The spiritual Message of German Fairy tales

The Origin of Stories

[Told to Curtin (1835-1906) by Henry Jacob, story of Seneca-Indians]
Interpretation by Undine & Jens in green [2021]

“This happened long ago, in the time of our forefathers.”

In a Seneca village lived a boy whose father and mother died when he was only a few weeks old. The little boy was cared for by a woman, who had known his parents. She gave him the name of Poyeshaon (Orphan).

The boy grew to be a healthy, active little fellow. When he was old enough, his foster mother gave him a bow and arrows, and said, “It is time for you to learn to hunt. Tomorrow morning go to the woods and kill all the birds you can find.”

Taking cobs of dry corn the woman shelled off the kernels and parched them in hot ashes; and the next morning she gave the boy some of the corn for his breakfast and rolled up some in a piece of buckskin and told him to take it with him, for he would be gone all day and would get hungry.

Poyeshaon started off and was very successful. At noon he sat down, rested, and ate some of the parched corn, then he hunted till the middle of the afternoon. When he began to work toward home he had a good string of birds.

The next morning Poyeshaon’s foster mother gave him parched corn for breakfast and while he was eating, she told him that he must do his best when hunting, for if he became a good hunter he would always be prosperous.

The boy took his bow and arrows and little bundle parched corn and went to the woods; again he found plenty of birds. At midday, he ate his corn and thought over what his foster mother had told him. In his mind he said, “I’ll do just as my mother tells me, then some time I’ll be able to hunt big game.”

Poyeshaon hunted till toward evening, then went home with a larger string of birds than he had the previous day. His foster mother thanked him, and said, “Now you have begun to help me get food.”

Early the next morning the boy’s breakfast was ready and as soon as he had eaten it he took his little bundle of parched corn and started off. He went farther into the woods and at night came home with a larger string of birds than he had the second day. His foster mother praised and thanked him.

Each day the boy brought home more birds than the previous day. On the ninth day, he killed so many, that he brought them home on his back. His foster mother tied the birds in little bundles of three or four and distributed them among her neighbours.

The tenth day the boy started off, as usual, and, as each day, he had gone farther for game than on the preceding day, so now he went deeper into the woods than ever.

About midday, the sinew that held the feathers to his arrow loosened. Looking around for a place where he could sit down while he took the sinew off and wound it on again, he saw a small opening and near the centre of the opening a high, smooth, flat-topped, round stone. He went to the stone, sprang up on to it and sat down. He unwound the sinew and put it in his mouth to soften, then he arranged the arrow feathers and was about to fasten them to the arrow when a voice, right there near him, asked, “Shall I tell you stories?”

Poyeshaon looked up expecting to see a man, not seeing any one he looked behind the stone and around it, then he again began to tie the feathers to his arrow.

“Shall I tell you stories?” asked a voice right there by him.

The boy looked in every direction, but saw no one. Then he made up his mind to watch and find out who was trying to fool him. He stopped work and listened and when the voice again asked, “Shall I tell you stories?” he found that it came from the stone, then he asked, “What is that? What does it mean to tell stories?”

“It is telling what happened a long time ago. If you will give me your birds, I’ll tell you stories.”

“You may have the birds.” As soon as the boy promised to give the birds, the stone began telling what happened long ago. When one story was told, another was begun. The boy sat, with his head down, and listened. Toward night the stone said, “We will rest now. Come again tomorrow. If anyone asks about your birds, say that you have killed so many that they are getting scarce and you have to go a long way to find one.”

While going home the boy killed five or six birds. When his foster mother asked why he had so few birds, he said that they were scarce; that he had to go far for them.

The next morning Poyeshaon started off with his bow and arrows and little bundle of parched corn, but he forgot to hunt for birds, he was thinking of the stories the stone had told him. When a bird lighted near him he shot it, but he kept straight on toward the opening in the woods. When he got there he put his birds on the stone, and called out, “I’ve come! Here are birds. Now tell me stories.”

The stone told story after story. Toward night it said, “Now we must rest till tomorrow.”

On the way home, the boy looked for birds, but it was late and he found only a few.

That night the foster mother told her neighbours that when Poyeshaon first began to hunt he had brought home a great many birds, but now he brought only four or five after being in the woods from morning till night. She said there was something strange about it, either he threw the birds away or gave them to some animal, or maybe he idled time away, and didn’t hunt. She hired a boy to follow Poyeshaon and find out what he was doing.

The next morning the boy took his bow and arrows and followed Poyeshaon, keeping out of his sight and sometimes shooting a bird. Poyeshaon killed a good many birds; then, about the middle of the forenoon, he suddenly started off toward the East, running as fast as he could. The boy followed till he came to an opening in the woods and saw Poyeshaon climb up and sit down on a large round stone; he crept nearer and heard talking. When he couldn’t see the person to whom Poyeshaon was talking he went up to the boy, and asked, “What are you doing here?”

“Hearing stories.”

“What are stories?”

“Telling about things that happened long ago. Put your birds on this stone, and say, ‘I’ve come to hear stories.’”

The boy did as told and straightway the stone began. The boys listened till the sun went down, then the stone said, “We will rest now. Come again tomorrow.”

On the way home Poyeshaon killed three or four birds.

When the woman asked the boy she had sent why Poyeshaon killed so few birds, he said, “I followed him for a while, then I spoke to him, and after that we hunted together till it was time to come home. We couldn’t find many birds.”

The next morning the elder boy said, “I’m going with Poyeshaon to hunt, it’s sport.” The two started off together. By the middle of the forenoon each boy had a long string of birds. They hurried to the opening, put the birds on the stone, and said, “We have come, here are the birds! Tell us stories.”

They sat on the stone and listened to stories till late in the afternoon, then the stone said, “We’ll rest now till tomorrow.”

On the way home the boys shot every bird they could find, but it was late and they didn’t find many.

Several days went by in this way, then the foster mother said, “Those boys kill more birds than they bring home,” and she hired two men to follow them.

The next morning, when Poyeshaon and his friend started for the woods the two men followed. When the boys had a large number of birds, they stopped hunting and hurried to the opening. The men followed and, hiding behind trees, saw them put the birds on a large round stone, then jump up and sit there, with their heads down, listening to a man’s voice; every little while they said, “On!”

“Let’s go there and find out who is talking to those boys,” said one man to the other. They walked quickly to the stone, and asked, “What are you doing, boys?”

The boys were startled, but Poyeshaon said, “You must promise not to tell anyone.”

They promised, then Poyeshaon said, “Jump up and sit on the stone.”

The men seated themselves on the stone, then the boy said, “Go on with the story, we are listening.”

The four sat with their heads down and the stone began to tell stories. When it was almost night the stone said, “Tomorrow all the people in your village must come and listen to my stories. Tell the chief to send every man, and have each man bring something to eat. You must clean the brush away so the people can sit on the ground near me.”

That night Poyeshaon told the chief about the story telling stone, and gave him the stone’s message. The chief sent a runner to give the message to each family in the village.

Early the next morning everyone in the village was ready to start. Poyeshaon went ahead and the crowd followed. When they came to the opening, each man put what he had brought, meat, or bread on the stone; the brush was cleared away, and everyone sat down.

When all was quiet the stone said, “Now I will tell you stories of what happened long ago. There was a world before this. The things that I am going to tell about happened in that world. Some of you will remember every word that I say, some will remember a part of the words, and some will forget them all—I think this will be the way, but each man must do the best he can. Hereafter you must tell these stories to one another—now listen.”

Each man bent his head and listened to every word the stone said. Once in a while, the boys said “On!” When the sun was almost down the stone said, “We’ll rest now. Come tomorrow and bring meat and bread.”

The next morning when the people gathered around the stone they found, that the meat and bread they had left there the day before was gone. They put the food they had brought on the stone, then sat in a circle and waited.

When all was quiet, the stone began. Again it told stories till the sun was almost down, then it said, “Come tomorrow. Tomorrow I will finish the stories of what happened long ago.”

Early in the morning, the people of the village gathered around the stone and, when all was quiet, the stone began to tell stories, and it told till late in the afternoon, then it said, “I have finished! You must keep these stories as long as the world lasts; tell them to your children and grandchildren generation after generation. One person will remember them better than another. When you go to a man or a woman to ask for one of these stories carry something to pay for it bread, or meat, or whatever you have. I know all that happened in the world before this; I have told it to you. When you visit one another, you must tell these things, and keep them up always. I have finished.”

And so it has been. From the Stone came all the knowledge the Senecas have of the world before this.

With this fairy tale, we would like to leave Europe and look across the great ocean to America to the stories of the Indians. Amazingly, right from the start we find great similarities with our European fairy tale symbolism. Because here, too, there is a child who has lost his true parents and is now being raised by a foster mother. This reminds us again of the true nature that we have lost so that we now have to live in a material nature that is not actually our true mother. This material nature compels us to hunt and even kill external beings to feed our bodies. In the same way, the child is sent into the forest by his foster mother to shoot birds, precisely those creatures that can soar from the earth into the air and are often used as a symbol for the living soul, which can even reach heaven.

The child grows up in this earthly world without knowing his true father and mother. However, the story means that the foster mother, that is, material nature, knows both of them. Well, what is this nature or world that we no longer know, but is actually our true origin? The Indians spoke of the happy or eternal hunting grounds of the ancestors (in German: Ahnen), of which we can only have an idea (in German: Ahnung) because we hunt with our ordinary senses and thoughts only in this material world, as does the orphan in this story. In this regard, perhaps our world could be called the “perishable hunting grounds.” Therefore, there would be an eternal world with eternal life, and a perishable world with perishable life. The eternal world would be a spiritual world and the perishable world would be material. The spiritual world would then be our true origin, where our true parents live, so to speak, the ancestors, and the material world is like a foster mother as described in the story.

But how are these two worlds connected? Herein lies the wonderful message of this fairy tale. The material things of this world tell us the stories of their past. Moreover, we ourselves embody these stories and live these stories in order to learn from them and form the future accordingly. Those who can listen can even hear these stories from stones. That would mean that there must be a spiritual world in or behind our material world where these stories are kept, like a great memory of information. Therefore, our outer material world arises from this memory. In addition, everything that happens in this world is also stored there and not lost. This reminds us of the ancient perception of God, who is omniscient, because he stores all information, and omnipotent, because everything is created from this information.

Disciple: Who preaches the wisdom of the Buddha?
Nanyang: Walls and stones.
Student: How can they teach us anything? They live and yet do not feel.
Nanyang: That doesn’t mean nobody hears them.
Disciple: Who is listening?
Nanyang: All sages hear them.
(Zen Buddhism)

Why do we live in this material world with our “foster mother” of material nature? Where is this mother guiding us? How are we developing? Well, for the Indians it seemed to have been self-evident that the material world can be a gateway to the spiritual world. For this, the ancestors were honoured in a spiritual world, and people knew where to go after death. And they knew that their actions had an impact in this world on a much larger scale than we think today. With that they certainly also had a reason to act sincerely and honestly, and the goal of life was not only aimed at this limited and perishable material world, but above all at a spiritual world for eternal life.

In addition, another major topic is addressed, the question of the sacrifice of animals and plants. Many people today don’t mind if millions of pigs and chickens die because we love to have barbecues and eat lavishly. Yet when animals are sacrificed to a god in a temple, they are outraged, let alone sacrifices to an invisible nature spirit dwelling in a stone, as described in this story. Well, that’s understandable, because we are closely connected to the desires of our bodies, but we have lost the connection to the spiritual world. Many old rituals have lost their meaning and have been only carried out externally and bereft of content for a long time. Without this connection to the spiritual world, one should really not sacrifice any animals, but also no plants and certainly no seeds and fruits, not even a piece of bread. Because when we eat in this way of thinking, we only eat for selfish reasons - I kill other beings because I want to live! This is the result of our modern worldview, in which we live in a material world of death and can only survive by killing other beings.

And what does this story tell us? We should ensure that the stories remain alive and are lived. Then our whole world will come alive and live. This used to be done through community storytelling, so the stories could be passed from generation to generation. With this, people were able to learn from the past and develop accordingly because the stories were alive in them. This learning was considered the meaning of life in this world. Interestingly, it is not spoken of the writing of the stories, although our modern science maintains that the invention and use of writing was a stage of human advancement. Or, was it a step of degeneration, as the human capacity for memory faded and dead letters seemed more reliable than living memory? Perhaps writing had to be invented because people lost contact with the living spiritual world and increasingly lived in a dead material world. For since then we have been feeding on dead knowledge from dead books. Yes, even the Bible is for many just a history book about historic events, dead knowledge that you can believe or not.

And what are we doing here? Don’t we also write a lot of dead letters about the meaning of fairy tales? Well, that’s how it is. When fairy tales were dying in Europe, there were hard-working people like the Brothers Grimm who wrote down what was left of what people could remember. And when, a few years ago, we were shocked to discover how worldly and profane fairy tales were now being filmed and interpreted by science and media, we felt challenged to examine the forgotten spiritual background and to write down a few thoughts. Yes, we are aware that this does not bring the old fairy tales back to life, at least not in the way they once lived by themselves. That’s sad, but maybe we can at least put up a fairly dignified tombstone, so to speak, as a reminder of a wonderful world that we have lost through our way of life.

At some point a young person could sit on such a stone in nature and listen to the story of modern people, how they had lost their spiritual world long ago, no longer knew their real parents and were looking for their origin in dead matter. They dug up the earth, examining every speck of dust with brushes, tweezers and microscopes to find their history somewhere in old pottery sherds and bones. Yes, they even dug for the ship of the biblical Noah, searched for the stone tablets of the Ark of the Covenant or rummaged in the forest ground for the remains of the old witch’s gingerbread house. They looked for dead things and they found dead things because they no longer knew anything about the spiritual world. Any spiritual hunch was considered foolishness, and narrow-minded science ruled their thoughts. Accordingly, they lived in a dead world with ever-increasing fear for their perishable lives and possessions. Although they wondered why the more they put their trust in impermanent things, they became more and more anxious, but felt that all they had to do was trust in them even more. They became ever richer materially and poorer spiritually. Selfishness and with it the greed for money and power grew at all levels of society. They robbed each other of life, destroyed their environment and isolated themselves with growing fear of each other because they saw only deadly enemies everywhere. They lost all faith in the living power of spirit and nature, and relied instead on dead chemicals and machines. They made living nature their mortal enemy and, in their ignorance, waged a global world war against Mother Nature because they no longer knew the true origin of their history and themselves. And the young person also heard from the stone that they could not win this war and, like all overpowering and arrogant cultures, ultimately destroyed themselves in a great catastrophe. That was a dark age...

After that, untruthful and unjust kings with much violence and little kindness will take over and spread their spirit, squandering vast fortunes and indulging in lust. These kings will not be properly crowned, will have all the faults of the dark Kali age and will commit evil deeds. During this final period of the Kali age, these kings will seek the enjoyment of earthly rule and will not shrink from killing women and children and destroying one another. The tribes and kingdoms of these kings will grow quickly and perish just as quickly. They will be devoid of true virtue, true love, and true wealth. Any common person who meets them will soon follow the habits of the ungodly barbarians and disregard all sacred traditions. The kings will be proud and deceitful and ruin their subjects. Under their rule, women will dominate, and all men will grow weaker and weaker in strength and wisdom. Their lifetime is ebbing, and when rock bottom is reached, the ruling kings too will be overwhelmed by the almighty time and perish. Then Kalki will appear and destroy all barbarians, ungodly and unjust people. Even the term “king” will then disappear at the end of the Kali age. Few people will survive helpless and powerless, for the dharma of virtue and justice has been destroyed by time. Nobody will be able to protect and calm them anymore. The necessities of life will be lacking, and they will be tormented by disease and sorrow, and overwhelmed by drought and war. Their life will be utterly desolate. They will give up their skills and jobs, leave their villages and towns and take refuge in the forests... [Vayu-Purana 2.37]

Few humans survive this time, scattered here and there on earth. When they come together in groups, their nature comes out and they hate and hurt each other. Anarchy reigns as a result of the dark age of Kali, and filled with doubt and inner tension, fear reigns among people everywhere. Extremely tormented and exhausted, they try to save their selfish lives, leave their wives, children and home, become increasingly unhappy and die. Because the Dharma is extinguished in them according to the holy commandments, people kill each other without any regard for virtue, affection, friendship or shame. Their lifetime dwindles to 25 years with dwarfish bodies. Their senses are confused and their minds discouraged. Under the pressure of prolonged drought, they give up all agriculture, sink into misery, leave their families, villages and lands and live at the borders. They seek refuge at rivers, seas, springs and mountains. They keep themselves miserable with roots, fruits, water and flesh and live in great misery. They wear bast clothes and deer skins, have neither wife nor family and fall out of every caste and way of life. They disobey all order and fall into boundless suffering. Very few survive, and these are plagued by old age, disease, and starvation. And in their unbearable suffering, they soon become completely indifferent to their worldly existence.

Yet in their greatest despair and indifference to the outside world, they begin to look inwardly. And as they look inside, they attain a state of equanimity. They are enlightened by equanimity, and by enlightenment they recognize the divine and become pious. And once those who survived the end of the dark age of Kali attain this enlightenment, the age is transformed in a single day. Once her spirit is disenchanted, the golden age of Krita begins again by the power of inevitable fate... [Vayu-Purana 1.58]

Indian yogis heard these stories from the Vayu Purana about the dark age of Kali thousands of years ago as they sat on the stone and listened to the voice of nature. They have been handed down to us, and now it is up to us to shape our future. Because we not only live the history of our past, but also actively form the story of the future through our thoughts and actions. We should be aware of this responsibility. May we live peacefully in and with nature again and discover the spiritual world! May we promote the diversity of nature and develop a holistic, wholesome reason! May we exercise moderation and avoid any exaggeration! May the egoistic delusion pass away, and may wisdom and compassion reign again! OM

Become like the children, otherwise you cannot hear the voice nor understand the stories. That’s the only way to conquer fear...

... Table of contents of all fairy tale interpretations ...
The Crystal Ball / Castle of the Golden Sun - (topic: Egoism, defeating the inner beast)
The emperor's new clothes - (topic: MONEY-MAKES-BLIND - Memorial 2020)
Rat King Birlibi - (topic: Money, Enmity, Addiction, Poverty)
The Ditmarsh Tale of Wonders - (topic: Lies, Thoughts and Reason)
The Robber Bridegroom - (topic: dead soul, spiritual murder)
The Poor Boy in the Grave - (topic: Education, Ego, Fear and Reason)
Simeli Mountain - (topic: material and spiritual world)
Strong Hans - (topic: Ego, robbers and ultimate gain)
The Old Man and his Grandson - (topic: social division, disgusting impermanence)
Allerleirauh - (All-kinds-of-Fur) (topic: sick mind, dying nature and healing)
The Origin of Stories (topic: material and spiritual world)

[2021] Text and Pictures by Undine & Jens /