Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 1)

The Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland is full of weird and wonderful things that can catch anyone out. What’s the ultimate type of magical item you can have in your fairy tale travel bag? Wishful Wares!

There’s no need to find wishing stars in the sky or any other magical item we’ve covered in this series of blog posts. Whatever you desire, a Wishful Ware can bring it. You’d think it’d be a magical item that brings out the most despicable greed, jealousy and murderous intent in Fairylanders, but it’s surprisingly lukewarm and understated. In fact, people who find themselves in possession of a Wishful Ware don’t wish for everything.

Wishing Cloak

In Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Long Nose’, a magic dwarf presented three veterans with three magical items, and the first happened to be a Wishing Cloak (which, despite rendering the other two magical items redundant, nobody fought over). The veteran who had been given the Cloak wished for a fully-furnished castle, complete with horse and carriage, so that he and his comrades could retire comfortably.

Since they could live like royalty, they started telling people they were royalty. A stay at one king’s castle ended in disaster, however, when a princess stole one of the veteran’s magical items. So, instead of using the Wishing Cloak to magic the missing magical item back, one of the veterans used it to break into the princess’s bedroom. It didn’t take long for the entire castle to give chase, and in all the chaos, the veteran forgot to take the Wishing Cloak with him as he leapt out the window.

Wishing Ring

A cursed princess was lucky enough to carry a Wishing Ring in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Drummer’. The Wishing Ring had the power to work many wonders at her command, but it seemed to be useless against witchcraft.

The princess was bathing in a lake when her white cloak was taken by a local youth, who was a drummer by trade. She pleaded him to return the cloak, for without it, she couldn’t fly back to the glass mountain; this was where a witch had cursed her to stay. The drummer gave the cloak back, but also vowed to break the spell she was under.

After taking miraculous means to reach the top of the glass mountain, the drummer met the witch, who subjected him to long and arduous tasks that included emptying a pond with a single thimble. The princess advised and helped him every time, using her Wishing Ring to instantly complete each chore. After they’d successfully killed the witch, the pair teleported back to the drummer’s hometown by the Ring's magic.

Sadly, the drummer failed to follow the princess’s instructions and consequently lost the memories he had of her. To win back his heart and make him remember who she was, the princess used her Wishing Ring to conjure the powers of a Dressmaking Nut and create three beautiful ballgowns (funny how some things come full circle).

That’s my list of all the magical items that appear in Brothers Grimm fairy tales! Personally, my favourite three magical items are the Mystery Salve, Teleport Ring and Spirit Ring… I wouldn't mind having them around.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 2)

The Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland is full of weird and wonderful things that can catch anyone out. Here's one type of magical item you may want to keep in your fairy tale travel bag: Fairy Therapies!

Nothing’s impossible in Fairyland, so there’s a remedy for everything. There are even remedies that let you put heads back onto bodies; the most powerful can bring the dead back to life.

Fairy Healer Therapies

These can heal any cut, scrape or gash in seconds. The characters in ‘The Spirit in the Glass Bottle’ and ‘The Three Army Surgeons’ didn’t keep the Healer Therapies all to themselves; after all, it’s easy to pass yourself off as a miracle doctor with a Healer Therapy at hand.

Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Spirit in the Glass Bottle’ sees a student outsmart a bloodthirsty genie and get a Genie’s Handkerchief as a reward. One end of the Handkerchief could turn metal into silver, whilst rubbing the other end over a wound could heal the injury. Blog reader Julia Mavroidi offered this fascinating insight into Mercurius and his Genie Handkerchief:

“The Genie's Handkerchief is probably meant to be mercury (note that the Genie's name is "Mercurius", which in the Middle Ages was used both as medicine (Ik: Bad Idea) and believed to be a vital ingredient when turning non-valuable elements to gold.”

With the Genie’s Handkerchief, the student became the most stupendous doctor in the world, but he had the good business sense to complete his medical degree first. That’s more than I can say for the travelling freakshow in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Three Army Surgeons’…

The “surgeons” (as they liked to call themselves) travelled far and wide to find as many people as possible they could show off to. If anyone asked, they’d say they were furthering their education. To prove their worth, they’d hack off their own body parts and stick them back the very next morning (surely there were more effective publicity stunts that didn’t involve amputation, dissection or eye gouging?). But the men didn’t have magical healing powers – they had a bottle of Mystery Salve, which can heal any wound in an instant.

Nobody knows how Mystery Salve came to be, but in the mountainous regions of Fairyland, there exists a Mountain Root that can heal all kinds of ailments and injuries. The faithful animals in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Two Brothers’ managed to find the Root to fix their master’s decapitated head back onto his body. Treatment is instant and simple – just put the Root into the ill person’s mouth.

Fairy Revival Therapies

This rare type of Therapy comes in two forms: Snake Leaves and the Water of Life. With them, it’s possible to cure fatal diseases and raise the dead.

A youth in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Three Snake Leaves’ discovered the mysterious Snake Leaves when he was buried alive in a tomb with his dead wife (more on that creepy predicament another time). As he waited for his own death, he saw a snake slither towards his wife. To protect the lifeless body, the youth sliced the snake up with his sword.

When a second snake saw what had happened, it rebuilt the first snake and placed a Leaf over each cut. The Leaves magically fused the severed pieces together, bringing the first snake back to life. Both snakes retreated and left behind the miraculous Snake Leaves, which the youth placed on his wife’s eyes and mouth to breathe life back into her. This form of Fairy Revival Therapy seems to have grave side effects, however. The wife lived, but no longer loved.

The Water of Life features in Brothers Grimm fairy tales ‘The Water of Life’, ‘The King of the Golden Mountain’ and ‘The Prince Who Feared Nothing’.

In ‘The Water of Life’, three princes set out to cure their dying father. They vowed to bring back the Water of Life, which an old wise man said was the only thing that can save the king. Unlike his brothers, the youngest prince was courteous to the magic dwarf who approached him, so the dwarf told him exactly where to find the Water and how to retrieve it.

This form of Revival Therapy can be found flowing from a fountain inside an enchanted castle. To get to the courtyard where the fountain sits, one needs bread and a Sorcerer’s Skeleton Key. The prince was given these magical items by the magic dwarf, who instructed him to tap the castle’s entrance gate three times with the Sorcerer’s Skeleton Key. Once inside, the prince must tame the guarding lions with bread (let’s just assume it’s magic bread), before venturing deeper into the castle for the Water of Life. If he succeeded in finding the Water and left before midnight, he could escape entrapment inside the enchanted castle.

‘The King of the Golden Mountain’ begins with a bankrupt merchant and a magic dwarf. In exchange for the first thing that brushes past the merchant’s leg when he returned home, the dwarf would make the merchant wealthy again. As what normally happens, “the first thing” turned out to be the merchant’s little son. A big argument broke out over the terms of the contract, so they did what they could do: put the twelve year old boy in a small boat and send him down river rapids to live or die.

The boy’s troubles weren’t over when he managed to reach land – he met a snake princess who appointed him, without question, as the saviour she’d been waiting for. To break the spell she was under, the boy would have to endure beatings, stabbings and decapitation without squealing like a pansy. That last part was important; if one human sound came out of his mouth, the princess wouldn’t be able to/want to treat him with the Water of Life. Can the Water of Life heal mental damage, too?

The prince in ‘The Prince Who Feared Nothing’ was more fortunate, because he at least had greater control over his own destiny. He was challenged by a giant to pick an apple from the Tree of Life; when he succeeded, a Ring of Strength closed around his wrist as proof. When the giant presented the apple to the maiden he wanted to marry, however, the maiden refused his hand, because he didn’t possess a Ring of Strength.

The giant poked out the prince’s eyes in his fight for the Ring. Fortunately, the prince’s life was saved by the lion he befriended at the Tree of Life. The lion guided the prince to a stream and used the pure Water to wash his master’s face. In no time at all, the prince’s eyes had healed. Similar healing miracles can be seen in Brothers Grimm fairy tales ‘The Two Travellers’ (eyes healed by morning dew) and ‘Rapunzel’ (eyes healed by a lover’s tears).

When the prince continued his travels, he discovered an enchanted castle with a cursed princess at its gate. To break the spell, the prince had to stay in the castle vestibule for three nights and endure terrible torture. Not only was he not allowed to squeal like a pansy, but his heart couldn’t show the slightest shade of fear. At the close of each night, the princess would heal his injuries with the Water of Life. Unlike the grim ending for the lad in ‘The King of the Golden Mountain’, the suffering that the brave prince endured turned out to be worthwhile and he got his happily ever after.

Fairy Therapies are rare gifts and it would be a sin to waste them, but there is one more type of magical item that holds even greater power…

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 3)

The Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland is full of weird and wonderful things that can catch anyone out. Here's one type of magical item you may want to keep in your fairy tale travel bag: Feasts for the Fairylander! The items that fall under this category are the Everlasting Foods, Magic Dining Table and Magic Tablecloth.

Get hold of one of these magical Feasts and you’ll never go hungry again. All you have to do is figure out how to stop people from stealing it. The crime rate in Fairyland is atrocious…

Everlasting Foods

At the dinner table, you have your basic bread, meat and wine. If luck would have it, each of these would have been enchanted to last forever.

In Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Raven’, a princess was changed into the form of a raven and instructed a youth to go to a house in the forest. He was to wait for her in the garden, but not fall asleep – that meant avoiding any food or drink offered by the old woman who lived there. If he succeeded, he could free the princess.

The youth turned out to be hopelessly unreliable and accepted food and drink from the old woman three times. Seeing he would never be useful in such a state, the princess decided that he could always rescue her straight from her prison: the golden castle of Mount Stromberg. Obviously, the youth was unlikely to accomplish anything without a bit of help, so the princess gave him three Everlasting Foods (bread, meat and wine that will never run out) for him to take on his journey. It’s a shame she didn’t see he could have used those Feasts from the start.

A loaf of Everlasting Bread was found by a prince in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Water of Life’ on his quest to cure his ailing father. He picked it up from the floor of an enchanted castle and went on to share the Bread with three kingdoms that were plagued by famine.

Magic Dining Table

According to ‘The Magic Table, the Golden Donkey, and the Club in the Sack’, it’s possible to get a Magic Dining Table from a carpenter if you complete an apprenticeship with him/her successfully. When the lad in this Brothers Grimm fairy tale received his Magic Dining Table, he invited others to share in his good fortune. All he had to do was tell the Table to be covered and the most scrumptious of spreads would appear (complete with fine tablecloth, silverware and drinks). It’s no surprise that someone stole the Magic Dining Table later that night.

Magic Tablecloth

Far more portable and practical than the Magic Dining Table, the Magic Tablecloth also yields a great feast at the command of its owner. A traveller in ‘The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn’ was lucky enough to find one abandoned in the woods and greedy enough to take it with him.

Like his counterpart in ‘The Magic Table, the Golden Donkey, and the Club in the Sack’, he shared his fortune with people he met on his journey, only these people were honest. Rather than use their magical Wicked Weaponry to take the Tablecloth by force, they offered them up for trade. The traveller took full advantage of their goodness; after trading, he used the Wicked Weaponry to steal the Magic Tablecloth back.

Feasts for the Fairylander can bring out both greed and generosity. My penultimate post on Brothers Grimm Magical Items will explore the most powerful healing solutions that Fairyland has to offer.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 4)

The Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland is full of weird and wonderful things that can catch anyone out. Here's one type of magical item you may want to keep in your fairy tale travel bag: Keys for the Wandering Wonderlander! The items that fall under this category are the Eyes of Fairyland, Yonder Yarn, Fairyland Terrain Tools, Sorcerer’s Skeleton Key, Magic Boots, Magic Horse and Teleport Keys.

These Keys will unlock the winding road and help the travelling Fairylander on his or her way.

Eyes of Fairyland

Before you cross Fairyland’s wilderness, think of those who will be left behind – only the Eyes of Fairyland can let them know how you are. These magical items include the Shining Knife, Golden Lily and the infamous Magic Mirror.

Twins used a Shining Knife in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Two Brothers’. It was given to them by their foster father, who was a huntsman. Should they need to take different paths, they’d have to stick the Knife into a tree in the middle of the crossroad. If one brother wanted to know how the other was faring, he’d have to return to glimpse the Knife. Should harm come to either traveller, the side of the Knife facing the path he’d taken would rust.

The Golden Lily appears in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Golden Children’. When a fisherman caught the same Golden Fish a third time in his net, the Fish instructed the fisherman to cut him into six pieces. The fisherman was to have his wife and horse eat two pieces each, while the remaining two pieces were to be planted in the ground.

In time, the wife gave birth to two Golden Children, whose lives were connected to the two Golden Lilies that had grown from the fish pieces in the ground. Like the Shining Knife, a Golden Lily’s condition would reflect the health of the individual it’s connected to.

Believe it or not, the powers of the magical “mirror, mirror on the wall” in the Grimm Brothers’ version of ‘Snow White’ aren’t unique in Fairyland. You have the likes of the Spirit Ring seen in ‘Strong Hans’ and even an Omniscient Bean, which was used in ‘Okerlo’ – both see just as far and wide and are arguably more useful, because the Spirit Ring offers physical aid and the Omniscient Bean is portable. Nonetheless, nothing can take the Magic Mirror’s place in Fairyland’s hall of fame.

The Shining Knife and Golden Lily would warn a family when their loved one was in danger, but in ‘Snow White’, the evil queen used the Magic Mirror to target enemies. The Magic Mirror is reputed to see and know all, and most importantly, tells nothing but the truth.

Yonder Yarn

More reliable and practical than peas or breadcrumbs (and a good deal less wasteful), the Yonder Yarn unravels its thread to lead you to your desired destination. The king in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Six Swans’ was given a ball of Yonder Yarn by a wise woman, so he’d never lose his way when visiting his children (who were in hiding from their stepmother) in the woods. Unfortunately, the Yonder Yarn lacks a security system. Once the stepmother got hold of the Yarn, it led her straight to her unwanted stepchildren, who she immediately turned into swans.

Fairyland Terrain Tools

What do you need for a mountain trek? In Fairyland, you’d want Three Needles and a Plough Wheel. The princess in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Iron Stove’ made good progress with these, although it’s hard to picture how she carried them.

To aid the princess on her quest to find her beloved, the enchanted toads that lived in a cottage in the woods (such things appear whether you know you need them or not) gave her Three Needles to climb glass mountains and a Plough Wheel to ride when crossing pointy swords (to be exact, three sharp swords that somebody stuck in a ditch). There are more magical magical items out there, but Fairyland Terrain Tools build character.

Sorcerer’s Skeleton Key

The Sorcerer’s Skeleton Key is a fancy name for a stick that can open any door. In Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Raven’, a man obtained it (along with two other magical items) from a trio of robbers. Nobody’s ever demonstrated the full power of this magical item, but by simply tapping it against the locked door, the man gained entry to the castle that held the trapped princess.

(Added: 31/05/2016) Another version of this Key was used in Brothers Grimm fairy tale 'The Water of Life' and was referred to as an Iron Wand. It was given to a young prince by a magic dwarf, so that the prince may enter the enchanted castle that held the Water of Life. To gain entry, the prince had to tap the Iron Wand three times against the entrance gate. The magic dwarf, however, cautioned the prince to leave the castle before midnight or else he'd find himself trapped. This suggests that the Iron Wand doesn't have the power to unlock the gate from the inside.

Magic Horse

This remarkable animal can cross any terrain (no matter how treacherous) and was used by the man in ‘The Raven’ to scale a glass mountain. The Magic Horse was one of three magical things that the man stole from robbers.

Magic Boots

A popular magical item to have when giving chase or running away, Magic Boots have appeared in several Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

There are Seven-league Boots in ‘Sweetheart Roland’ where the wearer only has to take one step to cover an hour’s walk. A wicked witch used a pair she owned to catch up to her fleeing stepdaughter. Similarly in ‘Okerlo’, a cannibal’s wife put on Seven-mile Boots to pursue a fleeing couple who, incidentally, also had a pair of Seven-mile Boots.

The Magic Boots in ‘The King of the Golden Mountain’ reportedly take the wearer to any place in a matter of seconds. A king outwitted three giants who were fighting over their inheritance, which included a pair of Magic Boots (do such Boots mould themselves to fit any shoe size?). Once the king had the Boots, one thought was enough to take him to the place he wanted to be.

Teleport Keys

The ultimate Key for the Wandering Wonderlander is undoubtedly the Teleport Key. Have one in your possession and you can disregard all other Keys on this list. Teleport Keys come in different guises, but all achieve the same effect: they’ll whisk you away to your desired destination in a blink of an eye.

A huntsman in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Lettuce Donkey’ met an old woman who, because of his kindness, told him how to get his hands on a Teleport Cloak, which was being fought over by a flock of birds; firing one shot at the birds will make them drop the Cloak. It was a magical item the huntsman never had the chance to use – the Cloak was stolen by a witch’s daughter.

The trouble with a Teleport Key is that once it lands in the hands of another person, it will disappear with the thief in an instant. The lad in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Drummer’ figured this out when he came across two men arguing over a Teleport Saddle. As luck would have it, they were at the foot of the glass mountain where three princesses were waiting to be rescued. After getting hold of the Saddle, the lad wished himself on top of the mountain.

The third son of a sorceress came across a Teleport Hat in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Crystal Ball’. Unsurprisingly, the Teleport Hat was being fought over by two giants. In no time at all, the sorceress’ son tricked them and used the Hat to transport himself to a place he longed to be: the castle where an enchanted princess was waiting to be saved.

When the king in ‘The King of the Golden Mountain’ expressed a wish to see his mortal father, his queen gave him a Teleport Ring to save him from walking the journey. This Ring also had the power to wish for certain individuals to appear beside the wearer. Things didn’t go well – the queen let the king visit his father on the condition that he wouldn’t use the Ring to summon her and their son away from the Golden Mountain. The king ended up summoning his family in a fit of rage when his parents didn’t believe they existed. Unable to forgive her husband for breaking his promise, the queen used the Teleport Ring to take herself and their son home, leaving the king behind.

To conclude, Keys for the Wandering Wonderlander are incredibly convenient, but attract a lot of mischief and treachery. The magical items in my next post will cater to a very basic human need…

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Post Update: Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 8)

I was carrying out research for my upcoming 'Magical Items' post when I revisited 'The Golden Children' and realised I overlooked a Gold Animal: the Golden Fish! Not surprising, I suppose, seeing as prep for the 'Magical Items' series involved skim-reading every single Brothers Grimm tale...

I actually remember giving the Golden Fish a pass, because it could talk. The fact it could speak made it appear more like a genie figure, and it was also very similar to the magical fish (which called itself an enchanted prince) in 'The Fisherman and his Wife'. It just so happens that Kristin at Tales of Faerie touched upon 'The Fisherman and his Wife' in her recent blog post 'Fairy Tales about Contentment'.

Having written about Gold Animals though, I couldn't overlook the Golden Fish again. The magical creature was similar to the Golden Bird, not only because it was made out of gold, but because eating it brought some form of wealth or fortune.

You can read about it now in my updated post: Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 8)

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 5)

The Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland is full of weird and wonderful things that can catch anyone out. Here's one type of magical item you may want to keep in your fairy tale travel bag: Gifts from Fantastical Friends! The items that fall under this category are the Animal Tokens, Magic Snake, Blue Light, Gnome Flute, Spirit Ring and Omniscient Bean. All will summon magical help when you need it most.

Animal Tokens

The ability to befriend animals in Fairyland is the mark of a good and true heart. Win the favour of a mighty member of the animal kingdom and you may be given an Animal Token.

In Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Three Sisters’, Prince Reinald won the respect of three cursed princes who turned into beastly animals at certain times throughout the year. He was given three hairs from the bear prince, three feathers from the eagle prince and three scales from the whale prince. To summon help, he only had to rub the Tokens together. Prince Reinald used them on his quest to rescue his three sisters and also succeeded in breaking the curse on the three princes and their sister.

Magic Snake

If you weren’t born with an affinity with animals, you can always eat a Magic Snake. A servant unwittingly did this in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The White Snake’. His nosiness got the better of him, so he sneaked a peek at the king’s secret afternoon dish and couldn’t help but try a small piece. It turned out that the dish was a Magic Snake, which gave him the power to understand the language of animals!

To get the most out of this magical ability, it helps to be kind. By listening to their needs and wants, the servant was able to help Fairyland animals, who would later return the favour.

Send in the Gnomes

One of the best companions to have in Fairyland is a gnome or a dwarf. On your side, they’re a fantastic source of wisdom and magic. If you find the Blue Light, you’ll have the power to summon one dwarf. Get hold of a Gnome Flute and you can summon a little troupe of gnomes!

Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Blue Light’ sees an army veteran wander into the clutches of a wicked witch. In exchange for food and shelter, he was told to complete some chores and, lastly, retrieve a Blue Light from the bottom of a well. Sensing he was in danger, the soldier refused to hand the Light over. Outraged, the witch dropped the soldier back down the well and left him for dead.

Helpless, the soldier could think of nothing better than to smoke his pipe, which he lit with the Blue Light. From the smoke emerged a small, black dwarf, who pledged loyalty to him. This companion got the soldier out of the well, killed the wicked witch, kidnapped a princess and pummelled everyone in a courtroom (and the king). The trade off? All side effects you get from smoking.

According to Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Gnome’, Gnome Flutes can also be found at the bottom of wells. In this story, three huntsmen ventured down a well to rescue three princesses, but only the youngest was brave enough to reach the end. When his brothers betrayed him, the youngest found himself alone and trapped. Fortunately, there was a Gnome Flute hanging on the wall and every note played upon it would summon a flying gnome. They flew the huntsman straight out of the well.

Spirit Ring

The Spirit Ring is a rarity, but in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘Strong Hans’, a youth named Hans managed to kill an evil dwarf that happened to be wearing one. It was a stroke of luck, because even though Hans had rescued the fair maiden, he made one big mistake: he let his two comrades lift the maiden out of the hole first. Deep holes and wells bring the worst out of Fairyland folk, so Hans was left underground to perish.

When Hans put the Spirit Ring on, a group of helpful spirits appeared and circled about his head. The spirits declared that Hans was their master; they lifted Hans out of the hole and told him where the traitors had fled. They could be summoned by a simple turn of the Ring.

Omniscient Bean

This curiosity was one of the magical items taken by the princess in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘Okerlo’ when she fled an island of cannibals. Only the fairies know how the Omniscient Bean came to be, but it possesses the power to see all, hear all and (most importantly) tell all. As a bonus, it comes with cake! Thanks to this magic, the princess stayed several steps ahead of the wicked woman who was chasing her.

Travels in Fairyland lead to tricks, traps and treachery, so it helps to have allies you can depend on. It’s best not to rely on others too much, though. The magical items in my next post are practical tools for the independent traveller!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 6)

The Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland is full of weird and wonderful things that can catch anyone out. Here's one type of magical item you may want to keep in your fairy tale travel bag: Shield Charms! The items that fall under this category are the Golden Charms, Mountain Charms, Invisibility Cloak, Blood Pearl Blossom and Shapeshifter Wand.

Used correctly, Shield Charms have the ability to defend or protect you from harm without the need to resort to violence.

Golden Charms

The Golden Charms known to exist in Fairyland are the Gold Comb, Gold Flute and Gold Spinning Wheel. It’s unclear exactly what magical properties they hold, but as seen in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Nixie in the Pond’, they’re invaluable against malevolent nixies (water spirits).

‘The Nixie in the Pond’ tells of how a huntsman strayed too close to a nixie pond and was captured by the water spirit. When his wife discovered what had happened, she had a dream that saw herself finding a wise woman who could help her. The maiden would recount the steps she had taken in her dream and meet the wise woman three times. On each occasion, the wise woman would present her with a Golden Charm and instructions on how to use it.

Every time the maiden used a Golden Charm in front of the nixie pond, a little more of her husband would resurface, until at last he could break free from the nixie’s shackles.

Mountain Charms

The Mountain Charms known to exist in Fairyland are the Mountain Brush, Mountain Comb and Mountain Mirror. Where they came from is a mystery, but they proved very effective against a nixie in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Water Nixie’.

A little brother and sister managed to escape a nixie’s clutches with the help of Mountain Charms, which if thrown on the ground would become a wild and treacherous mountain range. The Mountain Brush would turn into bristly terrain. The Mountain Comb would turn into jagged, toothy rocks. The Mountain Mirror would turn into tall, pure glass that's impossible to climb over. Although the nixie overcame these obstacles with time, she had no hope of catching up with the children who had run far out of reach.

Invisibility Cloak

Fairyland is riddled with Invisibility Cloaks; you just have to be lucky enough to know were to look. Finding one means arming yourself with the most desirable device in the world of espionage.

An army veteran in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Worn-out Dancing Shoes’ was lucky enough to meet a wise woman who had an Invisibility Cloak to spare. The story centres around twelve princesses who liked to sneak out at night to go partying. As any good dad would do, the king challenged men across the country to spy on his girls when they went to bed and find out where they go every night. Thanks to the wise woman’s generosity, the army veteran took up the challenge and won.

If you’re not lucky enough to find such a nice wise woman, then you may be lucky enough to find three people fighting over an Invisibility Cloak. That’s what happened to the lead characters in Brothers Grimm fairy tales ‘The King of the Golden Mountain’ and ‘The Raven’. The former sees a king run off with the inheritance of three giants, while the latter sees a man run off with the spoils of three thieves.

The king in ‘The King of the Golden Mountain’ used the Cloak to sneak back into his castle. When he discovered his wife had been unfaithful, he delivered his revenge (being invisible was a great advantage).

The man in ‘The Raven’ sought to free a princess from an enchanted castle that sat, out of reach, on top of a glass mountain. After fooling the robbers into letting him don the Invisibility Cloak, he stole the last magical items he needed to rescue the princess.

Blood Pearl Blossom

In Fairyland, there’s no such thing as a spell that cannot be broken. The Blood Pearl Blossom has the ability to make enchantments disappear and was used against the sorceress in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘Jorinda and Joringel’.

The story is about a pair of lovers who wandered too close to the sorceress’ castle. Ensnared in the sorceress’ spell, the man was paralysed on the spot. The maiden was transformed into a bird and held prisoner in the castle. Since the sorceress got what she wanted, she released the man, who dreamt of finding a blood-red flower with a beautiful pearl at its centre. The man scoured the land for the Blood Pearl Blossom, and when he found it, he used it to clear away the sorceress’ magic and save his beloved.

Shapeshifter Wand

If you had to run away in Fairyland, what’s the one magical item you should take with you? Most Fairylanders would pick the Shapeshifter Wand.

Brothers Grimm fairy tales ‘Sweetheart Roland’, ‘Okerlo’ and ‘The Two Kings' Children’ all feature a pair of lovers running for their lives. The maiden in ‘Sweetheart Roland’ stole the Shapeshifter Wand from her stepmother, who happened to be a wicked witch. In ‘Okerlo’, to escape an island of cannibals, the maiden grabbed a Shapeshifter Wand along with other magical items. Interestingly, the maiden in ‘The Two Kings' Children’ doesn’t find a Shapeshifter Wand – she performs the magic herself.

For each of these stories, the magic of the Shapeshifter Wand was used to change the couple into different guises: flower; lake; duck; fiddler; pond; swan; rosebush; bee; church; pastor; fish. Every transformation took them further away from those in pursuit of them and all the more closer to happy-ever-after.

Shield Charms offer both protection and freedom until a thief comes along to use them against you. Sometimes, the most powerful asset in Fairyland is a strong and loyal ally. My next post will cover the best magical allies you can have.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 7)

The Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland is full of weird and wonderful things that can catch anyone out. Here's one type of magical item you may want to keep in your fairy tale travel bag: Wicked Weaponry!

Grade C

Grade C Wicked Weapons includes the Attacking Club and Ring of Strength.

In Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Magic Table, the Golden Donkey, and the Club in the Sack’, a woodturner was given an Attacking Club (complete with sack) at the end of his apprenticeship. If he had an enemy he wanted to beat senseless, he could call the Club out of the sack to do the beating for him. Things worked out well; he used the Attacking Club against the greedy innkeeper who stole his brothers’ magical items.

Rings of Strength can be found in a poorly protected enchanted garden. In Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Prince Who Feared Nothing’, a princess told a giant that she’d accept his hand in marriage if he obtained an apple from the Tree of Life. The giant was at a loss until he met a courageous prince, whom he challenged to retrieve an apple for him.

The lucky prince found the garden and passed the animal guards that happened to be asleep. He climbed the iron gate and reached the Tree of Life. To pick an apple, he had to put his hand through the Ring of Strength that hung in front of it. Once the apple was in his grasp, the Ring of Strength closed around his arm and gave him power that could match that of a giant’s. It also seemed to give him command over the animal guards – one of the lions decided to follow him home.

Grade B

These Wicked Weapons include the One-Shot Gun, Victor’s Sword, Soldier Knapsack and Cannon Hat. They can destroy your enemy with minimal effort on your part.

A magic gnome from Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Jew in the Thornbush’ granted a servant three wishes; one thing the servant asked for was a One-Shot Gun, which as the name implies, can hit a target in one shot. The servant used it to shoot a pretty bird out of a tree (it was a waste of a wish, if you ask me).

The Victor’s Sword can be found inside an enchanted castle. In ‘The Water of Life’, a prince was on a quest to find the Water of Life that would cure his dying father. With the help of a magic dwarf, the prince navigated the dangerous castle and emerged with treasures that included the Victor’s Sword, which had the power to overcome entire armies. He was good enough to lend it to three war-stricken kingdoms, each of which were good enough to give it back.

If you’re ever wanting of a Soldier Knapsack or Cannon Hat, according to Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn’, just find men who burn charcoal for a living. In this story, a traveller stumbled upon a Magic Tablecloth in the woods. He displayed its worth to a charcoal burner, who eagerly gave up his Soldier Knapsack in exchange for it. Tapping the Soldier Knapsack with your hand made seven armed soldiers climb out and follow your every command. The traveller used them to get his Magic Tablecloth back.

Then the traveller met another charcoal burner, who wanted to trade his Cannon Hat for the traveller’s Magic Tablecloth. Naturally, the traveller accepted and used the Soldier Knapsack to get his Magic Tablecloth back.

Things got out of hand when the traveller was disowned by his brothers for looking like a tramp. In a rage, the traveller declared war and summoned hundreds of armed men from the Soldier Knapsack. It didn’t help when the king’s army stepped in; the traveller used his Cannon Hat (which if worn and turned upon your head, will bring the firepower of twelve cannons upon your enemy) and devastated the royal troops.

Grade A

The Decapitating Sword, Army Horn and Horn of Destruction are all Wicked Weapons that inflict total annihilation in one messy sweep.

The Decapitating Sword requires even less effort than the Victor’s Sword. Just tell it to chop off everyone’s head except your own, and the deed is done. Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The King of the Golden Mountain’ sees a king outwit a trio of giants, who were squabbling over their inheritance, which included the Decapitating Sword. The king used the giants’ magical items to go home, only to find that his wife had betrayed him. As his people took arms against him, he called upon the Decapitating Sword to take off everyone’s head except his own. He became king again, but it wasn’t clear how many of his subjects still had heads.

In Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Long Nose’, the Army Horn was one of three gifts given to a trio of army veterans by a magic dwarf. The Army Horn has the power to summon military forces from across the land and was used to threaten the princess who had stolen two of the veterans’ magical items. Unfortunately, the veterans were later duped of the Army Horn, too.

If you’ve had enough of war games, it’s time to use the Horn of Destruction – a Wicked Weapon with the power to wipe out entire settlements. It was the last magical item that the traveller acquired from a charcoal burner in ‘The Knapsack, the Hat, and the Horn’. In a final act of revenge against those who had betrayed him, the traveller blew the Horn of Destruction and reduced towns and cities far and wide to rubble and debris. Then the traveller made himself king of rubble and debris.

Get carried away with Wicked Weaponry and you’ll find nothing but wasteland at your feet. Is defence the best offence in Fairyland? Find out in my next post!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 8)

The Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland is full of weird and wonderful things that can catch anyone out. Here's one type of magical item you may want to keep in your fairy tale travel bag: Easy Money! The items that fall under this category are the Gold Animals, Genie’s Handkerchief and Bottomless Money Bag.

Gold Animals

THEY SECRETE GOLD!

In Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Magic Table, the Golden Donkey, and the Club in the Sack’, a tailor’s son was rewarded a Gold Donkey for his services. He only had to put the Gold Donkey on some cloth and say “bricklebrit” and the magical creature would secrete gold pieces from its front end and back end.

Who gave the lad such a marvellous animal? A miller. I can’t help but wonder if this miller had the sense to breed a herd of Gold Donkeys first.

Let’s set our sights on a creature that’s literally worth its weight in gold: a Golden Bird. The poor broom-maker from Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Two Brothers’ was lucky enough to see one in the woods, so he threw rocks at it. The Golden Bird may have feathers made of gold, and it may lay eggs made of gold, and it may somehow find a way to live in a tree despite its weight in gold, but being dumb as a dodo, it’s easy to catch (seriously: the broom-maker finds and attacks it on three separate occasions).

If you eat a Golden Bird's liver and heart, every morning you’ll find a gold coin under your pillow (a bird that possesses this power also appears in ‘The Lettuce Donkey’). Too bad nobody thinks about hatching the Golden Bird egg first.

(Added: 14/05/2016) The most highly prized Gold Animal of all has to be the Golden Fish. A fisherman in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Golden Children’ was lucky enough to catch one in his net (but just like the Golden Bird, it probably isn’t that hard to catch if the same fisherman managed to snag it three times).

In exchange for freedom, the Golden Fish granted the fisherman a magnificent castle and a lifetime of fine dining. Nobody could know how these things had come to be, or else the fortune would vanish. Unfortunately, the fisherman had a weak resolve and his wife was stubborn and nosy. Fortunately, the Golden Fish also had a weak resolve; he supplied the fisherman with another castle and more food.

When the nosy wife made the riches disappear a second time, the fisherman caught the Golden Fish a third time. Clearly, the Golden Fish had lost the will to live by this stage – he gave the fisherman specific instructions on how to cut and eat him, allowing the fisherman and his wife more permanent gifts that included Golden Lilies, Golden Horses and Golden Children. If only the couple in 'The Fisherman and his Wife' were so lucky...

Genie’s Handkerchief

In Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Spirit in the Glass Bottle’, a student out-smarted a vengeful genie and returned him to the bottle that was his prison. In exchange for freedom, the genie gave the student a magical piece of cloth.

If you placed one end of the cloth over an injury, the wound would heal. If you rubbed the other end of the cloth against steel or iron, it would turn the metal into silver. Use the Genie’s Handkerchief wisely, and you could become a famous and wealthy “doctor”.

Bottomless Money Bag

This can be obtained from a magic dwarf who happens to take pity on you; at least this was what happened to the three army veterans in Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Long Nose’. It's quite simply a small bag that never runs out of gold pieces. You’re set for life – just keep it out of reach of princesses who aren’t satisfied with their lot (as we know, there are lots of them).

Easy Money’s great until somebody stabs you in the back for it. Besides, greed rarely goes unpunished in Fairyland. See what other magical items there are in my next post!

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 9)

The Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland is full of weird and wonderful things that can catch anyone out. Here's one type of magical item you may want to keep in your fairy tale travel bag: The Curse of a Vengeful Imp! The items that fall under this category are the Dance-fever Fiddle, Donkey Lettuce and Nose Apple.

Let’s be crystal clear: None of these items have been described as curses and they haven’t actually been used by an angry imp. I just think calling them Curses of a Vengeful Imp is fitting. All were used to exact a cruel, twisted and bizarre revenge – without a drop of violence. Well, violence usually follows a Curse of a Vengeful Imp, but the Curse itself doesn’t draw blood.

Dance-fever Fiddle

The servant from Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Jew in the Thornbush’ shows kindness to a magic dwarf, who rewards him with three wishes. For some reason (along with a One-shot Gun and the power to make people do as he wants), the servant asks for a Dance-fever Fiddle.

When the servant meets a man who happens to be a Jew who happens to be a criminal, he plays the Dance-fever Fiddle and makes the man dance in thornbushes. The matter’s taken to court, where the servant makes everyone dance until the judge lets him off the hook. Anyone else think that nothing about this “kind” servant makes sense?

Donkey Lettuce

Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Lettuce Donkey’ is where a huntsman falls blindly in love with a maiden, who ends up stealing his magical items. You can’t blame the maiden: her witch mother told her to do it.

A wander into a vegetable garden later and the huntsman discovers the Donkey Lettuce. He nabs a bunch and feeds it to the witch, the maiden and their servant girl (who happens to be there). The women turn into donkeys and they’re left with a miller, who has to beat the witch donkey three times a day (she’s the mastermind), beat the servant girl donkey once a day (she happens to be there) and beat the maiden donkey zero times a day (she’s too pretty).

When the witch donkey dies, the huntsman has a change of heart. After feeding them Remedy Donkey Lettuce, the servant girl and the maiden become human again.

Nose Apple

In Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Long Nose’, a magic dwarf gives three poor army veterans three magic items, but these items are stolen by a princess who really likes other people’s stuff. Fortunately, one of the veterans eats some Nose Apples and his nose grows more than sixty miles long. The magic dwarf reappears and points him to Nose Pears, which make long noses fall off.

Following the magic dwarf’s advice, the veterans trick the princess into eating Nose Apples, which make the princess’s nose grow long enough to wrap around the entire castle. One of the veterans impersonates a doctor and punishes the princess for a day or two by playing around with Nose Apple Powder and Nose Pear Powder. He claims the Powder can’t cure her unless she returns what she has stolen.

Curses of a Vengeful Imp are handy when you want to teach somebody a lesson, but if you really want to survive Fairyland, forget dealing petty revenge: more powerful magical items are waiting to be found! Discover what they are in my next post.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Magical Items to Survive Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland (Type 10)

The Grimm Brothers’ Fairyland is full of weird and wonderful things that can catch anyone out. Here's one type of magical item you may want to keep in your fairy tale travel bag... If you're a princess, I guess: The Dressmaking Nut!

Yes. If you happen to be a lost princess in Fairyland, somebody may give you a dressmaking nut to save your life (change your life would be more accurate, but not as dramatic). Actually, the Brothers Grimm fairy tales don't say it's the nut that makes the dress. Somebody else, most likely a fairy godmother, could have made the dress and put it inside the nut for safe-keeping.

Either way, a forsaken princess needs to make a big impression if she wants to win back her one true love. Whenever the Grimm Brothers’ Cinderella wanted a new dress, she’d weep at her mother’s grave until a bird made one for her (or finds one for her... Again, it's unclear who does the dressmaking). Other poor maidens get their beautiful dresses from nuts (the same way you get a little toy from a chocolate Kinder Surprise egg).

In Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Two Kings’ Children’, a king and queen refused to bless their daughter’s wish to marry a prince (they wanted to marry off her two older sisters first). The young couple ran away and outsmarted the king and queen who chased after them. As a peace-offering, the queen gave her daughter three dressmaking walnuts.

The princess from Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Iron Stove’ received her dressmaking nuts from hospitable toads who lived in a cottage in the middle of the woods (you guessed it: the toads are really princes and princesses and the cottage is really an enormous castle).

For some reason, one magical ballgown isn't enough. A princess needs three dresses, each more spectacular and stunning than the last, to make her special someone fall head over heels for her. That's why she gets three dressmaking nuts.

The gift of a dressmaking nut is every girly girl's dream, but not every tomboy's or man's, so this type of magical item is ranked in tenth place. Find out what else you can use in Fairyland in my next post!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Fisherman and the 'Ifrit fairy tale

Similarities to ‘The Spirit in the Glass Bottle’ can be found in ‘The Fisherman and the ‘Ifrit’ – one of The Arabian Nights tales or Tales of One Thousand and One Nights, which was compiled in the ninth century. Since I have in my possession a reputed translation, here's a bonus folktale summary.


There once was an old fisherman. Every day, he would cast his fishing net into the sea four times. If he caught anything of value, it would be used to support his wife and three children.

One afternoon, despite his prayers and pleas to the Lord above, his net seemed to bring him nothing but toil and worthless trash. His first attempt brought up a donkey’s corpse, the weight of which had torn a great hole in the net. His second attempt brought up a big pot of dirt and debris. His third attempt gave only bones and broken pieces of pottery.

The poor fisherman had nothing to show for his back-breaking labour. The day would only let him cast his net one last time. Crying another prayer for God to show him mercy, he threw his net over the water and waited for it to settle. He waded into the sea to pull the net to shore, but the net had caught on something beneath the surface. After much hardwork, he managed to haul the net out of the water.

Inside the net, the fisherman found an old, sealed bottle. It was made out of brass and marked with an emblem of King Solomon. The fisherman could not have been happier, because he was sure to get a good price for it at market. First, he would open the bottle and find out what was making it so heavy.

Using the knife he had on hand, the fisherman cut through the lead seal and tipped the bottle on to its side. To his astonishment, nothing but smoke drifted out from the spout. The dark plumes covered the sky above and the ground below. They merged, began to take shape and transformed into an ‘ifrit as tall as the clouds. His hands and feet were huge. His mouth was like a cave lined with pointy rocks. He scowled at the terrified fisherman with flaring nostrils and fiery eyes.

The ‘ifrit, believing he was in the presence of his captors, proclaimed King Solomon as the prophet of God. He asked for his life to be spared and swore he would never again betray King Solomon’s trust. However, he learned from the old fisherman that the king had died hundreds of years ago. The old fisherman was horrified to find the ‘ifrit turning on him and sentencing him to death.

It didn’t matter how many times the fisherman called himself the ‘ifrit’s saviour – the ‘ifrit would not be swayed. Because the fisherman insisted on knowing why he should be killed, the ‘ifrit revealed the circumstances behind his long imprisonment. Centuries ago, he had rebelled against King Solomon and rejected his Faith. King Solomon sealed him inside the brass bottle, which was tossed out to sea by the loyal jinn.

During his first one hundred years of confinement, the ‘ifrit promised his saviour enough money to last a lifetime. When no one came to his aid, he promised for the next one hundred years that his saviour would receive all the treasure the world had to offer. Still, nobody opened the bottle, so for the next four hundred years, the ‘ifrit promised to grant his saviour three wishes. After centuries of waiting, the ‘ifrit became so consumed with rage that he vowed to kill whoever released him.

Once again, the ‘ifrit asked the poor fisherman how he would like to be killed. The fisherman couldn’t believe his bad fortune, but was determined to use his human intelligence to outwit the brute. He said it was impossible for one as enormous as the ‘ifrit to fit inside a small bottle. Keen to prove his worth, the ‘ifrit changed back to smoke and dutifully went inside the bottle, which the fisherman stoppered with King Solomon’s inscribed lid.

Triumphant, the fisherman declared he will return the ‘ifrit to the depths of the sea and will personally watch over the coastline to prevent anyone from repeating his mistake. The ‘ifrit panicked. He insisted his threats had been made in jest, but the fisherman branded the ‘ifrit a liar. After all, if the ‘ifrit refused to show mercy, then why should the fisherman?

When the ‘ifrit started to promise the fisherman untold riches, the fisherman reconsidered. He made the ‘ifrit swear by God’s Greatest Name and proceeded to lift the seal from the bottle. The ‘ifrit returned to his enormous form and, without a word of warning, threw the brass bottle into the ocean. The old fisherman trembled in fright and was certain his life was over. He reminded the ‘ifrit of his sacred promise.

The ‘ifrit regarded the cowering fisherman and laughed. He told the fisherman to follow him. Their path took them out of the city, over a mountain and into a valley. There was a pond filled with colourful fish and the ‘ifrit told the fisherman to cast his net. The fisherman caught four fish: white, red, blue and yellow. The ‘ifrit instructed the fisherman to present his catch to the sultan, who would reward him generously. The ‘ifrit also advised the fisherman to only cast his net in the pond once a day.

Not knowing how else to help the fisherman that moment in time, the ‘ifrit bade him farewell and kicked a fissure into the ground. The fisherman watched the ‘ifrit disappear down the crack and then returned home with his catch. He did as the ‘ifrit requested and took the colourful fish to the sultan, who was delighted and impressed. The fisherman left with more than enough money to care for his entire family.


Read the complete story by purchasing a collection of the Tales of One Thousand and One Nights that has been professionally translated from the original Arabic. This book was consulted to write this summary:

Lyons, Malcolm C. (ed.), The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights, Volume 1 (London: Penguin Classics, 2010).

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Spirit in the Glass Bottle: Thoughts and Facts

Once upon a time

I wanted to try something different, so leafed through my collection for an obscure fairy tale. To dabble outside my comfort zone, I zeroed in on male protagonists. Even though I hadn’t a clue what I’d be getting into, I settled on the tale with the most intriguing title: ‘The Spirit in the Glass Bottle’.

Between the student and the genie, I had to leap for the genie. The thought of designing Mercurius was scary, but the possibilities seemed too wonderful to miss. Luckily for me, I was getting into One Punch Man. This testosterone-pumped anime somehow made the muscly, menacing and monstrous look unbelievably fun to draw. My forte has always been cute and pretty girls, so it really changed how I saw myself as an artist.

‘The Spirit in the Glass Bottle’ may look small and insignificant, but if you give it a chance, you’ll reap the rewards.

Origins

Here are the original Arabic terms for (what we Westerners call) genies:
Jinni – male spirit
Jinniya – female spirit
Jinn – spirits
‘Ifrit – type of jinni that’s usually evil
‘Ifrita – type of jinniya that’s usually evil

Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm learned about ‘The Spirit in the Glass Bottle’ from a tailor in north-western Germany. The story was published in the Grimm Brothers’ first edition of Children's and Household Tales: Volume 2 in 1815.

According to Bruno Bettelheim, the idea of trapping a spirit inside a bottle goes back to ancient times. Judean-Persian legends see King Solomon, ruler of ancient Israel, banish wicked spirits inside small vessels and tossing them into the ocean. Over the centuries, there have been many tales that look at what would happen should an individual release an imprisoned spirit. Bettelheim refers to several such stories in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.

Because of my fascination with early fairy tales, I'll be summarising the Arabian Nights tale ‘The Fisherman and the ‘Ifrit’ as a bonus for my next post. It makes for an interesting comparison with ‘The Spirit in the Glass Bottle’!

Thoughts

Mercurius is the flashiest character in ‘The Spirit in the Glass Bottle’, but before his thunderous entrance, you’re introduced to very relatable characters. There’s a father who has no faith in his son’s abilities. There’s a son who must prove himself in the working world. This family dynamic is all too familiar. When a vengeful spirit is thrown into the mix, the story becomes decidedly unfamiliar. There’s an eruption of craziness that catches your adult self out and places your child self centre stage.

Personally, I was struggling to keep my adult self and my child self apart throughout the fairy tale. My adult self agreed with the father’s common sense, but my child self loathed his constant put-downs. My child self rejoiced in the son’s good fortune, but my adult self cringed at any silly mistakes he made.

The tale is about the child and the adult. It’s about a child who overcomes his parent’s negativity (and outwits an abominable genie) by trusting his own instincts and intelligence. The story empowers the underdog and therefore has the potential to empower the reader.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Spirit in the Glass Bottle fairy tale

The following is my summary of the fairy tale 'The Spirit in the Glass Bottle', which was documented by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm in their fairy tale collections.


A poor woodcutter toiled morning through to night. Overtime, he saved enough money to send his only child to school. He hoped a well-educated son would be able to support him later in life.

The boy proved to be a gifted student. He excelled in his studies and received high praise from every teacher. Sadly, his father couldn’t afford the cost of tuition for long. The student left his course early and went home. He consoled his father and said he would find a way to make ends meet, despite having cut his lessons short.

As the woodcutter prepared for a day of chopping and piling wood, the student offered to lend a hand. The father doubted his son’s strength, adding he could only afford one axe. Undeterred, the boy advised his father to borrow an axe from their neighbour; the boy could use the axe until he had money to buy his own.

They began their labours deep in the woods the following morning. With a borrowed axe in hand, the student worked tirelessly. His spirits were still high when the sun reached its zenith. Rather than sit for lunch, he decided he would take a stroll through the trees. His father criticised him for wanting to waste energy during break, but the boy ignored his warnings. Taking a share of food, he went to look for birds’ nests.

He walked happily in the shade of the trees and eyed the branches overhead for nests. Before long, he came across a mighty-looking oak that must have been centuries old. It was so big, five men could have spanned its girth.

As the student wondered how many birds’ nests the tree would yield, he heard a tiny cry. The voice, which seemed to be coming from somewhere beneath the ground, was begging for freedom. Unable to trace it, the student called for the creature’s whereabouts. When the voice said it was stuck under the roots of the tree, the student started to push past the dirt and dead foliage. He eventually found a small, glass bottle.

Inside was something that resembled a frog. Up and down it jumped, all the while crying to be let out. The student, seeing no reason to do otherwise, opened the bottle. From its spout erupted a spirit that grew larger and larger and became half the size of the great oak tree.

The spirit, who had been sealed inside the bottle as punishment, called himself Mercurius. During his long imprisonment, he vowed he would take revenge and deal his wrath the moment he was released. The student should expect nothing less than a broken neck.

Unfazed, the student challenged the spirit. If what the spirit said was true, he would have the power to make himself small again. Keen to demonstrate his abilities, the spirit shrank himself back inside the bottle, which the student swiftly stoppered and discarded back beneath the tree. The student was about to leave when he heard the spirit’s pitiful cries. Again the spirit pleaded for freedom.

Since the spirit had already threatened to take his life, the student refused. Desperately, the spirit offered the student a lifetime of wealth. Since the spirit had already tricked him once, the student refused. The spirit persevered and insisted he would bestow unbelievable riches upon the boy – it would be foolish to pass on such a chance.

The student reconsidered. He weighed the risks and decided they were worth taking. Confident that the spirit wouldn’t get the better of him, he pulled the cork off the bottle.

The spirit regained his monstrous form and in his huge hand appeared a scrap of cloth, which he presented to the student. He claimed that one end had the power to heal wounds, whilst the other could change steel or iron to silver.

Deciding to put this to the test, the student used his axe to split the trunk of a nearby tree. He covered the gash with the cloth and watched as the bark repaired itself anew. Satisfied, he and the spirit bade one another goodbye.

When the student returned to his father, he was scolded for being late. Saying he could make up for lost time didn’t help; his father condemned his attitude. Nonetheless, the student was eager to put the spirit’s gift to use. He declared he could fell a tree with one swing. The axe hit the tree, but because it had been turned into silver by the spirit’s cloth, the blade bent horribly. The student accused his father of borrowing a poorly-made tool.

Knowing he would have to pay their neighbour for the broken axe, the woodcutter told his son off for being so careless. The student offered to cover the cost, but his father scoffed and reminded him that he hadn’t a groschen to his name. As far as his father was concerned, his academic achievements counted for nothing when it came to woodcutting.

After a time, the student said he could work no longer and asked to go home. There was still much to do, so the woodcutter refused. Unlike his son, he hadn’t the luxury for idleness. He told the boy to return to the house alone, but this wasn’t possible. It was the student’s first outing into the woods, so he didn’t know the way back. The father’s temper cooled and he agreed to go home with his son.

At the house, the woodcutter instructed the boy to go to the village and sell the broken axe. The student found a goldsmith, who valued the axe at four hundred talers. Since the goldsmith didn’t have such a large sum of cash at hand, the student was given three hundred talers and owed one hundred talers.

Once home, the student learnt from his father that their neighbour sought one taler and six groschen for the axe. The student advised doubling the sum, for they now had money to spare. He gave his father one hundred talers, ensuring the woodcutter could live the rest of his life in comfort. The woodcutter was astounded and wondered how the boy came upon such riches. He listened as his son spoke of the spirit in the glass bottle.

With the rest of his fortune, the student returned to study and finished his education. He kept the spirit’s cloth and because of its magical ability to heal wounds, he went on to become a world-famous doctor.


Read the complete story by purchasing a collection of Brothers Grimm fairy tales that has been professionally translated from the original German. The following books were consulted to write this summary:

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Brothers Grimm: The Complete Fairy Tales, ed. Jack Zipes (London: Vintage, 2007).

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, ed. Lily Owens (New York: Gramercy Books, 2006).