FAIRY TALES & FOLKLORE:
By Walter Crane
SurLaLune Fairy Tales[17 October 2009: This material started five days ago as a subsection on my Money, Wealth and Treasure page because when I think of "money," I almost immediately think of Rumpelstiltskin and his ability to spin straw into gold. That subsection soon grew so long that today I decided to give it its own page.......]
13 October 2009
"Runpelstiltskin" was one of my all-time favorite stories when I was little. The boring and nameless Miller's Daughter wasn't my concern -- she'd made a bargain for her very life with the magical dwarf, or "The Little Man," as my childhood 1942 Katharine Gibson version in The Tenggren Tell-It-Again Book calls him, and she should have kept that bargain. We think of spinning as something only women do, but this odd little fellow could not only spin, he could spin raw material into gold. In return for saving her life, he asked for the firstborn child of the queen-to-be (the Gibson version specifies "son," but I now know that the older Grimms' version simply says "child").
As a firstborn child with three others behind me by the time I could read, I couldn't imagine why Rumpelstiltskin would want anyone's baby. I already had a younger sister, two baby brothers, and none of them were of any interest to me. I liked them much better once they were older -- but as younglings, they were noisy and aggravating. Those in diapers were also smelly (it was one of my hated tasks to dunk each cotton diaper in the toilet and hang onto it while I flushed away their poop). I couldn't fathom why anyone would want someone else's baby, or even their own, for that matter. But aside from that, everything else about the Little Man was wondrous --
-- except, of course, for the very end. I was angry that the queen had learned his name, and she hadn't even done it on her own! As a now-wealthy queen (because of him!), she now had servants she could send out as her personal spies. That was cheating. The poor Little Man never dreamed anyone would learn his secret name. He was certain he would soon have a son of his own. He could spin straw into gold but he couldn't make a child. The dull queen could do that, but not him. And now she had tricked him and he was furious.
Artist: Gustaf Tenggren / Text: Katharine Gibson
Scanned from Little Brown & Co., 1942: The Tenggren Tell-It-Again Book[From Katharine Gibson's text]: "Ah, well," said the Queen, "it couldn't be that your name is Rumpelstiltskin?"
When he heard this, the Little Man gave a shriek of anger. He stamped his right foot so hard he pushed himself right into the stone paving of the castle. He stamped his left foot even harder -- and he disappeared right through the floor!
The Queen clapped her hands and wept for joy. So happy was she that she gave her golden bracelet to the youngest messenger who had heard and told her the Little Man's name.
The Queen and all her court lived happily ever after. And the Little Man has never been seen again.
I've always assumed that the Little Man had flown into bits and died. That's how I've remembered the story: his rage was so intense that it killed him. The child-me understood such anger for she recognized it in herself (I took care never to stamp my feet lest I too fly into bits and "vanish"). I felt how cruelly unfair it was that he had been driven to such an extreme. Re-reading the Tenggren/Gibson version today for the first time in decades, however, I realize that it wasn't quite that simple. I am struck by three things:
First, the story I knew as a child never says he "died," only that "he disappeared right through the floor."
Second, until today, I had forgotten that Rumpelstiltskin had been called "the Little Man" throughout the version I knew. That name has an additional meaning for me -- I thought he was a character I'd created as a child. My younger sister Anne and I shared a large bedroom all through childhood and for many years I told her stories when we were supposed to be asleep. They were about the adventures of the "Little Man," who lived in a secret forest behind the baseboard below my bed. I told her how he'd visit me late at night, sprinkle magic dust over me so I was the same size as he, and then we'd jump off my bed, vanish through a small door in the baseboard, and have adventures. In my teens I turned one of the tales into a short story, which I still have. I've forgotten all the others. Anne remembered many of them as she'd loved them. I always meant to ask her to tell them to me but the opportunity never came (she died in early 2003). I realize now that the child-me must have "adopted" him, in a sense, and given him life in new stories since he had vanished from his own. He wasn't what we'd call an invisible-friend. I never "saw" him in my own world. But I entered into an imaginary world with him and he became "real" in that world. There was a lullaby I loved too, unrelated to Rumpelstiltskin (and I have no idea where I learned it), but it merged with that realm of magic and mystery:Thus, knowing that Rumpelstiltskin must have been the source of my "Little Man" stories is significant for me.
I saw a little man standing in the wood --
he wore a purple cloak and a long black hood.
Tell me who that man could be,
standing there so quietly,
in his purple cloak and his long black hood.
Third, in the closing of the story, the "Queen and all her court" are mentioned as living happily ever after but I just realized that there's no mention of her son! Young-me and Old-me could care less -- we always knew the Miller's Daughter/Queen was a shallow manipulative cheat. For all that she pretended to want her baby, she really wanted far more to outsmart the Little Man. Why? -- because he had nothing except his rare gift and she, as Queen, now had everything, including the wealth and staff to destroy him (or at least get rid of him). She did it because she could.
By H. J. Ford
Ford captures the creative wildness perfectly (I've negativised the image for further effect).
Although here the straw is being turned into gold coins on the ground, whenever specified in a text,
the form is gold thread, which is then wound onto large spools.
Image from SurLaLuneFairy Tales
None of this might matter except that when I grew up and recognized that writing stories was what mattered most to me, I always thought of the reams of paper I fed through my old Royal typewriter as the straw I was spinning into gold. "Just lock me in a room piled high with paper," I used to tell people, "and I'll spin it into gold. Just keep your kids to yourself, thank you very much!" I thought of myself as another Rumpelstiltskin, but female and happily childless.
It's a strange thing about myths and archetypes though. As we know from Jung and later depth psychologists, they live us, whether we want them to or not. Many of my female graduate students, for example, suddenly realized during their studies that they were being lived by Demeter's grief or lived by Persephone's sense of imprisonment. Fortunately, discovering the archetypal energies living us gives us a handle on such matters and a deepening, even a "befriending," can take place. These things don't happen by accident, after all. Something in us "summons" the archetypal other, and vice versa. It's as if we have mutually resonating magnetic fields.
I never thought of Rumpelstiltskin as an archetype living me, however. I used spinning straw into gold as an analogy for "spinning" paper into tales. Yes, I loved the old tale as a child so there was and still is a rich emotional connection. But that still doesn't make him an archetype -- i.e., a contentless patterning force which only begins pulling content to itself if/when it takes up residence within a human psyche (that's a short definition but it'll have to do).
Yet today, in realizing that the infant vanishes from the story as rapidly as Rumpelstiltskin does, the emotional charge I felt was very much like what I feel in the presence of an archetype. Who or what is the son? The Little Man could spin straw into gold but couldn't spin a child. I could have spun a child, and could spin paper into immaterial gold, but I can't turn it into actual gold-gold, as he could. What am I missing here? Was whatever archetype living me demanding that the infant be reunited with Rumpelstiltskin before I could share in his ability to spin gold-gold?
So what do we have here?, I asked myself. An old reclusive dwarf, spinning like a woman but also like a god. Yet even divine-spinners are female -- the Norns, the Fates, Grandmother SpiderWoman, Athena, Ananke, and so forth (see my Weaving page). And he spins, not creation and/or fate, but gold, and not metaphorical "gold" like mine, but actual metal gold, the kind kings lust after, the kind that gives power, the kind wars are fought over. Immense procreative powers here have been diverted into metallurgy, not art, not conceiving a child.
There seems to be a mismatch, which is not surprising since many fairy tales are watered-down, flattened-out versions of much more ancient mythic material. Taking into account that spinning is a task done by women in the Western world, I return to the text I knew as a child to see if anything else points in that direction. In other words, could the original magical being have been a goddess? Is that what's hiding in the subtext? Here is the first sequence with the Little Man:
By H.J. Ford
SurLaLune Fairy Tales[Text: Katharine Gibson]:Suddenly she heard a little noise like that of a mouse in the straw and, looking up, she saw a tiny man no higher than her spinning wheel. Dressed all in brown, he had a long beard.Notice that the Little Man makes no specific demand. He only asks what she'll give him. She offers a necklace. She's a poor miller's daughter -- the necklace would have been a cheap trinket, yet the Little Man accepts her offer and spins a roomful of priceless gold. The greedy king is delighted and next confines her to an even larger room filled with straw. Again she weeps, hears a small mouse-like sound, and the Little Man appears. This time, she offers him her ring, again a cheap trinket, and he accepts. The third time is the same as the first two, except that the room is much larger and she now has nothing left to offer --
"Why do you weep, Miller's daughter?" he asked.
"I weep," she answered, "because for my very life I cannot spin gold from straw."
"What will you give me if I do it for you?" asked the Little Man.
"My necklace," she answered....and she began to weep piteously.An elderly male spinner accepts a maiden's necklace and ring -- objects usually associated with other females, not males. This would seem to hint that the original spinner might have been female and that a male Rumpelstiltskin is a distortion. The third bargain, if for a "child," as in the Grimms' version, would be gender-neutral, so far as identifying the bargainer's gender, since either an older woman or an older man might long for a child. A "son," not a "child," is more specific, however. Males, more than females, tend to be obsessed with having a son, so this tilts the balance toward a male spinner, who might well wish to pass on his magic to an heir. A male gold-spinner would have the right to ask for this gift -- the baby's biological father, given his inhuman greed, would have no claim to this offspring -- and were it not for the spinner, the girl, after all, would be dead regardless. A life for a life. For all its hardness, that's a bond respected by many cultures.
"Will you give me your son when you are Queen?" he asked.
"Ah," thought the Miller's daughter, "that will never be." So thinking, she promised. And by morning the Little Man had spun all the thread into gold.
But only the Gibson version mentions a son, so I decided to set that aside and instead ask myself what female archetype might be concealed in spinner/female/gold/necklace/ring/child? In other words, what ancient Creatrix-spinner wants a human child? But I can't think of a single female World-Spinner who yearns for a human child. And I, most certainly, don't want one. So obviously this can't be the archetype living me.
I then ask what ancient male Creator-spinner wants an heir. At first I can't think of any male Creator-spinners at all, let alone one who also wants a child. Then I think of Yahweh, who although a Word-Speaker, not a Spinner, nevertheless seems to have wanted Adam, but he didn't have to bargain for him -- he simply created him from earth's dust.
Thus, I can remove spinner:female-or-male from my search-terms. What other descriptors do we have for Rumpelstiltskin? Well, he's tiny, little, like a dwarf or elf. What do I find if I replace "spinner" with "dwarf-elf"? That gives me dwarf-elf/gold/necklace/ring/child. Something entirely unsuspected then swings into view: German/Norse mythology with all its Little People, i.e., elves and dwarfs.
In looking up "elf" in Ad de Vries' invaluable Dictionary of Symbols & Imagery, I find the following:I. general: 1. the elves can be divided into two groups; in practice, however, those are often hardly distinguishable from fairies and dwarfs: a. Liosalfar: Light-elves; b. Dockalfar: Black elves.... [163 -- also see entry on "dwarf":151]Dwarfs, or Dockalfar (Black or Dark elves, often used interchangeably for dwarfs), usually lived underground, were smiths and masters of metal, and had very long beards (like Rumpelstiltskin). Dwarfs understood wealth better than anyone. The dwarf, Andvari, even had a ring capable of creating endless wealth; Odin's ring, Draupnir, made by other dwarfs, had the same ability. They also crafted ingenuous magic weapons for gods and magic necklaces, rings, and other ornaments for goddesses. Perhaps, I thought, for Rumpelstiltskin to receive both necklace and ring from the Miller's Daughter was simply a confused reversal of the original mythic sequence. It didn't account for the "child" in my search terms but perhaps that would turn up later [it does, but not until Part II].
Before that could happen, however, the search took a completely new tack when I abruptly recalled that among the dwarfs' magical creations was hair of spun-gold for the goddess Sif. That memory got my immediate attention -- how could I have missed it before? -- after all, when I moved here in 2003 I even named my front yard's maple tree after Sif because of her golden autumn leaves Grain/gold, straw/gold, Sif! -- the connection now seemed obvious.
Sif, with Loki lurking in the background
By John Charles Dollman, 1909
Sif: When Loki, the malicious prankster/trickster, stole into the room where golden-haired, grain-goddess Sif was resting and, for unknown reasons, secretly cut off her beautiful hair, thunder-god Thor, her husband, was furious and threatened to tear Loki apart. Trapped and desperate, Loki swore he could get replacement-hair made of pure gold that would grow like living hair. Since only the dwarfs who ran magic forges could make such hair, Loki went to one group of them, the sons of Ivalde, struck a bargain, and got them to agree to craft living hair, hair that would grow like "real" hair, but would be made of spun gold, thereby making it even better than Sif's own hair had been. (I have to say that replacing real hair with spun gold, whether the technology used be magic, genetic modification, nanotechnology, or any other such "interference," is as artificial as the Midas Touch [see my Money, Wealth & Treasure page] and could never surpass the natural wonder of Sif's own hair. But this is an androcentric myth. Males adore their clever toys. I've noted my complaint and we need to move on.)
First, as an indication of how very dark Loki could be, after striking a bargain with the sons of Ivalde (the most famous of whom is Volund -- aka: Wieland, Weland, Wayland Smith [see below for Mackenzie: 38-39 and elsewhere]), Loki gambles and enters into a second bargain with another family of dwarf-smiths, the sons of Sindre. Betting the sons of Sindre that they cannot match the craftsmanship of the sons of Ivalde, Loki organizes a contest between the two families: the winner will be judged by the High Gods in council -- Odin, Thor, and Frey. Why? First, to take the heat off Loki himself and also because tricksters thrive on conflict. But second, and more dangerously, he sees this as a way to stir up jealousy between the winning and losing families and, worse yet, to catalyze a catastrophic enmity between the gods and whichever group they name as losers.
Three gifts made by the Sons of Ivalde:
A magic spear (Gungner, for Odin) and the ship Skíðblaðnir (for Frey)
"afloat" Sif's new hair (in bottom right corner).
Also shown are the three gifts made by the other smith-family, the Sons of Sindre:
an invincible hammer (Mjolner, for Thor); a golden boar (for Frey) and a magic ring (Draupnir, for Odin).
By Elmer Boyd Smith, 1902
It works: Sif gets her magical hair, but it's from the losing side, the sons of Ivalde, and a ferocious war (known as the "Winter War," which it would be, following as it does upon the golden grain-harvest of Sif's hair), then breaks out between them and the gods. As Donald A. MacKenzie (1873-1936) writes in German Myths and Legends (Avenel Books, 1985): "The sons of Ivalde rose in revolt and leagued themselves with the Frost-giants to wage war against the Asa-gods and bring disaster to Asgard" (p.38; also see pp. xxxv-xxxviii; 34-39 for families and Loki's plot).
Now, with this brief data on Sif to use as a touchstone, let me return to "Rumpelstiltskin." Bear in mind that when myths get recycled into fairytales, it's rarely due to any conscious effort on the part of storytellers -- they are simply using remnants of old myths, reworking, recombining, reweaving elements that inevitably get quite scrambled. But in charting the results, they look something like this (I can't get the columns to line up properly but you get the idea; thematic and structural similarities are in yellow; anomalies are in blue):
MYTH FAIRY TALE
Sif: Miller's Daughter/Queen-to-be:
Golden-haired goddess of autumn grain. Daughter of miller (grain milled at autumn harvest).
Hair stolen by trickster Loki. Freedom stolen by father/greedy king.
Had power over gold until hair stolen. Never had power over gold.
Needs her hair back. Needs to save her life.
[Note: psychologically, hair represents fertility, abundance, prosperity, freedom, personal power, life itself;
thus, in a sense, the same precious attribute was stolen from both goddess and woman.
See Off with Her Head!: The Denial of Women's Identity in Myth, Religion, and Culture,
Howard Eilberg-Schwartz and Wendy Doniger, eds.]
Loki, the trickster, kin to dwarfs: Father, a poor Miller:
Puts self and all gods at risk through Puts daughter at risk through foolish boasting &
malice, boasting, gambling, & playing self-importance.
both sides against the middle.
Loki: Miller's Daughter/Queen-to-be:
Sneaks into bedroom & steals Sif's hair. Uses trickery to "steal back" promised baby.
Bargains w/dwarfs for spun-gold hair. Bargains for baby & spins gold in exchange.
Fate if he fails: Thor will tear him apart. Fate when he fails: tears himself in two.
Outcast, a "lone wolf." Loner.
In later times, considered evil, demonic. Meaning of name connected with goblins & demons.
Cunning, greedy, cheats everyone. Cunning, greedy, cheats everyone.
Totally self-centered. Totally self-centered.
Volund and other dwarf-sons of Ivalde: Rumpelstiltskin:
Magical power over gold. Magical power over gold.
Bails-out gods in trouble. Bails-out a human in trouble.
Communal, creative, intense lifestyle. Loner, unhappy, desires the "aliveness" of a child.
Tricked into war by Loki, Volund slain. Tricked by Queen, loses child, vanishes.
Husband, Thor (God of Thunder): Husband, King
Protector. *[complete opposites here]* Predator.
Forces Loki to make restitution of hair Forces Miller's daughter to keep spinning gold under
under threat of death. threat of death.
Thor: Young Messenger:
Thunders. *[again, opposites here]* Listens.
[Continuing....15 October 2009]: I'm not all that fond of charts. I like proper sentences arranged into proper paragraphs. Yet I often find that charting is the fastest way to discover thematic and structural similarities (above, in yellow) as well as anomalies (in blue). This certainly turned out to be true of the above chart. In spending many hours arranging and rearranging it, my childhood dislike of the fabulously beautiful yet otherwise ungifted and shallow Miller's daughter completely dissolved. With her blonde hair and connections to grain and milling, she was clearly a down-on-her-luck Sif variant.
The fairy tale itself, by the way, is classified by professional folklorists as tale type 500, The Name of the Helper. That initially surprised me. If there's an Aarne-Thompson category called something like "Bargaining for a firstborn child," or "Creating Gold from Dross," that's where I would have placed this tale (but then I'm a mythologist, not a folklorist -- we use different scholarly tools). Either of those seems more central to me than the issue of a secret name. Now, after charting the tale, the Sif/Loki, queen/dwarf connection seems even more important, but that connection deals with mythological sources, not category, so tale type 500 is as good as anything else. As Heidi Anne Heiner points out on one of her SurLaLune Rumpelstiltskin pages, there's an obvious overlap with other tale types here so she includes those as well (the link provides additional links to her fabulous work on Rumpelstiltskin -- e.g., history, annotations, illustrations, modern novels exploring the story, etc).
One of the first things I recognized in working on the chart was Rumpelstiltskin's damaged relationship with his feminine side (anima, in Jungian terms). That seems to be why he accepts the girl's jewelry in exchange for spinning gold. In fact, this is probably his first faltering attempt to repair the damage. The necklace and ring were cheap trinkets but they had been worn by an extraordinarily beautiful young woman. Until she offers the necklace, and then the ring, Rumpelstiltskin may not even have realized how sorely out of touch he was with that realm and how much he yearned for a deeper connection with it. This unexpected contact with it might even be what eventually emboldened him to demand the child.
By Warwick Goble
SurLaLune Fairy Tales
A year later, when the grieving queen tries to get out of their bargain by offering the dwarf "all the riches of the kingdom," he refuses, saying simply,"No, something alive is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world."Something alive is dearer to me: that's a poignant admission that he found nothing alive in his spinning! All these years, I've been thinking of my writer-self as a Rumpelstiltskin. But when I realized why the necklace and ring matter to him, and why he then demands the child, I understood a crucial difference. He gives freely, takes little, and that's his existence. He expects no better. But when he sees a chance to get a child, akin to Sif's stolen hair, he takes it (what if Loki, in reaching out for Sif's hair, was clumsily trying to heal the damaged anima within himself just as Rumpelstiltskin is when, in a softer way, he takes necklace and ring and only then asks for the baby?).(From The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, introduction by Padraic Colum, commentary by Joseph Campbell, translation by James Stern, based on Margaret Hunt: 266.)
Therein lies the difference between us: Rumpelstiltskin longs for something alive, which means his spinning is rote. There's no joy in it. I am indeed like him, lived by him, when I'm trapped in deadend jobs and feel like a racehorse hitched to a plow [see Money page for fuller discussion], but not at all when I "spin gold." What artists experience as wild, exhilarating, joyful, and alive is completely alien to Rumpelstiltskin.
With that, I made a crucial shift: instead of focusing upon what I perceived to be my failing in comparison with Rumpelstiltskin -- i.e., the ability to create revenue-streams -- I have to consider that, when it comes to actual craftsmanship, I have something he does not: joy. How do I unite these opposites? And, having been down this road many times before in working with oppositional energies, what immediately comes to my mind are Jung's writings on neti...neti (Sanskrit for "neither this...nor that"). Neti...neti means that one must somehow hold the extreme tension between two opposites, siding neither with one nor the other, just holding both until, somehow, a completely unexpected and yet completely satisfying "third" suddenly emerges out of that long and painfully-held tension.
But ::sigh:: that's for an unknown future. For now, let me continue....
SurLaLune Fairy Tales
In recognizing Sif in the Miller's Daughter, I see that the child-me had been unfair to expect the girl to show more gumption with her father and the king. Like the sleeping Sif, whose golden tresses were hacked off by Loki, the miller's daughter also suffered a grievous loss at the hands of tricksters who turned her into an object without freedom or power. Although Sif is taken unawares only while she sleeps, by the time she has been demoted to a role in a fairy tale, she has lost everything -- except for her beauty which, despite her father's hopes, fails to have any impact upon the king. For the king, the girl is simply a cash cow and, later, a child-breeder, due to a power the simplest human female possesses. The girl has lost any connection to (or awareness of) her own masculine side, her animus, which is thus free to relentlessly attack and control her. The story shows us two damaged characters, each of whom needs the other in ways they don't understand.
In writing about anima and animus, feminine and masculine, Jungian Marie-Louise von Franz explains that the opening lines of a fairy tale will reveal the set-up of the rest. Thus, if the story begins with: "Once upon a time, there was a king with three sons," you immediately know there is an over-balance of masculine energy and that the story will hinge upon drawing forth the absent feminine, probably in the guise of a beautiful princess whose hand will be won by one of the sons. In thinking about that, I just checked the Grimms' version of "Rumpelstiltskin." It begins: Once there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter. This reveals that the masculine element has "miller" power (which, as we'll see, has a cosmic component) and yet is "poor," which is to say, damaged, unbalanced, not well-funded, held back from exercising his potential power. The feminine element, on the other hand, is exactly what the male most wants from his anima: someone rich in beauty. But for the daughter herself, there's also an imbalance, for she needs to be grounded in more than beauty.
How does the fairytale reconcile its neti...neti? First, it introduces still more masculine energy (the king), making the imbalance even worse, especially since the king has the power to destroy the feminine realm outright if it fails to fulfill his desire. Only the male Rumpelstiltskin shows any concern for the girl, offering to help in exchange for trinkets. The first two straw-filled rooms thus provide a tentative attempt to give both girl and dwarf limited access to their missing gender-based Other. But when the greedy king demands still more, the dwarf seems to follow suit, asking for the baby. The dwarf at least is reaching out for something alive. The king only wants more of what he already has: gold.
The damaged masculine never gets healed in this story (even if the baby is male, the odds are against it). But in using every resource available to her in learning the dwarf's secret name, the damaged feminine, via the mother/child relationship, now seems able to initiate further healing along with increasing her queenly confidence and strength. It's such a cliché, of course, finding fulfillment through having a baby. Sadly, for many woman, even in this 21st century, that remains their only option.
"The Harvest of Sif"
© Elizabeth Phillips
(Used with permission -- a much larger version is on her site)
Sif, as we have seen, is a grain goddess. As such, her golden hair represents fields heavy with "heads" of golden grain to be shorn. Once the grain has been threshed, all that's left is straw. The myths say nothing about whether Sif could have turned the straw back into golden grain. Being a goddess, she probably could have, if she wished, but why would she? Once past harvesting, fields need to lie fallow and sleep through the winter. In a world once shaped by agricultural/astrological cycles, Loki's theft of hair from a sleeping Sif seems to reflect this process, much as Hades' abduction of Persephone does.
The following year, the golden grain will return of course, but humans love drama. Thus, Loki's actions become dramatically permanent. Sif is bereft, all power gone. Thor, Odin, and the rest of the gods are furious for, as Donald A. MacKenzie, explains: "in Sif's locks there was abundance and prosperity" (ibid., p. 34). With Loki's theft, in other words, the prosperity of all the gods is impacted. Thus, the event has communal as well as personal implications. MacKenzie's use of Longfellow's "The Dwarfs" gives a strong sense of the personal loss:Loke sat and thought, till his dark eyes gleamThor then roars after Loki, who changes himself into a salmon and flees. In response, Thor becomes a great seagull who seizes the salmon in his beak and promises to pound Loki's bones into bonemeal "as a millstone crusheth the grain." But Loki finds his wits, regains his own shape, and retorts:
With joy at the deed he'd done;
When Sif looked into the crystal stream,
Her courage was wellnigh gone.
For never again her soft amber hair
Shall she braid with her hands of snow;
From the hateful image she turned in despair,
And hot tears began to flow....And what if thou scatter'st my limbs in air?"A bald spouse." At no point does anyone take into account the fact that Sif's hair, like the golden grain, will eventually grow back. But then that would spoil the drama. Besides, a woman/goddess who identifies with and delights in long, abundant, shining hair, would indeed feel devastated were it to be rudely shorn from her head. It would grow back, yes, but it would never quite feel the same. The shock of such an interruption of fertility and prowess might even result in a diminution of one's magical resources. This knowledge is deep in our bones. To this day, I am horrified by the fact that in traditional convents a woman's hair is shorn before she takes her final vows as a nun. And I still get chills and feel sickened when I recall a scene from decades ago in Hiroshima, Mon Amour in which a young French woman in love with a German soldier has her head shaved by angry French villagers. Her helplessness is appalling. It's why she eventually flees to Japan, getting as far away from Europe as she can. So I understand, gut-level, that knowing Sif's hair will grow back would be no consolation in the aftermath of Loki's theft.
He spake, will it mend thy case?
Will it gain back for Sif a single hair?
Thou'lt still a bald spouse embrace. (Ibid., pp. 39-40).
At first I was surprised that Loki, in my chart above, like seed scattered in the wind, turns up in all but one fairy tale character -- miller, daughter, king, and dwarf (only the young messenger, who is barely mentioned, seems free of Loki's influence). Yet this really makes sense: the "demonic" side assigned by Christianity to "dark" gods, and then ruthlessly repressed, is bound to erupt in many forms, ways, and at all levels of society.
In the fairy tale, the Queen's baby corresponds, in a sense, to Sif's hair, for the child is something grown from her own body, out of her own power, her own fertility. She spins the baby out of herself as Rumpelstiltskin spins gold out of straw. Athough earlier I critized her for "cheating" by sending out servants to discover Rumpelstiltskin's name, I now see that her craftiness in finally taking some control and gathering together a group of loyal allies is an indication that she's beginning, at last, to connect with her animus, or masculine side. Curiously, as the above chart also shows, this aligns her with aspects of Loki. In other words, only by claiming some of the trickster energy of Sif's nemesis can the Miller's Daughter start to become whole.
Thus, the girl can be interpreted as a Sif/Loki composite. The girl tells the dwarf that she doesn't know how to spin straw into gold. Sif would certainly have known how. But the Sif-Self of the girl is asleep, for the girl has lost those memories. She eventually betrays her dwarf-Helper just as Loki betrayed the Helper-dwarfs who crafted golden hair for Sif. The girl's animus, whether represented as Loki or Rumpelstiltskin, needs to be activated in order to awaken that long-buried Self.
Similarly, Rumpelstiltskin has lost the ability to craft something living, something in which he takes pleasure and satisfaction, as Volund and the other sons of Ivalde did. The girl's cheap jewelry gives him a key to his anima, which he needs to awaken his long-buried Volund-self. He needs to get his joy back. She needs to get her power back. Their situations can be summarized briefly:Girl: has a damaged, "poor" animus, or masculine principle. Needs to strengthen, enrich and re-unite with that inner male in a "union of opposites" in order to reach her transcendent Self, best described as Sif.I began this section on Rumpelstiltskin when I started wondering about the archetypal nature of this story's impact on me. While continuing to unravel memories and layers, I had a realization of a different kind early yesterday. I already have a tree named Sif so I decided I should also have a tree named Rumpelstiltskin. Like Loki, there's much of the abused child in Rumpelstiltskin. Having a tree might please him.
Rumpelstiltskin: has an inanimate anima, or feminine principle. Needs to enliven and re-unite with inner female in a "union of opposites" in order to reach his transcendent Self, best described as Volund.
I named most of my trees during my first year or two here, including three Russian rowan saplings, named Danila and Katya (from the Russian fairy tale, The Stone Flower, which I re-tell on Myth*ing Links at the indicated link), and Anya (for my sister). But there's a fourth, unnamed rowan, the youngest, planted in front of my house along what a psychic friend told me is a strong leyline. I'd never found the right name for that one but now I feel that naming it "Rumpelstiltskin" would be perfect. The dwarf will know he's cherished.
So that is now the rowan's name.
Near him is Sif, a mature maple (I'm still surprised to have discovered how intertwined with the Miller's Daughter she is). It took months to name her in 2003 because I couldn't get a strong enough sense of her. But that first autumn, unlike most maples, her leaves turned a brilliant golden instead of red and orange. That's when I named her Sif. With our local City Manager's kind help, I've saved her twice from an electric company that marked her for death lest her branches interfere with their wires. Other trees I named in those early years are Starfinder, Treebeard, Moon-Hollow, Strider, Kundrie, Orgeleuse, Sigune, Vak, Melora, Lady Birch, and Blacksmith.
In the midst of all this, I began reading about the sons of Ivalde, the dwarfs who crafted the spun-gold hair for Sif. I had forgotten Ivalde as well as his most famous son, Volund. I only read their names in a long list of others many years ago and felt no connection with any of them. Until yesterday (10/14/09), I had no idea that Volund is also known as Weiland and Wayland Smith -- which brings me to the maple I named "Blacksmith," partly because he has leaves so dark they almost look black. I also named him beause of something I had read and liked about the magical Wayland Smith. The tree's wine-black leaves and sturdiness "felt" like a Wayland Smith/Blacksmith to me. Yesterday afternoon, while crossing my yard, after having already worked out how crucial Volund's role is for both Sif and Rumpelstiltskin, it suddenly hit me: in addition to Sif and Rumpelstiltskin, I actually have a tree named for Volund too!
Now, what are the odds of that? During a period of several months over six years ago, two mature maple trees managed to inspire me to name them after two absolutely crucial deities connected to a fairy tale I've loved all my life but never dreamed it had anything whatsoever to do with the names I gave those two trees! Or, to put it another way, my unconscious mind somehow managed to constellate things so that those two trees would just happen to display attributes that I would unknowingly associate with two absolutely crucial deities connected to a fairy tale I've loved all my life. Either way, I'm awed everytime I think about it. When Jungians and archetypal/depth psychologists speak about how archetypes live us, often in utterly mind-boggling ways, this is the kind of thing they're talking about.
[Pre-dawn 15 October 2009]: Enough. I'll work out other pieces of this puzzle later on. I've gone as far as I can at this point. Let me end this section on a humorous note with two priceless, psychologically savvy pages from Fraulein Bo-Peepen and More Tales Mein Grossfader Told Me by Dave Morrah (Rinehart & Co., Inc, 1953). It's written in "fractured German," which any English-speaker can understand easily, especially when read aloud -- and if you grew up in the 40s, you'll recognize it as a Katzenjammer Kids kind of lingo.
Actually, this "union of opposites" ending is exactly what's required at the very deepest level! Enjoy <smile>.
18 December 2009: The unfolding story will eventually continue on a second page,
but is currently still a work in progress.......
...The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales. Pantheon Books, 1944/1972. Translated by James Stern, based upon an earlier translation by Margaret Hunt. Introduction by Padraic Colum and Commentary by Joseph Campbell.
..The Tenggren Tell-It-Again Book is a lovely childhood classic from Little Brown & Co. in 1942 (later editions are also available -- all tend to be pricey but bargains might turn up if you keep looking). The elegant, often haunting art is by Gustaf Tenggren for a text by Katharine Gibson. I grew up with this book -- it was well-loved and its worn state proves it!
...I have found this work by Donald A. MacKenzie (1873-1936), German Myths and Legends, very useful in tracking down fascinating data, both familiar and obscure, on northern myths from German, Scandinavian, and related lands. It's a large book -- a total of 469 pages, including a good index (no bibliography). Well-chosen black and white illustrations by Dore, Burne-Jones, and other 19th century artists are sparsely scattered through the work. I like the fact that MacKenzie includes a wide range of poetry on many relevant topics: this adds a richness of texture. I would have liked a list of illustrations since it's so easy to miss many of them as one thumbs through the book; ditto for poets, although at least the poets are listed by name (but not work) in the index. Those are minor quibbles, however; overall, this is a useful reference work. (Note: this book was previously published as Teutonic Myth and Legend. The only change seems to be a brief but eloquent Foreword by Donald Flanell Friedman.)
...Marie-Louise von Franz's The Interpretation of Fairy Tales (see pp. 50 flg for the passage I mentioned on the "set-up" at the opening of fairy tales).
...Hiroshima, Mon Amour -- this is a link to a DVD of a chilling, sobering, brilliant film. From one of amazon's editorial reviews:An extraordinary and deeply moving film that retains much of its power since its original release in 1959, Alain Resnais's Hiroshima, Mon Amour is the story of a French woman (Emmanuelle Riva) and a Japanese man (Eiji Okada) who become lovers in the city of Hiroshima, where the U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb to end World War II in the Pacific. Written by Marguerite Duras and juggled, as if by wandering thoughts, in chronology and setting by Resnais, the film reveals the miserable and mortifying experiences of each character during the war and suggests the obvious healing properties of their relationship in the present......Fraulein Bo-Peepen and More Tales Mein Grossfader Told Me by Dave Morrah (Rinehart & Co., Inc, 1953). Here's the brief review I just wrote for amazon:I'm basing my 5 star rating on only a few stories from this book, so you might wish to keep that in mind. But based on what I read, I found this little book delightfully droll, sometimes downright hilarious. The re-telling of Rumpelstiltskin, for example, still has me laughing hours after I read it (and I'm a serious person -- not that much given to laughter, unless I'm watching M*A*S*H). It's not just the text for Rumpelstiltskin, but also the priceless and psychologically savvy drawing by the author....Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery by Ad de Vries is a book for which I yearned over many years. But it cost a fortune (c. $150) and there was no way I could afford it (and at 515 pages it would have taken forever to xerox). In the 90s I finally managed to get a 1984 edition by using a faculty stipend and it's been a treasure ever since. My work would be the poorer without it. If you only explore symbols and imagery once or twice a year, skip this reference work unless you can easily afford it. If you love exploring such things, however, and if you can come up with the price, you'll find the book worth it.
...Off with Her Head!: The Denial of Women's Identity in Myth, Religion, and Culture,
Howard Eilberg-Schwartz and Wendy Doniger, eds. This is an excellent collection of essays. From the back cover:Many books look at how women's bodies are represented in different religions and cultures around the world, but this is the first volume to explore the site of a woman's voice and identity, her head.....This is British scholar H.R. Ellis Davidson's Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions (Syracuse University Press, 1988), a black and white illustrated, must-have reference work for anyone serious about these subjects. (Note: any of her many books are well worth owning.)
Related Myth*ing Links pages:
Common Themes, East & West:
Money, Wealth and Treasure
Weaving Arts & Lore (Cosmic Webs, Spinning, Spindles, Clothing)
Artists & Muses: The Creative Impulse
Tricksters, Clowns, Magicians, Jesters & Fools
Dragons & Serpents
Nature Spirits of the World
Up to Europe's Opening Page
Up to Western EuropeWestern Europe's Subdivisions:
(Note: only the Home page will reflect additions and updates)Ancient Greece / Ancient Rome /Celtic Traditions /
Icelandic, Nordic, & Teutonic Traditions /
Medieval Life & Times / Arthurian Themes / Grail Lore /
Alchemy, Gnosticism, Hermetics / Fairy Tales & Folk Lore /
Down to Indigenous Peoples
Please note that I cannot help with homework but if you have comments or suggestions,
you'll find my email address at the bottom of my home page.
This page created with Netscape 4.7
Text and Design:
Copyright 2009 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
Begun 2 October 2009.
10 October 2009: inserted sections in the space I'd been saving since 10/2/09
for Elizabeth Cunningham and Martin Luther King, Jr.
11 October 2009: added lengthy Cernunnos section with art and excerpts.
12 October 2009: mostly proofed and expanded opening essay/"blog" all day.
13 October 2009 [Rome's ancient feast of Fontinalia, when holy wells and springs were venerated --
a good day for pondering "cash-flow and revenue-streams"]: began work on the Rumpelstiltskin section,
which turned out to be very "charged," psychologically.
20 October 2009: charted the tale type 500 stories.
22 & 23 October 2009: doing future "workpoints" for finally weaving it all together.
Found perfect art for the closing.
17 &18 December 2009: resuming after a long, unplanned hiatus of work on Crones & Sages; Winter Greetings; Money, Wealth & Treasure; Charon; Rituals of Death & Dying. Proofed Part I at last and moved Part II to a new page where I can work on it w/o feeling the pressure of getting all this online.
Finally put this first part online at 6pm (EST).
8 January 2010: took care of forgotten loose ends connected to last two items in Books section.
13 February 2010: added link to Gold page.
26 August 2012: tweaked a few things in opening 2nd paragraph. One day, I'll finally finish Part II, but not yet -- ::sigh::