition was Die Kinder in Hungersnot (the starving children)
- (Erstes Märchen)
Volume 2 Edit
- (Der Arme und der Reiche): KHM 87 (Das singende springende Löweneckerchen): KHM 88 (Die Gänsemagd): KHM 89 (Der junge Riese): KHM 90 (Dat Erdmänneken): KHM 91 (Der König vom goldenen Berg): KHM 92 (Die Raben): KHM 93 (Die kluge Bauerntochter): KHM 94 (Der alte Hildebrand): KHM 95 (De drei Vügelkens): KHM 96 (Das Wasser des Lebens): KHM 97 (Doktor Allwissend): KHM 98 (Der Geist im Glas): KHM 99 (Des Teufels rußiger Bruder): KHM 100 (Bärenhäuter): KHM 101 (Der Zaunkönig und der Bär): KHM 102 (Der süße Brei): KHM 103 (Die klugen Leute): KHM 104 (Märchen von der Unke): KHM 105 (Der arme Müllerbursch und das Kätzchen): KHM 106 (Die beiden Wanderer): KHM 107 (Hans mein Igel): KHM 108 (Das Totenhemdchen): KHM 109 (Der Jude im Dorn): KHM 110 (Der gelernte Jäger): KHM 111 (Der Dreschflegel vom Himmel): KHM 112 (Die beiden Königskinder): KHM 113 or The Story of a Clever Tailor (vom klugen Schneiderlein): KHM 114 (Die klare Sonne bringt's an den Tag): KHM 115 (Das blaue Licht): KHM 116 (Das eigensinnige Kind): KHM 117 (Die drei Feldscherer): KHM 118 (Die sieben Schwaben): KHM 119 (Die drei Handwerksburschen): KHM 120 (Der Königssohn, der sich vor nichts fürchtete): KHM 121 (Der Krautesel): KHM 122 (Die Alte im Wald): KHM 123 (Die drei Brüder): KHM 124 (Der Teufel und seine Großmutter): KHM 125 (Ferenand getrü und Ferenand ungetrü): KHM 126 (Der Eisenofen): KHM 127 (Die faule Spinnerin): KHM 128 (Die vier kunstreichen Brüder): KHM 129 (Einäuglein, Zweiäuglein und Dreiäuglein): KHM 130 (Die schöne Katrinelje und Pif Paf Poltrie): KHM 131 (Der Fuchs und das Pferd): KHM 132 (Die zertanzten Schuhe): KHM 133 (Die sechs Diener): KHM 134 (Die weiße und die schwarze Braut): KHM 135 (Eisenhans): KHM 136 (De drei schwatten Prinzessinnen): KHM 137 (Knoist un sine dre Sühne): KHM 138 (Dat Mäken von Brakel): KHM 139 (Das Hausgesinde): KHM 140 (Das Lämmchen und das Fischchen): KHM 141 (Simeliberg): KHM 142 (Up Reisen gohn): KHM 143, appeared in the 1819 edition
The children's legends (Kinder-legende)
First appeared in the G. Reimer 1819 edition at the end of volume 2.
Magical, Fairy, Enchanting, And Mermaid Baby Names For Girls:
Don’t you think this melodic name would have sounded great on an elf in The Lord of the Rings? With roots in Old English, Aerwyna means ‘friend of the sea’.
Ailsa is the name of the stunning islet in the Clyde, which is also nicknamed as ‘Island of Alfisgr’. And it translates to ‘elf victory’. Could it be any more apt for your wee one?
Aine is an Irish name derived from the proto-Celtic word ‘aidna’ and means ‘radiance’. In Irish mythology, she’s the queen of fairies.
We had absolutely no idea that Alfreda means ‘elf power’. This makes us like it even more.
Alice is the name of the imaginative and curious protagonist of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in the Wonderland and the Disney movie of the same name. This classic and feminine name means ‘of the nobility’.
Alvina is the female variant of Alvin and means ‘elf-friend’.
This one needs no introduction. Too bad it does not come along with the red hair. And did you know that Ariel is also the symbolic name for Jerusalem? This name means ‘lion of the God’.
A name with a royal ring, Asherah does have Hebrew origins, but it’s also the name of the goddess of fertility and motherhood. This moniker means ‘she who walks in the sea’.
Asia isn’t just the name of a continent. In the Greek mythology, Asia was Oceanus’ daughter and Prometheus and Atlas’ mother. This name means ‘sunrise’. Sweet, substantial, and motherly!
This name from Greek mythology, meaning ‘like a star’ sounds magical to us. What do you think about it? You can also opt for the simple form Astra.
This upscale unisex name is shooting up the charts for girls. Its most familiar namesake is Aubrey Plaza, the star of Parks and Recreation. Aubrey means ‘elf ruler’.
The sight of magnificent green lights dancing in the sky is no less than a magical phenomenon. Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights, takes place when the electrons collide with the upper atmosphere. This Latin name means ‘the dawn’.
The last name first started as a male name, but is now used mostly for the girls, probably because of its similarity to Ivory and Ava. Avery means ‘ruler of elves’.
In the Greek mythology, Calypso was the beguiling sea nymph who falls in love with Odysseus. Calypso is also the name of West India music. It means ‘she that conceals’.
Stars, planets, and galaxies, for most of us, are full of magic and mystery. Celeste originates in Latin and means ‘heavenly’. What an elegant and regal name!
Coralia, meaning ‘like coral’, was the name of a mermaid in a ballet based on Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s Undine. We feel it’s a perfect option for parents looking for something rarer than Coral or Coraline.
Cyrena was the water nymph who fought a lion that tried to harm the Sun god Apollo. Apollo, in return built for her a city named Cyrenaica. Cyrena means ‘Mother of Aristaeus’.
This invented name, belonging to the dragon girl from Game of Thrones has gained traction in real life big time.
This is an apt mermaid name for girls. Dariyah is the spelling variation of the Persian name Daria, meaning ‘sea’. It isn’t sweet or girly, but has a brave and bold feel to it.
This name is inspired by the Nickelodeon series Bubble Guppies, which centers on a group of mermaid preschoolers and their adventures with their teacher, Mr. Grouper. Deema is an Arabic name meaning ‘rain’.
Yes, we know that Delphine sounds more like dolphins than mermaids. But aren’t these two creatures magnificent? This elegant and ladylike French name means ‘dolphin’.
With the revival of Dorothea and Dorothy, Doris also has a chance of making back to the list. It’s the name of an ocean nymph in the Greek mythology and means ‘gift of the ocean’.
This moniker sounds something like elven in the truest sense. It means ‘elf-friend’.
This is a simple and straightforward option best used as a term of endearment. If you’re a Pokémon lover, you’ll know that Fairy type is one of the kinds of Pokémons.
Fay is a short and sweet name, derived from the Old English word ‘faie’, which means fairy. Its alternate spelling is Faye.
This Scottish name is currently borne by the witch in American Horror Story: Coven. Though the name means ‘fair’, the character Fiona is anything but.
Giselle is a naïve and pure-hearted princess of Andalsia from the movie Enchanted. For the typical French feel, pronounce it as ‘Ghee-Zah-Elle’ not ‘Jiz-elle’. It means ‘pledge’.
The Harry Potter heroine has a name that stands out, just like the witty and intelligent wizard. In the Greek mythology, Hermione is Kind Menelaus and Helen’s daughter. Her name means ‘messenger’.
The name Isla is derived from one of the most beautiful islands of Scotland, which is also referred to as The Queen of the Hebrides. A perfect name for a girl who’ll take on the world and will even win it. The correct pronunciation of Isla is ‘Eye-La’.
This name just rolls off the tongue. And it doesn’t just sound cute, but has lovely meanings as well. In Hawaiian, Kaia means ‘the sea’ and in Greek, it means ‘pure’. Could there be a better inspiration for a baby girl name?
In Celtic mythology, Kelpie was the name of the water-horse who transformed herself into a beautiful woman to lure people into traps. This name means ‘heifer’.
This name is taken from the German folktales, where Lorelei was the sensual mermaid of the Rhine River, whose haunting voice led to many shipwrecks. This sophisticated name means ‘alluring’.
If you want something rare and mystical for your little girl, Maraja is the one for you. This royal name originates from Esperanto language and means ‘made of the sea’.
This enchanting baby name meaning ‘defender of the sea’ also happens to be the name of the lead girl in the animated television show Adventure Time.
Marin, with its roots in Gaelic and Irish, means ‘star of the sea’. Sounds a lot chicer than Marina.
This French name, meaning ‘elfin’, is also associated with a blue-violet color dye in France.
This rich and melodic short form of Amelia is also the name of a nymph in Greek mythology. Melia means ‘work’.
This mellifluous fairy tale name would make a lovely pick for a 21st-century girl. It means ‘strong in work’.
Melody is the name of Ariel’s daughter in Disney’s Little Mermaid. After a long hiatus, this Greek name cracked in the top 200 list in the year 2015. Melody means ‘music’.
According to a medieval tale, Melusine was the name of one of the three sisters lost on the Isle of Avalon. Melusine, the eldest sister, was forced to spend one day a week as a mermaid. Melusine means ‘dark skinned’.
If you wish for an alternative to the classic and somewhat common name Mary, Meri is the one for you. It’s a beautiful Finnish name, meaning ‘the sea’.
This name featured in a British comedy film, in which a lonely fisherman catches a mermaid named Miranda and together they go on a journey to London. Miranda means ‘marvelous’.
Molly is another adorable character from Bubble Guppies. Molly originated as a nickname, but has been used as a standalone name since the Middle Ages. Molly means ‘bitter’.
This is a perfect magical girl name. According to Irish folklore, Muirgen was a human who was transformed into a mermaid. She was caught from the sea after 300 years, baptized, and turned into a saint. Muirgen means ‘born of the sea’.
Naida, meaning ‘water nymph’, would make an excellent option for girls born under any of the water signs – Pisces, Cancer, or Scorpio.
Navi is the name of the fairy in the video game, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This Hebrew name is the nickname of Gamma Cassiopeia, bestowed on her by astronaut Gus Grissom. Navi means ‘to name’.
Nerissa is an offbeat alternative to Marissa and Nerissa. It featured in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Nerissa means ‘from the sea’.
As per the German folklore, Nixie is the name of the mermaid-like sprite dwelling in the sea. You can consider it as an update for Nicki or a substitute to Pixie. Nixie means ‘water nymph’.
Ondine is the name of a German water sprite who gets married to a mortal, but leads a disturbed life. Meaning ‘little wave’, this name rose to fame via Audrey Hepburn’s character Ondine on Broadway.
We quite like this name. It’s short, sweet, and belongs to one of the guppies in the series. The double ‘o’ adds oomph to this name. Oona means ‘lamb’.
This Persian name, meaning ‘like a fairy’ sounds much more distinctive than Paris or Parisa. A perfect example how you can turn an ordinary name into extraordinary with just a change in the letter.
Pixie is basically a term used for supernatural beings that are portrayed as tiny, human like creatures with pointed hat and ears. This magical baby girl name is on the rise, thanks to the name with the letter ‘x’ in it. Pixie means ‘fairy’.
Radella is one of the most unusual names we’ve come across. Definitely a fresher alternative to ella ending names. It means ‘elfin advisor’.
Sabrina was the name of the water nymph in Comus by John Milton. Besides, it’s the name of a Celtic River goddess too. The meaning of Sabrina is ‘from Cyprus’.
Short, sweet, and utterly adorable, in Japanese mythology, Sean is the name of a mythological forest elf. Since it isn’t used much in the Western part of the world, it would make a rare name for your daughter. Sen means ‘lotus flower’.
Sereia is Portuguese for mermaid. It’s probably derived from Siren, which is also a name for mermaids.
Siofra is soft, frilly, shimmering, and a wonderful alternative to Sophie or Sophia. It’s an Irish Gaelic name, meaning ‘elf’ or ‘sprite’. You need to pronounce this name as ‘Sheef-RA’.
In the 60s series, Bewitched, Tabitha is the name of the half-witch daughter of Samantha. This quirky name reached its peak in the 70s. Tabitha means ‘gazelle’.
This moniker gained a huge fan following the release of Princess and the Frog. Tiana means ‘fairy queen’.
Titania is the name of the Queen of Fairies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This moniker has a lacy and delicate charm, just like its bearer. Titania means ‘great one’.
Dirty Dark Secrets Behind Ancient Fairy Tales - History
The line between what is myth and what is folk tale is a fine one. I could attempt a definition, but I think that it could create an unhelpful division where none exists. Some of the heroic tales of the Middle Ages seem to me to be in the same vein as the classic tales of the Iliad and Odyssey they are all based on the tradition of storytelling. I present here a selection of tales, including perhaps the best known heroic tale, some other popular tales, and my interpretation of them. The characters in them have no traceable blood relationship with any historical figures. I think that they are based on events that occurred in the Solar System in the remote past.
King Arthur, his valiant Knights and his Round Table, make one of the most immediately recognisable images in British folklore.
Arthur is supposed to have lived in the turbulent period in British history that followed the departure of the Romans. It was a time when little was documented and about which little is certain. The name Arthur is first heard as a name given to historical persons around 600 AD.
The first appearance in print of Arthur the figure of legend, is in the Historia Brittonum of Nennius some 200 years later. Nennius said that Arthur fought alongside the British kings, but he did not say that Arthur was himself a king. This leads me straightaway to think of Arthur as a god figure who was regarded as helping the efforts of the British kings in battle. Reinforcing this idea is the information in Nennius that Arthur 'discomfited 960 adversaries' at the battle of Badon, something that associates him with the demigods in myth who similarly single-handedly dispatched hundreds at a time.
But one work above others seems to have brought Arthur to prominence: it was the Historia Regnum Brittaniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth, written in the 12th century. Geoffrey's proper name was apparently Grufydd ap Arthur, a Welshman and Archdeacon of Monmouth . He seems to have based his book on Breton sources of the legend rather than those of the native Welsh used by Nennius.
The culminating volume on Arthur must be Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur, printed (and titled) by Caxton in 1485. Mallory cranks up the action, makes it into a good yarn, but plays down the supernatural element.
In early Welsh poems Arthur is associated with known Celtic gods as well as with his 'knights'. In one such poem credited to Taliesin, called 'The Spoils of Annwn', Arthur visits Annwn (the Underworld) in his ship Prydwen, to recover the cauldron belonging to Pwyll, the Lord of Annwn. This cauldron has magical properties that make it certain that it, and the so-called 'Grail' (cup), of other Arthurian tales are the same:
1. Only those that were worthy might approach it.
2. It fed those at the table with whatever they desired.
3. It healed the sick.
4. Those who worshipped at the Grail chapel, or one who 'had his seat' where the cauldron was, remained forever young. 
This seems to be saying that there was a round-shaped vessel in the Underworld it was associated with goodness of spirit and longevity. I think that we have here another description of the older, smaller world, 'within' this one Arthur had to journey to the underworld to reach it.
There was even a 'perilous bridge' leading to the Grail castle, mentioned in Perlesvaus, a thirteenth century French prose romance of the Grail. This is another indication that we are in the same territory as that of the Yima story.
The Grail/Arthur legends were to be found all over Europe. Although based on different strands of the oral tradition, all the stories are equally important contributions to our understanding of the origins of the legends.
The region journeyed to by Arthur is recognisable as the realm of Kronos in Greek myth the time was the Golden Age, when there was food without travail and life was blissful.
I have previously equated the Greek god Kronos with the Egyptian god Osiris. Lewis Spence in his 'The Mysteries of Britain' compared Arthur with Osiris in this way:
This is surely similar to the way that the spells of the Pyramid Texts ensured the safe passage of the soul of the departed Pharaoh to the golden realm, so that he might live forever. Although it is easy to get misled by the similarities between names in various cultures, it is tempting to equate 'Arthur' with 'Asar', the Egyptian form of the god Osiris.
Spence goes on to compare this with the myth of Osiris:
Then there is Plutarch (c. 100 AD), saying that there was a legend among the Britons that the god Kronos slumbered on an island, guarded by Briareus . Plutarch and those like him would immediately recognise a 'slumbering god' of a foreign race as being the same as one of their own gods.
The evidence seems to point strongly to Arthur as being another planet god - most probably Kronos/Saturn. By the way, the 'island' referred to in the legends could be an aspect of Saturn - the rings making what appeared to be an island of the planet, isolating it.
And now to perhaps the most familiar attachment to the Arthur tale: The Round Table. If you have followed me thus far you are probably now ahead of me. Saturn's ring system looks like a round table and the moons of Saturn could be Arthur's knights. There you might find Sir Lancelot and his fellow knights.
The Round Table was originally King Uther's (Arthur's father), and he too used it to seat knights (50 0f them)  so perhaps Uther was a former name of Arthur. The Table is first mentioned by Robert Wace of Jersey in 1155 he said that the table was ring-shaped and that the knights sat inside the ring.
The bit about a sword - Excalibur or other - being inserted and removed from a rock, could be the appearance from a distance of the rings of Saturn, when almost edge on, seeming to meet with and withdraw from another planetary body - perhaps the Earth itself (the 'rock'), seen from a distance.
We must keep aware of the way that the oral tradition was concerned to relate history in a form that was interesting to the hearer. But we reach a point, probably quite early on, when the intention of storytelling became lost, and the tales told became more entertainment than instruction. The later Arthurian story as told in Mallory is probably an example of this romantic treatment of myth.
As to the final identification of Arthur, it is of course impossible to say, as there are at least three planets with rings and two figures in the tales who possessed tables: Arthur and Uther. These two names could be simply of the same entity the name Uther being from a different tribal strand.
'ONCE UPON A TIME. '. So begins many a fairy tale. We think of them as fictional stories the laws of nature are suspended - the characters in them can be transported miles in an instant, change size, and transform themselves into other creatures.
We know nothing about their origin. The characters in them are not known to history they are given only general descriptive names like 'Beauty', 'Snow White', 'Silver Hair', 'Tom Thumb', 'Red Ridinghood', 'Cinder-girl', etc.
They are often portrayed in old-fashioned dress, but this only reflects the time the stories were first published in written form. In fact they were collected and set down from the mouths of storytellers they are part of an oral tradition. Because we don't know when they were composed, they could be of any age, even many thousands of years old. The fact that they could extremely old is significant.
Imaginative stories of the fairy tale type can be conceived by any generation. Why then have the old tales persisted through what might have been countless generations? What is so special about them? The Opies, in their book 'The Classic Fairy Tales', say that
They are subject to much variety in their setting and characters, but my guess is that they are based on only a few events. Versions of the principal tales are to be found worldwide it is said that there are about 700 versions of Cinderella world-wide.
The Girl Among the Cinders
To illustrate my thoughts on the subject, let us take a look at one well-known tale, that of Cinderella. This is perhaps the most widely known fairy tale and many versions exist. The various versions put their emphasis in different places: in some, the 'cinder' and 'fireside' elements are played down or omitted altogether, but most seem to have a shoe of some kind fit the girl's foot - not always a glass one however. Because of this variety in the versions, my interpretation of these tales fits certain versions better than others.
First there is a nursery rhyme, Polly Flinders - whose name, rather conveniently, happens to rhyme with cinders. It begins,
Little Polly Flinders
Sat among the cinders
Warming her pretty little toes
Her mother came and caught her,
And whipped her little daughter
For spoiling her nice new clothes.
The image of someone sitting 'among' the cinders is somewhat strange although it is admitted that people of yesteryear might sit in the ingle nook, near to the fire. The general impression is that of a domestic scene and a misbehaving child.
But now let's look at the full-blown nursery tale about a girl who was found among cinders, Cinderella. The Opies tell us that it is the 'best known fairy story in the world', and it is 'a tale whose strangeness has apparently been a wonder to man for a thousand years.'
The planet Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun, about 2700 million km from Earth it lies on its side, rotating once every 17 hours. However the principal point of interest here is the rings of Uranus: they are composed of chunks of 'an unknown black material' there is very little dust-sized material the mean particle size is 20cm. They have been described as 'lumps of coal on a merry-go-round'. The small satellites are also dark, unlike those of Saturn and Jupiter.
My proposal is that the 'Cinderella' figure represents a satellite of the planet Uranus. As you see, those engaged in the exploration of the Solar System, unaware of any link with folk tale, have compared the ring material with 'lumps of coal' they could just as easily have used the word 'cinders'.
In what follows I have used the version of Cinderella published by Charles Perrault (1628-1703) perhaps the one most familiar to western readers. Let's think what happened to Polly/Cinderella:
1. Polly dirtied her clothes by contact with the cinders. Most of the satellites of Uranus have dark surfaces the albedo or reflectivity of their surfaces is very low.
2. A pumpkin (a spherical object) becomes a means of transport for Cinders that is, Cinders as a person in a fairy tale could not travel in a sphere the sphere had to be converted into a coach in which a human character might travel.
3. Cinders can only remain out until midnight, when she has to return. This could be the description of a moon's journey the length of time it was visible.
4. The glass slipper. There is much variety in the several versions of the tale in some the slipper is fabric. A shoe of some kind is a common element in many versions of the tale there must be some significance in the 'slipper', but quite what it represents I am not sure. There is much scope for the imagination here, provided it is exercised in a celestial context.
I see the story as an allegory of the transfer of control of moons from one major planet to another. Cinders visited the place of the 'Prince' and left a shoe behind. Perhaps the 'slipper' was a gap in the rings that was left behind when 'Cinders' changed its orbital position the 'ugly sisters' may have been moons that were too large to fit the gap. Ultimately the 'Prince' takes control of Cinders and a stable condition is reached.
I cannot claim to know exactly how the Cinderella tale derives from the astronomy of Uranus, but I am sure that it does.
It should be noted that if these interpretations are in any way correct, they mean that the observers were either much closer to Uranus than we are now, or they were using optical instruments much more powerful than those we have.
In the Chinese version, the stepmother and stepsister are killed by flying stones. Is this a bombardment of two moons by ring material?
Fairy tales, myths and superstitions seem to have no basis, no purpose. My intention here is to suggest that such tales have preserved a record of unique natural events and observations that were part of human beings earliest experience.
1. A poor woman has an only child called Jack. They are reduced to having to sell their cow, which Jack does for a few curious beans.
2. When Jack's mother saw this she kicked the beans away they flew in all directions. Next morning Jack discovered that some of the beans had taken root and had sprung up beyond the clouds forming a ladder-like structure.
3. Jack climbs the beanstalk and meets a fairy who tells him that a Giant lives there who was responsible for the death of Jack's father.
4. This Giant lives on human flesh he has a wife at whom he aims blows but continually misses.
5. Jack gains entry into the Giant's castle. There is an iron grating leading to a dungeon where the Giant keeps his victims.
6. The Giant has a hen that lays golden eggs Jack steals the hen and returns down the beanstalk to his mother.
7. Jack returns to the Giant's castle twice more, one time returning with bags containing silver and gold, the last time returning with a harp which turned out to be a fairy.
8. The Giant pursues Jack as far as the beanstalk but Jack cuts the beanstalk the Giant falls and is killed.
This is a very brief outline of but one of the variants of the tale. Before I offer my tentative interpretation of the tale, there is this comment from the authors of a book of collected fairy tales:
Clearly there is a theme here that is widespread and of great antiquity.
I would suggest the following elements in the tale show that it owes its origin to the mythical past:
'Jack' travels up a ladder-like structure that leads to a 'Giant'. This reminds me of the 'bridges' that I discussed earlier. As with the 'bridges', the beanstalk is an aspect of the rings appearing to spring from the Earth due to the Earth's lying somewhere within the ring system. The several bean shoots, is descriptive of the many thin rings making up a ring system.
The Giant lives on human flesh. This could signify that the giant planet concerned had been responsible for loss of life on Earth.
The Giant aims blows at his wife but misses. There does not seem to be any literary advantage in his missing the target. It might be some form of electrical discharge that appeared to be making for a moon, but I just cannot think of a satisfactory explanation for the missed 'blows'. The iron grating covering the dungeon is reminiscent of the barrier to the Underworld - the Greek Tartarus and the Teutonic Hel. Hesiod says,
Jack visited the land of the Giant on three occasions. However Jack did not increase in size as a result, so there is no direct link to the Yima myth, at least not in the examples of the tale I have read. But Jack's wealth increased as a result of his encounters with the Giant, which could be a way of representing physical increase.
One outline of this story is as follows:
1. Wise men tell a king that his new-born daughter will succumb to a splinter in some flax.
2. Despite the king's precautions, the daughter tries to spin some flax, pricks her finger and falls dead.
3. The king places her body in a palace in a wood, abandoning it forever.
4. Another king, out hunting, discovers the princess, cannot rouse her, has union with her and nine months later she bears twins, a boy and a girl.
5. One day, one of the infants sucks at the princess' finger by mistake, thus removing the splinter, restoring the princess to life.
The imagery of the spinning wheel and the sharp splinter or thorn are reminiscent of Yima/Saturn's rings in their various aspects (the planet's ring system almost edge-on, appearing as a sharp thorn or splinter).
The elements are here of a celestial episode of some kind, but the sequence of events is not identifiable with that in the Persian text no object increases in size, like the Earth is said to have done. Sleeping Beauty is made to enter a period of inactivity and the action of one of two other entities restores 'her' to her former state.
The Teutonic epic known as the Nibelungenlied is another example of celestial imagery, which seems to me to be closely related to the tale of the Sleeping Beauty. In it, the Valkyrie Brynhild (she who was to be a heroine of Wagner's music drama), had angered the god Odin in some way Odin pricked Brynhild with a magic thorn,
Odin then enclosed her in a dwelling surrounded by a wall of flame. Brynhild ceased to be a Valkyrie she was condemned to lead a terrestrial life.
I know that this all seems far-fetched that the thorn that pricked Sleeping Beauty's finger and Yima's dagger should both be images of a planet's ring system seems difficult to believe. But humans are constantly making comparisons, trying to express things in familiar terms, both to aid understanding for themselves and to communicate ideas to others.
The Solar System is now a relatively quiet place and has been so for a considerable time. Even those people living in 500 BC or thereabouts would have already lost touch with the remote past the time when fundamental changes were taking place to the orbits of the planets.
People living between a few centuries BC and the present, have seen only meteor showers, comets and electrical storms in the atmosphere. Attempts to tell such people that the planets once ran courses very different from those they follow today, would have been met with disbelief.
When the changes were put in the form of tales about 'gods' and heroes, they became acceptable. But of course, there was a price: the information about the cosmic changes became hidden and was lost all that remained were stories suited only for entertainment and moral guidance.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall he had a fall. He is usually depicted as a rotund, egg-like shape. I think that this rhyme is to do with the appearance of a large planet as seen from the Earth the 'wall' could be the Earth's horizon. The rhyme could either be a description of the planet sinking below the horizon or, perhaps like Uranus, falling on its side. Or it could simply be the rings of a planet that were the 'wall'. The 'fall' referred to could be the apparent removal of the planet to a less influential part of the Solar System. Equally, it could be that it was the Earth that did the moving.
There are many other versions of the rhyme. A Danish one is,
It is thought to be extremely ancient, its age '. to be measured in thousands of years..' 
In the Hittite myth of Ubelluri above, there was a similar description of an object that appeared to half-fill the sky. All these tales could have been inspired by the same circumstances.
I need only mention Snow White and the seven dwarfs. Surely they must be a planet and seven moons?
The 'History of Tom Thumb' is a series of exploits of a ridiculously small personage. The earliest surviving text is dated 1621, but as with the tale of Cinderella, the story is obviously of much older provenance. The title page of that text describes Tom as 'King Arthur's Dwarf'. I find this particularly significant for reasons that follow.
In the course of his adventures, Tom is swallowed and regurgitated successively by a cow, a giant, a fish, a miller and a salmon. He is introduced by the following rhyme:
I have already written on the subject of the identity of King Arthur there I conclude that 'he' was most likely to have been the planet Saturn, although like all these identities, there is room for doubt about which major planet 'he' was. It is interesting therefore to see the word 'shone' used to describe King Arthur in the tale of Tom Thumb - Saturn could have been at one time a luminous body. Of course, it could simply be that King Arthur was a human being who was likened to a star I leave you to make your own judgement. King Arthur's 'court' would have been the round table and his knights I see these as the rings and moons of Saturn. So Tom Thumb was presumably one of the moons of Saturn.
But could the 'Tombe of Marble gray' in the following verse, built by King Arthur for Tom, be a reference to our Moon? The Moon is grey in appearance, and the reference to a 'yearly' return suggests to me perhaps a cyclical orbit of some sort. And so could Tom Thumb be our Moon, an erstwhile satellite of Saturn?
'He built a Tombe of Marble gray,
and yeare by yeare did come
To celebrate that mournefull day,
and buriall of Tom Thumb:
Whose fame still liues in England here,
amongst the Countrey sort.
Of whom our Wiues and Children small
tell tales of pleasant sport. '
I believe that most ancient fairy tales are based on something in the celestial sphere. Of course, implicit in this is the thought that whatever it was, it must have been something unusual. Why would anyone make up a story about the imperceptible motion of the planets? Some fairy tales have been tentatively linked to historical characters and events, but most are of vast age, far beyond verifiable history.
We have folk memories, vague allusions to 'little people' who live underground - trolls, elves and such. These beliefs were widely held in Europe until relatively recently. This could point to the memory of a smaller Earth. 'Living underground' could mean living on an Earth that is inside this one. It was perhaps thought that the people living on a small Earth would be small in stature.
Apart from the fairy tales and nursery rhymes, we have the sayings that have been in use for longer than anyone can remember. 'Break a mirror get seven years bad luck', or something like it, is a well-known saying that is reminiscent of the story of the Snow Queen and her shattered mirror, which I think is some planetary image. In this way fragments of information about the remote past have survived the passage of time, at least until now.
This technological age has no need of reiteration we think all knowledge is captured on imperishable media to be recalled when wanted we rely on technology. But it is because there were no vulnerable olden-day recording and reproducing machines, that we are able today to at least get a flavour of the past through myth and fairy tale. Reproducing machines are breakable, memory isn't. The iconoclasts of old thought that they could obliterate all knowledge of the past by burning books they did not realise that human memory was capable of retaining the essentials facts of the past.
Another aspect of the folk tradition is superstition an irrational belief that good or bad luck can come from some ritual act or observation.
Of course there are vast numbers of such beliefs, most of which are probably no more than cautionary, 'common-sense' observations. However, there are some that I think are more profound and can be interpreted as memories of events in past ages. As with myth and fairy tale, we have no means of knowing when these beliefs were first aired they too could be thousands of years old.
As an example I have selected some superstitions that have to do with seeing a new Moon for the first time in a month. Here are a few of them:
1. It is unlucky to look at a new Moon through glass.
2. Money in the pocket has to be turned over to ensure good luck.
3. To see the new Moon on the right hand means good luck to see it on the left or 'over the left shoulder', is considered bad luck.
In the case of 1, the term 'glass' was often shorthand for 'looking glass', that is, a mirror, or perhaps a magnifying glass. In fact one of the superstitions collected by the Opies actually mentions a looking glass in this connection. Mirrors reverse images, so maybe the belief has something to do with reversal.
The Earth rotates in an anticlockwise direction when viewed on the north pole . Certain conventions have been adopted by those living in the northern hemisphere: clocks go 'clockwise' because the movements of the hands follow the Sun in moving from left to right the term 'east' means 'where the Sun rises', 'west' where it sets.
In the southern hemisphere the situation is somewhat different: clocks still rotate 'clockwise' out of convention, even though the Sun actually appears to move from right to left when looking north. 'East' is still 'east' because it has come to be associated with a geographical area, not only with the rising of the Sun.
The Moon travels along its orbit around the Earth in an anticlockwise direction also. In the northern hemisphere, the new Moon first appears in the east, the left hand side, as a crescent like this: ) . Each night, over a period of about a fortnight, the Moon passes through phases to a full disk O and eventually to a ( shape, always appearing to travel from left to right during each night.
Looking at the new Moon in a mirror in the northern hemisphere you would see a ( shape, looking like an old Moon. Seeing an old Moon when a new one was expected would indeed be strange but would only be 'unlucky' if on a previous occasion there had been some dire events associated with the sight. If a new Moon were to appear looking like an old Moon, it could only mean that the Earth had undergone some radical change in its motion. The most obvious explanation would be that the Earth had reversed its rotation. (See Chapter 4, 'Sunrise in the West')
The other two beliefs mentioned above also fall into place as a result of this analysis. Turning money over is probably an allusion to the fact that we would be 'upside down' and so logically the money in our pockets would need to be turned as well! The sight of a new Moon 'over the left shoulder' being unlucky could be explained in this way: if, instead of facing south and seeing the new Moon appear as normal from the left, one saw it while facing north but seeming to come from the left ('over the left shoulder'), it would be in fact rising on the right hand side if you faced south, and so indicate that a reversal of motion had occurred.
Perhaps to say baldly that the Moon on occasion rose on the right instead of on the left, would have been too startling to record in a folk superstition there has to be some obscurity to such sayings, otherwise they would not survive in the tradition.