The Harry Potter Dimension

In June 1997 the world was introduced to Harry Potter. The British author J.K. Rowling published her first book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first of a series of 7 books that are set in the Harry Potter Dimension. This dimension is very similar to ours. The big difference is that some people there are wizards and are capable of performing magic.

This results in a division of society

The two parts of humanity live very separate lives: The wizards try to keep their existence as secret as possible. They have their own government, newspapers, postal system, fashion, sports and means of transportation.

Both groups are intertwined nonetheless because sometimes magically gifted children are born to non-magical parents (Muggles), like Harry´s friend Hermione Granger, and some magical parents produce non-magical children. So Muggles and wizards have the same origins. One side can hardly understand the other though and this is why many prejudices exist on both sides.

Both cultures have differences in status

There are poor people like Harry and his friend Ron Weasley and there are rich ones like the Malfoy family, who deem themselves to be better. On both sides there are good and bad, tolerant and intolerant people. The Muggle aunt and uncle who grudgingly raise Harry are a very bad stepfamily who try to keep him from his magic heritage and harm him as much as they can.

There is a lot of information about the Harry Potter Dimension

This is the world´s bestselling fantasy series. 500 million copies have been sold worldwide, translated into 80 languages. People could not wait to read the next sequel, just like me. I was so glad that I did not have to wait for the translation into German and thus could read the books months earlier.

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Harry and his friends fight against the evil Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who wants to become immortal and be the dictator over both wizards and Muggles. The series concludes with Harry finally winning thus saving the world.

This series made the Harry Potter dimension almost as popular as the Fairy Tale Dimension. The word Muggle has even made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary!

Most people are not aware that these constructs of human fantasy are actually reality – just somewhere else – and that the authors have successfully tapped into them for us to enjoy.

Similarities to our dimension

Harry Potter´s world shares our geography. Great Britain and other countries exist and the continents seem to be much the same.

We tend to separate ourselves from people who are different

There is a deeply ingrained fear of people who are different from us whether they look different, have a different religion or sexual orientation. This is because of our fight or flight inheritance where everything that is different could potentially be deadly.

Society in the Harry Potter Dimension reminds me of a very strict Apartheid system. In the US the president stands for people who like to separate themselves from Blacks, Hispanics and Asians.

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In Germany you can see this, too. Many refugees with different skin colour came into the country lately overwhelming part of the population. People react with resistance because it is clear that Germany will never be the same. This is why I work with refugees.

We are fascinated by magic

Magic does not work in our dimension, but we are fascinated by it. For some people it  sounds like magic that we can create our own reality: We are getting more conscious of our energies and the way we use our thoughts and actions to materialise what we want to have in our lives.

Similarities to the Fairy Tale Dimension

I just read The Tales of Beedle the Bard – by J.K. Rowling. In this book she compares our (Muggle) fairy tales to Wizard fairy tales. It seems that both dimensions have a strong connection to the Fairy Tale Dimension. Their fairy tales are also also played there.

In our fairy tales the heroes often have to overcome magic of an adversary – like the poisoned apple in Snow White for example.

In the fairy tales of the Harry Potter Dimension the heroes are capable of doing magic themselves and encounter severe problems because Magic seems to cause as many problems as it cures. It can make life complicated. Here an example:

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The tale of The Wizard and the Hopping Pod:

A wizard inherits a cauldron from his father but he has no intention to follow in his footsteps and generously cure the Muggles in his village who come to him for help. He soon discovers why his father was so helpful: When he turns away the first help-seekers the cauldron starts to hop after him clanging loudly displaying the symptoms of all the people in need around him making sleep impossible. Finally the son has to give in and he helps everybody so that the cauldron is quiet and he can finally get some rest.

Magic by wand in the Harry Potter Dimension

In the Harry Potter Dimension wizards are all but helpless without their wands. Wands are made out of different kinds of wood and are said to have different properties. It is a very important to find one fitting well to each wizard´s style. Ron Weasley has to bear the consequences of having to use a broken hand-me-down wand that produces faulty results all the time.

A wand says something about the wizard who owns it and some are even thought to be socially incompatible: “When his wand is oak and hers is holly, then to marry would be folly”. (The Tales of Beedle the Bard, page 118)

The wands are usually buried with their user when they die because people believe that they are capable of learning and would possibly become powerful and therefore dangerous when learning magic from generations of wizards. Imagine that!

Wands have to be used with spells. Without the right spell a wand cannot do much.  All this complicates doing magic and to not cause any harm to yourself and to others you need to have a thorough education in magic in an institution like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Magic in the Fairy Tale Dimension

In the Fairy Tale Dimension everybody has basic magic abilities. It is normal just like breathing. People don´t have to think about coming back to life when their play has been too fierce again. They don´t need wands for their magic. Not everybody is interested in becoming a wizard of course. For those who are gifted there are hidden schools that are well secured like the school of my friend the tree teacher. Students learn spells and the fabrication of magic objects there.

Death is final

Contrary to the Fairy Tale Dimension death in the Harry Potter Dimension is final, just like in our dimension. Some wizards have tried to overcome this with Dark Magic only to produce terrible monsters, the Inferi.

The postal system 

in the Fairy Tale Dimension is very diverse as I wrote in this article. Post by owl is also known and many other means.

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Hedwig, Harry´s white owl, delivers his mail. She is able to transport even parcels as big as the famous broom Nimbus 2000 Harry received when he joined the Quidditch team.

Did you know people play a form of Quidditch in our dimension, too? Take a look here.

Means of transportation

Wizards in the Harry Potter Dimension cannot fly like birds. Brooms are one possible means of transportation. We have witnessed Harry flying in a car to Hogwarts in the second book.

Another means of transportation is Apparition which teleports you immediately from one place to another. Only very accomplished wizards manage this. And there is the Floo Network that lets you travel from fireplace to fireplace that is one of the main modes of transportation.

In the Fairy Tale Dimension there are secret passageways for the ring bearer and her shadows throughout the dimension. I also own a pair of flying shoes like the Greek messenger god Hermes. You can find more information on transportation methods in the FTD here.

Invisibility cloaks

They exist in both dimensions although they are rare. Harry inherited one from his father enabling him to move about unseen. I have one in the Fairy Tale Dimension. It is one of the perks of being the ring bearer. Sneaking around is one of the favourite pastimes of many Fairy Tale Dimension inhabitants.

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Books

The book of monsters Harry consults in the library at Hogwarts is similar to the talking books in the libraries I adore so much in the Fairy Tale Dimension.

The Fairy Tale Dimension has become part of my life

I like to visit the Harry Potter Dimension. It is fun. But my favourite dimension besides the one we live in is the Fairy Tale Dimension.

I encounter beings from the Fairy Tale Dimension more often now that I am more aware of them:

The other day I was in a restaurant alone and when I left three waiters fell practically over each other telling me good-bye and giving me big toothy smiles. I greeted them back and immediately thought: They behave as if I was a celebrity, they must be from the Fairy Tale Dimension!

What other dimensions do you want to visit?

We all visit other dimensions without being aware of it; mostly in dreams. This week we start a dream group headed by my friend Harry Bosma where we visit other dimensions in dreams. It is always very surprising and fun what comes up in these group dream events. Check out his website. Here is an article about the Waterfall Dimension and Dreaming about a previous dream group.

 

Links

Books

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher´s Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowlings

Pictures: Pixabay and private

© Inge Schumacher

 

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The Jonah Whale in the Fairy Tale Dimension

Whales are fascinating creatures. I did some exploring both here and the fairy tale dimension and introduce the Jonah Whale in this article.

This article features the roles of whales in this dimension and the species of the Jonah Whale in the Fairy Tale Dimension. When I was a kid I had a book with bible stories that I liked a lot. One of the stories that fascinated me most was the story of Jonah and the whale.

The bible story of Jonah and the Whale

God sends Jonah to the city of Niniveh to get them to change their sinful ways. Since Jonah is not stupid and knows that the life of a messenger with bad tidings is in mortal danger he refuses and flees. He goes to Jaffa where he catches a boat that sails to Tarshish.

Because God is not amused with his behaviour he sends a heavy storm that threatens to capsize the ship. The sailors get anxious and ask themselves why this is happening. Jonah admits that he is probably to blame because he did not abide God´s wishes. He offers them to go overboard to save the ship because he knows the storm will cease then. At first the sailors refuse but when the storm gets worse they are forced to throw Jonah overboard to save their lives. As soon as Jonah is off the ship the storm calms down.

Jonah does not drown however. A big fish appears and swallows him. He spends 3 days and three nights in its belly. There he repents and promises God to do as he bade him and go to Niniveh as soon as he is saved. Miraculously the fish spits him out near his destination.

He musters all his courage goes into the city and tells the king and the city´s inhabitants that they are doomed should they not repent and change their ways in the next 40 days. Astonishingly the people believe him and let him live. Everybody puts on sackcloth, fasts and repents. God sees this change in their ways and spares the city from destruction – this time.

What a story! Jonah experiences a lot of action as a very reluctant messenger.

Jonah is forced to do a job nobody in his right mind would volunteer for. He runs away – but who can run away from God? God finds an original way to persuade Jonah to do the job in spite of himself. He obviously thinks he is the right person for this.

Scientists today mostly believe that the story is fictional but interestingly it exists not only in Christianity, but also in Judaism and Islam. This Wikipedia article gives a good overview.

The bible calls the sea-creature a big fish but sometimes it is also called a whale. What they both have in common is that they are huge. The biggest mammal on earth is the blue whale with a length of up to 30 m.

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Jonah´s story is not the only one where people are swallowed by a big fish. I remember that in the Italian Fairy Tale Pinocchio , the wooden puppet, meets his father Geppetto in the stomach of a fish where he has been living for some time.

There probably are more stories where people get swallowed by a whale that I am not aware of. Do you know any other stories? Please share!

 Whales are often seen as spirit animals

Some people believe that inside the whale there lives a beautiful woman, the soul of the whale, who is the keeper of old knowledge. The following characteristics are attributed to whales:

  • Keepers of history and wisdom
  • Show the importance of family and community
  • Emotional rebirth
  • Peacefulness
  • Strength
  • Communication

Throughout human history there have been many myths and stories about whales:

  • The whale is said to have a connection between this world and Atlantis, which is another dimension
  • Arctic people believe the whale to have a cunning side
  • In Slavic cultures the whale was seen as the pillar of the universe
  • In ancient China the oceans was believed to be ruled by Yu-kiang, a giant fish that was a thousand meters long and had human hands and feet
  • In East Africa there exists a fairy tale of a king named Sulemani who tries to feed the world and sees that he cannot manage this alone when faced with the appetite of many hungry whales
  • In Vietnam whales are regarded as sacred beings that bring luck, safety and prosperity
  • Inuit have a history of talking to whales
  • Today the whale is often used as a symbol for globalisation and the unity of the world

A whale in the night sky

The star constellation featuring a whale is called Cetus. It is one of the four biggest constellations and includes the star Tau Ceti and a big galaxy called M77. The word Cetus comes from the Greek word ketos and means large fish, shark or sea monster. The English word Cetaceans for whales is derived from it.

My own experience with whales

2012 I stayed for a week in Westiceland where a pod of Orcas came feeding close to the shore at night. We sat for hours at the beach in the midnight sun mesmerised watching these fascinating creatures. A little one swam right up to the shore and looked in my eyes. I will never forget this!

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Back home I read up on whales and found that some Bowhead whales, filter feeders like the blue whales, can get up to 200 years old making them some of the oldest beings on earth. Some people say that these creatures could be the living archives of their families. Recording deaths, births and where the best feeding grounds are, ensuring the continuity of culture.

I am quite fascinated by these animals and I am not alone. They have a big draw. Whale watching is very popular but sadly some countries still insist on killing these fascinating creatures.

Behind the scenes info on the Jonah Whale in the Fairy Tale Dimension

I did some research in the Fairy Tale Dimension as the ring bearer and found that there are creatures similar to whales that transport people and cargo.

I call this species the Jonah Whale because I like to picture Jonah travelling in one of them. I don´t know whether to call them fish, whales or water dragons.

Jonah Whales come in all shapes and sizes and can get up to 100 meters long. When you translate this into a submarine these beings are able to transport quite a number of passengers.

The Jonah Whales are sentient intelligent beings like us. They enter the Fairy Tale Dimension like everybody else with the help of the GrImporter.

They have hollow parts in their bodies like caves where passengers can stay while being ferried from one part of the Fairy Tale Dimension to another over oceans, lakes or big rivers.

Being part of the Fairy Tale Dimension with its very special sense of humour you can bet there can be any number of surprises when you choose this means of transportation!

You enter through the huge mouth and it is quite scary to walk along the rows of large teeth and on the huge tongue.

Being spit out is one of the nice ways of disembarking. Sometimes the whales choose to treat their passengers as bodily waste – I leave you to picture that – or shoot them out of their blowhole. Since you are quite indestructible in the Fairy Tale Dimension – it does not matter when you get hurt and disembarking is just another way of being playful.

Playing with Jonah Whales

There seem to be endless opportunities at being playful with these creatures. They have a multitude of  contests.

  1.  They love to race each other or compare who can carry more passengers or cargo.
  2. I have this picture in my mind of many people squeezing into them. You can see the outward shape of the Jonah Whales bulging because of this. Imagine the creature sneezing then: People are spewed outwards in all directions!
  3. They also like to compete at who can jump highest or dive lowest retrieving objects from the deep-sea.
  4. Have you ever wanted to be a live cannonball? You can volunteer taking part in a contest where whales see who can propel his passengers furthest.
  5. There also is a game where people are bounced from one creature to the next. You lose when you fall into the water. The one who stays out of it the longest wins.

What fascinates you about whales and what would you like to play with the Jonah Whale? Please share in the comments!

Pictures: Pixabay and private

Links

 

© Inge Schumacher

Christmas fairy tale of Iceland: The Yule Lads

A big portion of my Christmas decorations consists of Santa Clauses. I have a very strong connection to the country of the Santa Clauses in the Fairy Tale Dimension and that explains why I am such a big fan of the red and white clad figures. I am not the only fan of this country. Thousands of movies, books and songs about Santas attest to the love for this fairy tale country we have. The Santa country is one of the biggest and most divers fairy tale countries in the Fairy Tale Dimension. Hundreds of different Santa Claus stories are played there.

The Christian Santa Claus

A lot of different pagan rituals and stories around the winter solstice were absorbed by Christianity over the centuries. The Christian Santa figure got his name from Saint Nicholas, He lived in the Roman Empire in the fourth century and he was a bishop who was famous for his miracles. Originally from a wealthy family he distributed his wealth to the poor. He set the example and sharing and helping that have been a big part of our Christian Christmas traditions ever since.

The Santas living in the fairy tale dimension are not always the benevolent present distributors I am so fond of. Today I want to introduce you to some pretty scary Santas who are trolls. They are part of the Iceland Christmas traditions.

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Life in Iceland used to be very hard

Until the twentieth century life in Iceland was very harsh and the people were very poor. The hundreds of years old Icelandic sagas mirror the adverse environment in which Icelanders had to fight hard for survival. Only a limited variety of food grew in the cold climate and people relied mainly on fish and sheep for food. Hunger was common.

Perhaps because of this history Iceland has the most hair-raising Christmas creatures I have heard of. The Icelandic Santa Clause family: The Yule Lads (jólasveinar in Icelandic) and their parents.

The 13 Icelandic Santas are living in a family

According to different legends The Icelandic Yule Lads live either in the highlands in the middle of Iceland or in the Dimmuborgir region in the north near lake Mývatn with their troll parents Grýla and Leppalúði and their pet-beast the Christmas Cat. There are historical records of up to 70 Yule Lads, but only 13 Yule lads have survived until today. Even though they are not as bad as their parents, they have very bad manners. Considering who raised them this is no wonder.

The parents of Yule Lads in Iceland 

Grýla – the mother – is a big troll. She looks rather intimidating and is reported to have a tail and multiple heads. As trolls are often cannibals she likes human meat and hunts for misbehaving children in the Christmas season, whom she cooks in a large pot to make stew. There seems to be no shortage of food because she is always depicted as being very well nourished.

Leppalúði is Gryla´s third husband and the father of the 13 Yule lads. He is said to be a quite useless chap. This dumb skinny troll does whatever Grýla commands him to do. He helps her to catch naughty kids for her stew and carries them home in his big sack.

The Christmas Cat

As if the parents are not frightful enough, there is also the scary Christmas Cat (Jólakötturinn) to evade during the Christmas season. This giant black cat shares Grýla´s taste for humans. She is rumoured to devour everybody who does not receive a new piece of clothing before Christmas. So if you don’t want your loved ones to be eaten by this giant troll cat, you better give them at least a pair of new socks or a scarf. 

In 1932 Jóhannes úr Kötlum wrote the still popular poetry book about the Yule Lads. There he gives descriptions of each of the 13 Christmas trolls and describes their comings and goings. Some Icelanders still know it by heart. Hallberg Hallmundsson translated this long poem in English.

The Christmas Season in Iceland

The Icelandic Christmas season lasts for 26 days, from the 11th of December until the 6th of January. It starts when the first Yule Lad arrives 13 days before Christmas Eve and finishes when the last one of them leaves on the 6th of January. They arrive singly until Christmas Eve and then leave in the same order starting on Christmas Day one by one to head home again not to be seen until next season.

The 13 Yule Lads of Iceland

The Icelandic troll Santa Clauses get their peculiar names after their individual characteristics. They are skinny because they are always hungry. Their mother  does not seem to feed them well. These guys are troublemakers who steal food and play tricks on people. This is why the Icelanders have to look well after their food during the Christmas season.

Besides being a nuisance and stealing food the Yule Lads are also ugly and pretty stupid. Here are the descriptions of each Yule Lad in order of the night he visits:

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Illustration by Hugleikur Dagsson

1. Sheep-Cote Clod (Stekkjarstaur)

He has two wooden legs, which make him slow to move. He likes to harass the sheep that have been brought in for the winter. In Icelandic farms the barn used to be part of the house so that the sheep running around in panic could easily be heard.

2. Gully-Gawk (Giljagaur)

He hides in gullies looking for a chance to steal milk from the cows when the farmers do not pay attention.

3. Stubby (Stúfur)

As his name suggests he is very short. He tries to steal pans that have food dried on them because he loves to eat the crusts.

4. Spoon-Licker (Þvörusleikir)

He is abnormally tall and thin as a rake because he is only eating by licking spoons clean. He prefers the long-handled ones that are used for stirring in big pots.

5. Pot-Scraper (Pottaskefill)

steals pots to eat the leftovers. To get to the pots he likes to trick children to make them think that someone is at the door and when they run to see who it is he sneaks in and snatches the pots.

6. Bowl-Licker (Askasleikir)

When the Bowl-Licker is in the house you can find him lurking under the bed. There he waits until somebody puts a bowl with food on the floor, which was happening a lot in the old days because beds were also used as chairs and there were not many tables. Then he reaches out from under the bed, steals the bowl and eats everything in it.

7. Door-Slammer (Hurðaskellir)

is a really annoying lad. True to his name he likes slamming doors loudly, preferably at night. When you have just drifted off to sleep he wakes you up with slamming another door.

8. Skyr-Gobbler (Skyrgármur)

When he has been visiting you can easily tell because he leaves his finger marks all over the skyr. He is also a very messy eater so that you have to clean up a lot after him. Skyr is a delicious Icelandic dairy product. Everybody tries to copy it nowadays but in my opinion nobody succeeds in making it taste as good as the Icelanders do.

9. Sausage –Swiper (Bjúgnakrækir)

He hides in the rafts under the roof and raids food from sitting up on a crossbeam. At the first chance he gets he snatches and gobbles up every sausage he can find.

10. Window-Peeper (Gluggagægir)

He is one of the more creepy Yule lads. With his enormous eyes he peers through the windows and steals everything he can see and get his hands on. This makes him perhaps the worst thief of the group.

11. Doorway-Sniffer (Gáttaþefur)

With his huge nose he can make out delicious Christmas treats from far away. He sneaks around outside of Icelandic houses and hopes that someone forgets to close the door so he can get inside to steal the food.

12. Meet-Hook (Ketkrókur)

This Yule lad steals meat by lowering a hook through the chimney. He uses the hook to grab smoked meat that is hanging from the rafts. Luckily his hook is often too short to reach everything.

13. Candle-Stealer (Kertasníkir)

He sneaks up on the children who run around the farm at night with their tallow lights to steal them. These candles were made of fat and he did not want them because of their light but to eat them.

When Christmas is finally there

the Icelandic farmers have a lot of their food stolen and are probably hungry. They are also tired from waking up several times a night, spooked because of strange sounds coming from the doors, sheep pens, the roof or the stables. They wonder why they cannot find any candles. Still they are lucky not to have been eaten by either Grýla or her cat.

You see that the Christmas season in Iceland used to be a very scary part of the year. The sun only managed to creep over the horizon for about 4 hours and people imagined all kinds of ghosts lurking outside.

Only ghosts were said to knock on doors at night. In the old days if a visitor came in the dark he went to the window and said: Here is God (Hér sé guð) to distinguish himself from the dangerous beings lurking outside.

The Icelandic Santa Clauses today

The fairy tale of the 13 Icelandic Yule lads, their parents and pet makes me glad that I grew up with stories of benevolent fat red clad Santa Clauses. I feel sorry for the Icelandic children who have been raised with tales of these intimidating dangerous creatures over the centuries.

The old stories are still very much alive today in Iceland and you can meet Icelandic Yule Lads at Christmas parties, in schools and pre-schools. Nowadays these lads have softened up though. The Icelandic Santas have even started to leave presents for children in their shoes if they put them in the windows.

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How do you feel about the Icelandic Yule Lads? What kind of Santa Clause is your favourite? Please share!

 

Pictures: private and Hugleikur Dagsson

© Inge Schumacher

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Petra Pan in a Fairy tale about Freedom and Fun

1. A fairy tale country you want to visit for a big dose of fun.

A lot of us have a very close connection to this fairy tale country. Do you remember dreams of impossible adventures in your childhood? You may have been one of the many children who visit Neverland in dreams.

When I tapped into this fairy tale story my first strong impression was that Peter Pan was female: Petra Pan should be the name of the heroine. I asked myself why Barrie wrote about a boy. When I did some research of the history of Great Britain at the time Barrie wrote about Peter (1902) the reasons became clear.

Barrie first used Peter Pan as a minor character in his novel” The Little White Bird” (1902). People liked the character and so 1904 Peter got the central role in a stage play titled Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. In 1911 Peter became the lead character of the still popular novel Peter and Wendy I am basing this article on. Today there are a lot of works based on this story: films, unauthorised sequels, comics and computer games. Peter Pan still captures our imagination today and you will know why when we take a closer look behind the scenes of this country.

 

2. Historical Background

Society before the First World War (1914-1918) was very stiff and governed by many rules. Queen Victoria reigned until 1901. The Victorian era was identified with strict standards of personal morality. Women had hardly any rights. They were not allowed to vote or to study. They wore confining long dresses and corsets that symbolise the female oppression of these timesfor me. As a woman you were supposed to be docile, loving and maternal, not adventurous and intelligent. The time certainly was not ripe for a cheeky girl to be a heroine who defies rules.

In Barrie´s story the Lost Boys appoint Wendy as a surrogate mother as soon as she arrives in Neverland. She readily assumes this role that she learned from her mother including making a home and singing lullabies.

Nevertheless Barrie wrote Peter Pan in times when change was waiting just around the corner: Women were starting to campaign for the vote and equal rights. Perhaps this is the reason why he included so many elements of freedom in his novel.

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3. The Story of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

The Darling household consists of the three children, Wendy, John, and Michael; the stern but friendly father, Mr Darling; the loving mother, Mrs Darling and the children’s nurse, the dog Nana.
Peter Pan likes to sneak into the children’s bedroom at night to listen to the kids´ bedtime stories. One night, Nana and Mrs Darling see him and almost catch him, but only get hold of his shadow when he flees out the window. They roll it up and put it in a drawer. Peter returns with the fairy Tinker Bell later after the parents have left for a dinner party. When he finds his shadow, he can’t make it stick to him and wakes Wendy who sews it onto him.
Peter tells Wendy that he has run away the day he was born because he heard his parents talk about the things he would do when he was a man. He explains that he went to live in Neverland so that he would never have to grow up. Now he leads a group of boys there, who got lost when they fell out of their prams.
Peter convinces Wendy and her brothers, by teaching them how to fly, to return to Neverland with him and Tinker Bell. They fly over the rooftops of London into the sky and beyond.
In Neverland the lost boys share their island with the pirates, led by Captain Hook, and the Picadilly Indian tribe, led by the chief and his daughter Tiger Lily. Hook desperately wants to capture Peter Pan and his friends because Peter cut off Hook’s hand and fed it to a crocodile. The crocodile likes his taste so much that he follows him everywhere. Since the crocodile has also swallowed a clock, the ticking warns Hook of his approach.
When they arrive in the magical land the lost boys, spurred on by a jealous Tinker Bell, believe Wendy to be a giant bird and shoot at her with a bow and arrow. Peter saves Wendy and banishes Tinker Bell. He then explains to the others where Wendy and her brothers come from. They build her a house and ask her to be their mother. Hook and the pirates put a green poison cake near the new house. The boys want to eat it as soon as they find it, but Wendy, the wise mother, stops them and puts them to bed, after singing lullabies to them.
The next day, Peter takes Wendy to see the mermaids. While there they see the pirates put Tiger Lily on a rock to drown at high tide. Peter saves her and the Indians become their friends.
Eventually, the children get homesick and decide they want to return to London. The lost boys want to go with them, but Peter wants to stay. Hook and the pirates stop these plans by capturing the children. Peter narrowly escapes with Tinker Bell’s help.
The pirates are about to have their captives walk the plank, when Peter saves them. In the final fight with Hook, Peter forces the pirate captain to the edge of the ship where he falls into the waiting jaws of the crocodile.
The three children finally return home, along with the lost boys, who are adopted by the Darlings. Peter stays in Neverland, coming to visit Wendy once in a while but she soon turns into an adult and forgets about Neverland. However, she has a daughter, Jane, who dreams of pirates, Indians, and magical places far away.

 

Barrie´s Neverland stands for freedom

Peter and the Lost Boys, the Pirates and the Indians in Neverland live a free life compared to the strict rules of Victorian times.

The Darling household looks pretty normal on the surface. The only hint that this family might be different is that their nanny is a dog. The children meet Peter, a person from another dimension and travel with him to his world. Peter, Wendy and her brothers are the connection between the two dimensions. They get the opportunity to experience the freedom of Neverland.

Peter, the leader of the Lost Boys, is cheeky and rebellious. Even laws of nature, like growing up, don´t apply to them.

The Pirates in Barrie´s story also stand for freedom and individualism. In our dimension they successfully interrupted trade, colonialism and social order. During the 19th century they were presented as romantic anti-heroes. (Treasure Island by Stevenson was published in1883).

Indians in Barrie´s time were viewed as strong and free people. Karl May´s Winnetou (1878) was popular at the time and is probably partly responsible for this. The public did not acknowledge the genocide that was going on at the time.

 

4. Behind the scenes of Neverland

The main themes in Neverland are playfulness, adventures and freedom. For me it looks like a giant playground.

This fairy tale country is loud and exuberant: When arriving you may stumble upon a noisy battle between pirates while a few miles away some sea creatures are trying to devour a group of Lost Children. This country is nothing for the fainthearted!

Its landscape consists of many islands scattered in an ocean, very similar to the country of the merpeople. However the landscape of Neverland is as variable as a giant stage and can be easily adjusted to the needs of the inhabitants: Should they need a bay, some steep mountains or a big cave, they contact the local magician and make it happen.

The many different interacting groups make this fairy tale country so colourful. All the time something is happening.  The groups invent new adventures continuously. Sometimes many different groups are involved in them and sometimes only one.  Alliances change constantly. Individuals can join other groups easily: An Indian can become a pirate or a mermaid.

Successful players become group leaders fast and lose their jobs just as fast when they are not successfull. This is why cunning and intelligence are very important traits in this country.

In spite of all their battles and conflicts the inhabitants divide the chores of providing food and clothing for everybody between themselves evenly.

 

4.1 The known players

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Petra, Peter and the Lost Children

The Peters and Petras of Neverland are the leaders of their respective teams. The number of teams varies according to the number of participants. The teams are not exclusively male or female. Besides boys and girls also faeries and other magic creatures belong in this. What they have in common is that they are young and love wild playing.

 

The Pirates

The pirates in this fairy tale country are adults. The crews live on a variety of ships ranging from wooden three masters to modern yachts that are powered by magic. The pirate captains and crew consist of males, females and magic creatures, who enjoy serious sword fights. They second as fishermen and provide food from the sea for everybody. Some ships trade with neighbouring countries.

 

The Indians

They live on the islands as families in villages consisting of teepees with chiefs as mayors. Together they work the land providing much of the needed food. They provide a safe heaven for people who need some rest and tranquillity after too much hard play. Of course they also take part in the games. It depends on the individuals how much they want to involve themselves.

 

The merpeople

form an in-between group. They belong partly to the ocean and partly on land. They are shape-shifters just like in the country of the merpeople.

 

4.2 The unknown players

The sea-creatures

This is a cool group. The crocodile stands for these dangerous animals living mainly in the ocean. They form a separate group that includes whales, giant octopus, stingrays, huge sea snakes and dragons. When they are in a good mood they let members of the other groups slide on their backs and take part in swimming and diving contests.

 

The magicians

The magicians in this fairy tale country love playfulness just as much as the other inhabitants. Together with the respective group leaders they design and build new “playgrounds” or arenas for games. They can control the weather and help out should a storm be needed. Should arise the need for an arbiter the magicians have the last word.

Their job is to maintain order if games get out of hand. They are allowed to play too, of course.

 

The shadows

In Barrie´s story Peter´s shadow can exit separately. This is typical for the Fairy Tale Dimension. There the shadows are just another life form. When they have time off they live a life of their own. Because of having less substance shadows have faster ways of travelling and communication than the other inhabitants. They are organised in a brotherhood, an organisation that spans the whole dimension.

In Neverland the shadows form a separate group and take part in the games. As you can imgaine they are responsible for many surprises.

 

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5. Being 100% present

I love this country for its sense of freedom, its creativity and its bursting energy. The inhabitants act out their aggressions and rivalries in bloody adventures and make sure they are maintaining their country at the same time. This gives them the chance to be 100% in the now.

But remember, in the Fairy Tale Dimension results of wild play like serious injuries or death are not final and easily remedied.

The players´ fantasies are the only boundaries: Games are set in all kinds of environments: In the air with fairy dust or hot air balloons, in and on the surface of the sea and on and beneath the ground. Imagine a whole country with ADHD! Neverland definitely is no utopia. Everything is allowed and fair play is not an option. I love to visit these wild lovable people although it can get quite exhausting.

My first impression of  Petra Pan was a symbol for the possibilities of this country. It  is so unique that it cannot be compared to anything else I have ever seen. These guys are  living their freedom to the fullest without any compromises.

A big part of my attraction for this fairy tale country is that its inhabitants are aware that they are self directing and that they are always totally present in everything they are doing. This is incredibly powerful and something we can definitely learn from them.

© Inge Schumacher

 

Little Red Riding Hood Revisited

Today I invite you for a closer look at a very popular country in the Fairy Tale Dimension, the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Its origins can be traced back to the 10th century. In Germany we grow up with Grimm´s version called Rotkäppchen, which means Little Red Cap. I start this article with this version because it includes all of the important aspects of the story. Then I take a short look at a few other fascinating versions before inviting you for our behind the scenes look at this fairy tale land.

 

Little Red Cap, the Grimm´s version of the fairy tale:

“Once upon a time there was a sweet little girl. Everyone who saw her liked her, but most of all her grandmother, who did not know what to give the child next. Once she gave her a little cap made of red velvet. Because it suited her so well, and she wanted to wear it all the time, she came to be known as Little Red Cap.
One day her mother said to her, “Come Little Red Cap. Here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your grandmother. She is sick and weak, and they will do her well. Mind your manners and give her my greetings. Behave yourself on the way, and do not leave the path, or you might fall down and break the glass, and then there will be nothing for your grandmother. And when you enter her parlour, don’t forget to say ‘Good morning,’ and don’t peer into all the corners first.”
“I’ll do everything just right,” said Little Red Cap, shaking her mother’s hand.
The grandmother lived out in the woods, half an hour from the village. When Little Red Cap entered the woods a wolf came up to her. She did not know what a wicked animal he was, and was not afraid of him.
“Good day to you, Little Red Cap.”
“Thank you, wolf.”
“Where are you going so early, Little Red Cap?”
“To grandmother’s.”
“And what are you carrying under your apron?”
“Grandmother is sick and weak, and I am taking her some cake and wine. We baked yesterday, and they should be good for her and give her strength.”
“Little Red Cap, just where does your grandmother live?”
“Her house is good quarter hour from here in the woods, under the three large oak trees. There’s a hedge of hazel bushes there. You must know the place,” said Little Red Cap.
The wolf thought to himself, “Now that sweet young thing is a tasty bite for me. She will taste even better than the old woman. You must be sly, and you can catch them both.”
He walked along a little while with Little Red Cap, then he said, “Little Red Cap, just look at the beautiful flowers that are all around us. Why don’t you go and take a look? And I don’t believe you can hear how beautifully the birds are singing. You are walking along as though you were on your way to school. It is very beautiful in the woods.”
Little Red Cap opened her eyes and when she saw the sunbeams dancing to and fro through the trees and how the ground was covered with beautiful flowers, she thought, “If a take a fresh bouquet to grandmother, she will be very pleased. Anyway, it is still early, and I’ll be home on time.” And she ran off the path into the woods looking for flowers. Each time she picked one she thought that she could see an even more beautiful one a little way off, and she ran after it, going further and further into the woods. But the wolf ran straight to the grandmother’s house and knocked on the door.
“Who’s there?”
“Little Red Cap. I’m bringing you some cake and wine. Open the door.”
“Just press the latch,” called out the grandmother. “I’m too weak to get up.”
The wolf pressed the latch, and the door opened. He stepped inside, went straight to the grandmother’s bed, and ate her up. Then he put on her clothes, put her cap on his head, got into her bed, and pulled the curtains shut.
Little Red Cap had run after the flowers. After she had gathered so many that she could not carry any more, she remembered her grandmother, and then continued on her way to her house. She found, to her surprise, that the door was open. She walked into the parlour, and everything looked so strange that she thought, “Oh, my God, why am I so afraid? I usually like it at grandmother’s.”
She called out, “Good morning!” but received no answer.
Then she went to the bed and pulled back the curtains. Grandmother was lying there with her cap pulled down over her face and looking very strange.
“Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!”
“All the better to hear you with.”
“Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!”
“All the better to see you with.”
“Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!”
“All the better to grab you with!”
“Oh, grandmother, what a horribly big mouth you have!”
“All the better to eat you with!”
The wolf had scarcely finished speaking when he jumped from the bed with a single leap and ate up poor Little Red Cap. As soon as the wolf had satisfied his desires, he climbed back into bed, fell asleep, and began to snore very loudly.
A huntsman was just passing by. He thought, “The old woman is snoring so loudly. You had better see if something is wrong with her.”
He stepped into the parlour, and when he approached the bed, he saw the wolf lying there. “So here I find you, you old sinner,” he said. “I have been hunting for you a long time.”
He was about to aim his rifle when it occurred to him that the wolf might have eaten the grandmother, and that she still might be rescued. So instead of shooting, he took a pair of scissors and began to cut open the wolf’s belly. After a few cuts he saw the red cap shining through, and after a few more cuts the girl jumped out, crying, “Oh, I was so frightened! It was so dark inside the wolf’s body!”
And then the grandmother came out as well, alive but hardly able to breathe. Then Little Red Cap fetched some large stones. She filled the wolf’s body with them, and when he woke up and tried to run away, the stones were so heavy that he immediately fell down dead.
The three of them were happy. The huntsman skinned the wolf and went home with the pelt. The grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine that Little Red Cap had brought. And Little Red Cap thought, “As long as I live, I will never leave the path and run off into the woods by myself if mother tells me not to.”

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Five other versions of this fairy tale

You can read the full versions here.

1. Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault

is probably the first literary version of the fairy tale (1697). Perrault´s story is the same as Grimm´s without the happy ending. There is no huntsman to save the ladies and thus the wolf is the only survivor.

Perrault adds a moral to the story however: “Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say “wolf,” but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.“

2. In Little Red Hood (Eastern Germany and Poland)

the wolf leads the girl astray by pointing out beautiful flowers along the way, thus buying himself time to devour the grandmother and getting ready for Little Red Hood. After also devouring her he falls asleep and his loud snoring makes a hunter suspicious. The hunter almost shoots the wolf, before luckily deciding to cut the wolf open and thereby saving grandmother and grandchild. After this they fill the wolf´s belly with stones, who when he wakes up drops dead.

3. Little Red Hat (Italy and Austria)

is a pretty gross and sinister tale. An ogre eats both the grandmother and the girl: He, for example, uses the small intestine of the grandmother as a door opener. Yuck! The ogre is the sole survivor in this story.

4. The grandmother (France)

is another unsavoury tale. The girl, no hood of any colour is mentioned, meets a werewolf on her way to her grandmother. He arrives first, eats the old woman and leaves pieces of the grandma for the hungry girl to eat who does not realize what she is offered. In this tale the girl just manages to escape by herself.

5. The true history of Little Golden-Hood by Charles Marelle

Marelle´s story has a happy ending and a pretty cool grandmother. In this story the girl wears a golden and fire coloured cloak made by her grandma. This cloak turns out to have magic powers. The wolf finds grandma´s house empty because she is at the market selling herbs. He waits for the girl in her bed. When he tries to devour the girl he is burnt badly by the magic cloak. He runs out of the house screaming and right into the sack the old lady, who is just coming back. The grandmother closes the sack and throws it in the well so that the wolf drowns. The next day she feeds his remains to the dogs.

 

A behind the scenes look at this fairy tale country

The main protagonists of this fairy tale country are: The girl, the grandmother and the villain: A wolf, werewolf or an ogre. In some tales there is a hunter who is the saviour of the women and there is also the invisible mother who seems to be a single parent. In some versions other inhabitants like woodcutters and villagers are mentioned.

More players

There are many more people playing in this fairy tale country than you might think. There are about 150 villages and each village plays different versions of the story. Because the inhabitants sometimes work in groups of twos or threes there are more than 150 Red Riding Hoods, Grandmothers and Wolves. This is making this game of hide and seek much more interesting.

As you know inhabitants of fairy tale countries can change roles and vary their story as they please; and death, of course, is not final in the Fairy Tale Dimension.

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Little Red Riding Hoods

In most of the stories I have presented here the girls with the red hood are innocent and, frankly, pretty dumb. They do not blink when meeting a talking wolf and freely tell the villain how to find the grandmother´s house. They are also not suspicious of the unfamiliar form in the bed posing as grandma. Consequently they are rarely able to save themselves.

But in this fairy tale country there are other Little Red Riding Hoods whose stories have not reached us yet. In some the girls have cunning and sinister personalities:

Imagine Little Red Riding Hood as a vampire, for example, sucking her grandmother´s blood and making her sick and weak. The hunter and the wolf search a long time for the culprit and are not suspecting the innocent little girl. One day they stumble upon her in the act and put a wooden stake through her heart.

Or Little Red Riding Hood infects everybody with her vampirism and turns the wolf into a werewolf in the process and the three of them proceed to raid the village together.

Wolves

The villains in the fairy tale stories known to us die often. They are portrayed as sinister lying animals with ferocious appetites. My behind the scenes look discovers wolves that are partial to eating hunters rather than girls or are simply living a harmless life integrated in their village.

In the 150 villages you can see many more types of wolves. I personally enjoy the dandy wolves most. They love to dress elegantly, have impeccable manners, use knife and fork and would never dream of eating anything raw.

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No Dandy Wolf!

Grandmothers

In the majority of the stories above the grandmothers are portrayed as being frail and sick. More interesting to me are the grandmothers who are agile and strong. They don´t let themselves be eaten easily and put up a decent fight. Some of them even know how to wield a sword.

 

This fairy tale country´s government

The government structure of this fairy tale country is unique. Every four years there is a big tournament where all the villagers meet and new stories are played and exchanged. At the end there is a referendum and the village with the most votes forms the next government. This is why this country has no capital: The leading village changes too often. The last winner hosts the tournament in which the next village is selected.

The village who won has to decide who out of its midst will become king and queen. This could be everybody: A woodcutter and a grandma, two wolves or a bigger group of individuals. If the village does not manage to establish a working government within a few months of the tournament the privilege of government goes to the village who made second place.

Yes, this has happened a few times and sometimes the ring bearer had to be called to bring order to the ensuing chaos.

I have met the current king and queen of this country. The current rulers are a Little Red Riding Hood with the name Sasha and a wolf named Beowulf. The wolf is one of the elegant ones, even sporting a monocle, and Little Red Riding hood is a plump woman who is a witch of great powers and consequently is quite dangerous. I love their great sense of humour.

Like Sasha the magicians in this fairy tale country are integrated in society. They incorporate all kinds of rolls. Part of the fun is that they hide their abilities.

 

I hope you enjoyed this excursion to a familiar fairy tale story and the behind the scenes look as much as I did. Which of the stories did you grow up with and which do you like best?

 

Links:

  • The history and background of Little Red Riding Hood is explained very well in this Wikipedia Article
  • A collection of more Little Red Riding Hood versions you can find here
  • Mari Ness offers a very thorough analysis of the fairy tale
pictures: pixabay

© Inge Schumacher

 

The Fairy Tale Country of the Merpeople

Merbeings, creatures that are half human and half fish, are fascinating. There are countless stories all over the world that prove this. We can find them in ancient fairy tales, in northern mythology or in modern TV adaptions. For example Oscar Wilde published a story The Fisherman and his Soul (1888). Even Netflix plans a fantasy adventure film that is based on Andersen´s story of the Little Mermaid in 2018.

Today I invite you to accompany me on the exploration of the country of the merpeople. I call it Mertopia. First we take a look at Andersen´s fairy tale The Little Mermaid and then we move on to the animated film Ariel. After this I want you to join me in a behind the scenes visit of the fairy tale land of the merpeople.

The Little Mermaid by Hans-Christian Andersen

The fairy tale The Little Mermaid was written in 1836 by Hans-Christian Andersen. It was probably inspired by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué´s fairy tale Undine (from 1811), which was very popular in the early 19th century. Undine is the love story of a knight and a mermaid.

Anderson´s story

Anderson´s merpeople don´t have souls and after a long life of 300 hundred years they turn into foam. Our little mermaid can only obtain a soul and thereby eternal life when a human being loves her, who willingly shares his soul with her.

She lives in an underwater kingdom with her widowed father, her grandmother and her five older sisters. She falls in love with a prince whose life she saves in a storm. She searches for a way to become human and achieves this with the help of a sinister sorceress. The price for her life on two legs is her beautiful singing voice. She will loose her life when her beloved prince does not marry her. Sadly her prince marries another girl, who, he falsely believes, rescued him from the shipwreck.

The mermaid´s family gives her another opportunity to return to them: Her sisters exchange their hair for a magic knife from the sorceress. When the little mermaid kills the prince with this knife she can come back. Of course she is not able to kill him. But instead of dying she is transformed again. She changes into another realm and joins spiritual beings, the daughters of the air. After doing good works for 200 years as a daughter of the air she has the opportunity to achieve an eternal soul.

In Anderson´s story the little mermaid goes through two transformations and lives in three very different places: First she lives in the underwater kingdom, then she becomes human and lives on land and finally she turns into a spiritual being. I don´t like this end very much.

None of the main figures in this fairy tale has a name. For me this makes them somewhat removed from the reader.

 

 

The Little Mermaid Ariel by Disney

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The animated film about the Little Mermaid Ariel (1989) is based on Anderson´s fairy tale. The original story was too tragic for writer Ron Clemens. That is the reason he rewrote it multiple times and modernised it.

Ariel´s Story

In the films and television series Ariel has bright red hair, blue eyes and a green fishtail. She is the youngest, seventh-born daughter of king Triton and lives in the underwater kingdom of Atlantica. Ariel is a rebellious teenager. She is so fascinated by the human world that she collects many human artifacts. Disney´s characters are never lonely: Ariel´s best friend is Flounder and she is watched over by Sebastian, a red crab from the Caribbean.

Ariel falls in love with prince Eric whom she saves from drowning when his ship sinks. To meet him again she wants to become human. The sea-witch Ursula agrees to turn her into a human in exchange for her voice. She has to make Eric kiss her out of true love within three days or she will belong to Ursula forever. Ursula does not play fair and prevents the kiss multiple times.

In the end Ariel does not manage to be kissed before the three days are over. She is changed back to her mermaid form and Ursula takes her away. Her father intervenes and trades himself for Ariel. In the final showdown Eric kills evil Ursula and thereby breaks her spells and saves Atlantica from destruction. There is a happy end and Triton transforms Ariel back into a human form. She then marries Eric and they live happily ever after.

In the next film Ariel has a daughter, she has started an interspecies family. With the help of her father she can change back and forth from being a mermaid to being a human.

 

A behind the scenes visit of Mertopia

The main theme of this country of merpeople is transformation.

A lot of the inhabitants of the fairy tale dimension are able to shape-shift. Depending on their roles in the different fairy tale countries they can change their appearance. But the inhabitants of this fairy tale country can do much more: They can morph into beings that can live under water or on land and also change into spirit-beings. This is why this country enables a wide variety of experiences that are not possible in others. As you can imagine this attracts a special breed of adventurous and playful people.

Mertopia has an equal measure of landmass and ocean. The landmass is divided into many islands. The islands are scattered throughout a blue ocean. There are a big variety of habitats in shallow and deep parts of the ocean and on flat and hilly islands.

Nobody has to farm or work for his food. There is enough sustenance in the sea and on land for everybody.

Since the main focus of this fairy tale is the constant change of body and living environment people can change their form easily after some practise. Newcomers are taught by magicians and supported by experienced shape-shifters.

Many different beings live in Mertopia. During our visit we see animals we know from our dimension like dolphins and many kinds of fish. There are also seahorses that are big enough to ride on. Other beings even offer places to live under water.

Mertopia is sparsely populated. There is no goverment and there are hardly any rules beyond showing respect for each other. The inhabitants form a very close-knit community.

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Villages and dwellings in Mertopia

On land peope live in organic houses made out of natural materials. When these dwellings are not needed any more they turn into compost. Some land-inhabitants prefer to live in tree houses or in caves that are natural or carved into mountains.

In the sea giant shells are the preferred dwellings. These mussels have a symbiotic relationship with their inhabitants: In exchange for offering a safe place to sleep they are fed by their dwellers and don´t have to hunt for their own food.

The spirit-beings live everywhere. They need the energy of the land: They thrive on the pleasure of exploration and the fun of playing. They don´t need any sleep or food other than the continuous energy input. When they want to meet as a group undisturbed by other creatures they use rainbows as meeting places. These beings can change from being totally invisible to being quite dense, which enables them to manipulate objects.

 

Life and adventures in Mertopia

People love to take part in dangerous adventures that involve heavy storms. These storms sink the organic ships that are manufactured here, similar to what we read in Anderson´s fairy tale and see in Disney´s Ariel. They die often in these adventures. But remember: Death is not the final thing it is in our dimension. You can come back immediately after you died and go on doing whatever you want to do.

Another favourite pastime beneath and above the sea is the fight against dragons. Dragons from Flitz´es home country love to play here. After a serious game of hide and seek which ends with either the slaying of the dragon or the brave knights being eaten by the dragon there are wonderful feasts that are famous far beyond the borders of this country.

Some adventures have really bad endings when the respective evil sorcerer´s magic gets out of hand and everybody involved is killed: Then the players just say: “Oooops! Here we go again!” and the story starts over.

 

Free flowing energy is the main resource in Mertopia

I visited this fairy tale country before the frequency change was finalised. My group and me did a healing circle there because the people were suffering more than in other lands. Now I understand why. The transformations the inhabitants of this country do all the time are based on intricate energy manipulations. When the energy does not flow freely for whatever reason this becomes very difficult.

With the frequency change not being finalised the inhabitants of Mertopia had massive problems and could not transform themselves and explore the way they were used to. Especially the spirit-beings were affected. Almost the whole country was falling into a depression and the magicians could only alleviate the worst symptoms. Now the energy flows freely again and everybody can enjoy the freedom of creation very much. In my opinion they are going a little overboard with celebrating at the moment!

Mertopia sounds like a fun place to be, doesn´t it? I chose the name Mertopia because this fairy tale country feels so perfect to me. The way the inhabitants here respect each other and how they treat their environment seems utopian.

How did you like our excursion? Are there aspects of this fairy tale country you want to know more about? Please post in the comments!

 

LINKS

Audiobook link to the Andersen fairy tale: The Little Mermaid.

Jennie Fitzkee writes in her wonderful blog a teacher´s reflections about her life as a preschool teacher. The link points to a recent blog article where she shares her personal view on her mother´s fairy tales.

 

Are you interested in more stories about mermaids? Heidi Anne Heiner has put together an impressive list with links on her website SurLaLunefairytales.

© Inge Schumacher

Discovering the Fairy Tale Country of the Master Craftsmen

A few weeks ago I listened to a professional fairy storyteller. This experience inspired me to write this blog article. In the first part I tell one of the stories I heard. In the second part I invite you to join me on a visit to the fairy tale country of the master craftsmen.

The Fairy Tale of the two Craftsmen

Once upon a time there was a goldsmith and a shoemaker who wanted to know which one of them was the better craftsman. Since they were widely known for their excellence the king invited them for a competition. When they set out on the journey to meet the king they were looking forward to finally knowing which one of them was better.

When they arrived at the castle they were ushered into the great hall to meet the king and his entourage. The king asked them what they needed to manufacture an object during the next 2 weeks. The goldsmith wanted a big chunk of gold and the shoemaker asked for a cowhide of the finest quality. They both got what they requested and went their separate ways.

After two weeks the two men met in front of the castle. The goldsmith carried a heavy bag. The shoemaker did not carry anything. He only wore a fine new leather coat. Again they were led to the big hall. There the king asked them what they needed to present their objects.

 

The demonstration of the objects

The goldsmith asked for a basin filled with water. The basin was brought and the goldsmith opened his bag. He took out a beautifully crafted golden fish. It looked so real! He set the fish into the water and it started swimming around in circles! Everybody looked on in awe.

The king was flabbergasted. He had never seen anything so wondrous. He was secretly sure that the shoemaker would not be able to top this. But he nonetheless gave him the opportunity to show his object.

He asked the shoemaker, what he needed for this. The shoemaker answered that he only needed the big hall with an open window. A window was duly opened. Everybody looked at the shoemaker curiously. The shoemaker said: ”I manufactured this magnificent coat.”

Then he spread his arms and started to fly! He did three circles over the heads of the people in the great hall flying higher and higher. Then he flew out of the window and continued to fly up until he was so high that he looked tiny. Everybody ran to the windows to catch a glimpse of the flying man. He came back down and flew twists and turns and did summersaults in the air. After a while he returned the great hall and landed in front of the king.

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The decision

“Well”, the king thought, “this coat is as special as the beautiful golden fish. What shall I do?” Finally he told the two craftsmen: “You both created wondrous beautiful objects and therefore you both shall receive the same reward. The only condition is that you leave your objects with me and promise never to recreate them.” Since the reward was so big that neither of them had to work ever again they promised not to duplicate their objects and took their leave.

The two left. But they still did not know, who as the better of the two. The king put the two objects in his vaults for safekeeping and forgot about them.

Some objects come with side effects

One of the many people who had watched the two showing their objects was the king´s son. He was about 10 years old at the time. For years he dreamt about flying with the coat.

One day he managed to steal the key to the vault. He saw many wondrous treasures in the vault but he was only interested in the coat. He got it and went to the empty hall. He put it on and spread his arms like he had seen the shoemaker do it. And up he went! He was really flying, how happy he was! He went up to the ceiling and out of the one window that was open. Oh, he did not mean to fly outside. But he did not know how to handle the coat properly and it just happened. Outside he flew, on and on, higher and higher. He cried for help, but nobody could hear him and what could anybody have done? He flew right over the dark forest and over the next kingdom. He became hungry and thirsty and still he did not know how to stop.

Finally he was so desperate that he tried everything he could think of to stop his flight. When he crossed his arms in front of the coat it stopped charging ahead and he plummeted towards the ground. He managed to break his fall a bit and ended up bruised and exhausted, but alive, in front of the house of a sheep farmer. He had no idea where he was. Will he ever find his way home?

 

Visiting the fairy tale country of the master craftsmen

Let us explore together the home of the master craftsmen. Imagine us strolling into this fairy tale country.

The sun is shining. We are walking on a wide path made of light brown earth. About 20 meters to the side a small stream is gurgling peacefully. We get a glimpse of the first house. It is white washed with red shutters and a thatched roof. We can smell the wonderful aroma of the roses in the garden. But wait, there is something else. Mmmh, there is the smell of freshly baked bread and cake. Delicious! Let´s go and take a closer look.

 

The bakers

We see a man working in the garden. We introduce ourselves as travellers from far away. Two women are coming out of the house. They are arguing loudly. “My cake is better than your bread!” “No, I am the better baker!” Their faces light up when they see us. “Strangers! Great, you are sent by heaven. Please come in, taste our baked goods and tell us who is the better baker!” They promise us coffee, so we decide to accept the invitation. They make us take a seat on a cosy bench on the veranda in the back of the house. Then they go to the kitchen to fetch everything for our meal.

We try the bread first. Nice! It is moist inside and has a wonderful crust. It tastes of countryside and spices. When chewing we get impressions of the ingredients and where they come from. We see wheat undulating in the wind, salt being harvested from the sea and rosemary plucked from its bed right in this garden. Wow, this is a multi-facetted experience!

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The cake is one of these many-layered affairs with buttercream frosting. We take a tentative bite. Oh my, it is so fluffy that you hardly feel you have anything in your mouth. It tastes very light compared to the more earthy taste of the bread. When we chew we have impressions of a garden full of people, of laughter, love and affection. This is great!

Both of these creations are wonderful. We are lucky that we don´t have to arbiter between two kinds of bread or two kinds of cake! We tell the two expectant bakers that they both receive the first prize for their creations. They are okay with our verdict and we take our leave.

 

The goldsmiths

We continue on our way and pass more and more houses as we are nearing a city. We see lots of different workshops. All of them have unique objects on display. We are asked to arbiter again, this time by two goldsmiths.

One shows us a beautiful pendant made with many red rubies. When we take it in our hand and look at the sparkling stones we can see our loved ones and what they are doing at the moment. How cool is that!

“Why can we see our loved ones who are far away in another dimension?” we ask. The creator explains that the magic in the object connects with us. And we are connected with the ones we love no matter where they are at the moment.

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The other goldsmith also has a pendant for us to look at. It is formed like a crescent moon. It is made out of gold and it features a mask. We take a closer look and the mask is starting to talk to us! We hold it closer to our ears and we can tune in to every conversation around us and listen! With some practise we could listen to people who are much further away, the second goldsmith assures us.

Again we have to declare a tie. The two goldsmiths listen to our verdict calmly, smile and send us on our way.

We walk on until we meet an official looking person in a uniform. We ask him whether everybody was as skilled as the people we have met. He nods and says: “You must have been good arbiters, because you look unharmed and well.” We are astonished: “Why do you say that?” He answers: “Well, had you preferred one of the two rivals a mob of people would have attacked you and either run you out of the country or did you serious harm.”

After this we don´t stop and talk to people any more. We have no intention of being the arbiter again. This could turn out to be a very uncomfortable journey! Still everything seems so harmless and peaceful.

 

The results of our look behind the scenes

Everybody in this fairy tale has unique talents and puts their whole being into their art. Interestingly we have not seen a full time magician there. They seem to be busy manufacturing artful objects. The inhabitants of this fairy tale have honed their crafting skills to a point where they cannot be compared with each other any more. Each object is exceptional in its own way. Even the king in this fairy tale is not able to decide which one of the two is the better craftsman.

The peace in this country of master craftsmen is achieved by using neutral people to acknowledge equal talent. When they find somebody who makes a decision in favour of one of the rivals the carefully maintained equilibrium is destroyed.

Then violence and aggression erupt and make life really exciting,  both for the inhabitants and the visitors! Lucky that we did not experience this.

Since there is no sign at the entrance of this country saying it could be potentially harmful to be an arbiter here, I advise everybody to be careful. Since you were with me on this journey you know that it is better for your health to call ties in a very diplomatic fashion when you are asked to arbiter.

How did you like this behind the scenes look? Is there a fairy tale country you would like us to visit together? Please write down the story of the fairy tale you want to visit and send it to me via email: Ingeschuma@online.de or share it in the facebook group. If you like you can invent a new fairy tale. There are so many that are still unknown!

© Inge Schumacher