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Fairy Realm - The Grimm Brothers

( Originally Published 1877 )



The Grimm Brothers

NOT Giant Grim who lives in the Pilgrim's Progress." Oh, no ! it is not that sort of person at all, about whom I am to tell you, but of two brothers, who were born in Germany, — one at Hanau and the other at Cassel, — only a little time before the outbreak of that French Revolution of which I have told you within the last few pages.

There were, indeed, five brothers Grimm of this family ; but we have concern now only with two, — Jacob and William, - who lived much together, and worked together with a tender friendliness that is rare, even between brothers. Their youth was full of hardships. The father died so early that they had only boyish remembrances of him ; and the good mother — of whom Jacob speaks most tenderly — was left with so small a property, that she could with difficulty give them the commonest schooling. But pluck and industry, with occasional aid from a good aunt, helped them through.

You must have heard of Cassel ; or, if you have ever been in Germany, the chances are that you have seen it, and the palace and gardens of Wilhelmshohe.

You will remember, perhaps, that Louis Napoleon was sent here after the victory of Sedan. There could hardly have been a more delightful prison -- where he had the liberty of the grounds, and a great throng of servants at his command. Every traveller delights in wandering under the embowered walks of the palace grounds. There are trees and flowers of all climates there ; there are statues and grottoes ; there is a fountain which, when in full blast, throws its water a hundred and ninety feet into the air — being the highest fountain in the world. Then there is a vast flight of stone steps, over which the water sometimes comes bounding down in torrents ; and these steps lead up to the colossal Hercules, whose figure crowns the hill, and looks all abroad upon gardens, and mountains, and town. But even better worth seeing than this, or than the muscums stocked with rare and curious things, is the view of the lovely valley, which you get from the public square of Cassel.

In the middle of this square stands the statue of the Elector Frederic II. Yet he was not a man who de-served a statue. He indeed brought together the beautiful objects in the museum, and adorned the town by lavish expenditure. This would have been very well, if the moneys had come to him fairly. But how do you suppose he won his vast wealth, — of which the traces are around one everywhere at Cassel ? Only by seliing the lives of his people.

You will remember, that in any story of the American Revolution which you may have read, there is frequent mention of the "Hessians " who fought for George of England.

Well, these " Hessians," or hired soldiers, were the subjects of the Elector Frederic II., of Hesse-Cassel, in Germany. They were snatched from their homes and families, — more than twenty-two thousand of them, between the years 1776 and 1784, — and compelled to fight over seas, the Elector receiving for their hire more than twelve millions of dollars ; and this was a sum in that day which would be equal to twenty millions now.

If the brothers Grimm had been of good age in the time of the Elector Frederic, they might have died, very likely, on the battlefields of New Jersey.

But why have I gone over seas to the shadows of Wilhelmshohe to find these Grimm brothers? Did they ever invent good stories ? No. Jacob, indeed, told the story of his life ; but there is no invention in it, — no fairies in it. He says, —

" My father was too early taken from us ; and I still see in spirit the black coffin, the bearers with the yellow lemons and the rosemary in their hands, pass slowly before the window.

"We children were brought up in the strict Calvinistic Church : it was rather the effect of practice and example, than of much talk. The Lutherans of our little town I used to regard as strangers, with whom I must not be thoroughly familiar ; and of the Catholics, —who were always to be recognized by their gayer dress, — I had a strange sort of dread. And I still feel as if I could not be thoroughly devout anywhere but in the church fitted up with the simplicity of the reformed faith ; so strongly does all belief attach to the first impressions of childhood.

" Love of country was deeply impressed upon our hearts, I know not how, for of that, too, little was said ; but there was nothing in our parents' lives or conversation which could suggest any other thought : we held our prince for the best in the world, our country for the most favored of all countries."

And yet this was only a very few years after that cruel sale of so many Hessian soldiers to be slaughtered in battle ; and Jacob Grimm was born in the very year 1785 — in which Frederic II. died.

But why do I talk of the Grimms ? Only because these two brothers, of whom I have spoken, gathered together, from old libraries, and peasants' talk, and search in every quarter — through years of inquiry — a most famous collection of old nursery tales, fairy legends, and household stories.

And you would be surprised, if you were to read them through (which I cannot advise), to find how many of our old English stories, which we always thought must have had their beginning in England, were known still earlier, and gave joy and terror to young people ages ago, —before ever the present English language was known. Thus " Goody Two Shoes," and "Cinderella," and " Jack the Giant-Killer," and "Little Red Riding Hood," have all had their run among the young folks of older countries—centuries before such books were printed by "good Mr. Newbery," in St. Paul's Churchyard, in London. There are elves and giants, and good spirits and bad spirits, and talking birds, and singing beasts, doing all manner of wondrous things, in these books of the Grimm brothers.

But you must not think, that, because the brothers Grimm were hunting after child's stories so toilsomely, they were men of no learning. They were, in fact, most wise and studious men, and are known among scholars as the authors of very valuable works relating to the German language, to which they devoted years of labor. A son of William — the younger brother — was asked one day, by a playmate, about his father's "fairy stories." The boy was indignant, and on getting home, said, " Surely, — surely, papa, you never can have writ-ten such rubbish. "

And is it rubbish ?

I suppose it must be said — begging young readers who still love Tom Thumb, and Bo-peep, to pardon me —that it is in one sense rubbish; just as you count dolls and Noah's arks rubbish, when you have outgrown such toys. But what if you could make a collection of all the best dolls and toys and games which have amused the children of six centuries past? Do you not think it would tell you a great deal you would like to know about the art, the skill, the material resources, and the home life of the people who lived so long ago?

And so these stories—however much nonsense may be in them — throw light upon the language and the domestic habits and the tastes of bygone nations ; and they show how some strange traditions have held place from age to age ; and how certain old stories of elves, or giants, or fairies, or goblins have kept life in them, when great schemes of philosophy that grew up beside them have died, and gone out of remembrance.

For such reasons these studious German brothers gave great care and labor to that collection of house-hold stories, into the pages of which you shall now take a peep with me.

The Gold Bird

A king had a garden where golden apples grew ; but, as they became ripe, one of them was stolen every night. The king was angry ; and the gardener set his sons to watch —turn by turn. The oldest, on his night, fell asleep ; the second also fell asleep when his turn came; but the youngest son found that a gold bird stole them, and he fired upon it with his bow (of course there were no shot-guns), and cut away a golden feather from the robber.

This was shown to the king, who found it so beautiful that he said he must have the bird.

Then the gardener sent his sons in search of the bird, turn by turn, again. The oldest set off, and met a fox ; and the fox said to him (for foxes could talk, and cats could paint pictures, in that time), " You are after the Golden Bird — I know : when you have walked all day you will come to two inns — one on either side of the road ; go into the poorest one, and you will fare best in .your search."

But the boy did not like the squat, small inn, where he had been advised to go, but, entering the other, had a jolly time there, and forgot the bird, and forgot his home, and all at home forgot him.

Then the second son set off ; and he met the fox, and did not like his talk, and shot an arrow at him. He chose the best-looking inn, and had a jolly time; and he forgot the bird, and the king forgot him, and he forgot his home.

Then the. youngest son went on the search, though the gardener was much afraid that harm would come to him too. This son met the fox, but he listened patiently to Renard ; and, as he was tired, the fox gave him a seat upon his tail (as you see in the picture, which was made from one of George Cruikshank's famous designs) ; and away he went, with his hair whistling in the wind.

Of course he minded the fox, and stopped at the humble-looking inn : he was not proud like the others. In the morning the fox met him, and told him he must go all day till he came to a castle, in the courts of which castle the soldiers would be all asleep ; he must not wake them, but go through the corridors of the castle till he came to a room where the gold bird would be found sitting in a wooden cage. " But," said the fox, "you will see a golden cage beside the wooden one : do not put the bird in that, or harm will come."

Then the young fellow sat again upon the fox's tail, and was whisked away till the morning was gone, and the noon, and the sun had set.

Then, sure enough, he saw the high walls of the castle ; and he found the soldiers snoring, and the gold bird in the wooden cage, and the stolen apples of gold beside it. But the golden cage that stood near by was very beautiful ; so he thought he would venture to put the golden bird in that ; the king and all the rest would like it so much better.

He had no sooner done so than the bird set up a scream that waked all the soldiers, and the soldiers waked the guard, and the guard waked the king ; and they took him prisoner, and would have killed him. But the master of the castle said, " If he can find' the golden horse—and bring it to me, he shall have his life, and have the golden bird."

So the young fellow set off the fox met him, and I dare say gave him a brushing for not having followed his advice; however, he took him upon his tail again in search of the golden horse. They went so fast, their hair whistled in the wind. But, for all that, the fox found breath to tell him he would find the horse in a certain castle, with the groom snoring beside him. He must not wake the groom, nor put the golden saddle on the horse, but an old farm saddle, and then dash away.

Well, he found the castle, and all the rest ; and he thought as the groom slept so soundly he might take the golden saddle — it was such a splendid one ! But no sooner had he put it on the golden horse than the groom woke, and the guard came, and the poor fellow was prisoner again.

However, the people of the castle told him if he could bring "the beautiful princess " there, he might have horse and saddle both.

So he went out to find "the princess ; " and the fox met him, and I dare say talked sharply to him ; but he set him on his tail again, and whisked him away— so fast their hair whistled in the wind —to another castle, where the princess lived. The fox told him he must snatch his chance to kiss the princess, and then she would follow him ; but he must not permit her to say adieu to her family. This was a strange order for the fox to give, but I suppose he knew.

Now, the young fellow was tender-hearted ; and when he had caught the kiss he could not say No, — when the poor princess asked to take leave of her father and mother.

Well, this upset every thing again ; the old king said he should not have his daughter until he dug away a great hill by the castle. This seemed impossible : however, the fox helped him —working at night, when the young fellow was sleeping off the fatigue of the day.

And after a certain time the hill was gone : the young gardener got his princess ; and by means of the princess (and the fox) he got the golden horse ; and by means of the horse (and the fox) he got the golden bird, and with them all rode off toward the country of the king of the golden apples.

But the lazy sons, who went to the wrong inn, and would not listen to the wise words of the fox, waylaid him, and beat him, and took his treasures, and threw him in the river.

But the fox gave him a lift with his bushy tail, and he came to shore once more, and went whisking away to the kingdom of the golden apples. And when his story was told (I dare say the fox made it up for him), the lazy, lying brothers were put out of the way, and the plodding, straightforward, humble brother got his princess, and his horse, and his bird ; and, having given the bird to the king, he had the princess for his own, and lived very charmingly with her. He did not forget his good friend the fox, whom he met one day in the wood shortly after ; and the fox entreated him to cut off his (the fox's) head and tail.

He hesitated a long while ; but, after talking it over with the princess, he did as the fox desired. And what do you suppose happened then ? Why, the fox changed into a man — tall and comely, and in a royal purple suit ; and he turned out to be an own brother of the princess, who had been lost many years before.

I suppose he lived with the married pair, and used to talk with them of the old days when he was a fox, — just as retired merchants talk of the old days when they were " in trade."

More Queer Beasts and People

I cannot tell you of one-half the queer things told in these books of old German tales, so I must skip about from page to page. In one, for instance, I catch sight of a fox tied by his fore-paws to the branches of two trees. How, pray, did this come about ? The story says that a wolf, and a fox, and a rabbit, were bent on learning to play the violin, and begged a musician to teach them.

He promised to do so, if they would obey orders. So, walking through the wood with them, he ordered the wolf to put his paws in the crack of a tree — which he did ; and was made fast there—at his lesson. A little farther on, he bent down two boughs, and ordered the fox to place a paw on each, where the musician tied them fast, and left the fox — to his lesson. A little farther on, he bound the rabbit by a silken string to a tree-trunk, where he presently, by bouncing about, wound himself fast — to his lesson. I suppose they all commenced squeaking and howling, each in his own way — which happens to a great many who commence the study of music.

They worried out of their fastenings at last, and came on fast and furious to attack the musician—who had meantime taught a man that understood what music meant, and who defended his master, as he should. The beasts had the worst of it. I don't know what the moral of it is—unless that animals who have no ear for music should always keep to their howling and squealing, and never attack a good musician—whose melody they cannot equal, and whose merit they can-not know.

I espy, too, among the hobgoblins, little English Red Riding Hood, or Red-cap as they call her, seated on the German ground, with her basket and her pretty ways ; and I find there is a new reading to her story.

The wolf comes for her — drops soft speeches in her ear — but she doubts him : she goes to her grand-mamma with her comfits, and tells her how the wolf tried to mislead her.

Then the great wolf comes croaking to the door : he has fine gifts for Grandmamma ; he will be good : Riding Hood shall have fine dresses.

But no : Grandmamma is stern, and keeps the door shut. The wolf climbs upon the roof — watching and waiting, and waiting —

When little Red-cap comes out he will snatch her. But Grandmamma bethinks herself of • some savory water she has ; and she and Red-cap fill a great trough with it, outside the door. The wolf scents, and sniffs, and sniffs, and slips down and down, and stretches his neck to reach it — lower and lower — till at last, off he goes —souse — into the trough, and is drowned there — as all prowling wolves should be who would devour sweet little Red-caps.

I meet with hosts of little elves who come by moon-light and in the dark, and dance on the greensward, and hang upon tree-boughs as if they grew there, and bustle around babies' cradles, whispering so softly, in baby's ear, that nurse never hears them. They tease selfish curmudgeons ; and they help, with the daintiest of fingers, a poor cobbler who is reduced to his last bit of leather : they transform themselves into awl and hammer, and work all through the night, making better shoes than the cobbler ever could have made ; and he receives double price for their work, and grows prosperous.

Mr. Cruikshank has made a delicious picture of the old cobbler and his wife peeping from behind the door at night, to see these little elves frolicking around his bench, and putting on the gay clothes the cobbler's wife has made for the little helpers. The elves put on the new clothes, indeed ; but then they dashed away, and were heard of no more.

We talk, you know, about being in " good spirits," or in " bad spirits." I think those old Germans who made these stories would have said instead — the good elves have come ; or the bad elves have come. The good elves will stay, — unless we try to dress them up unnaturally, and extravagantly fine. As for the bad ones, — if we never hunt after them at night, or feed them with high-spiced dishes, — they will go.

The Flower with a Pearl

One other story I must tell, of a bad fairy — a hag, in fact — who lived in a great grim castle. By night she became an owl ; by day she was sometimes a cat, with .her back in a rounded arch. If young girls went within a hundred paces of her castle walls, they were changed into nightingales, which the bad fairy caught, and hung in cages in a certain chamber of her castle. If young men came within a hundred paces, they too had a spell upon them, so that they could not move except the cruel fairy waved her wand, and bade them begone.

Now, Jorinda and Jorindel—who were young people of that region—loved each other dearly,, and knew all about the fairy ; but yet, as lovers will, they wandered out by moonlight, without knowing how far they were going.

Jorinda was singing sweetly, —

"The ring-dove sang from the willow spray, — Well-a-day ! well-a-day! He mourned for the fate Of his lovely mate : Well-a-day ! "

Jorindel was listening, as lovers will ; and for a time did not know that they had come too near the bad fairy's walls, and that Jorinda was changed, and he was listening only to a nightingale. He saw a dreadful owl flit by ; and at dawn, lo !— there came the dreadful fairy with her cloak, and her staff, and her cage, and her nose and chin almost touching, and carried off Jorinda. He could not stir to help her, you know ; and, if he could, —how was he to help a nightingale ?

Then the hag waved her wand, and bade him begone. He begged and pleaded ; but all the more her nose and chin came clacking together, and all the more she bade him begone.

In despair he went and became a shepherd—listening in the fields at night for the songs of the nightingales, who reminded him of his darling Jorinda.

At last, one night he dreamed — that in the meadows he found a scarlet flower, with a pearl in the middle of it ; and that with this flower he marched straight up to the walls of the fairy's castle, and that at a touch of his flower the gates sprang open, and that he saw his own Jorinda again.

Next day he hunted to find if such a flower grew in those meadows. He hunted long,—day after day,—and at last found the treasure. He went straightway — though the journey was long—to the castle of the cruel old woman. And, sure enough, at a touch of the flower the gates swung wide open. In he went, through corridor after corridor, till at last he heard the singing nightingales ; and, in the room where seven hundred cages were hanging, was the wicked fairy with her staff. She was mad with rage, but the flower protected him.

He looked around to find Jorinda; for, lover as he was, he did not want seven hundred Jorindas.

Meantime the wicked fairy—while her black cat was bristling at Jorindel—was bustling out of the door. She had seized a cage to take with her. What if this were the very nightingale he wanted ? He rushed after her ; he touched the cage with his magic flower, and lo ! the tender Jorinda, beautiful as ever, stood before him.

Of course they embraced, as lovers — after a long separation — should. Then Jorindel set all the other nightingales free ; and the great troop of beautiful girls marched out of the castle, and the bad fairy was neither found nor heard of again.

It was a good thing for Jorinda that she had a lover who was constant, and who could find a flower with a pearl in it.



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