The spiritual Message of German Fairy tales

Simeli Mountain

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

This fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm is very similar to the story “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” from the “One Thousand and One Nights” collection. However, it does not come from the Arabic original, but was added to this collection by Antoine Galland, the first European translator. He is said to have heard it from a Syrian storyteller in Paris in 1709. It is difficult to say which story was first. The whole fairy tale seems relatively modern, but we want to cover it here to examine the nature of the ego a little more deeply after the horrifying stories of “The Robber Bridegroom” and “The Poor Boy in the Grave”.

There were once two brothers, the one rich, the other poor. The rich one, however, gave nothing to the poor one, and he gained a scanty living by trading in corn, and often did so badly that he had no bread for his wife and children. Once when he was wheeling a barrow through the forest he saw, on one side of him, a great, bare, naked-looking mountain, and as he had never seen it before, he stood still and stared at it with amazement. While he was thus standing he saw a twelve great, wild men coming towards him, and as he believed they were robbers he pushed his barrow into the thicket, climbed up a tree, and waited to see what would happen. The twelve men, however, went to the mountain and cried, “Semsi mountain, Semsi mountain, open,” and immediately the barren mountain opened down the middle, and the twelve went into it, and as soon as they were within, it shut. After a short time, however, it opened again, and the men came forth carrying heavy sacks on their shoulders, and when they were all once more in the daylight they said, “Semsi mountain, Semsi mountain, shut thyself;” then the mountain closed together, and there was no longer any entrance to be seen to it, and the twelve went away. When they were quite out of sight the poor man got down from the tree, and was curious to know what really was secretly hidden in the mountain. So he went up to it and said, “Semsi mountain, Semsi mountain, open,” and the mountain opened to him also. Then he went inside, and the whole mountain was a cavern full of silver and gold, and behind lay great piles of pearls and sparkling jewels, heaped up like corn. The poor man hardly knew what to do, and whether he might take any of these treasures for himself or not; but at last he filled his pockets with gold, but he left the pearls and precious stones where they were. When he came out again he also said, “Semsi mountain, Semsi mountain, shut thyself;” and the mountain closed itself, and he went home with his barrow.

The fairy tale begins with two brothers who appear to represent two different stages of ego development, one poor and one rich. How the rich man got his wealth remains open here. The “Ali Baba” version from the “One Thousand and One Nights” collection speaks of a rich heritage. Now, by chance or fate, the poor man finds out about a secret cave and even gets the key to it. The fairy tale says: “As he was standing there, he saw twelve great, wild men coming, and he thought they were robbers...” And yes, his suspicion was confirmed so far, because they were carrying heavy sacks out of the cave. Interestingly, with Ali Baba it was robbers who carried the wealth mainly into the cave. So one could almost believe that this fairy tale of Mount Simeli is a continuation of the story of Ali Baba and is about how the richly filled cave is gradually cleared out by his descendants. Of course, this sounds familiar to us. At some point we, too, eavesdropped on nature’s knowledge of how to get to the earth’s natural resources. This is not just about precious metals and stones, but above all about fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil, which have been stored in the earth for many millions of years and will now be mined or robbed on a gigantic scale in a few centuries and burned by us.

This brings us to the big question, what are robbers? Where does this strange ownership claim come from, that everything on this earth belongs to us humans? And not even to all people, but everyone takes what he can grab and defend at the moment. How does man come to call a piece of earth his own and just build a fence around it? Well - this is mine now...

Our poor corn merchant also managed to gain access, but at first doubted whether he should take anything from here. This question is really tricky. He knows very well that this wealth does not belong to him. But he also assumes that it comes from robbers who do not own this wealth either. Can you rob robbers? The poor man says yes and fills his pockets. Why doesn’t he think about handing the robbers over to a court? Is he therefore making himself a robber? And why is he closing the cave again? But things seem to be going well for now:

And now he had no more cause for anxiety, but could buy bread for his wife and children with his gold, and wine into the bargain. He lived joyously and uprightly, gave help to the poor, and did good to everyone. When, however, the money came to an end he went to his brother, borrowed a measure that held a bushel, and brought himself some more, but did not touch any of the most valuable things. When for the third time he wanted to fetch something, he again borrowed the measure of his brother. The rich man had, however, long been envious of his brother’s possessions, and of the handsome way of living which he had set on foot, and could not understand from whence the riches came, and what his brother wanted with the measure. Then he thought of a cunning trick, and covered the bottom of the measure with pitch, and when he got the measure back a piece of money was sticking in it. He at once went to his brother and asked him, “What hast thou been measuring in the bushel measure?” “Corn and barley,” said the other. Then he showed him the piece of money, and threatened that if he did not tell the truth he would accuse him before a court of justice. The poor man then told him everything, just as it had happened.

Well, at least he remained quiet reasonably, bought bread and wine, lived happily and honestly, gave to the poor, and did good to all. But when the money ran out, he went to his brother, borrowed a bushel and got it again... That sounds strange. Can money eliminate poverty? Can money be used to do everyone good? These are tough questions. How much wealth should the rich man have given his poor brother so that he were no longer poor? Today, we are beginning to understand that pumping lots of money into the so-called “developing countries” is not enough. We are also beginning to understand that the usual subsidies for our economy encourage fraud and greed rather than sustained creativity. Because the poor man’s money practically ran out after a short time. Why? The fairy tale says: He was a corn merchant without measure. He got the bushel from his rich brother, and of course it’s never enough with this sort of measure. With such measure, also called “intemperance,” one can never overcome poverty.

Why didn’t the poor man, with the “jump start” of several bags of gold, create something living, sustainable, and fruitful that would thrive on its own? Doesn’t the whole fairy tale suggest that wealth should be fruitful? Corn and cereals are mentioned on every occasion. Ali Baba even says: “Open sesame!” And Semsi or Simsim is the Arabic word for sesame. It has been proven that sesame has been used as a food and medicine for thousands of years, especially in Arabia, China and India. Great energy is attributed to it, which unfolds in the body and promotes health. In addition, sesame is used for many rituals, especially in India, for example to open the door to the ancestors. In this fairy tale, the saying “Open Semsi!” is certainly about living seeds that can open and thrive. But the poor man does not manage to ensure that his wealth flourishes fruitfully and sustainably. That, too, is a mark of robbers: they always need more, and it’s never enough. So now he goes a second and a third time with the rich man’s bushel and gets more and more. It should be obvious that this cannot go well if he uses the measure of the rich.

And what finally catches up with the poor? The fear of the court, because he no longer has a pure conscience. With this he entangles himself in the world, becomes open to blackmail and has to reveal his secret. That’s nothing out of the ordinary. Our scientists, too, reveal the mysteries of nature to the insatiable rich for lots of money and fame.

The rich man, however, ordered his carriage to be made ready, and drove away, resolved to use the opportunity better than his brother had done, and to bring back with him quite different treasures. When he came to the mountain he cried, “Semsi mountain, Semsi mountain, open.” The mountain opened, and he went inside it. There lay the treasures all before him, and for a long time he did not know which to clutch at first. At length he loaded himself with as many precious stones as he could carry. He wished to carry his burden outside, but, as his heart and soul were entirely full of the treasures, he had forgotten the name of the mountain, and cried, “Simeli mountain, Simeli mountain, open.” That, however, was not the right name, and the mountain never stirred, but remained shut. Then he was alarmed, but the longer he thought about it the more his thoughts confused themselves, and his treasures were no more of any use to him. In the evening the mountain opened, and the twelve robbers came in, and when they saw him they laughed, and cried out, “Bird, have we caught thee at last! Didst thou think we had never noticed that thou hadst been in here twice? We could not catch thee then; this third time thou shalt not get out again!” Then he cried, “It was not I, it was my brother,” but they let him beg for his life and say what he would, and cut his head off.

That’s the end of the fairy tale Simeli Mountain of the Brothers Grimm. Well, we don’t need to explain any further what happens here when the rich man with even less reason goes this way. The more greed, the less reason. And the less reason, the more greed. And he can’t get out of this vicious circle of madness. Finally, twelve robbers appear and rob him of everything he owns, namely his head and his life. Who are these twelve thieves? The number evokes the hours of the clock or the months of the year. Perhaps this means the time that scatters everything that has been accumulated and destroys everything that has been created. Those who cannot rise from this material mountain, which is also reminiscent of our body, will of course meet these robbers in the end and lose everything. The rich dies and the poor lives. A happy ending? His last words were: “It wasn’t me, it was my brother!” Yes, even the poor man is probably not free from this accusation. At least he’s accused of robbery twice when he fetched the gold with the rich man’s bushel. They might have forgiven him the first time. But now he too must fear death, for it is only a matter of “time” before the robbers seize the robber.

The story of Ali Baba from the “One Thousand and One Nights” collection doesn’t end much better. Two relatively greedy wives also play a role here and a clever, calculating but also brutal slave who does not shy away from lies and murders 38 robbers in order to protect her unsuspecting master Ali Baba. He then married this lady to his son and finally gave him the secret of the cave.

All in all, one might think that the story of Ali Baba also comes from a time of anarchy, because neither a king nor a higher court plays a decisive role. On the contrary, everyone wants to be king and enjoy a lot of wealth. All means are allowed. The dubious robbery leads to lies, street justice and murder. In the end Ali Baba’s children have to live with this secret and 38 dead bodies in the garden. But it says at the end of the story that they “enjoyed their happiness in wise moderation, in high splendour and adorned with the highest honours in the city.” Well, in that respect it is obviously a modern fairy tale, expressing the hope of modern people.

So we would now like to try whether we can discover a deeper message on a spiritual level:

The principle of “I-consciousness”, which we can see in the two brothers in different ways, was already well known in the oldest cultures. We find it in the Bible when Adam and Eve grabbed the apple at the hissing of the serpent, recognized themselves as persons, and were thrown out of paradise. In the ancient Indian philosophies, too, this principle of I-awareness stands above all natural creation and is even embodied in the creator god Brahma. This I-awareness is a principle of separation and distinction that we can observe everywhere in nature. You see it in the animals that claim their territory, in the bodies of living beings that defend themselves and feed on others, in the living cells that form an outer membrane and organize themselves, down to the smallest if you will atoms that are defined and structured by their shells. All our names and forms arise from this principle of differentiation. This I-awareness is therefore a basic principle of the whole of nature and thus also innate in every living being. And like everything in nature, this principle is also subject to a development that we can observe in every child when the I-awareness forms or imagines the ego of a personality. There are many gradations to this, depending on how strong this principle hardens, from the selfless and kind benefactor to the selfish and violent tyrant with a heart of stone.

And what makes a person a robber? It is usually said: when he willingly takes what is not given to him. Perhaps we should realize that we receive everything we have from nature. Truly, nature really gives us everything. But the more the greedy ego develops from the innate I-awareness to a narrow physicality, the more greedy, insatiable and violent we reach for the gifts of nature. That turns us into robbers who only want to take. A strange notion of personal property and wealth emerges. And here one could think a lot about the symbol of the bushel, by which we measure our wealth. Back then even a bushel was very presumptuous, later came the “millionaires” and today we speak of “billionaires”. The “billiardaires” are coming soon, who will rule the world economy and world politics as super-rich super-egos. The big question is: how much does a person need to be happy? And what role does the measure of money and wealth play?

Today we firmly believe that wealth can set us free. In practice, however, we are locked in a world of wealth, perhaps even already trapped and enslaved, and seem to have forgotten the magic spell with which our wealth flourishes for good and stays alive in the long term. We no longer think of semsi or sesame as fertile seeds for life. Like the rich man in the fairy tale, we only have Simeli or Simili in our heads, and the mountain does not open up to the rich man with that. Because simili means “similar” in Latin and also means the well-known simili stones, with which valuable gemstones are imitated through cut glass. And it is certainly no coincidence that the Brothers Grimm called the fairy tale “Simeli Moutain”. Do we perhaps live in such a “Simili Moutain, in a glass mountain or glass coffin of a virtual illusory world, as so many fairy tales describe? We imitate a rich life with apparent dimensions like “money bills” or virtual numbers on virtual accounts. Is that really the true wealth of life?

Our modern wealth consists mostly of dead property, a lifeless wealth that remains barren and does not thrive on its own. We have lost the natural balance of “live and let live”. This is the main reason why we need more and more money, more and more energy and more and more natural resources. Our ego-consciousness develops into the ownership of material corporeality and not into spiritual freedom. That’s why greedy egoism grows, and that’s why our fairy tale is called “Simeli Montain” because we can no longer escape from this material simili delusion of physicality and lose our head in it.

We know from ancient cultures that there is a higher principle above the I-awareness, an universal intelligence with holistic reason or divine consciousness. This holistic reason used to be considered the true wealth of man, which we should strive for. That is the great goal of which the old traditions tell. I-awareness should be developed to a free and open mind, and not to a narrow and confined physicality in dead matter. “Open sesame!” A living prospering, a live and let live. “Mountain Semsi, open up!” We should open up and not keep shutting down. Open your heart and give your inner wealth! Not only the coined gold, but also the beautiful gemstones and pearls. Our ego-consciousness should become wide and not live locked in a narrow body as a greedy super-ego. It is not about scooping up more and more worldly riches and submitting to a dubious measure of wealth.

Our global problem is: “Semsi mountain, close yourself!” That closes our hearts, and we become selfish robbers scooping up dead wealth. Not for nothing it is emphasized that the mountain closes by itself when you go in, but not when you come out. The robbers locked the cave because they wanted to have the wealth for themselves. And the poor man? Perhaps that is the deeper message of the fairy tale. And the Bible probably also speaks of this broad, free and open self-awareness, which does not close itself off, when Jesus says in his famous “Sermon on the Mount”:

You are the light of the world. The city that lies on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor does one light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; so it shines for everyone who is in the house. [Bible, Matthew 5:14]

We are part of nature and certainly have a job to do here. And maybe the eyes of all living beings are on us humans as the crown of creation. They ask themselves: will they make it? Will they find that enlightenment, transcend the animal ego, and redeem nature? That is why birth as a human being used to be something very valuable. Today one has to be ashamed to be born human when one sees how we deal with nature and its rich gifts. But the joke of the century says:

Two planets meet in space. Says one: You look bad! Says the other: Yes, I have Homo sapiens. Oh, says the first, don’t worry, it’ll pass.

Perhaps we should all think about giving a happy ending to this modern fairy tale of the Simeli Mountain in a “money world”. Our suggestion would be:

When the poor man found out that his rich brother had not returned from the cave, he was very afraid of the robbers and never went there again. He died a poor man, and on his deathbed he told the whole story to his son. As soon as the father was buried, the son boldly went to the cave, opened it and entered full of expectation. But alas, the cave was completely empty, he could only read a saying on the bare rock wall in strange letters:

If you don’t own anything, you can’t lose anything.
Where nothing is locked, no one can break in.
Where there is nothing to steal, there are no thieves.
Where there is nothing to rob, there are no robbers.
Where there is nothing to kill, there are no murderers.

And underneath lay a strange vessel on the floor. It was the rich man’s bushel where the robbers had broken the bottom. What is the use of such a measure? Leaving it behind, he left the cave and never closed it again. Many people could still read this saying until it faded at some point. And the son travelled around the world and became a famous storyteller. Sometimes he also talked about the Simeli Mountain, and if he didn’t die, he still talks about it today...

... 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)

[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
[Bibel] Luther Bibel, 1912
[2020] Text and Pictures by Undine & Jens /