The spiritual Message of German Fairy tales

Sweet Porridge

Tale of the Brothers Grimm translated by M. Hunt [1884]
Interpretation by Undine & Jens in green [2018]

There was a poor but good little girl who lived alone with her mother, and they no longer had anything to eat. So the child went into the forest, and there an aged woman met her who was aware of her sorrow, and presented her with a little pot, which when she said, “Cook, little pot, cook.” would cook good, sweet porridge, and when she said, “Stop, little pot.” it ceased to cook. The girl took the pot home to her mother, and now they were freed from their poverty and hunger, and ate sweet porridge as often as they chose. Once on a time when the girl had gone out, her mother said, “Cook, little pot, cook.” And it did cook and she ate till she was satisfied, and then she wanted the pot to stop cooking, but did not know the word. So it went on cooking and the porridge rose over the edge, and still it cooked on until the kitchen and whole house were full, and then the next house, and then the whole street, just as if it wanted to satisfy the hunger of the whole world, and there was the greatest distress, but no one knew how to stop it. At last when only one single house remained, the child came home and just said, “Stop, little pot.” and it stopped and gave up cooking, and whosoever wished to return to the town had to eat his way back.

A little fairy tale with great meaning. The upper level is about the well-known hunger that people have always struggled with. To finally solve this problem is a dream that we, of course, still pursue today. The first idea is the land of milk and honey: food as a flat rate, and above all most tasty! And in a way, we’ve also managed to get our modern economy to produce so much food that we hardly know where to put it. Think of the famous butter mountain or surplus milk of the EU. That’s why we can afford to destroy all the fruits and vegetables that do not fit the ideal in large quantities, often 50% of a whole crop. And yet we absolutely need more and more bumper crops, which we force - for all one is worth - with a lot of chemistry and poison. It is as if one only hears everywhere: “Cook little pot!” And the greater the profit, the less reason seems to be present. Modern mass-production of food is obviously a magic pot that is hard to control. But at least we try, even if the practical strategies often appear absurd and in the general abundance, the obesity has already become widespread disease all over the earth.

Accordingly, we find here in the fairy tale two generations, mother and daughter, which represent a development that obviously was an important topic already in the past. What the older generation has started, the next generation must learn to master. This may be the message and the challenge for our children, that they use their virtue to control the development of this world, and not to drown in it. This is of course expressed childlike, according to the motto: “Oh Mummy, don’t you know how to use this device properly?” That’s how the generations grow. For example, let’s think about driving a car. If it used to be about speeding up in the past, today’s generation must first of all learn to brake and stop in a controlled manner in order to avoid major catastrophes in the dense traffic chaos. But this generation will also make waves, and the next one will probably have to learn to master the onboard computer and all the safety systems, and be patient in the morning until all the necessary updates have been installed until the car finally starts. So every generation causes its own ripples, which the subsequent ones then have to pay for. The same applies to our general abundance, which is causing e.g. obesity, which primarily affects our children, and to many, other sweet desires that quickly turn into vice and addiction...

On the middle level, we can also unite mother and daughter in one person, and consider ourselves as our egocentric person along with human reason. The ego wants to makes us different from others. From this distinction of “mine” and “yours” the spiritual hunger arises, and reason goes on a quest into the forest of the world, where it meets the age-old Mother Nature, who already knows what she seeks.

When we look at animals and plants in nature, we see that they are given more or less food. Nature itself sets the limits here, and this system has been formed over a long period of time to work relatively well and healthily. Sometimes there is plenty and sometimes hunger. In this way, nature and living beings form a large and intelligent organism that organizes, regulates and optimizes itself. This is called today ecosystem. In this way, nature provides the necessary nourishment for all living beings according to their level of development. This means here in the fairy tale: “the old woman knew about her misery...” And that we humans today receive from nature as great gifts as enormous amounts of energy, chemistry and machines, corresponds to our level of development. And what is the deeper meaning? Our reason should grow and learn to use it meaningfully. And so the daughter not only gets the ‘pot’ as a material gift, but also the knowledge to manage it. But if reason is not at home and our egocentric person reaches for the gifts of nature, then all reasonable limits are quickly exceeded. And what was once a great blessing is now going wild and becomes a great curse until reason returns.

Think of the ‘pot’ of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. They come from living beings who, like us, fought for their lives long ago and accumulated these amounts of energy in their bodies. They are, so to speak, our ancestors, to whom we owe this energy. And how well do we deal with it? Don’t you just hear everywhere, ‘Cook pot!’? Or remember the ‘pot’ of nuclear energy! If reason is not at home, then every blessing quickly becomes a curse. Even the animals in the forest have their ‘pots’, but they are only as big as necessary. As humans, we are certainly no exception, even our ‘pots’ are only as big as necessary. But as the fairy tale already says, these are still pots. Because the higher the person develops, the bigger the ‘pots’ get, even up to the flat rate in paradise. Today, we can hardly imagine such huge ‘pots’ in paradise as no one could have imagined the ‘pot’ of atomic energy or of complicated machines even a few hundred years ago. Yet, for a very long time there have been stories of ancient wise men talking about wishing wells, cows, trees, and the like, such as the famous story of the sage Vasishta in Indian Ramayana [RAMA 1.52], who, as a poor hermit with his only cow, fed a whole army and even woke the envy of the rich king.

But the whole fairy tale really makes sense on an even deeper, spiritual level. Again, there is a great hunger, a craving for spiritual food, which we certainly know well. And then the saying is no longer ‘Cook pot!’ but, ‘Cook head!’. So it is all about the beloved thoughts that often boil over like a sweet porridge and swamp and suffocate everything around it. Today, this also includes the enormous amount of information that floods us with the modern media every day. This ‘pot’ could also be called a mass production of knowledge. The Internet is probably a typical expression of this development. Only a hundred years ago we wanted to use this knowledge as a healthy diet and abolish the rotten food of superstition. But now it is already boiling over and flooding everything. And only when it attacks the ‘last house’, namely our own, then reason comes back and banishes this mush. But all our descendants, who still want to work in this country, now have to eat through this porridge of knowledge. Especially those who have a bad or no mental digestion can maybe manage that. The more profound thinkers will eventually be left behind with a chronic spiritual fatness, while the shallow wise guys have clear advantages. Does that sound familiar to us? Maybe this spiritual fatness is even the true cause of the general obesity...

And if we dive into our inner being, then this fairy tale could also be about the restraint of our own flood of thoughts, which rolls over us every day. This rambling thinking is basically a gift of nature that should develop our human reason. For this we were given this ‘pot’ or ‘head’, but not only with the commandment, ‘Cook head!’, but also, ‘Stop head!’. And that brings us into the realm of spiritual practice and speaks of meditation, prayer and yoga, where the focus is primarily on the restraint of restless thoughts. It states: “Whoever seeks true knowledge should restrain his speech and thoughts with the help of reason. [MHB 12.236]” There are various remedies for this restraint of overcrowding thoughts in yoga. One means can be the speaking of mantras, such as, ‘Stop head!’. Anyone who wants can give it a try.

And so the circle of our fairy tale is complete: “Once upon a time there was a poor, good girl who lived alone with her mother ...” For the best way to calm down wild thoughts is to end up with pure poverty and true oneness in unity with the Great Mother. What does ‘oneness’ mean? For our little ego it is as dreadful as death. For our true self, it is perfect salvation, great contentment and bliss, the happy ending of every fairy tale.


Introduction
Jorinda and Joringel
Iron John
The Old Woman in the Wood
Hansel and Grethel
Rumpelstiltskin
Mother Holle
The Youth who went forth to learn what Fear was
Little Red-Cap
Hans in Luck
Godfather Death
One-Eye, Two-Eyes and Three-Eyes
Rapunzel
Faithful John
The Wonderful Musician
The White Snake
The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs
The Girl Without Hands
Briar-Rose (or Sleeping Beauty)
Our Lady’s Child
The Frog-King, or Iron Henry
Sweet Porridge
Cat and Mouse in Partnership
The Fisherman and his Wife
The Golden Bird

[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
[MHB] Das Mahabharata des Vyasa, 2014, www.mahabharata.pushpak.de
[RAMA] Das Ramayana des Valmiki, 2008, www.ramayana.pushpak.de
[2018] Text and Pictures by Undine & Jens / www.pushpak.de