The Four Skillful Brothers

The Four Skillful BrothersThe Four Skillful Brothers

Ah, another story about brothers. Hey Bro, I love you man! Bros before hoes, and so on.

A man once had four sons. He told them that he didn’t have anything to give to them, so they must go out into the world and make their own way. They each set out with their sticks, because what boy doesn’t carry a stick? The came to a crossroads that had roads going in four directions. They each chose to take one of the roads and vowed to meet back up at the exact same spot in four years.

The eldest brother met a man who offered to teach him the ways of thievery. The brother wasn’t so sure about being a thief  because, “that is no longer regarded as a reputable trade,” because apparently there was a time when being a thief was reputable. The master thief convinced him otherwise. He enticed him saying that he could teach him to be such a good thief that people wouldn’t know what had hit them. So the brother was like, “Sure.” The master thief was good to his word and the brother was such a good thief, that anything he desired he could get and without detection.

The second brother went on his way and met a man who offered to teach him to be an astronomer. He enticed him offering that nothing would be hidden to him. The second brother thought this was a great idea and soon could find out anything with his telescope.

The third brother met a huntsman who taught him to be very skillful. As a parting gift, he gave him a gun that would allow him to shoot anything he desired and he would never miss.

The youngest son met a tailor. The tailor was like, “Yo, come be a tailor, it’s cool,” and the youngest brother was like, “No, I don’t think so, only nerds are tailors,” and the tailor was like, “Not with my kind of tailoring, only the bad-a**est of the bad-a**es know how to tailor like I do.” The youngest brother was drawn in with promises of swag and women, or something like that. He became a great tailor and upon parting, the tailor gave him a needle. He admonished him that this needle could sew through anything and once it was sewn together, it would appear as if it were one piece.

The men all met at the crossroads four years after the beginning of their journey. They went home to their father, who wanted to test them. He asked the second son to tell him how many eggs were in the nest way up yonder. The second son used his telescope to tell his father that there were five eggs in the nest. The father asked the oldest son to steal the eggs from the nest without the mother bird noticing. He was able to do this. The father then set the five eggs on a table and told the third son to shoot them all in two with only one shot. The third son took his special gun and shot the eggs in two with one shot. The father asked the youngest son to sew the eggs and the baby birds back together. If the baby birds were able to live afterwards he would have proven his skill. The youngest did sew the baby birds back together and when it was time for them to hatch, they hatched like any other baby birds. They had thin red lines around their necks from where they had been sewn back together.

The father told his sons he was very proud of them and that their skills would profit them. Not long after there was a big hubbub in the country. It seems the king’s only daughter had been kidnapped. There was reward. Whosoever could rescue her could have her for a wife. The four sons knew they could handle this.

The second son used his telescope to spy the princess. She was on an island in the middle of the sea guarded by a dragon. The sons got on a boat and traveled there. They didn’t know how to get her away from the dragon. The first son volunteered to steal her away without the dragon knowing. He was able to do this and the boat set off at a fast pace away, but the dragon woke up and noticed his princess was gone. He followed. The third son shot the dragon with his gun, but the dragon landed on the boat and smashed it to pieces. That was no matter though, because the youngest son soon sewed the boat back together.

The king was happy to get his daughter back, but she couldn’t share four men, so they had to decide amongst themselves who would get the princess. They all had valid claims as to why each of them should have her. Without the second son, they wouldn’t have known where she was. Without the first son they wouldn’t have gotten her away from the dragon. Without the third son they would have been eaten by the dragon. Without the fourth son they would have drowned in the sea. The king finally told the bickering ninnies that none of them could have his daughter because they couldn’t agree, but he would give them each half of the kingdom(not sure how that’s supposed to work out mathematically). They all lived in peace and harmony for the rest of their days.

The End

The Four Skillful BrothersObservations

Look, I don’t know how four guys each get a half of something. The only was I can figure out how this worked is that there was more than one of something. Maybe this king had more than one kingdom. Maybe he just meant you four can share half of my kingdom. If that’s the case, how come the four couldn’t have shared the princess?

So at what point in history was being a thief honorable? If this man does imply that it’s not an honorable profession *anymore,* when was it an honorable profession? Was there a time in history where people were like, “We love Toby the thief. He’s awesome. He’s like our rock star”? I don’t ever recall anyone other than another thief saying being a thief was awesome. People don’t like thieves. It’s not nice to take someone else’s stuff.

Chop unborn baby birds in half then sew them back together, nice. I’m kidding, that’s totally gross and cruel. It’s like some sort of strange Frankenstein experiment. I also posit that this would be impossible seeing as a regular sized bullet would pretty much rip an unborn baby bird apart. There wouldn’t be anything to sew back together, but then again, maybe that’s why the needle in this story is so awesome.

The Four Skillful BrothersThemes

Why is everyone hating on tailors? It’s been a common theme in the Grimm’s fairy tales that somehow tailors are deceitful, evil, and uncool, apparently. Look, without tailors, these people would have been running around naked. Is that why they hated tailors? Were they secretly nudists who wanted no part in this clothes business? I’m going to have to look into this business of people disliking tailors. I’ll let you know what I find out in the future.

These four sons learn that they have to make their own way in the world. They can’t let someone else pave their way. That’s very true. Even if you inherit millions of dollars, you’ve got to stand on your own two feet sometime. You have to develop yourself. You have to be you.

These sons also learn that each of them are valuable for who they are. They each have a part to play and they can each contribute. If one of them were gone it would leave this gaping hole in their plans. They create this “whole” with their unique parts. Even though I highly value the idea of individuality, each of us do form part of a “whole.” We’re part of a society, we’re part of a relationship, we’re part of a family, we’re part of an organization, we’re part of a company, and so on and so forth. We would create this gap if we disappeared. Our individuality would be missed as a working part of those organizations. Sure, eventually someone would fill in, but they wouldn’t fill the role in the same manner that you did. The organization just wouldn’t work in exactly the same manner as it did before.

Overall

The dad in this story was probably one of those dads that simply threw his kids in the lake for swimming lessons.


The Valiant Little Tailor

The Valiant Little TailorSummary

The Valiant Little Tailor is a familiar story because Disney took it upon themselves to put Mickey at the center of its story once. I have seen the Mickey version before, but it does not include the entire tale.

Once upon a time there was a tailor who was busy at his work when he heard a woman calling outside. She was selling jam. He decided that he wanted some. He bought a quarter-pound of jam, or so, and put in some bread. Before he ate his jam and bread he decided to finish working on some thing or the other that he was sewing.

While he was busy at his task flies were attracted to the jam. Each time he scared them away more came back. Finally, he took a piece of cloth and swatted at the flies. He killed at least seven in one blow. He was so proud of this fact that he had girdle sewed that said, “Seven in one blow.” He decided his fly-killing skills were second-to-none and that he should go out into the world. He took a piece of cheese and a bird with him.

On the road he met a giant. The giant was a little perplexed about the seven in one blow thing. He automatically thought the tailor was a brave man who had killed seven men at once. He challenged the tailor. He asked the tailor if he could squeeze water out of a rock. The giant showed the tailor his rock-squeezing skills first. The tailor then squeezed the piece of cheese until liquid came out. The giant is getting to be impressed. Next the giant challenges the tailor to a rock throwing contest. The giant throws a rock into the air and it’s quite a while before it comes back to the Earth. The tailor is not deterred. He throws the bird he brought with him into the air and it doesn’t come back at all. The giant finally asks the tailor if he could carry a tree with him. The tailor says ok, and says that he will carry the branches, because they are the heaviest part of the tree. The giant picks up the trunk of the tree and proceeds to carry it all the while the tailor is sitting in the branches being carried by the giant.

After a while the giant pulls a cherry tree down to get at the best cherries. He lets go of the tree while the tailor is still hanging on and the tailor is flung quite some distance. The giant asks him why he cannot hold down a little cherry tree.  The tailor said that he could hold down a cherry tree, but that he had chosen to leap very far because there were hunters in the woods. The giant tries to leap over the tree and fails.

The giant then takes the tailor back to his cave, where several other giants sleep. The bed is so big that the tailor curls up only in a corner of it. One of the giants tries to do him in during the night, but since the tailor only slept on the corner of the bed, no harm came to him. The next day the tailor was fine as usual and met the giants on the road. They were surprised to see him alive.

The tailor goes on his way. He falls asleep in a palace’s courtyard where some soldiers see him and his clothing that says seven in one blow. They think he is a great warrior and they tell the king. The king is only too happy to have him in the forces. Soon though, the soldiers become scared that the tailor will kill them and they ask to resign from the military. The king doesn’t want to lose his military or risk being smited by the tailor, so he tells the tailor that if he can kill two giants he will let him marry his daughter and give him half his kingdom.

The tailor agrees and eschews any help. He climbs up in a tree above the two giants in question and pelts them with rocks while they are sleeping. Each of the giants think the other giant is the cause of the blows so they get into a fight and kill each other. The tailor stabs them with his sword after they are dead and goes back to the king wanting his reward. The king was expecting the tailor to bite the dust. Quickly, the king decides there must be another challenge.

The king says there is a boar that terrorizes a forest. If the tailor catches it, he can have his reward. The tailor finds the boar and tricks it into getting stuck in a church window. The king is, once again, surprised the tailor is still alive and also doesn’t want to give him the promised reward.

Another challenge is created. The king tells the tailor there is a unicorn that has become a nuisance or it’s too fabulous, it’s some such excuse. The tailor, once again, turns down any help and goes in search of the unicorn. He finds the unicorn and stands in front of a tree trunk while the unicorn is charging him. The tailor moves out of the way at the last-minute and the unicorn drives its horn deep into the tree trunk. The tailor saddles the unicorn up, cuts it free from the tree and rides it back to the king.

The king pretty much has no choice, but to give this tailor what he promised. The princess marries the tailor but suspects that he used to do menial labor because of something he said in his sleep. The king thinks up a plan to get rid of the tailor once he is asleep, but the tailor has heard the plan. On the night in question, he pretends to be asleep and sleep talks about all his grand deeds. The would-be assassins are too scared to pursue their plan. The tailor stays married to the princess and becomes king.

The End

The Valiant Little TailorObservations

While I agree that this tailor is brave, I don’t know why he deserves any of the things he got. He isn’t really strong and it’s almost like he’s advertising falsely. He knows people will not understand or comprehend what his shirt actually says.

We do have our number three back in this tale, but we also have the number seven, which to some, is lucky.  I guess this number is also the tailor’s lucky number. He did use it to do great things.

I am not enthused about this tale. I don’t find it particularly interesting and I’m just not into it at all. I really do find most of the Grimms tales very interesting, but this one is lost on me. I guess maybe it’s because of the Mickey thing, but I really don’t appreciate this tale at all.

I don’t like the tailor. He’s a trickster and someone who lies by not telling the whole truth. He lets people assume things about him and then just goes with the consequences. You know who else does that? Con artists. The tailor is a con artist. All these years we’ve been looking at this tailor like he’s so brave and he’s so awesome, but in reality he should be on American’s Most Wanted for lying and defrauding the government, because that’s what he does. He defrauded the king. That’s treason.

Although, I am generally not pro-government and you won’t see me being all patriotic anywhere, it is true that you aren’t supposed to lie to the government. You can get in some mighty big trouble when you’ve lied on your tax return and the audit people come around.

I forgot to mention that the little tailor actually yells at the flies that are trying to get on his jam, but they don’t listen because they don’t speak German. That’s what the story says. What language do flies speak? Obviously, sie sprechen nicht Deutsch. You can look that up, if you’re wondering what it means.

The Valiant Little TailorThemes

Is the theme of this story something like, “Sometimes con artists win and get the good things in life while you slave your butt off to put bread on the table?” Or is it something like, “You too can be a con artist. Apply at the Little Tailor school of Conartistry today. We’re “accredited”.”

I know people look at this tale for the bravery aspect. It’s generally, oh this little tailor was so small, but he killed a giant. While it is true that sometimes people can do unexpected things based on their outward appearances, I have a hard time with saying that’s the theme of this tale. Yes, it is true that the little old granny you see sitting in the corner might just be a yoga master who can bend herself into a pretzel. That might be true and, honestly, it would be pretty cool if it were true. That’s fine and all, we can have unexpected people like that. It’s how humanity works. Sometimes other human beings surprise us with their deeds. That’s normal life though, what in the heck is this story going on about?

I can’t get over the fact that this guy, this tailor, is a con artist. Why are we celebrating that? Yes, we are celebrating that fact as long as we continue to tell this story. We are celebrating a con artist. At one point in time, your beloved Mickey played a con artist. That’s not the Mickey you know and love.

Is it ok to praise a con artist? By definition a con artist is dishonest. So if we praise a con artist, we’re praising dishonesty. Usually, we don’t like dishonesty. When you’re making up your resume, you don’t put ‘dishonesty’ for one of your skills, customer service maybe, but not dishonesty. We are not a society that values dishonesty. I don’t know why we value the tailor in this tale.

It’s true that the tailor is clever, and we can totally value cleverness, but we don’t want to value dishonesty. Here’s the thing…some people value dishonesty. They value the idea that you can trick people into believing all manner of things. I honestly have to think that maybe this tale was less a children’s tale and more of an alehouse tale. I imagine drunken farmers, or whomever, would gather at the local pub over ale and speak about men like the tailor. I have to think it was more of a ‘what if’ scenario that snowballed into this full-blown tale of this brave tailor. This tale has its own naughtiness aspect to it.

Generally, naughty does not equal a tale for children. Trust me, if a parent back in the time of this tale’s creation caught their child conning people like the tailor in this story, there would be bruises. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that I don’t envision parents sitting their children down and telling them a tale about this tailor who conned his way to the top. Remember, there are people who went to mass and other church services and confessed their sins. They weren’t going to be down with instilling this terrible example in their children.

I could be totally wrong though. There could have been parents who told this to their kid every night and the kid ended up the most pious person ever.

Overall

I don’t like this little man. I think he sucks. I don’t like how he is a con artist. I don’t like how this story praises the idea of being a con artist. I don’t like how this story praises the idea of being mis-leading. This tailor just rubs me the wrong way.

The Three Snake-Leaves

The Three Snake-LeavesSummary

The Three Snake-Leaves is not the picture of a children’s fairy tale. It’s dark and involves many elements centered on adult relationships.

Once upon a time a young man left his father and joined the military service. The battle was very bad and fellow soldiers and even the commander were all killed around the young man. When he saw that he was one of the only ones left he charged the enemy and others were inspired to follow in his footsteps.  The battle was won.

When the king of the land heard that he owed the victory of this battle to this young man he promoted him above all others. In a short time he was raised from a lowly young man to one of the highest in the kingdom. The king offered the young man his daughter. The king’s daughter had not been married before and there was a reason why.

The king’s daughter wanted any man who married her to be buried alive with her if she died first. No one had taken this oath until this time, but this young man liked her and said he would marry her. He agreed to be buried alive with her if she died first.

They were married and lived happily for a few years. The queen contracted some illness which doctors could not cure. It was apparent that she would soon die. The young king was distressed, but he had taken an oath and would not go back on it. The young queen died and was buried in a tomb. The young king was sealed in the tomb with her. He had food and provisions for a few days. He decided he would eat a little at a time in order to prolong his life.

One day a snake crawled into the tomb looking to gnaw on the body of the queen. The young king sliced the snake in three pieces or so with his sword. Another snake soon came out, but it brought with it some leaves. The new snake proceeded to line the pieces of the dead snake’s body up. Then the snake laid one leaf on each joint on the severed snake. Amazingly, the dead snake came back to life.

The young king wondered if the same would work for his wife. He found three leaves. He laid one of the queen’s mouth and one on each eye. The queen was restored to life. They made a bunch of racket and people soon let them out. Before they left the tomb, the young king gave three of the snake leaves to one of his servants and told him to keep them handy in case any misfortune befell them in the future.

After this the queen became a little strange. She wasn’t really interested in her husband anymore. On a long voyage, by ship,  to visit the young king’s father, the young queen conspired with another man to throw her husband overboard and say that he died on the journey. She would do this so she could marry the other man and he would be made heir to the kingdom. The two carried out their nefarious plan, but someone was watching. The servant with the snake leaves saw the whole thing.

He rushed in a boat to fish the king out of the water. He used the three snake leaves to bring him back to life. Then the two sped back to the old king to tell him what happened. They arrived before the young king and her cohort in  crime. The king asked his daughter where her husband was and she told the king that he had died. The king said that perhaps he could be restored to life and the young king burst into the room. The queen was quite disturbed and no one was happy. The old king put his own daughter, and her man friend, on a boat full of holes and pushed it off into the sea, where they drowned.

The End

The Three Snake-leavesObservations

This is such a happy story isn’t it?

Again, we have this number three thing going on. It’s a magical number, remember that.

Obviously, this is a more adult tale. We have this idea of death. We have this idea of outrageous demands. We have this idea of infidelity. There is warfare in this story and it’s not the courageous honorific kind. It’s the bloody in your face kind. This story has a lot of death, which is part of life, so it isn’t that weird of a thing.

This princess, or whatever she is, has some sort of god-complex. She thinks the world should stop if she were to die. There are situations in which spouses choose to leave off their former lives when they lose their significant other, but generally people try to move on. People try to get on with their lives. Maybe they get remarried, maybe they have a mid-life crisis, just whatever. This girl in this story wants none of that. She’s pretty much like, “I’m the queen, I’m awesome. The sun and moon revolve around me. Life must stop if my life stops.” I totally think she’s onto something there…no, not really, well maybe. Am I joking? How are you guys to know?

I am reminded of the story of Joseph from the Bible. Remember Joseph? You know the guy who had eleven brothers that sold him into slavery. He was so awesome that he managed to get himself promoted by the Pharaoh’s adviser, Potiphar, but all that ended when Potiphar’s wife claimed she slept with Joseph, because she really wanted to sleep with Joseph. The guy in this story was raised up from nothing, like Joseph. He was also betrayed by a woman, like Joseph. I do have to believe that the people who conjured this tale up might have been referring to this biblical story.

The Three Snake-LeavesThemes

Here’s a theme… sometimes relationships are screwed up and there is nothing you can do to fix them. Sometimes you have some indications in the beginning that your relationship is going to be crazy and sometimes you don’t. This young man gets into this relationship. He falls head over heels for this girl despite her strange idea that he should die if she dies first. Isn’t that a bit odd? I told my husband before I married him that if he abused any children we might have, I would kill him. I think he’s forgotten about that and we also don’t have any kids, so it’s a moot point right now.

Do you want to know what that reminds me of? It reminds me of some of the ancient Egyptian practices where living creatures would be buried with the Pharaoh if he died. There were also certain cultures in which women would throw themselves on the burning pyre of their husband if he died before they did. It was the honorable thing to do.

As much as I would like to think of myself as the moon and the sun, I am not. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, everyone’s lives are going to keep moving. They’re not going to rot away and pine for me after my death. They’re going to pick themselves up and move on with life. Think about this tale as a warning for not moving on after the death of a loved on. No one likes to think about when Daddy is going to die, but it does happen and you have to learn to live again despite not having your daddy by your side.

I’m not too sure about the snakes in this story. Snakes generally represent evil, but I know there are other ideas about what snakes symbolize and don’t symbolize. Do you know that symbol that the medical profession uses, the caduceus? It’s a snake on a stick. It’s meant as a healing symbol and what does the snake do in this tale? It heals. The reason a snake heals is also a biblical story. God sent a bunch of poisonous snakes to a group of people to test their faith. A symbol was set up, a snake on a stick, and if they believed they could be healed all they had to do was look upon the snake and they would be healed. It was a test of faith. It’s now also our modern-day caduceus, well not entirely. This symbol also has its place in Greek and Roman mythology, mainly where Hermes is concerned. I’m not going to delve into that right now though.

The Three Snake-LeavesInfidelity is another theme in this tale. That’s heavy stuff for a children’s story. The queen tires of her very faithful husband. She decides that she wants to be with someone else and even plans her husband’s murder. Again, this is another person who should be on that show Who the Bleep Did I Marry? This woman probably wouldn’t make it on the show though. She had a strange request before her husband even married her and he should have seen this as a sign to clear out. Some people are just too crazy to marry.

Infidelity is a big deal. If you are married to someone, you’re not supposed to go around having sex with other people. There are people who get away with it because they have lots of money, they’re kings, or both parties are cheating mutually, but generally, people get very hurt and upset if you cheat on them. You made a commitment, you do not break that commitment. It’s a big thing. Being married doesn’t just mean you can file taxes jointly, it’s an oath. It’s a promise. It’s a binding contract. It might be easy for you to be unfaithful, but should you? No, you shouldn’t you know that. Yes, your scumbag husband might deserve you cheating on him, but he might also just deserve a divorce. See that’s another theme in this story, sometimes relationships just don’t work no matter how hard you try.

The guy in this story tried, hard. He was the best try-er there has ever been. He allowed himself to be buried alive with his dead wife. That is dedication, but how does the wife repay him when he brings her back to life? She cheats on him, nice. Obviously, she just wasn’t that into her husband in the first place. Thank goodness, the story doesn’t mention any children.

“Kids, when mommy dies, you’re coming with me.”

Overall

This is a strange Grimm’s fairy tale. I wouldn’t read this to my kid, if I had a kid. I think the idea of this snake coming back to life and this terrible wife are just too much for a kid to try to wrap their heads around.

On the other hand, you could use this story as a campfire tale at an adult camp out. Just insert names into this tale where king and queen are mentioned. Once upon a time there was a man named Bob, who married a woman named Linda who said that when she died, she wanted Bob to be buried alive with her. Bob was too twitter-patted to argue, so they got married….

It’s a scary story. You’ll be on the edge of your seat.

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and GretelSummary

Hansel and Gretel is a very familiar tale to all of us. The version I am going to relay to you is a bit more involved than the version you usually hear or see. The painting to the left is mine by the way. Being a small JPEG doesn’t do it justice, it’s very detailed.

Once upon a time there was a man and his wife who lived near a forest with their two children. The wife, as you rightly guessed, is not the children’s mother, but their step-mother. There is a great dearth in the land and the husband can no longer put bread on the table daily. The wife suggest that they take the children out into the woods and leave them to die. The husband doesn’t want to do this, but relents to the persuasion of the wife. Hansel and Gretel happen to be awake during this conversation because their bellies are so empty. Hansel makes up a plan to gather white pebbles to put in his pockets.

The next day the man and the wife take the children deep into the woods. They build a large fire to keep the children warm. They give them each a hunk of bread. Along the way, Hansel had dropped his white little pebbles. Each time someone asked him what he was doing he said he was looking back at his white cat that wanted to say goodbye to him. The husband and the wife said they were going away to chop wood once Hansel and Gretel were resting by the fire. In fact, it did sound like the parents were chopping wood not too far away because the father had rigged up a branch to slap in the wind that sounded almost just like the thunk of an axe.

Hansel and Gretel were tired so they fell asleep and they awoke in the night. Gretel was worried because they were in the large forest by themselves, but Hansel told her not to worry. The moon rose and the pebbles Hansel had dropped shone in the moonlight. The children followed the pebbles home. The father was very glad to see them. He hadn’t really wanted to send them into the woods in the first place. The step-mother on the other hand, was angry. She rebuked the children for sleeping so long in the woods. Once again she convinces the husband to take the children into the woods. Hansel knows of the plan beforehand, but the door is locked in the night and he can’t go out and gather pebbles.

Yet again, the man and his wife take the children out into the woods. This time there are no pebbles, but Hansel and Gretel were each give hunks of bread. Hansel decides to scatter little bits of the bread on the ground. When someone asks him what he is doing he says he is looking back at his little white dove that wants to say goodbye to him. Once again a fire is built and lies are told. Hansel and Gretel are left in the woods alone. They awake in the night and Hansel again tells Gretel not to worry, but this time things are different. Because it is a forest and bread is food, all of it has been eaten up by wild animals, mainly birds. Hansel and Gretel get terribly lost and wander for three days.

They come upon a strange house which seems to be made from gingerbread and sweets. They immediately begin to gnaw on it. The woman who lives in the house asks who is chewing on it and the children respond that it is the wind. The woman knows better, because she is a witch. She discovers Hansel and Gretel. She brings them inside. She feeds them. She lets them sleep in nice warm beds. In the morning she locks Hansel in the barn and orders Gretel to cook food for him. The witch is in the habit of fattening children up then eating them.

Hansel is locked in the barn for about a month. The witch keeps feeding him food and is perplexed as to why he’s not getting any fatter. She doesn’t have the best of eyesight, so Hansel tricks her every time she comes in the barn to check for fatness. He holds out an old bone to her and she thinks it is his skinny finger. After the month is up she grows impatient and decides to eat Hansel anyway. She tells Gretel that they are going to bake first before she cooks Hansel. She tells Gretel to crawl in the oven and feel how warm it is. Gretel is wise to the witch’s plan. The witch intends to cook both Hansel and Gretel.

Gretel feigns stupidity and says she doesn’t know how to crawl into the oven. The witch is already impatient and responds with something like, “Look even I can fit in,” as she crawls into the oven. Gretel is quick and pushes her in the oven. She then goes to free her brother. They notice that all around the room are chests full of pearls and jewels. They fill their pockets and start walking.

They come to a lake which is too large to cross and there is no bridge. There is a white duck in the water and they ask the duck to take them across. The duck agrees and takes Hansel and Gretel across the lake on his back one at a time. On the other side of the lake things start to look familiar. They soon find their house. Their father is tremendously glad to see them and it turns out the step-mother has died. Hansel and Gretel bring back pockets full of riches so the man can now provide for his family.

The End

Hansel and GretelObservations

The number three is in this tale again. Hansel and Gretel wander three days and they supposedly encounter three white animals. While we’re at it, the color white is definitely something in this tale. We have white pebbles, a white cat, a white dove and a white duck. White is often a color of purity or mourning depending on the culture you’re thinking of. We’ll get a little more into the color white in the themes section.

Yet again, we have this terrible step-mother. Women can be terribly fierce and competitive when the need arises. If a woman marries and man and the man already has children, maybe she wants her new baby to be the heir instead of the previous children this man has. I think this is probably a primitive sort of response that does still go on even today.

It’s sad that parents would abandon their children in favor of themselves, but you know what, that happens every single day. It’s always happened, and no doubt, will always happen, at least until we manage to become a perfect people with no flaws. I doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon. I grew up in a poor area. I had lots of friends who were very poor. I knew lots of people who were very poor, and quite frankly, I grew up on the poor end myself. There are situations where children have nothing. The teachers and counselors at school know they are going without. White Christmases and maybe other services are arranged. While this is all fine and dandy, often these good deeds don’t benefit the children. More often than not these situations are the result of drug addiction. The parents have no jobs because they can’t keep a job because of their dependency. The parents have no food for the kids because there is no money because they spent it all on drugs. Let’s face it, the kids probably exist because the parents got high and forgot about birth control measures. The community may pool together and buy the kids nice toys and clothes for Christmas, but do you want to know what happens with those clothes and toys?

Hey, I’ve got this nice kids bicycle for sale, only fifty bucks.

That’s right, the so-called parents will sell off all those brand new clothes and toys for drug money.

This is not the situation in every scenario like this, but I’ve known about this happening all too often. I’ve known kids who grew up in complete squalor because their parents spent all the money and all the resources on themselves. That’s not to say you should spend all your money and all your resources on your children, you still exist as a person even if you’ve become a parent.

We also have to look at the idea of children being abandoned, which still happens every single day. A few years ago I seem to remember a state that passed some kind of abandoned child resolution. They didn’t put an age limit on the ban. I think they were thinking it would just be unwanted newborns. No, people abandoned kids who were teenagers and who were five and six years old. Parents abandon their children all the time. It may sound vile. It may sound despicable. It may sound like only something the devil himself would do, but it happens all the time. I know we like to think we’re this perfect society and this perfect people, but we’re not. We do kind of like to dull events like this out of our lives, but it’s hard to do so, when the event is so prevalent.

The witch is a child predator. She’s not our traditional sort of child predator, but she still is a child predator. There is something else I want to address in the themes section about this.

The father in this tale doesn’t have a lot of backbone. He really doesn’t want to put his children out in the woods to die, but he doesn’t stand up to his wife. I’m kind of on the fence about this whole argument. Here you have your spouse whose opinion and advice you are supposed to value above all others, even your mother. Then, you also have these kids whom you are supposed to protect. That’s your responsibility as a parent. If there ever comes a major decision in your family relationship in which it’s going to become very clear that only one of these parties can be satisfied, who do you choose?

Let’s say you have a teenage son who is a terrible person and has landed himself in jail. You could bail him out, but it would cost all of the money you had saved up to take your wife on your second honey moon to Hawaii. Let’s just go ahead and say your wife is your son’s step-mother, so we have story similarity here. Your wife is flat-out against using her Hawaii money to bail out your son. You know your son needs someone  in his life right now; he’s so troubled, but then, your wife who has stuck by you in all kinds of things really deserves a trip to Hawaii.

Hansel and GretelThemes

The color white is a theme in this tale. I’m going to go the purity route on the color white. Brides wear white, babies wear white when they are christened/blessed, and people wear white when they are baptized. It’s a color we associate with being pure, clean, and innocent above all. In this tale, Hansel and Gretel are innocent. They were not terrorizing their parents. They weren’t eating all the food in between meals. They weren’t intentionally costing their parents more money. The only thing Hansel and Gretel are guilty of is existing. They didn’t do anything to cause their parents to abandon them in the woods. Hansel and Gretel, while innocent in this whole thing, suffer the consequences.

You really have to look at this thought point-blank. Sometimes children suffer, as we have already mentioned, because their parents suck. The kids aren’t doing anything to deserve the treatment they get, but they suffer because of what their parents do, or even, because of what their parents are. This actually brings to mind a Dolly Parton song. I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s about a poor girl. Her mother is very poor and she’s sick. The dad is gone. The mother doesn’t have anything to give this girl. The only thing she does is buy her a dancing dress and the girl leaves home with her dress and makes her way in life. She does come to find out that her mother is gone afterwards. I mention this song because it’s a tale about how a child suffered because the father was a deadbeat.

There have been times and eras in my life in which I have suffered because of the poor choices of my parents. All children are going to suffer at the hands of their parents to some degree.

In some situations, people will refuse to be charitable to children who are suffering because of the parents. It’s sad, but it’s really a catch-22. The scenario I mentioned in the observations section about parents who had drug addictions applies here. Imagine you know some kids who really need some new school clothes. That’s great, you could go out and buy those kids some name brand clothes and they would have new clothes. Ideally, that’s how it would work, but this is not ideal land. We already know that the parents might sell those clothes for drug money, in fact, that’s probably exactly what is going to happen. You want to help these kids, but you do realize it would be pointless to an extent. The kids aren’t going to have what you offer for very long.

Moving on to other themes in this tale, I would like to speak about child predators. Child predators target all kinds of children, but it does seem that children of uninvolved parents get targeted the most. The witch in this tale is a child predator. In fact, the tale does state that she’s done this multiple times. She is a repeat offender. Usually child predation involves sexual motives, but that’s not the case in this tale, it very easily could have been. Just change the gender of the witch to a man who has a house made out of candy and you’ve got the perfect vehicle for luring children in for sexual exploitation.

These kids who don’t have parents that care for them greatly, are more likely to end up in bad situations, even back in the day of Grimms brothers, people knew this. That’s why stories like Hansel and Gretel exist. People have known for a long time that if you put your daughter out on the street because you’re not interested in caring for her, the chances are pretty good for her to become a prostitute. They don’t call it the world’s oldest profession for nothing. I’m actually going to come out and say that a large part of why prostitution has worked so well over the extent of history is because the industry always has a steady supply of young women who have been abandoned by their parents. It’s quite sad that this statement is so true.

Hansel and Gretel are quite protective of one another. Hansel definitely seems to be the older sibling. Here we have this idea of sibling loyalty, again. I think it’s really nice that even though other things in Hansel and Gretel’s lives are terrible, they still have each other and remain true to that bond. It would be nice to have a sibling relationship like that.

Overall

Hansel and Gretel still remains a tale you can relate to your children without a ton of worry. Most kids are already desensitized to the idea of the witch in the gingerbread house eating children. I do think it’s interesting about how this tale makes such a statement about bad parents.

 

The Three Little Men in the Wood

The Three Little Men in the WoodSummary

The Three Little Men in the Wood is a less familiar Grimm’s tale, but does have elements you are used to hearing about.

Once Upon a time there were two girls that knew each other. One girl had only a father and the other girl had only a mother. The mother one day told the man’s daughter that she would marry him and his daughter would have milk to wash her face in and wine to drink. The man mulled this over and couldn’t really think of anything bad about it. He decided to do a test. He told his daughter to take his boot and hang it up in the rafters. The boot had a hole in it. He told the girl that if the boot held water he would marry the woman and if the boot did not hold water, he would not marry her. The girl poured water into the boot and it held, so the man married the woman.

On the first day of the marriage the man’s daughter had milk to wash with and wine to drink. The woman’s daughter had water to wash with and water to drink. The next day brought water to drink and water to wash with for the man’s daughter, but also water to wash with and water to drink for the man’s daughter. On the third day of the marriage, the woman’s daughter had milk to wash with and wine to drink while the man’s daughter had water to wash with and water to drink.

Each day the new step-mother tried to treat her step-daughter even worse. One day while it was winter she asked her to go out into the forest to gather some strawberries. There was snow on the ground so it was cold. The woman made the girl wear a paper dress and sent her into the woods with only a hard hunk of bread. The step-mother, of course, was intending that the girl die out in the snow.

The girl searched and searched in the woods, but could not find anything green at all. She came upon a little house. Three little men lived in the house. They told her to come in. The girl began to eat her hunk of bread seeing as it was warm in the house. The little men asked her for some of it and she gave it to them. They also asked her why she was in the forest in such a thin dress. She told them that she wasn’t supposed to go back home until she had berries. When she was done eating they gave her a broom and told her to sweep away the snow at the back door.

While the girl was outside sweeping away the snow, the three men conferred amongst themselves.

“What shall we give her as she is so good, and has shared her bread with us?”

The first said:

“My gift is, that she shall every day grow more beautiful.”

The second said:

“My gift is, that gold pieces shall fall out of her mouth every time she speaks.”

The third said:

“My gift is, that a king shall come and take her to wife.”

When the girl had swept away the snow, she found to her surprise and enjoyment that here were strawberries underneath the snow. She gathered her basket full. She ran home to show her step-mother the berries. When she opened her mouth to speak a gold piece fell out. Every word she said was followed by another gold piece. The step-mother and step-sister were angry at this calling the girl arrogant for throwing away money in such a manner, but they were both jealous.

The mother sent her daughter out into the woods. She gave her a warm fur coat and a cake to eat. The girl went straight to the house of the three little men. She walked right in like she owned the place and started eating her cake. The little men asked her for some of her cake, but she told them that there was barely enough for her and she wasn’t going to share. After she was done eating they told her there was a broom in which she could sweep the snow away by the back door. She told them to sweep the snow away themselves. When the little men didn’t bless her with any presents, she stormed out through the door.

“What shall we give her as she is so naughty, and has a wicked envious heart, that will never let her do a good turn to anyone?”

The first said:

“I grant that she may grow uglier each day.”

The second said:

“I grant that every word she says, a toad shall spring out of her mouth.”

The third said:

“I grant that she may die a miserable death.”

The girl looked for strawberries, but found none. She stormed off home and when she opened her mouth to speak about the whole thing a toad fell out. Needless to say, everyone at the house was a little disgusted by this.

The mother was mad and sought out more ways to make the step-daughter miserable. She was only getting more beautiful by the day. She boiled some yarn, gave it to the step-daughter and told her to cut a whole in the ice to cool the yarn. While the girl was washing her yarn a splendid carriage appeared, you guessed it, it’s a king. The king asks this girl what she is going here. She says she is a poor girl who is rinsing yarn. The king asks her if she will go away with him and she says yes.

There they were married, surprise.After a year the girl had a son. The step-mother heard about this though and was ticked. The mother and daughter went into the castle pretending to be visitors. When no one else was paying attention they picked up the queen and threw her in a stream outside the castle. The ugly daughter got in the bed and was covered all the way up to her head. The step-mother was still there and told the king that his wife had a violent fever. The king didn’t really suspect anything at this point.

That night a duck came to the castle and a scullion saw it. The duck said

“King, what art thou doing now? Sleepest thou or wakest thou?

The duck asked some more questions before turning into the queen and going upstairs to breast feed her baby. Then she turned back into a duck. She came two more nights. On the third night she told the maid to tell the king that he should swing his sword three times over the duck on the threshold. The king did this and the duck turned back into his wife.

They decided to be crafty. They hid the queen for a few days. The king asked the imposter, what does a person deserve who drags another out of bed and throws them in the water? The woman said, “To be taken and put in a barrel stuck full of nails, and rolled down hill into the water.” The king is secretly laughing and says, “Yep, well, that’s what you’re getting.” The old woman and daughter were put into the barrel together upon which they were rolled into the river.

The End

The Three Little Men in the WoodObservations

Sorry my summary was so long. You will notice familiar elements of this tale. Again, we have the number three. The number three, which I have mentioned before as being a number of completeness. There are three days of the marriage before things turn sour. There are three little men. There are three gifts granted. There are three tasks for each girl to perform. The first is to simply go out into the woods, the second is to find strawberries, and the third is to share food. There are also three nights in which the queen comes back as a duck.

Again, we have this evil step-mother thing. Why is it always the step-mother that is evil and not the step-father? People back in the day must have really frowned upon step-parent/step-child relationships. Granted, many of us don’t exactly have shining examples of those relationships to counter this claim of wickedness.

These stories are unrealistic. Yes, they are fairy tales and by definition they are going to be unrealistic, but I also want to point out that they are unrealistic in expectations. For example, look at all these tales of common girls who marry a king or prince simply because the king or prince found them in the woods and they were beautiful. Yes, some of the tales actually have real-live princesses, I won’t overlook that. How likely do you think this scenario is?

The Three Little Men in the WoodI have read quite a few Philippa Gregory books and while I do get bogged down with royalty acting so terribly, there is a lot of truth and a lot of research that goes into those books. More than likely, if these tales were about real life women and girls, they would not be made queens, but mistresses. Now here’s the thing, the main mistress of a king would not be living down in a shack somewhere, they would be living in the palace a few doors down from the king. Anne Boleyn’s own sister was the king’s mistress before Anne jumped into the equation. Look, back in the day, your parents did not care if you were the king’s mistress, in fact, they probably encouraged it. The king’s mistress is still treated like a queen in many respects.

Knowing this, I have to wonder if these girls are made “little queens” rather than the actual queen. Kings have multiple castles. These kings could have a girl he found in the woods in each of his castles acting as his wife. It’s well-known that these kings had a hard time keeping it in their pants. I would honestly not be surprised if the same king that married the girl in Brother and Sister also marries the girl in this tale, that’s “marries” in quotation marks by the way. Also, remember that kings were not above making fake marriages to more common girls to get up their skirts. These girls might fully believe they are actually married, but in reality, it’s a sham.

After the dad marries this woman, we don’t hear about him anymore. Why does he overlook his daughter being treated so terribly? Why does he let his new wife send his daughter out in a paper dress? Why does he let this woman make his daughter’s life so terrible? Quite frankly, the only answer I can think of is sex. He’s got a woman now, he’ll let her cook, clean, raise the kids and generally run the household. He can stay home and watch the squirrels pass nuts to each other while drinking ale. Sorry, I don’t have an appropriate substitute for football. The responsibility of raising his daughter is taken off of his shoulders and he also gets sex in the bargain. I would hazard to guess that while his daughter is becoming “queen” he is in some pub drinking ale.

The Three Little Men in the WoodThemes

An obvious theme of this tale is not to be a brat. It’s that simple. The one sister was good and willing, while the other was a complete and total brat. Being a brat does not get you very far in life. For a while, like while you’re in high school, being a brat may be seen as ‘cool’ by some other kids and you might have some hanger-ons, but in the real world, people don’t like it when you’re a brat. If you want people to talk about you behind your back, the fastest way to accomplish that is to be a brat.

You know that whole argument ‘ugly on the inside, ugly on the outside’ and so forth? This is a tale where the uglies meet up. This step-sister was ugly on the inside, but got to be equally as ugly on the outside to match up.

The number three is a theme in this tale, in addition to many other tales.

Gold is something mentioned in this tale. Gold is something that has always meant money. It doesn’t matter what the gold is shaped like, it can always be used to get you something else. We don’t use gold anymore for our currency, but we did at one point. There is a reason society has this obsession with gold. You can clearly see that even back in the day of the Grimms, gold was an obsession. Everybody wanted gold. It did not matter who you were. The idea that a gold piece falls out of this girl’s mouth every word she speaks is a testament to that obsession. Gold has won wars, lost wars, created towns and obliterated lives all over the world and all over history.

The Three Little Men in the WoodI almost forgot to mention this idea of three benevolences. Remember Disney’s version of Sleeping Beauty? There are three good fairies who grant three gifts to the new princess. This idea of three good graces instilled upon a person is a very old idea. Notice my usage of ‘graces.’ The graces being from ancient Greek and Roman mythology and being three in number.

In the end the good you do comes back to you, but the bad you do also comes back to you.

Overall

The moral of this story is not to be a bad person. Being a bad person will punish you in various ways. You may get punished right away, three little men might curse you, and you might find yourself dying a horrible death because you are so terrible. It is better to learn to be a giving person than to let your selfish personality bring bad karma your direction.