Long ago, an orphan lived with his aunt and uncle on a farm in the middle of a vast desert. They had to work very hard to keep their crops growing in that desolate place. His aunt and uncle told him that a warrior who served the emperor had murdered his parents. This emperor had conquered every kingdom in the known world with dark magic and the might of his army. The only challenge to his power was a small band of rebels. As the boy grew closer to manhood, he longed to become a warrior and join this rebellion. But his uncle kept him on the farm, saying they would not survive without his help.
One day, his uncle brought home an indentured servant whose writ he had purchased. While the boy was helping the servant get settled, a letter bearing a royal seal fell from his pocket. The orphan caught only a glimpse of it before the servant snatched it back, saying it was only for his true master’s eyes. As soon as this servant was left alone, he ran off into the desert. The orphan took his uncle’s horse and followed the man’s tracks to the edge of a canyon, where he was attacked by bandits. In the midst of the fight a brown-hooded figure appeared, and fought with such skill the bandits fled. When he let down his hood the orphan recognized an old hermit who lived in those parts. They took shelter together in the hermit’s cave, and found the runaway servant waiting there. The servant claimed the hermit was his master and gave him the letter.
In this letter, the princess wrote that working for the rebellion she had stolen plans for a floating fortress the emperor was building, with cannons that could level an entire kingdom. The plans revealed a weakness the rebels could use to destroy it. Imperial ships had captured her vessel, so she gave the plans to her servant, who jumped overboard and came to find the brown-hooded warrior. She asked him to finish her mission by delivering the plans to the rebels.
The hermit told the orphan and the servant that he was indeed the brown-hooded warrior, though it was many years since he had drawn his sword. Then from a case he produced a sword and gave it to the orphan. He told him it was his father’s sword, and that long ago he had trained his father to be a warrior. Another of his apprentices, an iron-mantled warrior had betrayed and murdered his father and joined the emperors service. He asked the orphan to come with him, to help him complete the princess’s mission and learn to be a warrior. The orphan said he could not abandon his aunt and uncle but offered to lend the servant and the warrior horses for their journey. When the three of them arrived back at the farm they found the orphan’s aunt and uncle murdered. It was clear that imperial soldiers had killed them, searching for the stolen plans. They buried the old couple’s remains, and standing before their graves the orphan pledged his service to the brown-hooded warrior and the rebellion.
The next morning they set out on horseback for a nearby port. In a bar where scoundrels mingled, they found a smuggler who- for a high price- agreed to help them escape on his ship. This smuggler’s companion was a wild man who was covered in hair from head to toe. This smuggler owed money to a local warlord, who had put a price on his head. They left the bar together, fighting their way through imperial soldiers and bounty hunters. When they reached the smuggler’s ship, they set sail, managed to lose their pursuers in a storm and sailed off towards the princess’s kingdom. On the way the brown-hooded warrior began to train his apprentice. As they clashed swords, he pushed his apprentice to let go of his thoughts and outer senses and trust instead to inner knowing. This inner knowing, he said, could help him connect with the force that flowed through everything.
After several weeks journey they reached the princess’s kingdom, but when they looked to shore all they saw was rubble and destruction. Close to shore stood a mountainous island that was not on any map. Upon it stood a great fortress that towered into the sky. As they sailed closer they realized it wasn’t an island at all but the floating fortress the princess had described. They tried to flee, but imperial ships struck down their sail, boarded their ship, and towed it into the fortress. They managed to hide themselves in one of the ships secret holds. Then, when a party of soldiers searched the ship, they overcame them, stole their uniforms and- leaving the servant to repair the ship’s sail- they made their way into the fortress.
The brown-hooded warrior told the young warrior, the smuggler and the wild man to wait close by the ship while he found a way to create a distraction so they could escape. While they were waiting the young warrior realized the princess must be imprisoned there. He thought up a plan to rescue her, and with promises of even greater rewards, convinced the smuggler and the wild man to help him. They put manacles on the wild man, found their way to the fortress’s prison, found the princess, and helped her escape.
Meanwhile the iron-mantled warrior, who was in command of the fortress, had felt the brown-hooded warrior’s presence, found him and confronted him. The iron-mantled warrior called the brown-hooded one “my mentor,” and said his power had far surpassed his mentor’s in the years since his training. The brown-hooded warrior replied that there were more profound layers in the force then the iron-mantled warrior knew, and if he were struck down he would rise again with awesome power. As the young warrior, the princess, the smuggler and the wild man were making their escape, they looked up and from afar they saw the brown-hooded warrior and the iron-mantled warrior clashing swords. The young warrior watched in horror as his mentor lowered his sword and the iron mantled warrior struck him a terrible blow. But as the blow struck his mentor seemed to disappear, leaving the iron-mantled warrior clutching an empty robe.
The servant had managed to repair their ships sail, and they escaped, and found a fleet of rebel ships that was gathering close by, planning their attack on the fortress. By studying the plans they were able to find a single central column wThe smuggler and the young warrior were both charmed by the beautiful princess, but the smuggler claimed his reward and left before the battle. The young warrior was given his own ship to captain, and set out with the rebel fleet to lay siege to the fortress. It was a terrible battle and many rebel ships were destroyed. The young warrior’s ship was the only one left with cannons able to fire the decisive shot, but imperial ships (including one captained by the iron-mantled warrior) were showering his ship with cannon fire.
When all hope seemed lost, the smuggler’s ship reappeared, and fired upon the imperial ships pursuing the young warrior. This gave him the chance to launch a final volley towards the fortress’s central column. At the pivotal moment the young warrior heard the voice of the hooded warrior, telling him to trust his inner knowing. He fired a final shot, and hit the fortress’s central column, and the fortress collapsed into the sea. The rebels celebrated their victory. The princess, the young warrior, the smuggler, the wild man and the servant were all especially honored.
The destruction of the floating fortress showed that the emperor’s power could be challenged; but his army still held control. The iron-mantled warrior had survived and now hunted the rebels across the wild lands and the seas. The rebels found refuge in an icy wilderness. The princess, the young warrior, the pirate, the hairy man, and the servant were all a part of that company. The pirate was making preparations to leave, to take care of his debt and the price on his head. The pirate and the young warrior had become friends, but both still sought to win the love of the princess. One morning the young warrior was patrolling the icy wilderness on his horse when he was attacked by a great white bear, which dragged him back to its cave.
He managed to kill the creature, but it had killed his horse, and a terrible snowstorm was raging. As he fell wounded and dazed into the snow, he saw a vision: The brown-hooded warrior stood before him. He told the young warrior he must go to a great swampland and find his master- an inscrutable warrior who would continue his training. The pirate learned the young warrior had not returned from his patrol, went out into the storm, and rescued him. As the young warrior was recovering from his wounds, the imperial army attacked their encampment.
The rebels fought as long as they could and then fled. In the struggle the princess was forced to flee with the pirate and the hairy man. The young warrior left on his own ship, with the servant as his only crew, and went to find the swampland. They arrived there, and were seeking a place set down their anchor when the ship became hopelessly mired in the mud. They swam to firm ground and a tiny, wizened old man appeared. He pestered the young warrior for food, said he knew the one he was seeking, and led them back to his little hut. The young warrior was losing patience with the tiny old man when the brown-hooded warrior appeared, pleading with the tiny, old man to undertake the young warrior’s training. Then the young warrior understood that this odd looking man was none other than the inscrutable warrior.
The inscrutable warrior reluctantly agreed. He trained the young warrior, day after day, making him run through the swamp carrying him on his back. The inscrutable warrior had an even deeper knowledge of the force than the brown-hooded one. He taught the young warrior how to move objects with his mind. When the young warrior protested his limits the inscrutable warrior showed him those limits were only in his mind by lifting the mired ship into the air and placing it in free water. One day the inscrutable warrior brought his student to a great hollow tree, and told the young warrior he must go in. “What will I find there?” asked the young warrior. “Only what you bring with you.” The young warrior entered and saw there the iron-mantled warrior. In anger and terror he struck off his enemy’s head. But when the iron mantle fell away, the young warrior saw his own face revealed.
One day soon after, in the midst of training the young warrior had a vision: he saw the princess, the pirate and the hairy man in great danger. He told his master he must go save them, but the inscrutable warrior told him he must not leave- his training was not complete. If he did not learn the true way of the force, he was in danger of falling under the power of dark impulses. But the young warrior would not let his friends die. Disregarding his master’s warning he boarded his ship with the servant and set off to rescue his friends.
The princess, the pirate and the hairy man had found refuge with an old friend of the pirate. This friend had become king of a mining city hidden high in the mountains amongst the clouds. But the iron-mantled warrior had arrived before them and laid a trap, knowing the young warrior would come to save them. The pirate was given to a bounty hunter, but the pirate’s friend (who had betrayed them) helped the princess and the hairy man escape. Just before the pirate was dragged away the princess declared her love for him.
When the young warrior arrived he found the iron-mantled warrior waiting for him. As they clashed swords, the iron-mantled warrior told the young warrior his mentors had lied to him. “I didn’t kill your father. I am your father.” And as he said these words he severed the young warrior’s hand from his arm. The young warrior stumbled to the edge of a cliff. Then the iron-mantled warrior held out his hand, offering to be the young warriors new mentor, promising that together they could defeat the emperor and rule the world together. The young warrior refused, and let himself fall backwards off the cliff.
The princess, the hairy man, and the pirate’s friend found the young warrior lying farther down the cliff face, gravely injured. They rescued him, and fled to safety. They found their way to a camp of rebel warriors. Over many days, the young warrior was healed, and he received an iron hand to replace the one he’d lost. Then they all set out together to rescue the pirate.
The princess, posing as a bounty hunter, with the hairy man posing as her bounty, went first into warlord’s castle, where the pirate was being held. But she, the hairy man and the servant were all discovered and captured. When the hairy man was put in prison he found the pirate there. He had lost his sight and was severely weakened.
The young warrior arrived and confronted the warlord, warning him that he must to release his friends or face death. The warlord laughed, and tricked the young warrior into falling into a pit where a giant dwelled. He expected to watch the young warrior be killed and devoured, but instead the young warrior killed the giant. He was captured, and the warlord decided that he would cast the whole company into a bottomless pit. They were brought to the edge of the pit on horseback. The warlord came to watch, making their execution into an entertainment. The young warrior was the first to be brought to the brink of the pit. Just before he was pushed in, the servant threw him his sword, and together they subdued the warlord and his allies and escaped.
The young warrior left his friends and returned to the great swamp, to find the inscrutable warrior and complete his training. When he arrived there he found the inscrutable warrior was dying. The inscrutable warrior warned him not to give in to fear or anger, and to beware his father’s and the emperor’s trickery. And then he died.
The emperor and the iron-mantled warrior were overseeing the rebuilding of the floating fortress. It was anchored off the shore of a wild forest. The rebel fleet was gathering to attack it. The pirate, the princess, the hairy man and the servant were sent on a mission to establish a base in the forest. They encountered a clan of forest people there. The servant, who knew many languages, was able to communicate with them and recruit them as allies. The young warrior arrived and met them there. He told the princess she was his sister, the iron-mantled warrior was their father, and that he must go and face him, and try to redeem him.
He let himself be captured by imperial soldiers and was brought before the iron-mantled warrior and the emperor, in the emperor’s throne room, in the highest tower of the fortress. They watched the battle begin upon the waves below, and the emperor told the young warrior he had foreseen this attack, and all his friends would soon be dead. He tried to make the young warrior give in to fear, and anger, because he knew this would turn him into a servant of darkness. But the young warrior would not be turned, and when the emperor saw this he ordered the iron-mantled warrior to kill him. The young warrior crossed swords with his father and defeated him, severing his hand from his arm. Then he lowered his sword, refusing to kill him.
The emperor then turned all of his dark power upon the young warrior. He came very close to killing him when the iron-mantled warrior interceded, grabbed up the emperor and cast him down into the sea. The iron-mantled warrior was weak and close to death, but the young warrior refused to leave him, even as the rebels gained the upper hand and the fortress began to collapse around them. Before he died the iron-mantled warrior removed his mask, showed his face, and thanked his son for redeeming him. The young warrior escaped the crumbling fortress, brought his father’s body back to the forest, and burned it there. Then the young warrior was reunited with his friends, and there was a great celebration. Because of their heroism the world’s kingdoms were finally free from the emperor’s tyranny. From that day, they enjoyed a long age of peace and harmony.
In a faraway kingdom there once lived a merchant and his wife. They had only one daughter, and she was called Wassilissa the Beautiful, because she was. When the girl was eight years old her mother called Wassillisa to her and told the child that she (her mother) was dying, but that she would leave Wassilisa her maternal blessing and a doll. She told Wassilissa to keep the doll with her always and never show it to anyone; and if she was ever in trouble, she should ask it for advice. Soon afterwards she died.
Some time later the merchant married a widow with two children who were just about Wassilissa’s age. The stepmother and her daughters slowly turned hostile to Wassilissa, but the doll always comforted her.
One day the merchant had to leave the country for a long time. During his absence her stepmother moved with the three girls to a house which stood near the primeval forest. In this forest stood the house of Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga was much feared, for it was known that whoever fell into her hands was eaten like a chicken. This suited the stepmother perfectly, because she hoped that one day she could cause Wassilissa to cross the witches path and so dispose of her.
One evening the stepmother gave her three daughters candles. Ordering them to embroider, to knit, and to spin, she left them and went to bed. In time the candles burned down. The oldest girl took her knitting needle to clear the wicks but purposely used it in such a manner that the light went out. Then she said she didn’t mind because she could do her embroidery without light, and the other said she could knit without light, “But you,” the two girls said to Wassilissa, “must go to Baba Yaga and get fire so that we can have light again,” and they pushed her out of the room. Wassilissa went to her room and asked her doll what to do. The doll said “Do not be afraid but go where they have sent you, only take me with you and I will give you help.”
Wassilissa walked all through the night. Then she met a rider dressed in white, sitting on a beautiful horse covered in white, and the moment he passed her, day broke. After a while she met a second rider dressed in red, riding a horse covered in red, and at that moment the sun rose.
Having walked through the night, Wassilissa then walked through the whole of the next day. In the evening she arrived at the clearing where Baba Yaga’s house stood. Round the house was a fence made of human bones, with posts made of skulls. The bolts on the doors were made of the arms of skeletons and the locks were made of a skeleton’s mouth from which the teeth stuck out. Wassilissa was terrified. She stood nearly fainting and as though nailed to the ground, when suddenly a black rider on a black horse galloped by and it became night. But the darkness did not last long, for soon the eyes in all the skulls on the hedge began to glow, and the whole clearing was bright as day. Wassilissa stood shivering with fear, but soon she heard an uncanny humming noise, and the trees began to rustle and out of the wood came Baba Yaga. She sat in a mortar and rowed with a pestle, and with a boom she removed her traces. When she came to the door she sniffed the air and said, “Ugh! It smells of Russians! Who’s there?”
Wassilissa went to meet her and bowed and said, “It’s I, Grandmother, my stepsisters have sent me to you to fetch fire.”
“Good,” answered Baba Yaga, “I know them. Stay with me for a time and then you shall have the fire.”
Then she spoke some magic words. The door opened and Baba Yaga entered the courtyard and the door shut behind them. She then ordered the girl about, telling her to bring her food and heat the stove. And she ate a lot, leaving a little cabbage soup and a bread crust for Wassilissa, practically nothing. Then she laid down to sleep, but she told Wassilissa that next morning when she went out, Wassilissa was to sweep out the yard and the hut, cook the midday meal, do the washing and then separate the mildewed corn from the good. All had to be finished by the time she came home. Otherwise she would eat the girl.
The girl asked her doll for advice and the doll told her not to be afraid; to eat her supper and say her prayers and lie down to sleep, “Morning is wiser than evening.”
Next morning when Wassilissa woke up and looked out of the window the eyes in the skulls were already closing. The white rider rode by and day began. The Baba Yaga went off and Wassilissa went over the whole house, admiring all its treasures. Then she wondered which piece of work she should begin with, but the work had all been done by her doll, who was just separating the last black from the white corn seeds.
When Baba Yaga came back that evening she found everything down and was very angry that there was nothing with which to find fault. Then something very strange happened, for she cried out, “My faithful servants, grind the corn for me,” and three pairs of skeleton hands appeared and took the corn away.
She gave Wassilissa her orders for the next day, saying she should do as she had done the day before, but in addition she should clean the poppy seeds. The next evening when Baba Yaga came she called up the hands again to press oil out of the poppy seeds.
While Baba Yaga ate her supper Wassilissa stood silently by. Baba Yaga said, “What are you staring at without saying a word? Are you dumb?”
The girl answered, “If I may, I would like to ask you some questions.”
“Ask then,” said Baba Yaga, “but remember, not all questions are good. To know too much makes one old!”
Wassilissa said, “I’d like to ask you about the things I’ve seen: On the way to you a rider dressed all in white passed me, sitting on a horse. Who was that?”
“That is my day, the bright one,” answered Baba Yaga.
“And then another rider overtook me, dressed in red and sitting on a red horse. Who was he?”
“That is my sun, the red one.”
“And then at the gate a black rider came.”
“That was my night, the dark one.”
And then Wassilissa thought of the three pairs of hands, but she didn’t dare ask and kept silent.
Baba Yaga said, “Why don’t you ask me some more questions?”
And the girl answered that those were enough, adding, “You said yourself, Grandmother, that knowing too much made one old.”
Then the Baba Yaga replied (and this is important), “You did well to ask only about what you saw outside and not about what you saw inside the hut. I don’t like it when the dirt is brought outside the hut. But now I want to ask you something: How did you manage to do all the work I gave you?”
“The blessing of my mother helped me,” answered Wassilissa.
“Oh, that’s it, is it? Then get away from here, blessed daughter, I don’t need any blessings in my house!” And the Baba Yaga pushed Wassilissa out of the hut and chased her out of the gate. Then Baba Yaga took one of the skulls with flaming eyes from the hedge and put in one a pole and gave it to Wassilissa saying, “This is the fire for your stepsisters. Take it, carry it with you.”
Wassilissa hurried away from Baba Yaga and ran through the dark forest, finding her way by the light of the skull which only went out when dawn broke. On the evening of the next day she reached home. When she approached the gate she thought of throwing away the skull, but a hollow voice said, “Don’t throw me away, take me to your stepmother.”
So Wassilissa obeyed and when she brought the fire into the room the glowing eyes of the skull stared unceasingly at her stepmother and her daughters, burning into their souls, and the eyes followed them wherever they went to hide. Towards morning they were burnt to ashes, and only Wassilissa remained unhurt.
The next morning Wassilissa buried the skull in the earth, and went to town, to stay with a nice old woman who bought thread to her, with which Vassilissa made linen. The linen Wassilissa made was so beautiful that it was used to make shirts for the King. Through this she became acquainted with him, and before long he married her. When her father, the merchant returned, he was very happy over her good fortune, and came to live with her in the palace, as did the good old woman. And Wassilissa also kept the doll her mother had given her, and carried it with her everywhere she went.
Notes on Baba Yaga
These notes are meant to get you started, but please let the images strike you in a personal way, and find the meanings which feel right to you, whether I’ve mentioned that meaning or not.
Baba: Grandmother, old woman (Bulgarian), ‘midwife’, ‘sorceress’, ‘fortune teller’ (Old Russian), Vicious or ugly woman (Polish),
Yaga: unknown, but possibly related to: jeza (Slovenian) ‘horror, shudder, jeza (Old Czech) ‘anger’, jězě (modern Czech) ‘witch, legendary evil female being’, jezinka ‘wicked wood nymph, dryad’, jędza (Polish) ‘witch, evil woman, fury’
Baba Yaga: sometimes singular, sometimes a trio of sisters. Eastern European AKA ‘Forest Mother’, ‘Iron Tooth’, ‘bony legs’/association w/ Earth mother and death
Wassilissa: literally Queen, an ordinary traditional name
Positive (Loving) Mother: (the merchant’s wife) as in many fairytales a loving mother’s blessing and protection are very powerful and extend beyond death. Sometimes held in a tree (see the Juniper Tree) in this case- a doll acts as the totem. A loving parent can help a child tap into positive mother archetype (energy/power) in their own psyche. Wassilissa has access to this power because of her mother’s empowerment/blessing. We can be given this empowerment by anyone who truly loves/nurtures/mothers us- that is, by given us this gift of nurturing they connect us to this beneficent power in ourselves and in the world.
Negative Mother: (stepmother) The polar opposite of the positive mother. Whereas positive mother lifts up and nurtures the child and her potential selflessly, the negative mother degrades the child, tortures her, is selfish and draining and ultimately aims to kill her. Could these two be two sides of the same coin/energic continuum?
Sisters: There are no positive sister figures in the story. The stepsisters act as extensions of the stepmother’s evil will. Wassilissa makes a triad with her two stepsisters? As in many fairytales, she is the third who must overcome the other two.
To be continued…
There was once on a time a King who had a daughter, and he caused a glass mountain to be made, and said that whosoever could cross to the other side of it without falling should have his daughter to wife. Then there was one who loved the King’s daughter, and he asked the King if he might have her. “Yes,” said the King; “if you can cross the mountain without falling, you shall have her.” And the princess said she would go over it with him, and would hold him if he were about to fall. So they set out together to go over it, and when they were half way up the princess slipped and fell, and the glass-mountain opened and shut her up inside it, and her betrothed could not see where she had gone, for the mountain closed immediately. Then he wept and lamented much, and the King was miserable too, and had the mountain broken open where she had been lost, and though the would be able to get her out again, but they could not find the place into which she had fallen. Meanwhile the King’s daughter had fallen quite deep down into the earth into a great cave. An old fellow with a very long gray beard came to meet her, and told her that if she would be his servant and do everything he bade her, she might live, if not he would kill her. So she did all he bade her. In the mornings he took his ladder out of his pocket, and set it up against the mountain and climbed to the top by its help, and then he drew up the ladder after him. The princess had to cook his dinner, make his bed, and do all his work, and when he came home again he always brought with him a heap of gold and silver. When she had lived with him for many years, and had grown quite old, he called her Mother Mansrot, and she had to call him Old Rinkrank. Then once when he was out, and she had made his bed and washed his dishes, she shut the doors and windows all fast, and there was one little window through which the light shone in, and this she left open. When Old Rinkrank came home, he knocked at his door, and cried, “Mother Mansrot, open the door for me.” “No,” said she, “Old Rinkrank, I will not open the door for thee.” Then he said,
“Here stand I, poor Rinkrank, On my seventeen long shanks, On my weary, worn-out foot, Wash my dishes, Mother Mansrot.”
“I have washed thy dishes already,” said she. Then again he said,
“Here stand I, poor Rinkrank, On my seventeen long shanks, On my weary, worn-out foot, Make me my bed, Mother Mansrot.”
“I have made thy bed already,” said she. Then again he said,
“Here stand I, poor Rinkrank, On my seventeen long shanks, On my weary, worn-out foot, Open the door, Mother Mansrot.”
Then he ran all round his house, and saw that the little window was open, and thought, “I will look in and see what she can be about, and why she will not open the door for me.” He tried to peep in, but could not get his head through because of his long beard. So he first put his beard through the open window, but just as he had got it through, Mother Mansrot came by and pulled the window down with a cord which she had tied to it, and his beard was shut fast in it. Then he began to cry most piteously, for it hurt him very much, and to entreat her to release him again. But she said not until he gave her the ladder with which he ascended the mountain. Then, whether he would or not, he had to tell her where the ladder was. And she fastened a very long ribbon to the window, and then she set up the ladder, and ascended the mountain, and when she was at the top of it she opened the window. She went to her father, and told him all that had happened to her. The King rejoiced greatly, and her betrothed was still there, and they went and dug up the mountain, and found Old Rinkrank inside it with all his gold and silver. Then the King had Old Rinkrank put to death, and took all his gold and silver. The princess married her betrothed, and lived right happily in great magnificence and joy.
Notes on Symbology in Old Rinkrank
The glass mountain is produced by her father, like the animus.
This mountain stands between her & love, marriage, earthly relationship. Unconscious must be reckoned with to achieve inner marriage/spiritual maturity
Glass: like iron is transmutable with heat. Waivers between solid and liquid states. Alchemical substance. Suggests the presence of transformation/ magic/ alchemy/ inner process. Resembles ice, has liquid qualities (melts over time). Transparency and liquidity gives it relationship with water (symbol of unconscious) Also reflective
Eternity, cold, hard, frozen
Often the princess sits at the top and watches knights fall to their deaths. This princess goes down to the bottom and says: “she would go over it with him, and hold him if he were about the fall.” Tries conscious relationship with Animus but fails.
Falling into mountain- the unconscious opens up and swallows her.
Mountain- pilgrimage to higher level of consciousness (repeated in ladder) becomes underworld journey
Old man with beard: if you’re my servant, I’ll let you live. Otherwise I’ll kill you. She did all he bade her. (She begins completely under power of negative Animus.)
Ladder: he has means to the top of the mountain.
“Cooks dinner, makes bed, does his work” What would his work be? She cares for him. Keeps house for him. Her psyche becomes his home.
Heap of gold or silver- there is value in this process, and in him
She lived with him for many years and grown quite old- the process of maturing animus is long and filled with suffering.
Shut doors and windows, left one small window where light shone in-
“Old Rinkrank, I will not open the door for thee.”
She retakes control of her own psyche, disidentifies from animus/shuts him out
Seventeen- the seventh prime number, associations to spirituality and immortality, trials and difficulties which can be transformed into spiritual progress. “represents the junction between the material world and the spiritual world” (Henry Blanquart)
long shanks (legs)- stability and locomotion, ability to make progress, get somewhere
Weary, old foot- feet represent our grounding, where/how we stand, convictions/beliefs
Wash my dishes- clean up after he eats
Make my bed- give him a place to sleep/regenerate
Shuts his beard in the window. Beard?
Demands ladder to surface- takes his power to access top of mountain, spiritual growth, ability to seize power and complete the journey.
Ribbon to window, beautiful image of scaling psychic heights while retaining control of psychic depths
One day the North Wind was feeling especially full of bluster, so he said to the sun, “You think you’re so hot, but I’m much more powerful than you. I can blow down a three hundred year old oak – all you can do is make it curl up its leaves.”
The Sun smiled, “Alright my friend, see that traveller riding along down there? Let’s see if you can get him to take off his coat.”
So the North Wind took in a deep, powerful breath, and blew it down at the traveller, with so much force the traveller was almost blown right off his horse. His coat flew up over his head and would have flown off completely but for the sleeves. The traveler shivered, pulled his jacket down around him, and buttoned up every button it had.
This made the North Wind even more determined. He sucked in an even longer, deeper breath, and blew down one quick, terrible burst of wind, which flung the traveller up into the air. He did two somersaults before he landed in a heap on the ground; but he still had on his jacket.
Then the North Wind, who was growing very frustrated indeed, drew in the longest, deepest breath of all, gathering up all the cold, dark power of the North, and blew down with everything he had at the poor little traveler and his horse. They would have both been flung up into the sky except that the traveler saw the great storm coming, and pulled his horse down behind a boulder and clutched onto the ground for dear life while trees and houses blew past them.
The North Wind had blown himself out completely the traveller was still clinging for dear life to his horse which had wedged itself beneath the boulder, and he still had on his coat, so the North Wind had no choice but to catch his breath and let the Sun take a turn. The Sun smiled down at the brave little traveler, and the warmth of his smile melted away the black clouds. A mist rose up from the earth, and birds all over that side of the world flew up to the tops of the trees to warm themselves. When the traveller saw the storm had passed he climbed back on his horse and started off again. When the Sun saw the traveler brush himself off and get traveling again his smile broadened, and the air began to warm, and for miles and miles around people looked out the window and decided to go out and hang some laundry, or take a walk. The flowers turned their heads and looked up, the birds began chatting with each other, and the traveler unbuttoned his jacket.
And when the sun looked down and saw the whole world beginning to stir this way his smile broke open warm and wide. Then the flowers still been making up their minds went ahead and opened, and even people who weren’t inclined to notice such things came outside and remarked what a beautiful day it was. By then the traveler had started feeling very warm indeed, so he took off his jacket; and when he came to a river, it looked so cool and inviting he took off every stitch of clothing he had on, and went for a swim.
And so the sun, with warmth and gentleness, was able to accomplish what the North Wind, in all his strength and fury, could not do.
A fable by Aesop.
(This version by Lee Scher.)
One morning a handsome young man was walking through the forest. The sun shone brightly. The birds sang. A cool breeze caressed the leaves, and he was full of joy. He had yet to come across anyone when he spotted an old woman kneeling on the ground, cutting grass with a sickle. She had already gathered a full load in her pack, and two baskets filled with wild pears and apples stood next to it.
“My God, old woman,” he said. “how can you possibly carry all that?”
“I must carry it, young sir. Children of the rich don’t have to worry, but a peasant has to earn every meal. Do you want to help? You still have a straight back and young legs; it would be easy for you. Besides, my house is not far from here. It’s on a heath just beyond that mountain. You could make it up there in a hop, skip and a jump.”
“I’ll confess. My father is indeed a rich count… I’ll carry your burden, so you will see that farmers are not the only ones who can earn their keep.”
“If that’s your will,” she responded, “then I’m pleased. It will take an hour of your time, but that shouldn’t matter to you. You must also carry the apples and pears.” The young count began to have doubts when the woman mentioned an hour’s walk. But before he could renege, she had lifted the sack on his back and hung the two baskets on his arm.
“You see,” she said, “there’s nothing to it.”
“It’s not light,” responded the count. “It feels as if it were packed with bricks, and the apples and pears feel as though they were made of lead. I can hardly breathe.”
“Just look,” she said mockingly, “the young gentleman can’t carry an old woman’s burden. You’re good with pretty words, but when it comes to action, you want to scoot away like the wind. Why are you dallying? Get a move on! No one’s going to take the bundle off your back.”
As long as the count walked on level ground, he could stand it, but as soon as he came to the mountain and had to climb the stones rolled out from under his feet, and the load was beyond his strength. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead and trickled down his back, hot and cold.
“Old woman,” he said, “I can’t go any farther. I have to rest a while.”
“Nothing doing,” she answered. “Once we’ve arrived, you can relax, but now you must keep marching. Who knows what good may come from fulfilling this chore?”
“You’re becoming shameless!” said the count. He tried to throw off the pack, but though he twisted and turned, it stuck to his back as tightly as if it grew there.
The old woman laughed. “Don’t get mad, young sir. Your face is turning even redder. Bear your burden with patience. When we get home, I’ll certainly give you a good tip for your service.”
The young man had no choice but to plod along patiently after the old woman. She seemed to become more and more nimble, leaping here and there while his load seemed to become heavier and heavier. Then she sprung up and landed on top of the pack. Even though she was as thin as a rail, she weighed more than the fattest peasant. The young man’s knees wobbled, and when he did not continue, the old woman hit his legs with a branch. He groaned continually as he climbed the mountain, and just as he was about to collapse, he finally reached the old woman’s house.
WHEN the geese spied the old woman, they stretched their wings and necks in the air, ran toward her, and cackled greetings. Another old woman followed the flock with a stick in her hand. She was big and strong and ugly as sin. “Mother,” the old goose girl said to the young man’s tormentor, “did something happen to you along the way? You were gone so long.”
“Heaven forbid, little daughter. Nothing bad happened. On the contrary, this kind gentleman carried my load for me. He even carried me on his back when I became tired. The journey passed quickly because we had so much fun with one another along the way.”
Then the old woman slid off and took the bundle from the young man’s back and the baskets from his arms. She looked at him in a friendly way, “Now sit down on the bench and rest. You’ve earned your reward, and you shall have it in due time.”
Then she said to the old goose girl, “Go into the house, my little daughter. It’s not proper for you to be alone with a young man. No need to add oil to the fire.” The old woman fondled her geese like children and then went into the house with her daughter.
The count did not know whether to laugh or cry. Even if she were thirty years younger, he thought, a woman like that would never stir my heart. He stretched himself out on a bench underneath a wild apple tree. The air was warm and mild. All around him was a green meadow covered with cowslips, wild thyme, and a thousand other flowers. There was a clear brook that glistened with the sun’s rays and rippled through the middle of meadow. The white geese waddled back and forth or paddled in the water. ‘It’s quite lovely here,’ he thought. ‘But I’m so tired that I can’t keep my eyes open. I’m going to sleep for a while. I only hope that a gust of wind doesn’t come and blow my feet out from under me. They feel as brittle as tinder wood.’
After he had slept awhile, the old woman came and shook him. “Get up.” she said. “You can’t stay here. I confess I gave you a hard time, but it didn’t cost you your life. Now you shall have your reward. Since you don’t need money or land, I shall give you something else.” She placed a little box carved from a single emerald into his hand. “Take good care of it, it will bring you luck.”
The count jumped up feeling restored. He thanked the old woman for the present and set out upon his way without turning around to look for the old woman’s daughter.
The count must have wandered three days in the wilderness before he could find his way out. Eventually he reached a large city, and since he was a stranger, he was taken to the royal castle to meet the king and queen. The count knelt down before them, took the emerald box out of his pocket, and laid it at the queen’s feet. She beckoned to him to stand up and hand her the little box. No sooner had she opened it and looked inside than she fell to the ground as if she were dead. The count was seized by the king’s servants and was about to be taken to prison when the queen opened her eyes and cried out that they should release him. She ordered everyone to go outside and declared that she wanted to speak with the count in private.
When the queen was alone with him, she began to cry bitterly and said, I once had three daughters, and the youngest was so beautiful that the entire world considered her a miracle. She was as white as snow, as pink as apple blossoms, and her hair glittered like the rays of the sun. Whenever she cried, pearls and jewels dropped from her eyes. On her fifteenth birthday the king summoned all three daughters to his throne. When the youngest entered, it was as if the sun had risen. The king said, “My daughters, I don’t know how much longer I have to live. So I shall decide today what each one of you is to receive after my death. You all love me, but whoever loves me most shall be given the best part of my realm.’ Each of them said she loved him most of all. ‘I want you to describe just how much you love me,’ said the king. ‘Then I’ll be able to tell more clearly what you mean.’ The oldest one said, ‘I love my father as much as I love the sweetest sugar.’ The second said, ‘I love my father as much as I love my prettiest dress.’ The youngest, however, kept quiet. Then her father asked, ‘And you, daughter, how much do you love me?’ ‘I don’t know,’ she insisted. ‘I can’t compare the love I feel for you with anything.’ Yet her father insisted. Finally, she said, ‘The best food has no taste without salt. Therefore, I love you father as much as I love salt.’ When the king heard this, he became enraged and said, ‘If you love me as much as you love salt, then your love shall also be rewarded with salt.’
“So he divided his kingdom between the two older daughters. However, he ordered a sack of salt bound to the back of his youngest daughter, and two servants were told to lead her out into the wild forest. We all pleaded and begged for her, but the king’s rage could not be calmed. How she cried when she was forced to leave us! The entire way was strewn with pearls that fell from her eyes. Soon after, the king regretted his severity and had the entire forest searched for the poor child, but no one could find her.
Sometimes I console myself with the hope that she is still alive and may have hidden herself in a cave or found shelter with merciful people. Now, you can imagine how I felt when I opened the emerald box, and there was a pearl just like the ones that my daughter used to shed, and you can also imagine how this sight stirred my heart. Please tell me how you came upon this pearl!”
The count told her he had received it from the old woman in the forest who had seemed uncanny to him and he believed she must be a witch. However, he had not seen a sign nor had he heard a thing about the queen’s child. Nevertheless, the king and queen decided to seek out the old woman to see if they could get news of their daughter.
The old woman sat outside in her lonely place, spinning on her spinning wheel. It had already become dark, and a log burning on the hearth gave off a little light. The geese were coming home from the meadow, and their merry cries could be heard. Soon the daughter entered, but the old woman acknowledged her only by nodding her head. The daughter sat down beside her, took her spinning wheel, and twisted the thread as nimbly as a young girl would. Thus they both sat for two hours without exchanging a word. Finally, something rustled at the window, and two fiery eyes glared inside. It was an old night owl that uttered “Tu whit-whoo…Tu whit whoo. The old woman looked up and said, “Now, my little daughter, it’s time for you to go do your work.”
The daughter stood up and went outside… over the meadow toward the valley, a long, long ways until finally she reached a spring surrounded by three old oak trees. The moon was round and large and had risen above the hill. It was so bright that one could easily have found a pin on the ground. The maiden removed the old baggy skin and dark matted hair that covered her, leaned over the spring, and began to wash. When she was finished, she dipped the old skin in the water and laid it out on the ground so it could bleach and dry in the moonlight. But how the maiden was transformed! Her golden hair flared like sunlight and spread like a cloak over her entire body. Her eyes glistened like stars, and her cheeks glowed like apple blossoms.
But the maiden was sad, and she sat down and cried, and one tear after another rolled down through her long hair onto the ground. There she would have remained for a long time if she had not heard a cracking and rustling in the branches of a nearby tree. Like a deer jolted by the sound of a hunter, she jumped up, and at the same time a cloud passed over the moon. In a moment the maiden had slipped back in to the old skin and was running in a fright back to the witches cabin.
The old woman was standing in front of the door, and the maiden wanted to tell her what had happened, but the old woman laughed in a friendly way and said, “The world is only turning daughter,” and led the maiden into the room and started a new fire. However, she did not sit down at the spinning wheel again. Rather, she fetched a broom and began to sweep and scrub. “Everything must be clean and neat,” she exclaimed.
“But Mother,” the maiden asked. “Why are you starting to work at such a late hour?”
“Do you know what time it is?”
“Not past midnight yet,” answered the maiden,” but certainly it must be past eleven.”
“Don’t you remember that you came to me three years ago today? Your time is up. We can no longer stay together.”
“Oh, Mother, do you want to throw me out? Where shall I go? I have neither home nor friends to turn to. I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me, and you’ve always been satisfied with me. Don’t send me away!”
“My stay here is over,” the old woman responded. “But before I leave, the house must be clean. Therefore, I don’t want you to hinder my work. Don’t worry on your own account. You shall find a roof to shelter you, and I’m sure that you’ll be satisfied with the wages I will give you.”
“But tell me what’s going on!”
“Do not disturb my work. Not another word. Just go into your room, remove the skin from your face. Put on the silk dress that you wore when you came to me, and wait until I call you.”
The king and queen had departed with the count to seek out the old woman, but the count had become so consumed in trying to remember the way he had become separated from them, and so was forced to continue on alone. The next day it seemed to him that he was finally on the right path. He kept going until it became dark, and then climbed up a tree and intended to spend the night there. When the moon cast its light on his surroundings, he spotted a shape meandering down the mountain. He could see that it was the goose girl whom he had previously encountered at the old woman’s house, even though she was not carrying a stick in her hand.
“Oho!” he exclaimed. “Here she comes. Once I catch one of the witches, I’ll soon have the other in my hands as well.” However, as he watched her go to the spring, take off the skin, and wash herself, his astonishment grew. Then, when her golden hair swooped down her sides, he felt that she was more beautiful than anything else he had ever seen in the world. he hardly dared to breathe, but he did stick in head between the leaves as far as he could and looked straight at her. Then the branch cracked, and the maiden slipped back into the skin and disappeared from his sight.
No sooner had she disappeared than the count climbed down from the tree and rushed after her. He had not gone very far, when he saw two figures wandering across the meadow in the moonlight. It was the king and queen, who had glimpsed the light in the old woman’s house and were heading straight for it. When the count told them about what he had seen they were sure the goose girl was their lost daughter. Full of joy, they went on and soon arrived at the little house. The geese were sitting all around it with their heads tucked under their wings. Not one of them moved, as they were all fast asleep. The three travelers looked through the window and saw the old woman silently sitting and spinning. She nodded her head but did not look around.
The king and queen did not ee their daughter. For a while they looked at everything, and finally they summoned up the courage to knock softly on the window. The old woman seemed to have expected them. She stood up and called out in a friendly way, “Come in, you are welcome.”
After they had entered the room, the old woman said, “You could have spared yourself the long journey if you had not unjustly banished your lovely child three years ago. Yet, the banishment has not harmed her. She has had to tend the geese for these three years. She learned nothing evil in the process and has kept herself pure of heart. You, however, have been punished sufficiently by the anguish you’ve suffered.” Then she went to the door and called, “Come out, my little daughter.”
The door opened and the princess emerged with her golden hair and sparkling eyes. She was dressed in her silk gown, and it was as if an angel had descended from heaven into the room. She went directly to her father and mother and embraced and kissed them. They could not help weeping for joy. The young count was standing next to them, and when she noticed him, her cheeks turned red. She herself did not know why. Then the king said, “My dear child, I have given away my kingdom. What am I to give you now?”
“She doesn’t need anything,” the old woman said. “I’m giving her the tears that she shed because of you. They are the purest pearls, more beautiful than any that can be found in the ocean, and worth more than your entire kingdom. And as a reward for her work, I am going to give her my little house.”
Just as the old woman said this, she vanished in front of their eyes. The walls rattled a little, and when they looked around, they saw that the little house had been transformed into a splendid palace. A royal table had been set for them, and servants were running all about.
The story does not end here, but my grandmother, who told it to me, was losing her memory, and she forgot the rest. I believe the beautiful maiden married the count and that they remained together in that place and lived in bliss as long as it pleased God. I thought I remembered that the snow white geese kept at the little house were really girls that the old woman had taken under her care, and that they regained their human shape when the old woman vanished and also lived in bliss under the queens care.
From the Brother’s Grimm collection (abbreviated)
Lee Scher facilitates a monthly fairytale study group in Portland, OR. For more info visit:http://www.meetup.com/fairytale-study-group or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info on Lee’s psychotherapy practice please visit: http://www.goldenkeypsychotherapy.com
ONCE there lived a young prince who everyone agreed was a royal meatball. His two older brothers were intelligent young men, but the youngest was a dreamer. He liked to go out wandering in the woods for days at a time, and often didn’t even bring along his bow. And when he was at home sometimes he would stay up all night and sleep right through the day.
The king had a tree that grew golden apples, which he was very protective of. The gardener had to count the apples every morning, to make sure they were all still there. One morning the gardener informed the king that an apple had gone missing. The king ordered him to stand guard by the tree that night, but the gardener fell asleep, and while he was asleep, another apple went missing. The next night the king ordered his eldest son to stand guard along with the gardener, but both men fell asleep, and another apple went missing. On the third night, the second eldest joined them, but all three men fell asleep, and another apple went missing.
Finally the youngest prince asked to try. The king let him, to shame the other princes for failing. The youngest prince was used to getting day and night confused, so he hurried to bed as the sun was rising, woke up at sunset, and went out alone to guard the tree. A few hours before dawn, a beautiful bird with shimmering golden feathers swooped down, pecked an apple from the tree, and took off with it. The youngest aimed his bow, and shot, and he just managed to graze the bird. It flew away but a single golden feather drifted down. The next morning, the youngest prince took the feather to his father and told him what had happened. The King said, “This feather is worth my whole kingdom. I must have that golden bird!”
The eldest prince set out immediately to find the golden bird. He hadn’t gone far when he crossed paths with a fox. “Please don’t shoot at me.” It said. “I can help you.” But the eldest was no fool- he knew very well that foxes can’t talk. He drew out his bough to shoot the fox, but it got away. A year later the eldest still hadn’t returned, so the middle son went off to find his brother and bring back the golden bird. Same thing happened. He met the fox…tried to kill it…it got away…and a year later neither prince had returned. The king was heartbroken to have lost his two eldest sons. When the youngest prince asked to go seek his brothers and the golden bird, the king refused. He didn’t want to lose his last child, even if he was a dimwit. But finally, after much pleading, the king relented and allowed the youngest prince to go.
He hadn’t travelled far when he met up with the very same fox. “Please don’t shoot at me.” It said, “I can help you.”And being a simple, good-natured soul the prince replied, “I won’t harm you.” “You won’t regret your kindness.” Said the fox. “Now hop on my tail. I know what you’re seeking and I can bring you where you need to go.” So the youngest hopped on the fox’s tail and sped off so quickly the prince felt like he was riding on the wind.
After a time they stopped and the fox said. “Now listen, and I’ll tell you what you need to do. Follow this road and this very night you’ll come to a castle. A whole troop of guards has been set in front to guard it. Pay them no mind. Every one will be asleep. Just walk right through the midst of them and straight into the castle. In the farthest corner you’ll find a chamber where the golden bird is resting. Place it in the wooden cage and you can take it away without discovery. But WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T PUT IT IN THE GOLDEN CAGE that’s also hanging there. If you do you’ll be in for big trouble.”
The youngest followed all the fox’s instructions carefully. He walked very bravely straight through all the sleeping soldiers and into the castle, and found the room. But when he saw the beautiful golden bird he was so excited he forgot which cage he was supposed to choose. ‘It couldn’t be that old wood one,’ he thought, so he put the bird in the golden cage, upon which it immediately let out a piercing screech. The soldier’s awoke and came running, and the next morning the king sentenced the prince to death. But he said, “Since you’re a competent thief, I will spare your life if you can steal the golden horse from my enemy and bring it to me. If you can do this, I will give you the golden bird as your reward. You have a month. If you fail to return, I will send out a party of my best soldiers to hunt you down and kill you.”
The prince accepted the king’s offer and set out. But the prince was awful at following directions, so although he had been told how to get to the city where the horse was kept, he soon got lost, and after wandering around for a long time he felt so tired and hopeless he sat down and cried. Suddenly there was his old friend the fox, standing before him. “You should have listened to my advice.” It said. “But cheer up, I’ll tell you how to get the golden horse.”
So the prince hopped up on the foxes tail, and they travelled a long ways as fast as the wind. After a time the fox stopped and said, “Now go straight ahead and by midnight you’ll come to a castle. The golden horse will be standing in the stable, and the groomsmen will be sleeping. Put on the plain leather saddle, and lead it outside, and all will be well. But whatever you do, don’t try to put on the golden saddle that’s also hanging there. If you do you’ll be in for it.”
The prince was determined to follow the fox’s instructions, but when he saw the horse, he got so excited he completely forgot which saddle he was supposed to take. ‘He can’t have meant me to put that ugly leather saddle on this beautiful golden horse!’ he thought. So he took the gold one down and as soon as he put it on the horse it whinnied loudly and the groomsmen awoke. And so, the next morning the prince was again sentenced to death. The king of that place said he would spare the prince’s life if he could bring him the beautiful princess from the golden castle. But he only had 30 days to do it, otherwise, he would be hunted down and killed.
The prince set out with a heavy heart. Soon he would have the armies of two kingdoms hunting him down. And although he was given careful directions, before long he got lost, and his fear and despair were so great he sat down and cried. And when he’d had a good long cry the fox appeared and said, “Why couldn’t you simply follow my instructions? Alright, I’m probably wasting my time with you but I’ll try to help you one more time. Hop on.”
So the prince got on the foxes tail and they flew off and before long the fox set him down and said, “Okay, chowderhead. Now listen carefully…please! Follow this trail and it’ll bring you to the golden castle. At night, when everything is quiet, the princess will go to the bathhouse to bathe. Before she goes in, you must present yourself to her and say, “Princess, it is time now. I have come for you. Then you must step up and give her a kiss. She’ll come with you then. But whatever you do, don’t allow her to go take leave of her parents. If you do, you’ll be sunk.”
The prince followed the trail to the golden castle and watched outside by moonlight until he saw the beautiful princess emerge and go towards the bath house. Then he presented himself to her and said, “Princess, it is time now. I have come for you.” And then he stepped up and gave her a kiss.” The princess seemed to know him, and said she would come with him, but said she must first take leave of her parent’s. The prince was so happy to have won her heart it was very difficult for him to refuse her. He tried to remain steadfast, but when she begged and cried and fell at his feet he relented, and when they went inside he was immediately seized and thrown in prison.
The next morning he was brought before the king. The king said, “What kind of prince are you, who would steal my daughter away from me in the night? I would have you put to death this morning, but my daughter has begged me to give you a chance to demonstrate that you are a man of quality. So, if within eight days you can completely remove the mountain that’s blocking the view from my window you shall have my daughter. Otherwise, your life is forfeit.”
The prince was set on the side of the mountain with a shovel and began to dig, and for seven days he dug and dug until his body ached and his blisters had blisters. On the morning of the seventh day he had hardly made a dent in that mountain. Then he dropped the shovel and lay in the dirt feeling completely exhausted and depressed. When it grew dark the fox appeared and said, “Stop torturing yourself you fool, and go to sleep. I’ll take care of it.”
The next morning, when the king looked out his window the mountain was gone, as if it had never been there, and because the king had made his bargain with the prince before his entire court he had no choice but to keep his word. So the prince and the beautiful maiden set off, and before long the fox joined them. Then the fox said to the prince: “Until the golden horse is yours your princess and your father’s kingdom will not be safe.”
“But how can I get it without giving up my beloved?” asked the prince.
“Bring the princess to the king that sent you to the golden castle. There will be great rejoicing, and they will gladly give you the horse. Then you must mount the horse right away and shake hands with everyone and say goodbye. Leave the princess’s hand for last, and when you shake her hand, clasp it and swing her up onto the horse with you and gallop away. The golden horse runs so fast that no one will be able to catch you.”
This time the prince followed the fox’s instructions exactly, and before long he was riding on the golden horse with the princess riding behind him, and the fox trotting along beside. “Now I’ll help you get the golden bird.” Said the fox. “Leave the princess with me and bring the golden horse to the king who asked you for it. But tell them you will not dismount until they bring you the golden bird. And when you have it in your hands you must race away and come back to us.” And again, the prince followed the fox’s instructions, and before long he stood before the fox and the maiden on the golden horse with the golden saddle, and the golden bird in its golden cage!
“Now, prince,” said the fox. “I have given you everything, you must give me my reward. When we come to the forest, you must shoot me in the heart and cut off my head and feet.”
“But you are my dearest friend! I can’t kill you, dear fox!”
“Then I must leave you. But I will give you one last piece of advice: Don’t buy flesh that’s bound for the gallows, and don’t sit on the edge of a well.” And saying this, the fox ran off into the forest.
“What a strange animal!” Said the prince to his maiden. “What does that even mean- “flesh bound for the gallows?” The two continued on their way back towards the prince’s kingdom. Eventually they passed through a village where a great commotion was happening. They went closer and the prince saw his two brothers, standing before the gallows. They had squandered their wealth, wasted themselves in pursuing pleasure, and were about to be hanged for their many bad deeds. The prince asked the people if his brothers could be pardoned and the people said, “You can buy their freedom. But why waste your money on evil criminals? Why set them free?”
However, the prince purchased his brothers’ freedom, and he and the princess continued their journey with the two brothers following behind. After awhile they came to the place where all three brothers had met the fox. A well stood there in a shady place inside the wood, and the eldest brother said, “Let’s rest here awhile, brother, so we can thank you properly for saving us before we return home.” The youngest prince was glad to have his eldest brother address him with so much respect, and he completely forgot the fox’s advice and sat down, when his brother invited him, on the edge of the well. But as soon as he did his brothers pushed him so he fell backwards into the well, and took the maiden, the horse, and the bird back home to their father.
When they arrived they told their father they had never met with their younger brother, and made up a story about how they found the maiden, the horse, and the golden bird. There was great rejoicing at their victorious return, but the horse refused to eat, the bird hung its head and would not sing, and the maiden sat in silence and wept.
The youngest brother had managed to survive, but was stuck in the well for several days until he saw his friend the fox looking down at him from the top of the well. The fox let down it’s tail and pulled the prince up. “You’re not out of danger yet. If you’re brothers see you they will surely have you killed.” So along the way home the prince exchanged his clothes with a poor man, and by this means he managed to steal into the castle, and the great thrown room. The beautiful maiden was supposed to marry the eldest brother that very day. The king had been watching her curiously and concernedly from the time she arrived. In all that time she had never uttered a word and never stopped crying. And then all of a sudden, he looked down into the courtyard and saw the golden horse begin to eat, and looked over to the window and saw the golden bird lift its head and begin to sing. And when he looked back at the maiden she had stopped crying and had begun to smile.
Then the king approached her and said, “Maiden, why have you been crying all this time. And why haven’t you spoken a word? And why now are you suddenly smiling?” The maiden replied, “I am crying because the two elder princes have killed the youngest prince, who was my true bridegroom. I haven’t spoken a word because they threatened to kill me if I revealed what they had done. And I am smiling now because even though it can’t be true, I feel that my true bridegroom has returned and is here with me.” Then the king ordered everyone in the thrown room to gather around him, and the princess recognized the prince despite his disguise and embraced him. Then the two eldest brothers were seized and executed, and the youngest married the beautiful princess and became his father’s heir.
The day of their wedding, although the bride glowed with happiness, at one moment the prince noticed her shed a tear. When he asked her about it, she said that she wished her brother might share her happiness, but he had disappeared long ago and she was missing him.
The next day the prince went back to the well to see if he could find his friend the fox. The fox was there and said to the prince, “Now you have everything you desired, but my imprisonment continues, even though it’s in your power to free me.” Then the prince felt he could no longer deny his friend’s request, as horrible as it seemed. He drew out his bough and shot the fox in the heart, and drew his knife and cut off it’s head and it’s paws, and no sooner was it done than a young man clawed his way out of the fox’s skin. It was none other than the beautiful maiden’s brother, finally released from a magic spell. And so they returned together to the castle, and now their happiness was complete.
The Golden Bird, by Brothers Grimm
(This abbreviated version by Lee.)
Lee Scher facilitates a monthly fairytale study group in Portland, OR. For more info visit: http://www.meetup.com/fairytale-study-group or email: email@example.com. For more info on Lee’s psychotherapy practice please visit: http://www.goldenkeypsychotherapy.com
LONG AGO, a young knight named Parsifal was traveling through a great forest when he fell into a daydream; and so his horse was left to go wherever it cared to take them. As the sun was setting, Parsifal found himself looking down upon a beautiful lake surrounded on all sides by snow-capped mountains. A small boat floated close to one shore, and in it sat a fisherman. Parsifal went down to the lake and called out, “Friend, what valley is this? Is there any place nearby where a stranger might pass the night?”
The fisherman, who seemed to be stooped over with pain, answered, “This place is called Wild Mountain. You will find a warm welcome in that castle yonder. When you reach the drawbridge just tell them the fisherman sent you.” Parsifal hadn’t seen any buildings at all on his way down into the valley, but when he turned around there stood a great fortress towering up into the sky.
He made his way up to the drawbridge and called out, “The fisherman sent me,” and the bridge was immediately lowered. When he entered the courtyard pages took his horse, and led him to a room where his armor was removed, and he was bathed and dressed in a magnificent robe. After he had rested awhile a group of knights invited him into a tremendous hall, filled with nobles. Everyone was splendidly dressed, but they stood together solemnly, speaking in whispers.
On a podium at the far end of the hall sat the king, and Parsifal was astonished when he realized it was the same fisherman he’d spoken to just a few hours before. The king invited Parsifal to sit down beside him in the place of honor. Parsifal noticed again how intensely the man seemed to be suffering. He wanted to ask the king what was ailing him; but Parsifal’s mentor had taught him that to maintain his dignity a knight should consider every word he spoke with care, and refrain from asking questions in the presence of a king.
Just then the hallway doors opened, and servants entered and set up tables for the king and all his guests. Each table was set with silver plates, goblets and cutlery, and a basin was brought to the king, who washed his hands and invited Parsifal to do the same. Next, a page entered the hall carrying a lance, the tip of which was covered in blood. He carried it solemnly to each corner of the room, and as he made his way a few of the nobles began to weep.
Then a beautiful princess entered carrying before her a golden grail. As soon as she had brought the grail into the hall all the wounds and aches Parsifal had sustained along his journey suddenly left his body. Parsifal felt a sense of awe, longing and at the same time a complete fulfillment and peace he’d never experienced before. He felt that he had come to the end of all searching and striving, that he could feel the very presence of God. When the grail had been set down before the king the nobles held up their empty goblets, and instantly they were filled with wine. And when they held out their plates they overflowed with every kind of wonderful food.
But when Parsifal turned towards the king he saw that the king’s face and body were still wracked with pain. He longed to ask the king what pained him so, but again he kept his peace. Still, he wondered, how can a man with such a treasure before him remain so full of suffering?
A little while later the king stood up, and held out a beautiful sword to Parsifal saying, “When I was an able man I carried this sword into battle. Please take it. It will serve you well.” Parsifal stood up, and every face in the hall was turned to him. He wondered at the meaning of everything he had seen, but for the third time he remembered his mentors words and kept his peace, accepting the sword silently with a dignified bow. Before he knew it, the grail had been taken away, the tables were cleared and the king was wishing him good night.
When Parsifal awoke the next morning the castle was deathly quiet. His clothes and armor had been laid out for him, but not a single servant knocked on his door, and the whole castle seemed completely abandoned. He assumed everyone must have rushed away to deal with some crisis- so he put on his armor, rushed out to his horse and galloped out over the drawbridge, hoping he could catch up with the king and offer help. But he had barely crossed the bridge when it was yanked up behind him. Then a voice from behind him cried out, “Have you no feeling at all? By your own heartlessness you have cursed yourself, and everyone who comes near you!”
Parsifal cried back, “What do you mean? What have I done?” But there was no answer. He followed the trail of hoof prints that left the castle but they disappeared in the forest, and when Parsifal tried to find his way back he could not find any trace of Wild Mountain.
Parsifal didn’t understand what sin he had committed, but still he felt crushed under a great burden of shame. He knew what the accusing voice had cried out was true, that his soul was cursed and he could not go home without corrupting his beloved wife and all his subjects. So instead he roamed the world, seeking to find any trace of Wild Mountain or for some quest that might mend the curse and restore his honor. For seven years he wandered, fruitlessly, until his suffering and his despair were so intense he began to wish for death.
Then one late December evening he came upon a family of pilgrims- a gray-bearded man, and his wife and two daughters- all walking barefoot along the road. The gray-bearded man said to Parsifal, “Knight, why do you not observe this holy season? Why do you ride armed, when you should walk barefoot?” Parsifal answered, “There was a time I pledged my service to God. But God has cursed me. I do not look to Him for help.”
“You should come along with us,” the pilgrim said. “A saintly hermit lives not far from here. Maybe she can find a balm for your suffering.” Parsifal refused the pilgrim’s offer fearing to spread the curse to them. But as he continued on his way he wondered if there might still be any help for him. Then he looked forward into the darkness and cried out, “God, if you can help me, please help me now.” And he threw down his horse’s reigns and wept.
Soon afterwards he fell asleep, exhausted, in the saddle and when he awoke his horse was standing before the mouth of a cave. The old woman who lived there came out and invited Parsifal inside. Her face was so open and kind Parsifal soon found himself telling her about his suffering. He told her how he had become a knight hoping to serve God, and instead had ended up cursing himself, and now for several years had been carrying a burden of guilt he didn’t understand. He told the old woman he was seeking the Holy Grail, and couldn’t go home until he found it. And yet his search seemed hopeless.
The old woman said,
You are right. It is useless to seek the Grail. No man can serve God’s will by chasing his own. The fisher king was given the Grail to protect as his birthright. But tried to serve the Grail with ambitious pride and now he and his whole kingdom are strangled between life and death. When he was a young man a heathen king approached Wild Mountain, determined to take the Grail. When the king rode out to meet him, he was full of pride and and the passion for battle. He succeeded in killing the heathen, but not before the heathen had buried his lance deep in the fisher king’s thigh.
Everyone thought the fisher king would die, but the royal physician was able to remove the tip, and ever since then the Grail has kept him alive. Even so, his wound has become infected, and does not heal. And so his insides rot, and all of Wild Mountain suffers with him. Children die before they are born, the animals and crops are full of disease and the whole kingdom is caught between life and death. The only relief the king has found is in fishing, which lessens his pain for a time.
It was said that one day a knight would come to Wild Mountain, and all he had to do is ask the king a question, and the king would soon be healed. But no one could prompt the knight to ask it, and if he did not, his power to heal would fail, and from that day he would share the kingdom’s wound. And then one day a knight did come to Wild Mountain, and all the wonders of the Grail were revealed to him, and he sat beside the suffering king and said nothing.”
Parsifal said, “I was the knight who came to Wild Mountain, and stood in the presence of the Grail; who witnessed the king’s suffering, and stayed like a stone.” And he wept.
“Do not despair,” said the old woman. “Though every human voice may curse you and every human heart may harden itself against you, God will not abandon you. Admit your sin to Him, and place yourself in His hands.”
When Parsifal left the old woman he felt a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He still did not know the way to Wild Mountain, but he trusted that God’s hand would lead him. Soon after he met with another knight on the road. His strange vestments showed that he was a foreigner- a heathen. The knight challenged Parsifal to joust, and Parsifal accepted, not out of pride, but because it felt like God’s will. In the first clash of their lances both men were thrown from their horses. So they drew their swords and fought, and fought, until both men were struggling just to lift them. Finally, Parsifal’s sword (the one the fisher king had given him) broke, and the heathen knight overcame him and pressed his sword tip into Parsifal’s throat.
But then he lowered the blade and said, “It would profit me nothing to kill a knight like you. Show me your face, and tell me your name.” When they had removed their helmets Parsifal saw that the man’s skin was brown. And when the heathen knight spoke his family name it was the same as Parsifal’s, and they realized they were brothers who shared the same father. Both sought the Grail, and so they decided to seek it together.
Since Parsifal had come and gone the fisher king’s suffering had only grown more intense. He had begun to beg his queen to keep the Grail away so he might die. But she still held out hope that some help might come. So night after night she carried the Grail to the king’s bedside as he writhed in terrible agony.
Then one morning, when the knights of Wild Mountain rode out to patrol their kingdom, they came upon two knights in black armor. One of the two knights said, “The fisher king sent for me,” and so they were escorted back to the castle. When they arrived they requested to be brought before the king. The queen ordered that their request be granted, and so they were led into the king’s bedroom. Then Parsifal removed his helmet and knelt down beside the king. The king was writhing in agony, and Parsifal’s eyes filled with tears, and he said, “My Liege, can’t I do anything to help you?” And as soon as he asked this, the wound began to heal.
The fisher king was overjoyed, and he announced that he wanted to spend the rest of his days on the water fishing. Over time he became famous for his wisdom, and people came from all over the world to ask him questions. Parsifal became the king of Wild Mountain, and the new protector of the Grail. He sent for his wife, and when she came she brought with her twin sons, who she had given birth to just when Parsifal was first visiting Wild Mountain. And so Parsifal lived very joyfully with his wife, his children, and his brother; and all the people of Wild Mountain shared in their joy.
Based on The Tale of Perceval, by Chretien de Troyes (written between 1135-1190)
This version © Lee Scher, 2013, all rights reserved
Lee Scher facilitates a monthly fairytale study group in Portland, OR. For more info visit: http://www.meetup.com/fairytale-study-group or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info on Lee’s psychotherapy practice please visit: http://www.goldenkeypsychotherapy.com
Fool/Simpleton (The youngest son)
In Tarot often depicted walking off the edge of a cliff, stepping out into space. Childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world. Not limited by reason, open to intuition, synchronicity and ordinary magic. His number is zero, which encapsulates the great potential of an open, “beginner’s mind.” His openness draws new experiences and help from the unconscious/divine.
A symbol of value, eternity, perfection. Both workable and hard to destroy. Associated with royalty and divine principles: Tao, “the golden mean,” “the golden rule.” Also the refinement of the psyche/consciousness, self-purification, the wisdom of aging. The process of alchemy (turning lead into gold) was symbolic of the transition of the soul from ego-orientation to Self (higher consciousness).
a goal, a prize to win. Knowledge (of good and evil), Sexual desire, Initiation, expulsion from innocence/childhood. Golden Apple- grants immortality; allows one to cross from earth to eternal realms.
Standing Guard and Falling Asleep
Day is the time of ego, reason and intellect (sun), work and practical activities, earthly concerns. Night is the time of darkness/mystery, dreaming, celebration, lovers, feeling and intuition (moon). The youngest is a fool because his strength is with feeling, intuition, the unseen world. This is why he is able to stay awake and spot the bird while his brothers fail. His brothers are not open to anything that defies reason, and therefore unconscious (asleep) when it comes to feeling, intuition and the bird, which arises from outside their conventional reality.
Like apple, symbolizes transcendence and ability to travel between realms (The golden horse echoes this theme.) Birds walk on earth, swim in water, soar into the sky. Messenger between heaven and earth.
The power of the subtle: the smallest weight that can tip the scale. Sets the protagonists journey in motion. Also Fate: in choosing a path, people would toss a feather in the air and follow where the wind took it, acknowledging the role of larger unseen forces in shaping their lives.
Shape shifter, good at deception, trickery, skillful means. Can show up in tales as a benefactor- Guide/Teacher/Messenger from the Self or as a fatal trickster (see Mr. Fox). Foxes are graceful, playful, adaptable, wiley, cunning, physically alert and responsive, quick-thinking, Known as a skillful thieves.
As a “talking animal” the fox represents animal or instinctual nature…the wisdom of the body and intuition. The fool, who is not bound by reason, is open to this intuitive guidance. The fox in this story is a “psychopomp.”
Sometimes a wise old woman or man, sometimes a helpful animal. Soul guide, guide through the underworld, arbiter of transformation, walker between worlds, facilitates health/growth. (Midwives, shamans, therapists, teachers, all sometimes carry this archetype.)
Another image of the power of what’s subtle or invisible. (From a “common sense” point of view, A man can’t ride on a foxes tail! Message: honoring wisdom from unconscious/divine dimension gets us where we’re going much faster, helps us overcome obstacles.
Major theme, protagonist is a thief, extracts the value/power from several kingdoms without getting caught. Is shameless in appropriating value, wins through subtlety, skillful at avoiding detection and escaping authority. Probably points to attributes ego must practice to negotiate dog eat dog world of inner psyche and outer world to eventually become an effective servant to Self.
strength and flexibility. associated with warmth, generosity, co-operation and idealism. seeks ways to grow and expand. Made from organic material. A cage encloses, holds, contains. Like a bird, when working with psychic energy we need a way to hold it, contain it.
power, authority, used in soldiers uniforms to ward off blows, protection and bondage. Made from organic material, as opposed to gold, which is made from metal (divine? archetypal?) Saddle- also could be an image for relating with psychic energy, this one more about riding then containing.
Disobeying the foxes instructions
In both cases, the hero chooses to relate with energy/numinousity in a way which causes it to announce itself instead of staying quiet/ secret. This causes trouble but also changes the goal and furthers his quest. By causing the bird to shriek, and the horse to whinnie, the protagonist (ego) is forced to relate with each king (ruling principle) which was guarding it. Each time the king assigns the protagonist a new quest, which he eventually appropriates as his own.
Characterized by a sense of divine power or supernatural presence. The golden bird, golden horse and beautiful maiden each have this quality.
Natural power that has been harnessed/mastered. In this case, used to outrun, escape destructive forces in the psyche. Image of horse also contrasts tameness with wildness. Ego must both harness wild energy and free itself from psychic and external forces that seek to subjugate it to their will.
goal, achievement, a protected center of strength/authority/power. Can offer sanctuary/protection or confinement. Like cage or prison. In the psyche, could be a complex, a powerful archetype, any image, or any group of ideas which hold energy and determines how it is expressed.
Ruling principle; may be of a culture or a part of the individual psyche. Throughout story protagonist is in conflict with these authorities which try to subordinate him to their will.
The Kings (ruling principles) repeatedly threaten the protagonist with death if he doesn’t subject himself to their will. Protagonist reorients to his own quest with help from the fox (an emissary of the Self). Ego needs to contend with all kinds of powerful, potentially overwhelming forces in the inner and the external worlds.
“sat down and cried”
The fox appears in moments when the protagonist (ego/conscious will) has failed and the task before him seems overwhelming and impossible. This is often the only time we are open to guidance from guidance from the Self.
The young/new feminine principle full of potential. The role of the feminine in the individuation process of a male psyche is not highlighted in this story but it’s central importance is still made clear.
Saying goodbye to parents
The maiden has to let go of old relationship with parent’s to become a true partner. She can’t fulfill her potential as a bride until you successfully steal her away. What might this represent in the individual psyche?
Kings or princesses often set impossible tasks for protagonist to accomplish before s/he can claim partner. In this case, literally move a mountain, blocking view from the king’s window. Dominion of the invisible/divine dimension over ordinary world is demonstrated when the fox makes a whole mountain disappear.
Fox joins them
When protagonist wins the beautiful maiden (ego comes into relationship with anima?) the fox shows up and travels with them without needing a major crisis as in the past. May indicate a maturing of ego- through feeling (the feminine) ego has formed a stronger relationship with Self.
Protagonist uses trickery to get the golden horse and bird, the fox tells him how. What kind of psychic situation might this point at? The soul guide uses any means necessary. Not bound by authority of ethical systems, follows no hero’s code of “right and wrong.” Very un-American. Brothers deceive hero, and to overcome them, he must also use subtlety and deception.
Don’t buy flesh that’s bound for the gallows, don’t sit on the edge of a well.
Psychic principles wrestle to claim power and wealth (energy). It’s a dog eat dog world. Survival of the fittest is as true in the psyche as in the external world. If you aren’t using it, or can be conned out of it, I’ll claim it as mine. Very American. A fool and his wealth are soon parted. A certain level of canny/cunningness are necessary for psychic growth.
The two brothers
If the protagonist is the ego, those elder brothers might be any complex in the psyche that might dominate or overwhelm the ego. In this case they squander psychic energy and do harm. The whole psyche cries out for their death. The protagonist suffers when he steps in to prevent their execution. The message is clear: Some complexes/ elements in the psyche need to die. Until they die, they pose a serious threat. Another image of death and recycling.
Princess smiles, horse eats, bird sings
The princess, horse and bird are all served by their relationship to the ego/protagonist. They know he is their true psychic partner. He is the one who can best facilitate them fulfilling their potential.
image of depths of psyche, source, you could fall in, or draw something out.
Fox is enchanted, has been appearing in one form while it’s true nature remains hidden. Fox feels imprisoned that form, asks to be killed so it can reveal its true nature. Repeats major theme is necessity of death and recycling in the psyche. Story ends with a psychic element saying please kill me, shoot an arrow in my heart and chop off my hands and feet. Reminicent of two parables from the Buddhist tradition about letting go of old forms once they have served their purpose:
- “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”
- “Once you’ve crossed the river, don’t carry the boat on your back.”
It seems that the process of psychic/spiritual growth requires us to be fluid, let go of attachment to forms/appearances, even ethical norms.
Messages: What the story says about spiritual growth/ the development of the psyche
1. The goal of growth is fluid…we should be prepared for it to be continually transforming. The numinous focus of the story starts out as the golden apple, becomes golden bird, then golden horse, then beautiful maiden. In the end, prince discovers the princess’s brother, someone he didn’t even know he was searching for.
2. Psychic elements only “exist” in order to perform functions. For example, the ego is a collection of functions. Psychic elements which are harmful, or stand in the way of growth need to die, be recycled. (Remember the matrix: The evil agent Smith is a element in the Matrix which refuses to die. The Brothers demonstrate how these elements must be treated very cautiously by the ego.)
3. Subtlety and trickery are necessary when the psychic elements who have seized power are not functioning in accord with individuation process. At that point ego must steal in and appropriate the value/psychic energy without being captured… or at least eventually escaping.
4. Beware of external rules, codes, ethics. A healthy ego does not give in to external authorities, but acts in accord with inner wisdom, without regard to how their behavior appears from the outside.
5. Following common sense does not facilitate spiritual growth. You must be open to the invisible world, instinct, inner/divine guidance. This means you must give up attachment to appearances and “conventional reality.”
6. In order to accomplish challenging tasks, sometimes the ego must admit its powerlessness and ask for guidance from the unconscious. It is up to the ego to decide what guidance to listen to and what to ignore.
“a core pattern of emotions, memories, perceptions, and wishes…organized around a common theme.” (Schultz, D. & Schultz, S., 2009), from Wikipedia Complexes can end up organizing or influencing how psychic energy expresses itself.
A ruling principle is similar to a complex in that it’s a collection of ideas, values, perceptions which can dictate where your energy goes. You could be under the sway of a ruling principle which doesn’t even belong to your personal psyche. For example, if you gave in to the authority of a religious, ethical or family system.
Lee Scher facilitates a monthly fairytale study group in Portland, OR. For more info visit:http://www.meetup.com/fairytale-study-group or email: email@example.com. For more info on Lee’s psychotherapy practice please visit: http://www.goldenkeypsychotherapy.com