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.


  1. This is such a fascinating series! I can only imagine the amount of time it took to research all of these!

    1. Thanks, I'm very happy to hear you like it!! Yes, the prep did take a long time. I basically skim read a complete collection of Brothers Grimm tales & noted every single magical item. Originally I was only going to post one list with a brief description for each item, but found there was so much I wanted to write about!

  2. I would argue that the handkerchief from The Goose Girl also falls under this category, even though it practically screams "hollow motif" andin the end cannot help the heroine.

    1. Oh yes! I briefly considered that handkerchief, but in the end decided to exclude it as a "magical item" entirely, because it didn't fit my idea of a magical item.

      Since I got it in my head that the magic lies in the blood and not the handkerchief itself, I didn't think I could treat it as tangible treasure you can find in Fairyland. I suppose I could tackle it from a different angle - like a protection ritual or spell? E.g. You can protect a loved one by marking a handkerchief with three drops of your own blood?

      Since the handkerchief didn't really do anything (as you said), it makes the power it has very vague. We don't know how or to what extent it could have offered protection. It didn't stop the chambermaid from bossing the heroine around, but I guess its presence meant that the chambermaid couldn't make any serious death threats...

      Maybe I'm overthinking this, but as a writer, I enjoy fleshing out these old fairy tales!

      I don't know what you mean by "hollow motif" - please tell me more! :D

    2. Hollow motifs (also vcalled "blind motif") is a motifs that does not fulfill a function in a tale. Those motifs oriiginally had a purpose, but lost their relevance, because along the line a narrator/multiple narrators misunderstood their meaning or didn't understand their relevance. A good example would be a version of Hansel and Gretel (I believe from Hungary, but don't quote me on it) in which the witch sends Gretel out to collect firewood and Gretel uses a trail of breadcrumbs to find her way back. Here the narrator remembered that there was a trail of breadcrumbs in the story, but not its relevance.

      I believe that the blood drops in The Goose Girl once had a more important function, but over time their meaning was lost, maybe due to Christianization replacing old ritualistic practices and beliefs, which lead to them not fulfilling a function anymore (except for showing the mother's love for her daughter). As a result in the 19th century version the Grimm's collected, the story would make just as much or even more sense without them. If I were to make a semi-educated guess, I'd say that originally they would have been used to communicate with the mother.

    3. Thanks for taking the time to provide that explanation, Julia! One of my goals when starting this blog was to explore the earliest versions of fairy tales that I could get my hands on, but I don't have the resources to go as far back as I'd like. You've reminded me of fundamental facts here - I appreciate it!