A Bros. Grimm fairy tale has typical elements of castles, witches and magic spells but quite a few, in the original German, were much darker and gruesome than would have been considered appropriate for children in the past or even in the present! A new anthology was published last year by Princeton University Press, freshly translated by Jack Zipes from the original text and is packed with these raw tales. This comprehensive book will definitely appeal to adult readers hooked on reading fairy tales or watching them on T.V. (i.e. ABC’s Once upon a Time or Into the Woods) .
In comparing the stories in this new book with one of my old books which is nicely illustrated by Annie-Claude Martin, I noticed these very anomalies have an honestly ribald nature much like thrillers of today. I decided to put this tale up because I thought it was particularly unique, as Grimm’s tales go, keeping in mind the appropriateness for adult and child alike. My title uses the names given for the main characters from my old book but in the Zipes’ version the names are Jorinda and Jorginel and starts on p. 127…
Once upon a time there was an old castle in the middle of a great, dense forest. An old woman lived there all by herself; and she was a powerful sorceress. During the day she turned herself into a cat or a night owl but in the evening she would return to her normal human form. She had the ability to lure game and birds, which she would slaughter and then cook or roast. If any man came within a hundred steps of the castle, she would cast a spell over him, so that he wouldn’t be able to move from the spot until she broke the spell. If an innocent maiden came within her magic circle, she would change her into a bird and stuff her into a wicker basket. Then she would carry the basket up to a room in her castle where she had well over seven thousand baskets with rare birds of this kind.
Now, once there was a maiden named Jorinda, who was more beautiful than any other maiden in the kingdom. She was betrothed to a handsome youth named Joringel. During the time before their marriage, they took great pleasure in each other’s company. One day they went for a walk in the forest so they could be alone and talk intimately with one another.
“Be careful,” Joringel said, “that you don’t go too close to the castle.”
At dusk the sun shone brightly through the tree trunks and cast its light on the dark green of the forest. The turtledoves were singing mournfully in the old beech trees and at times Jorinda wept. Then she sat down in the sunshine and sighed and Joringel sighed too. They became very sad as if they were doomed to die and when they looked around them they became confused and didn’t know how to get home. The sun was still shining half above and half behind the mountains. When Joringel looked through the bushes and saw the wall of the old castle not very far away, he became so alarmed that he was nearly frightened to death, while Jorinda sang:
“Oh, my bird, with your ring of red,
sitting and singing your tale of woe!
You tell us now that the poor dove is dead.
You sing your tale of woe- oh-oh, oh-oh !”
Just then, as Joringel looked at Jorinda, she was turned into a nightingale singing “oh-oh, oh-oh!”
A night owl with glowing eyes flew around her three times and each time it cried, “To-whoo ! To-whoo! To-whoo!”
Joringel couldn’t budge. He stood there like a stone unable to weep, to talk or to move hand or foot. When the sun was about to set, the owl flew into a bush and then immediately returned as a haggard old woman, yellow and scrawny, with large red eyes and a crooked nose that almost touched her chin with its tip. She muttered something to herself, caught the nightingale and carried it away in her hand. Joringel was still unable to speak nor could he move from the spot. The nightingale was gone. Soon the woman came back and said with a muffled voice, “Greetings, Zachiel. When the moon shines into the basket, let him loose, Zachiel, just at the right moment.”
Then, Joringel was set free and he fell on his knees before the woman and begged her to give Jorinda back to him but she said he would never get her back again and went away. Joringel shouted. He wept, he moaned, but it was all in vain. “Oh, now what’s to become of me ?”
Joringel went off and eventually came to a strange village, where he tended sheep for a long time. He often went around and around the castle and always kept his distance. Finally, he dreamed one night that he had found a flower as red as blood and in the middle of it was a pearl. He plucked the flower and went with it to the castle: everything that he touched with the flower was released from the magic spell. He also dreamed that he managed to regain his Jorinda with the flower.
When he awoke the next morning, he began searching all over the mountains and valleys for the flower in his dream. He searched for nine days and early on the ninth day he found a flower as red as blood. In its middle was a large dewdrop as big as the finest pearl. He carried this flower day and night until he reached the castle. When he came to within a hundred steps of the castle, he didn’t become spellbound but was able to get to the gate. Overjoyed by that, Joringel touched the gate with the flower and it sprang open. So he entered, crossed the courtyard and listened for the sound of birds. Finally, he heard them and went toward the room where the sorceress was feeding the birds in their seven thousand baskets. When she saw Joringel, she became angry, very angry. She began berating him and spitting poison and gall at him, but she could only come within two feet of him and he paid no attention to her. Instead, he went and examined the baskets with the birds. Since there were hundreds of nightingales, he didn’t know how he’d be able to find his Jorinda again. While he was examining the baskets, he noticed that the old woman had stealthily picked up one of them and was heading toward the door. Quick as a flash he ran over and touched the basket with the flower and immediately thereafter, he touched the old woman as well. Now she could no longer use her magic and consequently Jorinda appeared before him. She threw her arms around his neck and was just as beautiful as before. After Joringel had turned all the other birds into young women, he went home with his Jorinda and they lived together in happiness for a long time.
On the wings of doves everywhere,
The Castle Lady