The Riddle

The RiddleSummary

The Riddle is not a tale I am familiar with. It does have similar elements from other tales, but it’s not exactly the same.

Once upon a time there was a king’s son who ventured forth into the world with only a servant for company. Basically, he was struck with a bad case of the wanderlust. He and his servant traveled about for a while and, one day, they were looking for a place to pass the night.

They came across a young woman and upon a house. They asked the girl if they might pass the night in the house. The girl said it was possible, but she did not recommend it because her step-mother was a witch and would do terrible things to the travelers. The king’s son and the servant decided to go anyway, what do women know? Their opinions and advice don’t matter.

They went into the house and the witch was kind to them, but she looked at them with her red eyes. The young woman had counseled them to not eat anything or drink anything that was offered to them by the witch. The men actually listened to the girl’s advice on this one. When they were departing in the morning the witch wanted to send them away with a draught for their thirst. The king’s son knew what was up so he rode away leaving his servant there. His servant hadn’t quite finished saddling his horse before the witch came back with her draught. The servant didn’t want the drink even though the witch insisted. The glass burst and the poisonous drink got all over the servant’s horse, which died immediately.

The servant ran ahead to tell the king’s son. He remembered that he had left his saddle so he went back to get it. Once back upon the scene he saw a raven was already eating the flesh of his horse. He decided to take the raven with him for dinner.

The king and the servant traveled on and they came to an inn. The servant gave the innkeeper the raven to make into dinner. At the inn was also a den of murderers, twelve to be exact. The innkeeper served the raven soup he had made to the murderers who died immediately. The girl who lived at the inn showed the king’s son the treasures that the murderers had hidden away, but he told the girl to keep it.

He went on his way again and heard of a princess who said she would marry any man who made a riddle she could not guess. She was a big fan of the riddle scene from The Hobbit. The king’s son determined to take on this challenge. This was the riddle the prince put to the princess.

“One slew none and yet slew twelve.”

The princess determined that she did not know this riddle. She was upset and was worried that she would lose her riddle competition for the first time in nine tries. The whole game was that the princess would guess a suitor’s riddle then she would pose a riddle for them to guess. If they did not figure out the riddle they would lose their lives. The princess had been responsible for nine suitors biting the dust so far. The princess thought that the prince might reveal the answer to his riddle while he was sleeping.

The princess sent her maid into the room to listen to the prince while he slept in case he revealed the answer to the riddle. Well, the prince’s trusty servant had decided to sleep in the prince’s place. When the maid snuck in the servant grabbed her mantle and she ran away. She tried this again the next night and the same thing happened, leaving the servant with another mantle. On the third night the princess herself went into the room, where she did manage to catch the prince who thought that surely the maid would not come for a third night in a row. She asked the prince what the answer to the riddle was while he slept. He answered her, but apparently had grabbed a hold of her mantle while she was standing there and would not let go. The princess left the prince with her mantle.

The next day she informed everyone that she knew the answer to the riddle which was that a man had used a raven which then poisoned twelve men. The prince called foul and the king asked whether he had any proof of foul deeds. The prince and the servant showed the king the three mantles. The king recognized the last mantle as one that the princess wore frequently and said that would be the mantle she would be married in. The prince and the princess got married.

The End

The RiddleObservations

The Grimm’s brothers certainly did not have a shortage of strange women in their tales. This princess sounds demented. What sane person thinks it is ok to play games with people’s lives like this princess is doing? Sane people don’t do that, unless you live in the world of Saw movies, then everyone is like that.

I don’t know where this idea of witches having red eyes came from. I have read about witches having red eyes in at least one other Grimms tale. I do know that folklore has given red eyes to the devil and considering that witches are often labeled as “brides of the devil,” it kind of makes sense to me that they would have red eyes.

Do these people not know how poison works? If you poison a mouse, but then your cat eats that poisoned mouse, there is a good chance that your cat will also be poisoned. You probably shouldn’t eat your cat if that is the case. The people in this tale should not have eaten the poisoned raven or even considered that it would be good to eat.

There aren’t any children involved in this tale, which is a little out of character for a Grimms story, but not unheard of.

The RiddleThemes

I believe a theme of this tale is that you shouldn’t play with fire. There are times in your life when someone tells you, “Don’t do so-and-so,” but you totally do so-and-so thinking that maybe you are immune to the consequences and the danger that comes along with performing a certain task. If other people tell you something is dangerous, you have no inherent reason to disbelieve them. Fire is hot. Don’t touch it. If someone tells you not to touch the stupid fire, don’t touch the stupid fire.

Here we have these two men who, apparently, think they are too good for advice. If they would have listened to the first girl they met along the way, they would not have had their horse killed. If their horse had not been killed they would not have met a den of robbers in an inn. If they listened to all the people who counseled against trying to marry the insane princess, then they wouldn’t have had to go through all that crazy riddle business.

So this princess is beautiful right? Yeah, everyone loves a beautiful princess it doesn’t matter at all if she’s a MURDERER! What man hears about a woman like this princess and thinks, ” She sounds like a woman who I want to be the mother of my children”? No sane man does that, well, no sane man who is thinking with his actual head does that. What kind of emotional trauma are the children of this woman going to have?

The RiddleBilly, there are two doors. One door has your toys on the other side and the other door has live crocodiles. I am going to give you a riddle to help you guess which door is the door with your toys. You have one hour.

If it loses, we gets to eat it whole.

I think the prince in this story is making a huge mistake by marrying this woman. Of course, we have already seen that this prince does not take advice. So far, he has ended up on the better end of the deal, but someday he will not.

Here’s a theme, sometimes you dash headlong into something against the advice of people who care for you and things turn out ok, but they aren’t always going to turn out ok. There will be a time when your luck has run out and you find yourself living under a freeway overpass eating grasshoppers for dinner with a side of fileted rat. We know people like that. We know people who do stupid things despite good advice and still seem to end up with their heads above the water. Just wait…they will crash and they will burn.

The RiddleOverall

This tale isn’t terribly controversial and, yes, I do realize the princess in this tale is a maniac, but there are quite a few maniac women in fairy tales, unfortunately.

Hey, what if the princess isn’t really a princess at all, but Gollum in drag? Food for thought.

The White Snake

The White SnakeSummary

The White Snake is yet again another fairy tale we aren’t quite so familiar with. I don’t recall ever hearing this tale before I read it. I do have to wonder if this tale is where the band White Snake got their name. That would definitely bring some interesting questions into the idea of crappy eighties music.

Once upon a time there was a king who seemed to know all the gossip in his kingdom. Every evening he would eat a dish alone in the dining room. No one ever saw what was underneath the dish. One  day a servant became curious and took the dish away to peek underneath. What he found was a white snake. He decided to try a bite. After eating a bit of this white snake, the servant found that he could talk to animals.

The queen’s ring was missing and the blame was going to be pinned on this servant because he was allowed everywhere in the castle. He was to be sentenced to death if he couldn’t turn up the ring. Well, using his new-found animal talking powers, he overheard a conversation between some birds. One bird was talking about how she had accidentally eaten a ring. The servant grabbed this bird up and took it to the cook, who sliced it open and found the ring. The king was so pleased he asked the young man what he wanted in return and he asked for a horse.

The young man went out traveling. He heard some fish in a barrel complaining about being caught. The man let them go and they promised to remember him. A little while later, the man heard some ants complaining about how they were always stepped on. The young man chose to use the other side of the path instead of walking over the ants. The ants said they would remember him. Later, he came to some ravens that had kicked their babies out of the nest before they were ready. The man killed his horse so the ravens would have something to eat. I think that’s a bit extreme. The ravens said they would remember them.

He walked on, because he doesn’t have a horse anymore, and found a kingdom where the princess was looking for a husband. Any suitor had to pass a challenge in order to marry her, but if he failed he would be put to death. This young man becomes all enamored with the princess and decides to go for it. The challenge is to find a ring the king has thrown into the sea. The young man is disconcerted about this, but before he can even really work up a good worry, the three fish he saved find him on the beach and bring him a shell. Inside the shell is the golden ring.

The king is happy about this, but the princess is not. She thinks the young man is below her. She insists upon another challenge. Ten large bags of millet, a grain, are thrown on the ground and all the grains are supposed to be picked up by morning. To the young man’s surprise the ants he helped out came and picked up every single piece of grain in the night. The princess was impressed, but she was still a little proud, so she insisted upon one more challenge.

The last challenge is difficult. The princess insists upon an apple from the tree of life. Nobody knows where this is and the young man is willing to go and look, but he doesn’t have to. The ravens he helped out have already flown to the tree of life and brought him back an apple. The young man gives it to the princess. They actually share the apple. They get married and are pretty happy.

The End

The White SnakeObservations

Here’s that number three again.

I don’t really know what the white snake had to do with this tale. It’s never explained why this snake grants its eater the power to converse with animals. I have to wonder if this is one of those tales that has lost some of its pieces over the years. There is no mythology about the white snake in this tale other than if you eat it, you can talk to animals. A white snake would be pretty rare. Snakes are generally darker and earthy tones to blend in with their environments. Every once in a while, an albino snake does come along. I’ve never seen a completely white one, they’re usually like white and yellow or white and purple. It might be that the creators of this tale had actually seen an albino snake and considered it to be a magical creature rather than a genetic mutation. People used to use all kinds of strange stories to explain away genetic deformities and expression.

Again we have parallels to the story of Joseph from the Bible. This young man is a trusted servant. He is given privileges others aren’t, but is almost betrayed by the boss’s wife, just like the biblical version.

The White SnakeThemes

Talking to animals is this desire that has existed on the fringe of society for a long time. Generally, the idea shows up in children’s stories like The Wild Thornberries, which is a good show by the way. Kids more often would like the desire to speak to animals, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t adults who like to have this ability. Society has brought us tales of people who mesh with various animals so well that they’re called whisperers. Generally, we hear this term in relation to horses. Oh that person is a horse whisperer. There’s a dog whisperer. There is also a guy who is like a cat whisperer that comes on television. These are people who have studied these animals to such an extent it seems they can communicate with these animals. They are actually communicating with these animals, but it’s in gestures and body language rather than speech of the human kind or animal kind.

I would like to think that even back in the day of the Grimms there were people who cared about what animals felt. This tale is a testament to the fact that those people existed. There have always been people who would care for the welfare of creatures who cannot speak on their own. That’s a good thing. Like I mentioned in a previous post, death is still death and torture is still torture, it doesn’t matter what life form you are. It kind of plucks a little heart string to find out that there were people who cared for small creatures even back in a day when torture was a normal thing. Kudos anonymous people who made up this tale.

The White SnakeThis man  doles out kindness and kindness is returned to him. It’s a universal law. I don’t car what religion or lack thereof you claim to profess, whatever it may be, there is always this idea of reciprocation of deeds. If you do bad things, you’re going to get some bad things back. If you do good things, you’re going to get some good things back. It’s this whole idea of passing it on. A small thing you do for someone can lead that person in turn to do something for someone else. Then that person can do something for someone else, then another person can do something, and so on, and so on, and so on. The good and bad things you do create a ripple effect in life.

We all kind of live in this web. Think of a spider’s web. All the strands are connected somehow, right? A spider can feel the tiniest vibration of a single strand of the web all the way on the other side of the web because everything is connected. Think of life like that. You may not think anything of holding the door open for a little old lady, but imagine what the ripple effect might eventually become. We don’t see the ripple effects we cause most of the time, good or bad. Just remember that you create ripples even if you think you do not.

The three challenges in this story are more or less filler. The young man already proved himself when he rescued the various animals. The challenges were simply to illustrate that good things returned to him for his good deeds.

Overall

This is a sweet story. It’s pleasant. No one in the story is a terrible person. There have been quite a few of these Grimm’s tales with horrible people. It’s refreshing to find a tale where people aren’t jerks.

Why Are Birds So Scary?

I’m not specifically talking about The Birds by Daphne du Maurier, although that story is creepy. I’m talking about birds in general. I’m not saying it would freak a person out to look our their window and see a little sparrow sitting on a tree branch, I’m talking about scary crows and ravens, or other equally as scary birds.

For some reason we have developed this fear of various types of birds. When you’re talking about a scary house there are always a few black birds sitting on its eaves. Whenever you’re talking about a creepy cemetary there are always black birds there. Some cultures even use a black bird as a portent to death.

I, personally, am not sure what makes birds so creepy. I hate the movie The Birds. HATE IT. It sucks. I know there are people who absolutely love that movie, but I hate it. For one, I’ve seen this movie too many times. Second, the movie has no hope. There is no darn hope at all. The whole thing is too ominous. You just know terrible things are around the corner. Why in the heck would a bunch of birds start attacking people? Why are they trying to peck their way inside of your house like some kind of terrible bird zombie? I hate the whole concept.

When I see a black bird I don’t pay any attention to it really. Well, besides the crow that made funny noises at me when I was coming back from a break during work. There were also those gigantic crows that lived in Nago, Okianwa, Japan. Those things could feed a family of four for dinner. I actually think they’re kind of neat for the most part. Birds can be very interesting creatures. I’m not sure why all the fuss has developed.

Even though I don’t understand it, birds have become part of the creepy culture. It didn’t start with Daphne. Birds were considered creepy things before she wrote her novella. One interesting thing I found was that birds have often been seen as bringers of life and death. What brings the baby? The stork brings the baby? What pecks out the eyes of the man’s head on London Bridge? A crow does that. Part of the creepy is the fact that birds eat carrion. Basically, there are many birds that eat dead things. It doesn’t matter what kind of dead thing it is, just as long as it’s dead. A crow will not differentiate between a dead squirrel or a dead person. I think the idea of something feasting on our dead bodies kind of creeps us out. This adds to the whole creepy vibe birds have going on.

In other cultures, birds were seen as signs of war. Birds frequented battle fields. Some birds are awfully warlike. Think of falcons and eagles. Yes, eagles. The United States uses an eagle as its symbol. The eagle is a very war-like bird. It’s powerful. It could hurt a person pretty badly. I’m not sure if an eagle could kill a person, but it could definitely hurt a person badly. Supposedly, when the U.S. is at war there is a rug that gets changed out in the Oval Office. If the U.S. is in a time of peace the bird faces one way, but when the U.S. is in a time of war the bird faces the other way. I have never been in the Oval Office, so I can’t really attest to this fact. When I went to D.C. in 2003 they weren’t allowing visitors in there.

There is a particular Stephen King movie/book where a crow is really the only thing that stands out to me. In fact, I do believe the story is called The Stand.

Moving on, I know that I have mentioned the concept of Thunderbirds before. No, not the car, the bird. Well, the mythological bird. It’s a cryptid, that is, a creature rumored to exist, but may not actually exist. Supposedly, thunderbirds are real and large enough to snatch your ten-year old up off of the ground. There were native American tribes who cleared hill sides in hopes of sighting the bird before it got them. We don’t have any video footage of such a thing, but we have to question why a people would perform an act if the reason behind it didn’t have some truth? I don’t think native American tribes cleared hill sides just for fun back in the day. They had a reason, whether the reason was a giant bird or not is the question we have to ask.

I think Edgar Allan Poe really cemented the idea that birds can be creepy. The Raven is a creepy poem and I don’t think anybody looks at the bird the same way after reading it. There are a lot of superstitions surrounding birds. If various birds cross your path it means certain things. In some Native American lore, a falcon crossing your path means danger. In some instances a black bird doing one thing or another portends death. Sometimes even comical rituals result in the sightings of various birds. I was trying to find a video of Richard Hammond going on about what he does when he sees a magpie, but I couldn’t find it. There is some rhyme and a few other things he does.

In the end, birds can be creepy and I still don’t have all the reasons why. Maybe it’s those beady eyes?


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