The spiritual Message of German Fairy tales

The Seven Swabians or the Corona - Fear - Tale

Tale of the Brothers Grimm translated by M. Hunt [1884]
Interpretation by Undine & Jens in green [2020]

Seven Swabians were once together. The first was Master Schulz; the second, Jackli (Jacob); the third, Marli; the fourth, Jergli (George); the fifth, Michal (Michael); the sixth, Hans (Johannes); the seventh, Veitli (Veit): all seven had made up their minds to travel about the world to seek adventures, and perform great deeds. But in order that they might go in security and with arms in their hands, they thought it would be advisable that they should have one solitary, but very strong, and very long spear made for them.


Command of Nature
Postcard Series by Georg Mühlberg (1863-1925), source goethezeitportal.de

This spear all seven of them took in their hands at once; in front walked the boldest and bravest, and that was Master Schulz; all the others followed in a row, and Veitli was the last. Then it came to pass one day in the hay-making month (July), when they had walked a long distance, and still had a long way to go before they reached the village where they were to pass the night, that as they were in a meadow in the twilight a great beetle or hornet flew by them from behind a bush, and hummed in a menacing manner. Master Schulz was so terrified that he all but dropped the spear, and a cold perspiration broke out over his whole body. “Hark! Hark!” cried he to his comrades, “Good heavens! I hear a drum.” Jackli, who was behind him holding the spear, and who perceived some kind of a smell, said, “Something is most certainly going on, for I taste powder and matches.”

Climate Catastrophe

At these words Master Schulz began to take to flight, and in a trice jumped over a hedge, but as he just happened to jump on to the teeth of a rake which had been left lying there after the hay-making, the handle of it struck against his face and gave him a tremendous blow. “Oh dear! Oh dear!” screamed Master Schulz. “Take me prisoner; I surrender! I surrender!” The other six all leapt over, one on the top of the other, crying, “If you surrender, I surrender too! If you surrender, I surrender too!” At length, as no enemy was there to bind and take them away, they saw that they had been mistaken, and in order that the story might not be known, and they be treated as fools and ridiculed, they all swore to each other to hold their peace about it until one of them accidentally spoke of it.

Virus Panic

Well, for children’s ears, this fairy tale is a funny farce that you can at least smile about and ask yourself: How can people be so stupid? As adults, we look more deeply at the meaning, and so here we meet again the seven wondrous principles from a symbolic point of view that run through so many old fairy tales and are nowhere clearly described. So here, too, we can only guess and, in view of many other fairy tales, remember the seven natural principles that can be found in every human being, namely the five senses with intellect and reason. These Seven arm themselves with a powerful spear, a tool for fighting, attacking, defending and even killing, a weapon that is supposed to promise safety and at the same time spreads a lot of fear. All seven are connected with this spear, similar to the fighting will that connects the parts of an organism in order to achieve certain goals.

Master Schulz is at the top. The name “Schulz” supposedly comes from “Schultheiss”, a small ruler like a village mayor. In this way, this figure reminds us of the mind with the fighting thoughts, which are an expression of our self-consciousness that has to defend itself as an ego against others. The last one on the pike is Mr Veitli. The name “Veit” supposedly comes from the Latin term “Vitus” and recalls Saint Vitus and life itself (“Vita”). From this point of view, we think of the principle of reason, which is an expression of a higher intelligence and is not for nothing at the end of the line in this fairy tale. In between, we could imagine the five senses that have a direct effect on the mind at the top and are also addressed in the text. However, one could also think of other principles that could be derived from biblical names such as Jacob, George, Michael and Johannes.

In this way, one can understand the seven Swabians with their spear as a symbol of a whole person who, so to speak, “travels about this world to seek adventures and perform great deeds”. What is now described in a sarcastic way in the fairy tale is deepest psychology, a wonderful look into the inwards of an ordinary person, in whom many fears and sufferings arise through ignorance. It can go so far that one only sees enemies everywhere and develops a psychotic fear. In this fear, you no longer know any reasonable boundaries; you jump over the useful fences in panic and create a lot of suffering, as is clearly described in the fairy tale.

This is of course mainly due to a weak reason, so that the mind takes the lead almost exclusively. The mind, however, is based primarily on thoughts that are shaped by the sensory impressions, and thus builds a world of thoughts in which every fantasy can become true. This creates a very distorted “reality” that often overestimates unimportant things and underestimates important things or completely ignores them. In this way, egoism develops, which naturally overestimates itself as a person. And as the fairy tale aptly says at the end of the above section, the illusion is maintained until there is no other way. That reminds us very much of the famous story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen.

Wonderful to the point! What is missing or not working here is reason, the higher intelligence, which grants a holistic view and can see through the superficial things, so to speak, in order to recognize the essentials. That is the big difference between mind and reason: The mind dissects and considers the partial aspects; the reason unites and sees the whole and the essentials. This is what we lack most today, what is not promoted by politics, business and science and cannot be replaced by any material wealth. Because as long as one does not recognize the essentials in life, the world remains full of dangers, everything is perishable and the most terrible danger is one’s own death:

Then they journeyed onwards. The second danger which they survived cannot be compared with the first. Some days afterwards, their path led them through a fallow-field where a hare was sitting sleeping in the sun. Her ears were standing straight up, and her great glassy eyes were wide open. All of them were alarmed at the sight of the horrible wild beast, and they consulted together as to what it would be the least dangerous to do. For if they were to run away, they knew that the monster would pursue and swallow them whole. So they said, “We must go through a great and dangerous struggle. Boldly ventured, is half won,” and all seven grasped the spear, Master Schulz in front, and Veitli behind.

Corona Fear

Master Schulz was always trying to keep the spear back, but Veitli had become quite brave while behind, and wanted to dash forward and cried,
“Strike home, in every Swabian’s name,
Or else I wish ye may be lame.”

But Hans knew how to meet this, and said,
“Thunder and lightning, it’s fine to prate,
But for dragon-hunting thou’rt aye too late.”

Michal cried,
“Nothing is wanting, not even a hair,
Be sure the Devil himself is there.”

Then it was Jergli’s turn to speak,
“If it be not, it’s at least his mother,
Or else it’s the Devil’s own step-brother.”

And now Marli had a bright thought, and said to Veitli,
“Advance, Veitli, advance, advance,
And I behind will hold the lance.”

Veitli, however, did not attend to that, and Jackli said,
“Tis Schulz‘s place the first to be,
No one deserves that honour but he.”

Then Master Schulz plucked up his courage, and said, gravely,
“Then let us boldly advance to the fight,
And thus we shall show our valour and might.”

Hereupon they all together set on the dragon. Master Schulz crossed himself and prayed for God’s assistance, but as all this was of no avail, and he was getting nearer and nearer to the enemy, he screamed “Oho! Oho! ho! ho! ho!” in the greatest anguish. This awakened the hare, which in great alarm darted swiftly away. When Master Schulz saw her thus flying from the field of battle, he cried in his joy,
“Quick, Veitli, quick, look there, look there,
The monster’s nothing but a hare!”

The hare as a new great danger is certainly a symbol here that one can think about for a long time. On the one hand, the hare is (in German) the epitome of an over-anxious being, the famous “Angsthase” (a scaredy-cat) who feels threatened by everything and quickly takes flight. On the other hand, it is said that hares sleep with their eyes open, which reminds us of the world of thoughts already mentioned, in which one can still dream while awake. To recognize this delusional fear in ourselves, which is mainly nourished by thoughts, is certainly an important step on the path of spiritual development. It is not that far-fetched, that it appears as a dangerous and wild animal, similar to a fire-breathing dragon, because the fear is very closely connected with our animal nature that is usually expressed in an aggressive ego. Fighting with this animal within us is surely one of the greatest challenges in human life.

Corona Fear – global war against nature

Interestingly enough, Master Schulz, as mind, initially backs down, because he is actually a friend of the fearful ego, and Veitli, as reason, becomes brave and wants to attack. This is an important message, because practically only the higher reason with a holistic view can defeat the fearful animal being in us, and not the ego with the dissecting mind. To do this, reason would have to be powerful and stand as king at the front of the spear, to make decisions about the thoughts and five senses. But in our fairy tale the reason is weak and overwhelmed by the arguments of the senses, and so Master Schulz, as mind and ego, tries to fight the fearful being that he himself created. Well, what happens? Fear escapes, hides somewhere again, and the mind believes in its victory with joy, which of course can only be a mental or conceptual victory by the understanding: “The monster is a rabbit!” Wonderful! Much better would be an essential victory of reason over the animal egoism, which is a main reason for all our fears, but the fairy tale is apparently still a long way from that.

Another aspect is the devil, which is mentioned in the above discussion. Because where fear reigns, the devil is not far away, who is drawn as the enemy on the wall (of thoughts). And if it’s not the devil, then it’s his mother or his stepbrother, which probably means the fears of nature and death. Because with devil, nature and death you can stir up a lot of fear up to hysteria and panic, and that is nothing new in politics, because a nation full of fear can be abused for anything because people are no longer able to make reasonable decisions. Then one only has to direct the fear towards an appropriate goal, and one can wage the greatest wars against imaginary enemies or do the greatest business with imagined desires. What happiness do we hope for in a world that will soon be ruled only by fears? Here, too, the problem lies in the mind, which can be mentally manipulated and shaped, because the holistic view of reason is missing. What happens when reason is missing, which should be man’s greatest wealth, can be observed today all over the world, and our fairy tale continues accordingly.

Misunderstanding of Nature

But the Swabian allies went in search of further adventures, and came to the Moselle, a mossy, quiet, deep river, over which there are few bridges, and which in many places people have to cross in boats. As the seven Swabians did not know this, they called to a man who was working on the opposite side of the river, to know how people contrived to get across. The distance and their way of speaking made the man unable to understand what they wanted, and he said “What? What?” in the way people speak in the neighbourhood of Treves. Master Schulz thought he was saying, “Wade, wade through the water,” and as he was the first, began to set out and went into the Moselle. It was not long before he sank in the mud and the deep waves which drove against him, but his hat was blown on the opposite shore by the wind, and a frog sat down beside it, and croaked “Wat, wat, wat.” The other six on the opposite side heard that, and said, “Oho, comrades, Master Schulz is calling us; if he can wade across, why cannot we?” So they all jumped into the water together in a great hurry, and were drowned, and thus one frog took the lives of all six of them, and not one of the Swabian allies ever reached home again.

Social and Economic Suicide

The fairy tale takes its course, and a great river appears as the third great challenge. This symbol reminds us of the river of life between birth and death, which must be crossed in life in order to reach the home bank safely without sinking into the swamp of the world. There is also a wonderful teaching from Buddha in the Palikanon (Majjhima Nikaya 22):

As a raft, you monks, I want to show you the teaching, suitable for escaping, not for holding on. Hear that, and pay close attention to my speech... In the same way, you monks, if a man, on a journey, came to an immense water, the bank on this side full of dangers and terror, the bank on the other side safe, free from terror, and there would be no ship to cross, no bridge on this side to reach the other bank. Then this man would think: “That is a tremendous water, the bank on this side full of dangers and horror, the bank on the other side safe, free from terror, and there is no ship to cross, no bridge on this side to get across. What if I now collected reeds and trunks, brushwood and leaves, put together a raft and using this raft, working with hands and feet, safely made it to the other bank? And the man, you monks, now collected reeds and trunks, brushwood and leaves, put together a raft and, using this raft, working with hands and feet, crossed safely to the other bank. And, saved, crossed, he would think: “This raft is really dear to me, with this raft I have reached the other bank safely, working with hands and feet. How if I now lift this raft on my head or on my shoulders and would go where I want?” What do you think of that, monks? Would this man, by doing such a thing, treat the raft properly? “Certainly not, O Lord!” So what should the man do, monks, to treat the raft properly? You monks, this man, saved, would then consider: “This raft is really dear to me, by means of this raft, working with my hands and feet, I got over safely to the other bank. What if I put this raft on the bank or consigned it to the tide and go where I want?” By doing this, verily, monks, this man would treat the raft properly. Likewise now, you monks, I have presented the teaching as a raft, suitable for escaping, not for holding on.

What kind of teaching can serve as a raft? It’s about developing a higher reason. For this, one should use the mind with the thoughts, not to accumulate and hold onto a lot of conceptual knowledge, but to use the knowledge and develop a higher insight. However, our Swabian allies knew nothing about it, and so Master Schulz had to sink with his mind and ego into the tough mud of the world and drowned all other natural principles including reason. Well, such a thing can happen to us on a small and a large scale.

And why did that happen? Because they first misunderstood the voice of nature and then the voice of life in the form of the frog. This is a wonderful symbolism, because living nature speaks to us all the time and always answers when we ask. But do we understand the message? Or are we just hearing what the ego wants to hear through the mind? As long as we only hear the voice of nature through the intellectual mind, it will always sound distorted and one-sided. Measuring instruments, statistics, formulas and numbers cannot lead us to the safe shore. Science has really brought us a lot of understanding, but hardly any reason. In order to hear the true voice of nature, we need a direct connection to nature again, not just a conceptual and scientific one.

In summary, one can say that this fairy tale addresses three great stages of development in humans, which one could also consider youth, adulthood and old age:

1) Knowledge of the nature of things so that the fear of external things disappears.
2) Knowledge and victory over the animal being in us, so that egoism disappears.
3) Reaching the safe shore without sinking into the swamp of the world, so that all fears and dreads disappear.

Each of these levels can only be reached if the previous one has been mastered. That is the real challenge of nature. We shouldn’t think that nature is as weak as it seems to us and needs our help. Nature always challenges us and plays its own game, and above all to help us. Here, too, reason is certainly a great goal, because without reason the whole mind is useless to us. Because in the mind, there are always many arguments for and against, such as arguments for war and arguments for peace, for armament and for disarmament, for chemical poisons and for environmental protection, for and against antibiotics and tons of pills, for and against drugs, for and against electro smog, for and against nuclear power, for and against wind turbines, for and against electric cars, for and against vacation flyers and drivers, etc. Whoever puts forward the better arguments, offers the better show, does more advertising and appears most convincing, people will follow like sheep. Three arguments in favour of toilet paper, and across the country toilet paper is sold out as if it were the most important thing in life (and it really happened during the coronavirus lockdown in Germany in March 2020). Where shall we end up? First this country was turned into a big department store, then a big hospital, and tomorrow it’s going to be a huge nursing home...

Well, that happens when people are no longer able to make useful decisions, and this is called: Sinking into the tough mud of the world and the driving waves, when the mind sticks or clings to external things with desire or hatred. Because the mind can only “distinguish” and more or less fanatically take a side. Reason can “decide” and settle the apparent opposites in a salutary way. Therefore, reason and not intellect should rule in an adult human being. Perhaps it is time to hear the message of nature holistically and to introduce the subject “reason” in our schools alongside all the sciences?

The immunologist Professor Dr. Stefan Hockertz says on Corona topic:

“The reaction of politics is disproportionate, it is authoritarian, it is bossy, it is beyond measure - no question about it - and we as citizens would rather expect to be informed and treated in a knowledge-based, reasonable and modest manner...” And he says at the end: “It is not the virus that makes us sick, the fear of it makes us sick.” (Source Interview at RS2 24.03.2020)

An Arabic fairy tale worth taking to heart

The wise Abubekr Ben Zechariah Al Rasi was riding to Baghdad when he saw with horror that a hideous figure was mounting on the animal behind him. “Who are you, stranger?” He asked. “I’m Cholera and I have to go into town to let five thousand people die. If you take me with you, you and your dear ones will be spared.”

Abubekr intended to move the cholera to mildness and bargained with it. From five thousand it went down to three thousand, then to a thousand, to five hundred, and finally to a hundred. When the wise man continued his petitions, Cholera exclaimed, “Well, let only fifty die; but now be satisfied, otherwise you will be the first one I will take.”

Now he allowed it to come with him, but after a week he regretted his kindness, because more than ten thousand people died of the fatal disease.

When, after some time, he rode to Damascus, he met Cholera again and reproached it for keeping its word so badly. Cholera, however, replied: “By the beard of the prophet, I have not lied to you! I only killed fifty! The others did not die from my breath, but from their unnecessary fear.”

(Source: Karl Friedrich May, Schacht und Hütte, Blätter zur Unterhaltung und Belehrung, No. 11, 1875/1876)


... Table of contents of all fairy tale interpretations ...
Gambling Hansel - (topic: Delicate game with the world and nature)
Clever Grethel - (topic: Uncontrollable passion)
The Wolf and The Seven Little Kids - (topic: desire)
The Valiant Little Tailor - (topic: a healing way)
The Wise Servant - (topic: Search for wisdom, Reformation)
Fundevogel - (topic: path to liberation, spiritual values)
Doctor Knowall - (topic: Science, Spirit)
Spirit in the Bottle - (topic: Mind, School system, Homeopathy)
The Pea Trial / The Princess and the Pea - (topic: Natural sensitivity)
The Seven Swabians (topic: Corona Hysteria, the essence of fear)
Thumbling - (topic: What is the soul? Is our worldview correct?)

[1884] Grimm's Household Tales. Translated from the German and edited by Margaret Hunt. With an introduction by Andrew Lang, 1884, Vol. 1/2, London: George Bell and Sons
[2020] Text and Pictures by Undine & Jens / www.pushpak.de