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Author Topic: Fairy tales and spirituality  (Read 4020 times)

catja6

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Fairy tales and spirituality
« on: August 17, 2011, 06:46:14 pm »
Are there any fairy tales that have spiritual or symbolic significance to you?  Which stories, and why?  Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?

(For the purposes of this discussion, "fairy tale" refers to "folk narratives that take place in a magical universe, where, say, no one is surprised when frogs talk or princes turn into beasts" --  in other words, the stories in collections like by the Grimms, Perrault, Afanas'ev, Calvino, etc.)

I'll start.  One of my favorite stories ever ever ever is the Grimms' "Fitcher's Bird."  It's a Bluebeard variant, but unlike Perrault's, where the moral is that "female curiosity is a SIN on par with SERIAL MURDER," "FB" celebrates the heroine's ingenuity at tricking the evil wizard and raising her sisters from the dead (!).  I love this story so much:  it's about a tricky, clever girl who undermines violent patriarchal authority, and turns his own magic powers against him -- she siphons off his power in order to give life, not death. She then disguises herself as a bird and escapes under her own power, in this amazing scene where she sings a song about how the bride (herself) is supposedly in the wizard's home doing all those proper housekeeping things, but really, she's fleeing and setting up his destruction.  Those ideas about trickery and disguise, breaking the traps that have been set for you, and helping your sisters -- and all the freedom this gives you -- wormed their way into my consciousness at a very young age; it's why I love those deities of space, of movement, of trickery and disguise and all the ways words can be used and manipulated, of mockery and laughter and gaming the system.  I'm a Hermes girl and a witch, and the heroine of this story is my sister under the skin -- and ON my skin, since I got a tattoo of her in her bird disguise.

Here's the story:
http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm046.html

Nomad of Nowhere

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2011, 07:53:55 pm »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Are there any fairy tales that have spiritual or symbolic significance to you?  Which stories, and why?  Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?

This thread has my name all over it. As you probably remember me saying, I think there are a number of Slavic fairy tales which have meaningful pagan elements. There is one class of story which I see as a sort of moral lesson. In these tales, an insatiably thirsty "zmey" or many-headed dragon drinks so much that it explodes. Two examples of this are the Polish tale of the Wawel Dragon, and the Russian tale of Nikita the Tanner. It fits very well with depictions of many headed dragons (halas or lamias) in Bulgarian folklore, which drink up all the water and cause drought. In other stories, the creature may steal cattle or golden apples, but in all cases, I see it as a symbol of avarice and insatiable appetite.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2011, 07:55:24 pm by Nomad of Nowhere »

Marilyn/Absentminded

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2011, 08:55:53 pm »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?

 

I used to love rescue/theft tales.  I wouldn't know where to find them online - they were mostly told to me by relatives who tended to combine different tales and cultures and tell us the blended versions.  The various animals who stole fire, the occasional human or god who invented it, the trickeries and thefts engaged in by Old Man (although I have since learned that the versions I heard were somewhat bowdlerized)

The only one I'm fairly sure was unaltered was about the woman who rescued the North Wind's kidnapped sun.  She had adventures and hardships and riddles to solve, but she had to do it to prevent the North Wind's rage from destroying her tribe.  When she finally found him she had to depend on Eagle, who owed her a favour, to rescue them both.  She had to hold on to Eagle with her arms and to the son (who was a giant icicle) with her legs.  In standard fashion, the tale ends with 'and that's why women have cold feet'.

In fact, I think that maybe all the 'that's why' stories might have been unaltered.  The one that ends 'that's why baby animals have different coats than their parents' is a bit gruesome - there are certain markings required to make a coat of sickness and old man found painting them on the tiny skins (it had to be made of baby animals) too much work so he instructed that from that day forward the babies be born with certain marks or colours that would only change when they were too old to be babies.  Old man was kind of an anti role model.:)

I loved the that's why stories - it gave me the habit of coming up with (usually ridiculous) chains of events to explain just about anything I needed an explanation for.  My sisters and I have a whole chain of reasoning that ends with 'locusts shed because frogs don't', invented to figure out an answer in a trivia game.  Our reasoning was ..... odd, but we got the question right.

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Fier

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2011, 08:57:28 pm »
Quote from: catja6;13601
One of my favorite stories ever ever ever is the Grimms' "Fitcher's Bird."  


I really enjoyed reading your take on the "Fitcher's Bird". I have read the story, but the violence of the tale overshadowed the acts of heroics for me. You are correct that she was cunning, smart, and faced and solved all of the problems in front of her.

The "Goose Girl" has almost a complete opposite attitude. She is a complete doormat who allows herself to be bullied and stolen from. The story focuses heavily on her, though it seems one can learn more from the maid's fate.

I have Grimm's collection nearby. I'll have to do some reading and hopefully come back to your original question.

AthenaiiseSofia

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2011, 09:16:44 pm »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Are there any fairy tales that have spiritual or symbolic significance to you?  Which stories, and why?  Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?

 
Does Alice in Wonderland count?
I am so obsessed. I've read both the originals of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I have watched countless movies, read tons of spin-offs and collect inspired art. I love how Alice is just this innocent little girl, tossed in a mad world of nonsense and riddles. I feel like Alice all the time in this day and age. In fact, my friends back home called me Alice more than my real name. =) I can't really explain why her story is so significant to me. It just calls me. =)
"Go then and make of the world something beautiful, set up a light in the darkness." - from Awakening Osiris by Normandi Ellis

Fier

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2011, 10:05:41 pm »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Are there any fairy tales that have spiritual or symbolic significance to you?

 
I remembered a story from childhood I really loved: Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters.

It contains the simple message that good deeds bring about reward while selfishness leaves one empty-handed. As a child I really loved the gorgeous illustrations and the voice of the woman who read it (on Reading Rainbow, I never owned the book, but I think I might soon....). As a FlameKeeper it reminds me to put forth a little extra effort into going outside myself and helping others with no thought of reward. An obvious virtue I realize, but one that as a naturally lazy and selfish person, I can use regular reminding of.

Lokabrenna

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2011, 11:10:46 pm »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Are there any fairy tales that have spiritual or symbolic significance to you?  Which stories, and why?  Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?


My favourite story growing up was "The Golden Bird" because there's a fox in the story who is genuinely helpful--and not, say, out to play tricks or act maliciously towards the protagonist. I've always felt a sort of connection with foxes (everyone else I know likes wolves). Ironically, when I became interested in totemism I didn't consider Fox (specifically Red Fox, actually) to be a totem animal/power animal/[insert preferred term here] in part because I was (and still am) dolphin-crazy and busy joining the legions of New Agers who claim Dolphin as their power animal.

Another story that I really liked was "The Boy of Good Fortune and the Devil's Golden Hairs" which I actually told to my classmates in a storytelling class while I was studying for my MLIS. It took me twenty minutes but it was so worth it to share that story. I discovered "Godfather Death" in that year, too, and I LOVE the explanation the man gives for making Death his son's godfather:

Quote
"Thou art the right one, thou takest the rich as well as the poor, without distinction; thou shalt be godfather."


In contrast, the man claims that God gives to the rich and neglects the poor, and the Devil is...well, the Devil. :D

treekisser

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2011, 06:18:26 am »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Are there any fairy tales that have spiritual or symbolic significance to you?  Which stories, and why?  Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?
[/url]

 
Shapeshifting. Transformations. It's part of my fascination for magical happenings in general, but there's an added element of freedom involved (forms are fluid!).

Helping strangers who then help you, like in the first part of the Golden Goose: the youngest brother is the only one to give some old guy food and drink, and so the old guy leads him to a tree with a golden goose inside it. This still pops up at the back of my mind whenever I help or don't help a stranger in real life.

Andersen's 'The Girl Who Trod On a Loaf' has stayed with me, about a vain girl who's carrying a loaf for her parents but uses it to avoid treading in mud instead, and gets sucked into hell. It's become my benchmark for pride and arrogance. I think the impact of that story is particularly strong because it hits some cultural hot buttons: I grew up in an environment where there are taboos surrounding feet (it's disrespectful to point your feet to someone older than you; and you don't step over other people or food, let alone ON food), and filial piety is important.

Not so important to me now, but as a kid I was quite shaken by two cautionary Malay tales about bad children. The first one is very famous: the mother gives her kids some fish, tells them to leave a particular bit for her, then goes to forage. When she gets back she finds her kids ate it all, so she runs away. The kids run after her but she flees into a cave and prays for the earth to swallow her; a huge rock rolls in front of the cave mouth and the kids never see their mother again.

The second one I'm a little hazier about, but I think in the end, to please his cruel fiancee the son cuts his mother's heart out and puts it in a box. On his way back he trips and a voice from the box says, 'Are you all right, son?'

And finally, not a fairytale but Aesop's fable about the North Wind and the Sun has stuck with me. I read it as bluster and force not achieving anything.

dragonfaerie

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2011, 05:30:52 am »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Are there any fairy tales that have spiritual or symbolic significance to you?  Which stories, and why?  Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?

 
I really enjoy re-told Fairy Tales, myself, though really as enjoyment over spiritual lesson. Mercedes Lackey has a series of several re-told tales in her Tales of the 500 kingdoms series that are very nice. I also enjoy the anthos put out by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

For me, it's all about seeing the old tropes with a new spin. Maybe the princess rescues the prince. Maybe good doesn't triumph over evil. Re-told tales remind me that while the basic themes of humanity will go on forever, we have the power to re-write how they are expressed. Everything can be fluid, can be re-expressed to suit a new age of thinking.

Karen

Jujulinda

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2011, 10:38:22 am »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Are there any fairy tales that have spiritual or symbolic significance to you?  Which stories, and why?  Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?

 
I haven't read a fairy-tale in a while. But I have loads of them on my shelves. That's what I grew up reading. My grandma got me a copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales and also an illustrated cartoon version. The violence was still there, just a tad bit not as graphic. It was meant for kids, so yeah.

Does Peter Pan count? I see it as a fairy-tale. I am in love with Peter Pan. I'm not joking. I've probably read and/or watched every retelling or re-imagining there is and loved them all. I'm honestly terrible with story titles but there was a story with some young women and they were in the woods. Something was coming after them and they had to go through riddles and one of them had to do with a bucket of water. I don't know what it's called though....

Tana

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2011, 11:46:32 am »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Are there any fairy tales that have spiritual or symbolic significance to you?  Which stories, and why?  Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?


Catja, would you please get out of my head?
Seriously, there is no room in there for you. ;)

I just had this thought the other week, to look more into the fairy tales and trying to find good versions of them before they were cleaned and sanatized. And definitely before Disney got his fingers on them.

So, Grimm it is for now, yes.
Besides that I plan to trace the old power animals in the tales, who have even special names mostly combined with a 'Gevatter' = godfather, relative, there are a ton of interesting themes in them.

'Frau Holle' is my all time favorite, not because of the lazy girl vs. busy girl message, but because it doesn't get more underworldly than this.

You have to jump into a well to come out on the other side?
The trees do speak?
Frau Holle makes the weather by shaking her feather beds?

Come on, this is so not disguised, it jumps straight at you. :D:

Tho' I do see some interesting things in the 'Fitcher's Bird' too.
Can't remember this tale, I guess my grandparents didn't want to read it to me, because it's really bloody. Which is true for most fairy tales, bloody and cruel. ;)
\'You had to repay, good or bad. There was more than one type of obligation.
That’s what people never really understood.….Things had to balance.
You couldn’t set out to be a good witch or a bad witch. It never worked out for long.
All you could try to be was a witch, as hard as you could.\'
Terry Pratchett \'Lords and Ladies\'

Confuzzled and proud. :p

Vella Malachite

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2011, 01:55:01 am »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Are there any fairy tales that have spiritual or symbolic significance to you?  Which stories, and why?  Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?

 
Hmm.  Interesting.  I haven't really thought about it before.  My favourite stories at the moment tend to be the Irish Mythic Cycle (although I do really enjoy the Ulster Cycle, too), because they describe a society and value system which really interests me.
That's all I can think of at the moment.
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HeartShadow

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2011, 09:08:11 am »
Quote from: catja6;13601


 
I'm not quite sure it qualifies, but I'm going to go with the Robin Hood stories.  The entire gamut of them, from cheesy to bawling.

I find something incredible about the idea of turning one's back on the law to do what needs to be done, and stepping outside one's birth to be someone that's needed.

Though, oddly, I'm always irritated in the same stories that they're hoping to be saved by King Richard the Lionhearted.  he's the idiot that ran off and left the kingdom to flounder!  If he hadn't done all that, Prince John wouldn't've been such a prick and they wouldn't've had the Magna Carta!

I don't know why, but that part also resonates.  That sooner or later excess is BAD.

Stardancer

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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2011, 02:36:59 pm »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Are there any fairy tales that have spiritual or symbolic significance to you?  Which stories, and why?  Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?

 
I have a thing for the folktales about Huldra - a strong, gorgeous, independent woman with a cow's tail, who occasionally fell in love with a human, even discarded her tail to get married. But if he didn't treat her well? She picked up her (substantial) dowry and left back to the underworld. There are tails (sorry, tales :D:) of people meeting her even within the past century. There are old farms claiming to have started their wealth with Huldre-silver (i.e. her dowry brought from under the mountain and into the marriage).

And when I try to extend my senses to the forest - oh, yes, she's still alive and kicking out there somewhere...
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Re: Fairy tales and spirituality
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2011, 12:02:21 am »
Quote from: catja6;13601
Any particular characters, objects, or motifs in fairy tales that are important and meaningful for you?


I've been fascinated with shapechangers for as long as I can remember. A folk singer/storyteller performed at my elementary school once and had a song about a selkie, and they've had a bit of resonance/interest for me ever since.

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm046.html[/QUOTE]

Interesting...I had never read or heard about that story before.

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