Saturday, February 20, 2016

the seven ravens

THERE was once a man and woman who had seven sons, but never a daughter, however much they wished for one. At last, however, a daughter was born. Their joy was great, but the child was small and delicate, and, on account of its weakness, it was to be christened at home. The father sent one of his sons in haste to the spring to fetch some water; the other six ran with him, and because each of them wanted to be the first to draw the water, between them the pitcher fell into the brook.

There they stood and didn’t know what to do, and not one of them ventured to go home. As they did not come back, their father became impatient, and said: ‘Perhaps the young rascals are playing about, and have forgotten it altogether.’ He became anxious lest his little girl should die unbaptized, and in hot vexation, he cried: ‘I wish the youngsters would all turn into Ravens!’ Scarcely were the words uttered, when he heard a whirring in the air above his head, and, looking upwards, he saw seven coal-black Ravens flying away.

The parents could not undo the spell, and were very sad about the loss of their seven sons, but they consoled themselves in some measure with their dear little daughter, who soon became strong, and every day more beautiful. For a long time she was unaware that she had had any brothers, for her parents took care not to mention it. However, one day by chance she heard some people saying about her: ‘Oh yes, the girl’s pretty enough; but you know she is really to blame for the misfortune to her seven brothers.’

Then she became very sad, and went to her father and mother and asked if she had ever had any brothers, and what had become of them. The parents could no longer conceal the secret. They said, however, that what had happened was by the decree of heaven, and that her birth was merely the innocent occasion. But the little girl could not get the matter off her conscience for a single day, and thought that she was bound to release her brothers again. She had no peace or quiet until she had secretly set out, and gone forth into the wide world to trace her brothers, wherever they might be, and to free them, let it cost what it might.

She took nothing with her but a little ring as a remembrance of her parents, a loaf of bread against hunger, a pitcher of water against thirst, and a little chair in case of fatigue. She kept ever going on and on until she came to the end of the world. Then she came to the Sun, but it was hot and terrible, it devoured little children. She ran hastily away to the Moon, but it was too cold, and, moreover, dismal and dreary. And when the child was looking at it, it said: ‘I smell, I smell man’s flesh!’

Then she quickly made off, and came to the Stars, and they were kind and good, and every one sat on his own special seat. But the Morning Star stood up, and gave her a little bone, and said: ‘Unless you have this bone, you cannot open the glass mountain, and in the glass mountain are your brothers.’
The girl took the bone, and wrapped it up carefully in a little kerchief, and went on again until she came to the glass mountain. The gate was closed, and she meant to get out the little bone. But when she undid the kerchief it was empty, and she had lost the good Star’s present.

How, now, was she to set to work? She was determined to rescue her brothers, but had no key to open the glass mountain. The good little sister took a knife and cut off her own tiny finger, fitted it into the keyhole, and succeeded in opening the lock. When she had entered, she met a Dwarf, who said: ‘My child, what are you looking for?’

 ‘I am looking for my brothers, the Seven Ravens,’ she answered.
The Dwarf said: ‘My masters, the Ravens, are not at home; but if you like to wait until they come, please to walk in.’

Thereupon the Dwarf brought in the Ravens’ supper, on seven little plates, and in seven little cups, and the little sister ate a crumb or two from each of the little plates, and took a sip from each of the little cups, but she let the ring she had brought with her fall into the last little cup. All at once a whirring and crying were heard in the air; then the Dwarf said: ‘Now my masters the Ravens are coming home.’ Then they came in, and wanted to eat and drink, and began to look about for their little plates and cups. But they said one after another: ‘Halloa! who has been eating off my plate? Who has been drinking out of my cup? There has been some human mouth here.’

And when the seventh drank to the bottom of his cup, the ring rolled up against his beak. He looked at it, and recognised it as a ring belonging to his father and mother, and said: ‘God grant that our sister may be here, and that we may be delivered.’
As the maiden was standing behind the door listening, she heard the wish and came forward, and then all the Ravens got back their human form again. And they embraced and kissed one another, and went joyfully home.

 Crow was visiting the Brothers Grimm when they first told this tale. He'd dropped by with his old friend and wonderful artist, Arthur Rackham. Brandy and fruitcake were enjoyed by all.

With thanks to Project Gutenberg 


Tom said...

Lovely fairy story, but the artwork is excellent - as usual.

Sean Jeating said...

Ah, ravishing.

The Crow said...

The first thing I've seen and read this morning on my tour of blogs - how lucky am I! My day is made beautiful, I am fulfilled.

Thank you, Susan, for this.

marja-leena said...

Lovely tale and illustrations, thank you! I don't remember this one though I think I've read every tale by the Grimms, many in Finnish in a big book I have had since a young child. It is well worn and falling apart at the binding but I still have it! (see it here: Thanks for the memories, dear Susan!

susan said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Tom. Arthur Rackham was a master illustrator of the Golden Age of storybooks.

susan said...

Indeed :)

susan said...

I'm so glad it brought a smile to your heart, dear Martha.

susan said...

Seeing your old book of fairytales was wonderful, Marja-Leena. It looked as though that may have been one of your first posts, and what a fine subject you chose.

All the best :)

Should Fish More said...

An interesting post, Susan. Excuse any typos, the result of an errant finger. I seem to remember there was a film based on this from Germany in the late 30's, hopefully not one of Hitler's propaganda flicks.
The girl rescuing boys or brothers was a recurrent theme in some children's literature of this time, and a good one in my thinking.
Thanks for posting this,

Ol'Buzzard said...

Love the story and pictures. Thanks, a great way to start the morning.

Athabaskans revere the raven, he is part of their origin story. In the village where my wife and I taught the elders would tell the children that if they became lost in the bush to talk to a raven and he would show them the way home.
the Ol'Buzzard

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

"Brandy and fruitcake". Exactly what I need. None available right now, sadly. (The rest of the words and images are nice too, of course).

susan said...

Sorry about your injury, Mike. I hope it's healing fast.

I believe there was a time when there was more gender equality and this story definitely shows that.

susan said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, OB.

That's a wonderful story about the kindness and wisdom of ravens.

susan said...

There's always room for brandy and fruitcake, Andrew. Welcome back.

L'Adelaide said...

Well, i have always felt that Grimm was aptly named. She cuts off a tiny finger... ? Ah well, at least all worked out in the end, a typical fairy wrap up but i do wonder if this has something to do with the era? Who knows... I do certainly love the images... they are wonderful, especially the one of the little girl. The birds are wonderful as well. ;)

Hoping you are well my dear. And spring, tho still a ways off, is beginning to give you glimpses of the return of walking the park with nuts and treats. xox

susan said...

 Ah yes, the Brothers Grimm were very well named considering their long practice of collecting folk tales. What a wonderful favor they did for all of us. Arthur Rackham was the perfect illustrator for the tales.

This month has been mild so our little friends at the park haven't missed us all that much :)

troutbirder said...

Great story. I must admit hiking in the Yukon I besmirched several loud ravens in a picnic area whereupon a local citizen chastised me pointing said birds were the territorial symbol. I apologized profusely and concluded that being from Minnesota our State bird was the loon...:)

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan
A delightful story and illustrations. There is also a musical written by Wolfgang Adenberg and Alexander S. Bermange played at the Brothers Grimm Festival in Germany in 2007. Best wishes

susan said...

Well, it's a known fact ravens can be somewhat easy to excite in the presence of human food. Goodness knows even my friend Crow can be very touchy about anyone interfering with his supplies of Remy Martin and fruitcake.

susan said...

I'm happy you enjoyed the story, Lindsay. Was this musical you mentioned The Seven Ravens?
All the best

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan ) believe so /b/wishes

susan said...

Very nice. That would have been neat to see.

Lisa Golden said...

I never know what I will find here, but it is always inspiring.

susan said...

I'm very happy just to know you come by now and then :)