Friday, February 7, 2014

Day 26: The Snake That Wants To Eat All Its Brides... ( Fairytale introit to Paryushana--7 day water fast of light)

Status: Day 26th begins with thte retelling of a Swedish Fairy tale that begins, as fairy tales do, once upon a time in a Kingdom far away, there was a Queen who lived in a rich ready to give birth to her first son. The birthing moment had arrived. The midwife was seated at the foot of the bed, and the first thing that came out of the mother was, to her immense surprise, a tiny snake. There happened to be an open window near her seat, and without saying a word to the Queen, she took the tiny snake  and threw it out the window. A few minutes later a boy came out perfectly formed. The midwife and the Queen were glad. The father came out to see his new son, there was much celebration and that was that.
For a while nothing unusual happens. The boy grows up the way princes do; he sleeps in a soft bed, he rides horses, he chases geese around, he stands in front of mirrors.
When he is sixteen or so his father arranges a marriage for him with a princess from a neighboring kingdom. One morning then the prince sets out in a suitor’s carriage, driving two handsome horses, down the road to meet his bride for the first time. About five miles from the castle there is a crossroads.

As the Prince arrives at the crossroads he saw an enormous snake, a kind of Dragon, A Lindwurm, rearing in the center of the road and roaring so that the horses became frightened. The prince said, “Move out of the way! I’m going through.” The Wurm in a loud terrible voice cried, “ A bride for me before a bride for you!  I am the older son! A bride for me before a bride for you!”
What could he do? The prince turned the horses around and drove home. He then went to see his father the King and told him of the event.  “He claims he is my older brother. Do I have an older brother?” The king  said he had never heard of such a thing.  The prince went to his mother, he said to her, “Dear mother, I have a serious question I must ask you. Am I the firstborn child or do I have an older brother?” She replied, “I don’t know anything about it.”

The next morning the Prince started with his horse and his carriage down the road again. At the same Crossroad the same immense dragon roaring with anger reared up in the  road and cried, “A bride for me before a bride for you! I marry first. A bride for me before a bride for you.”
The Prince turned around and drove home for the second time.  The Queen remembered the Midwife. It turned out she was still alive, living in a little house in the woods. The Prince found his way  there. “May I ask you: Do you recall the day my mother gave birth to me?” “Oh I do.” “Was there a child born before me?”

“It’s true,” The nurse said, “That you were not the firstborn, It wasn’t exactly a child. It was a tiny snake. I thought your mother had enough to do as it was. I tossed it out the window and into the grass. That’s all that happened. I don’t know any more.”

 The King realizes that his son can never be married until he finds a bride for the Wurm. The king sent word out that a bride was required for a King’s son. A young women was chose out of the numerous applicants and a date was set for the wedding.

 You must know that in this country an evening ceremony was held for the bride and groom at night and the final wedding took place the next morning. The bride arrived at the castle with her parents, her friends, many flowers, many cakes had been baked. When the evening ceremony came the bride stepped to the altar and the Wurm, who had been taken into the castle appeared from his chamber, came in with his immense length, faced the bride, wrapped his tail seven times, chum!chum! chum! Around her body and claimed her as his own.

The Wurm and his bride were escorted to the bridal chamber. No one in the castle slept much that night. When they knocked at the door the next morning and went in only the snake was in the room.

A month later the Prince climbed in his carriage and drove fast along the road away from the castle. But at the same crossroad he found the Wurm rearing up , even larger. It cried out: “A bride for me before a bride for you! The ceremony did not happen. A bride for me before a bride for you.”

Several months later the same sequence of events happened again. The bride came from a kingdom a little further away. Once more she stood at the altar full of expectations. Once more the Wurm entered the chapel, stood next to her, wound his tail—chum! Chum!  Chum!—seven times around her body and claimed her as his own. The maids and attendants who came into the bridal chamber in the morning found only the Wurm in the room.

 Whenever the  prince tried to leave the castle, the wurm was on the road, his longing for his true marriage still unsatisfied.

“A bride for me before a bride for you.”

 Ten more brides entered the castle and were eaten by the Wurm, who still remained unsatisfied and declared that no real marriage had taken place.

 A woodcutter and his daughter lived in the woods a long way from the castle. The woodcutter had once worked at the castle and knew all. One morning the daughter said to her father, “Father, I’ve decided that I  will be the next bride.”     The father couldn’t believe his ears. “Don’t worry about me father,” she said. “I know what to do.”

 A wise woman lived in the woods whom the young girl had met during one of her walks.  She went to this old woman and said to her, “What shall I do?”  the old woman told her to postpone the wedding for eight months, and during that time make seven wedding shirts, each of them elaborately embroidered. The crone said that the bride, when she arrived at the castle, was to ask for a bucket of lye, two brushes with stiff bristles, and a pail of fresh milk. Then the old woman told her what to do with them

When the thirteenth bride arrived at the castle she was cheerful and composed. She requested a bucket of lye, two stiff bristles and the milk; and they were provided. When evening came she stood near the altar. The Wurm came in his usual way, slipped quickly to the side of his new bride, wrapped his tail seven times around her body chum! Chum! Chum!, and claimed her as his own.

The bride and the Wurm were escorted to the bridal chamber. The Wurm reared up in the room. He was terrible to look at with his fierce eyes and savage body. When all was quiet the Wurm spoke to his bride and in a rough gravelly voice said, “Take off your wedding shirt.” The bride did not move. She replied to him, “I will take off my shirt if you take off one of your skins.” The Wurm was silent and then said, “No one has ever asked me to do that before.”

The Wurm reached up and took hold of some skin over his head and began to pull.   Groans and howls intensified as the skin came down off the shoulders and chest.

The process took a long time.

When the Wurm had finished and was still standing, swaying the bride removed one of her wedding shirts. The Wurm, seeing that she was still clothed said to her, “Take off your wedding shirt!” She replied as before, “I will take off another of your wedding shirts if you take off another of your skins.” He again replied, “No one has ever asked me to do that before.”

After he had taken off the seventh of his skins he lay on the floor, exhausted, and he no longer had any shape at all; he was a mass of white flesh with no skin.

The bride then dipped her stiff bristled brush in the bucket of lye and began scrubbing his flesh. She scrubbed his body so long that she wore out both her two brushes with their wire bristles, wearing them down to the nubs, and used up all the lye.

When that was done she took the fresh milk and poured it over his body.

The Wurm then stood up as a man, and a handsome, well-proportioned man. A week or two later   the true wedding ceremony took place. No one had seen a wedding so marvelous for many years. I was there too, and received the best food and drank the best liquor for three days, but where did it go? Now I’m walking around pulling cold air through my teeth like everyone else.

-                                           -excerpted from The Sibling Society, Robert Bly


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