Our Lady’s Child is probably a Grimm’s tale that is not familiar to you. In ways, there are traditional Grimm’s elements, but in other ways, it seems like it belongs in a completely different collection.
Once upon a time a man and his wife were very poor. They didn’t have a lot of food, but they also had a daughter. One day while the man was out in the woods the Virgin Mary came to him and told him that she would take care of his daughter. The man quickly agreed and brought his daughter to the Virgin Mary.
The Virgin Mary took the little girl to heaven where she raised her until she was about fourteen years old. One day the Virgin Mary was going somewhere(a cruise to the Bahamas?) and she left the little girl alone in heaven. . Before Mary left she gave the girl a key. There were thirteen doors in heaven. She told the little girl that she could use the key to open all of the doors, but not number thirteen. Each day the girl opened a different door. One door held the twelve apostles. The girl was really tempted to open the 13th door.
Little angels told her that she should not open the door, but when she was alone the girl reasoned that no one would know. She crept to the thirteenth door and opened it anyway. There she saw the holy trinity. The girl was a little fascinated so she stuck her little finger in the light emanating from the trinity and her finger turned gold. No matter how hard she tried the gold would not come off. When the Virgin Mary came back she asked the little girl if she had been behind the thirteenth door and the girl said, “No.”
The girl fell into a deep sleep and when she woke up she was in a forest. No matter which way she tried to turn, brambles always blocked her way back into heaven. She lived in the forest for months or years alone. Her clothes fell off and the only thing she had to hide her nakedness was her very long hair.
A king was riding one day in the forest and he came across the girl. Because of Mary’s punishment the girl could no longer speak. The king thought the girl was very pretty so he took her back to her palace. As all stories go, he married her.
The girl had a baby boy. The Virgin Mary appeared and asked the girl again if she had went behind the thirteenth door. The girl uses her power of speech only granted so she can answer Mary to say, ‘No.” Mary takes her baby away.
A couple of years later there is another baby boy. Once again Mary asks the girl, “Did you go behind the thirteenth door?” Once again, the girl says, “No.” Mary takes her second baby boy.
Meanwhile the king’s people are starting to be disgruntled. They’re wondering where in the heck are all the king’s children disappearing to. They accuse the queen of eating her own children, but the king won’t have any of that.
Later, the girl has a baby girl. Once again Mary makes an appearance and asks, “Did you go behind the thirteenth door?” Once again, the girl says, “No,” even though Mary has promised to return her two sons if she confesses. Mary takes the baby girl.
By this time people are really ticked off. The king cannot prevent his people from tying his wife to a stake and attempting to burn her alive. When things look their worst, the girl finally admits to going behind the thirteenth door. A sudden rain extinguishes the flames that are about to end her life.
The Virgin Mary brings back all of the queen’s children and gives her the ability to speak. She is left with these words.
“He who repents his sin and acknowledges it, is forgiven.”
You will notice that this story doesn’t hold all the mysticism other Grimm’s stories seem to hold. This story is very Catholic. I don’t say this in a derogatory manner. It’s true. Obviously this story has many elements of Catholicism within it. The biggest Catholic element is the prominence of the Virgin Mary. I have yet to encounter a religion that places as much emphasis on the Virgin Mary as Catholicism does. Then of course we have mention of the twelve apostles, which is not a purely Catholic element. Then we have mention of the Holy Trinity(God, the son, and the holy ghost combined as one).
Another big Catholic idea in this story is the idea of confession. Mary wants the girl to confess that she committed a sin. Mary asks the girl repeatedly. Did you do this thing? Mary tells her no over and over again. The girl continues to suffer even when she knows that she can stop her suffering by confessing to her misdeed. Does that sound familiar at all? It does kind of sounds like a story you would hear at church. In fact, I would not be surprised to walk into a church and hear this story from the pulpit. It’s got that much morality to it.
I very much see parallels to the story of Adam and Eve in this tale. As you know Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. God told them not to eat of the tree in the center of the garden. Satan tempted Eve. Adam and Eve ate the fruit and God said they had to leave the garden. Their way back into the garden was blocked.
The girl was given paradise. She did something Mary told her not to do. She was banished from paradise. Her way back into paradise was blocked. She was also naked, there’s another parallel.
Here’s something I’m wondering about…what’s the deal with speechless women being all the rage in these stories? Oh you can’t talk, that’s so hot, let’s get married…What? I guess it has to deal more with the idea of if a woman can’t talk, how’s she going to tell on you when you mistreat her? If she can’t write, you’re golden. You could beat her up every single night and no one would know because she can’t speak and she can’t write it out to you.
This also brings to mind the notion which some people have concerning the idea that women shouldn’t say a lot. Those people are full of junk. I would like to imagine that after the queen regained her speech she proceeded to ream out her husband for several years of bad habits. He probably farted at the dinner table and let the dogs in the bed, but she couldn’t say anything about it all that time.
For some reason, this also brings to mind the French Revolution. I don’t know exactly when this story was conceived, but there is a good chance it’s older than the French Revolution. I could be wrong on that though. As you know during the French Revolution the people of France used Marie Antoinette as a scape goat and cut off her head. The people in this story were ready to do the same thing. I think it would be interesting to know whether or not the kingdom in this story was experiencing some economic dearth. Were there bread shortages? Were there plague outbreaks? What exactly was going on in this kingdom where the people so readily turned on their queen? Babies do die and during this time period babies died all the time. It was common. The people of this story, had they been real, would know that the queen could have befallen the terrible misfortune of losing all three of her children as infants. That didn’t mean that she ate them. Baby the other, other white meat. I’ll give you ten points for Hufflepuff if you can tell me what movie that is from. The points don’t matter.
A smaller theme in this story is numbers and number symbology. Now you may be one of those people who lives and dies by numerology or you be a devout Christian who thinks any form of divination is the devil. It does not matter what side you are on. Numbers have meanings. Numbers have always had meanings. In fact, if you are Christian, you would know that there are certain numbers that have huge significance to Christianity. Two of those numbers appear in this book. Those numbers are three and twelve.
Three is a number taken to mean “wholeness.” Third time is the charm. Three wishes. The Holy Trinity. The three kingdoms of heaven. Three times denying Christ before sunrise. Three visions. Three men in a fiery pit. Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub. Do I need to keep going?
The number Three appears a couple of times in this story. The first appearance is when the little girl sees the Holy Trinity in heaven. The Holy Trinity being composed of three entities(God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost). The girl gets married. She has three children. Mary asks her three times after she is married if she went behind the thirteenth door.
The number twelve appears mainly in the first part of the tale. There are twelve doors the girl is allowed to go in and she sees the twelve apostles. The number twelve representing the twelve tribes of Israel in a Christian sense. Twelve is this number of ruling. Even today, there are religions who still hold with the idea of twelve apostles in their church organization, mainly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and its offshoots. Twelve is like having twelve different jurisdictions, but all those jurisdictions are still under the same supreme rule.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the number thirteen. Thirteen is mentioned in this story. There are thirteen doors total in heaven. You know where there were also thirteen things total in the Bible? The last supper. The twelve apostles and Jesus Christ all attended bringing the grand total to thirteen. The thirteenth door is this girl’s downfall and the thirteenth guest at the supper is Christ’s betrayer. Thirteen is also known as an unlucky number to many. In Judaism, thirteen is the age at which a boy becomes a man. Thirteen means many things, but in this story, it means a downfall.
Of course the big theme of this story is confession and repentance. If the line I quoted at the end of my summary doesn’t explain that in a simple way, I don’t know how else I’m going to get this across. The whole idea of this whole thing is for the girl to confess her sins. Confess and repeat. Confess and repent. Lather, rinse, repeat. That’s what being a Christian is about right? You’re supposed to repent of your sins.
The Virgin Mary is actually kind of mean about this whole confession thing. She kicks this girl out of heaven for a fairly minor offense. Then she takes away her ability of speech. Then she take away her children. That is harsh. I guess the saying back in the day was, “If you’re gonna go, go all out.” They probably didn’t say that back then. That’s just the vibe I’m getting from this whole thing. I don’t imagine the Virgin Mary being such a jerk.
Of course, if you get into this whole argument you have to pick a side. There is this long-standing argument in Christianity about your ability to recover from sin. Is God just, loving and forgiving or does he condemn sin in all it’s fashions? Is it a little of both? I tend to be on the side that says God is forgiving. There are religions who shout fire and brimstone and it pretty much doesn’t matter what you do, because unless, you’re perfect, you’re going to hell. Then there are religions that practice confession and repentance. There are very few things you can do that will sentence you to eternal damnation. As long as you say you’re sorry and you repent you can still go to heaven.
This story seems to have a little of both sides in this argument. Mary is very harsh to the girl. In that sense she’s very fire and brimstone, but when the girl says just a few words Mary is all like, “Oh you’re so awesome, you can have your kids back.” It seems the whole thing is forgiven. I happen to wonder if the villagers feel the same way Mary does about forgiving the girl. My guess is that they probably don’t.
I am not going to go any further. You guys get this.
I guess the moral of this story is a good one, but I do find the story to be overall a little weird. It doesn’t fit the classic idea of a Grimm’s tale in my mind.