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Saturday, April 10, 2010

The charm of fairy tales: a Brother Grimm's work, "The two brothers"

The fairy tale entitled "The Two Brothers" is perhaps the longest and most complex of the entire Brother Grimm's collection and contains many narrative themes proper of novels and medieval legends that in turn, of course, date back to very distant times. There were once two brothers, one rich and evil, the other very good and very poor. The latter had two sons, two identical twins. One day, going into the forest, the poor brother saw a golden bird, and managed to take a magic feather of this bird.
The next day he found his nest and managed to get a golden egg from the nest of this wonderful bird. The third day, his brother asked him the rich bird itself and gave to the poor brother a large sum of gold coins for its capture. But the rich brother knew what great mystery this mysterious animal hid: the promise of eternal wealth. In many fairy tales is present the figure of this bird of gold or bird of the paradise, and always it is a symbol of luck and wealth for those to whom it chooses to appear or to grant its favors. The theme of the golden bird, a symbol of wealth and prosperity, is a very ancient theme and may even derive from the mythical tradition of the supernatural bird for excellence, the phoenix. This bird, if eaten completely, will provide a gold coin every day, forever. The twins, knowing nothing of this story, went to their uncle for begging some food and ate some 'meat of the bird and instead of the wicked uncle, they woke up every day with a gold coin under the pillow. Their father, the good brother, could not understand this strange phenomenon and confided everything to his evil brother. He, understanding how things were happened, advised his brother to abandon his children in the forest, because now they have been transformed by the Devil in two powerful sorcerers.

Teutonic Mythology in Four Volumes (4 volume set)

Elves, Wights, and Trolls: Studies Towards the Practice of Germanic Heathenry: Vol. I (v. 1)

The Saga of the Volsungs (Penguin Classics)

The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, Deluxe Edition (Literary Classics (Gramercy Books))

The Complete Grimms Fairy Tales

So the twins were left in the forest, at the mercy of fate. When it seems they were about to succumb, there came a hunter who, being childless, took gladly them with him, and raised them in his house, making them two brave hunters. They then asked the adoptive father to go for the world to seek their fortune, so he encouraged them and gave them a shiny knife: if they had to be separated, they had to thrust the knife into a tree. If the blade had rusted on one side, this would indicate the death of one of two brothers. They began their journey and, almost immediately, were lost in a vast forest. They decided to go hunting to find some food: first, they found a hare who asked to them to not kill her because in her place, she would give them two little hares. The two brothers agreed, but once seen the little creatures, they not killed them because of tenderness and compassion, instead they kept the two hares with them. The same thing happens with a fox, a wolf, a bear and a lion. So the two brothers are found to have a wide following of animals. Eventually, the two decided to divide, one going to the west and the other to the east. From here it is told especially the adventures of the brother who took the route of the West: he arrived in a beautiful city, draped entirely in black, and he came to know that on that day the princess will be given to feed a dragon living on the mountain. He decided to become the savior of the maiden by killing the monster. But he had the test to overcome: he climbed up the mountain and here he saw a strange scene. This scene brought us back to Celtic times: first, the sword planted in the doorway of the church (clearly, the presence of a church here is absurd: it must be a review of some ancient temple, a place for safekeeping some supernatural objects), that the protagonist manages to pull out after having drunk from three cups, placed above the altar. This scene takes us back to a Celtic ritual of initiation, but now reinterpretated with a christian interpretation.
The sword, of course with many magical powers, also refers to the Celtic setting, bringing to mind the famous sword of King Arthur, also planted in the rock and that only the rightful king could remove from its imprisonment. On the other hand, the world of fairy tales of magic leads to those very origins, become mysterious because largely unknown and distant from our knowledge from so long. That sword that only the predestined hero can extract and successfully hold is also the sword of Siegmund, belonging to the legend of Volsunga, who is the future father of Siegfried.

Continuing the analysis of this tale, a real adventure novel, we find the episode of the dragon. This scene brings to mind the romance of Tristan: the fairy-tale hero saves the beautiful princess, offered to the dragon to be eaten by the monster. So the fairy-tale hero killed this monster with seven heads and then cut the seven tongues from his mouths, finally he fell asleep from fatigue of battle. Then came the Marshal, that is described in the tale as "impious and cruel" (the false hero, a very common figure in fairy tales)- which is none other but the steward of the novel of Tristan- and, finding the hero asleep, took hold of the victory over the dragon, cutting the seven heads, to submit them as an evidence for the king to marry the princess, but also he cut off the head of the young hero and bring back the princess at her palace, against her will.
As in all fairy tales, the princess has already chosen her hero, the valiant one who had saved her from a terrible death. So she, forced against her sweet will, agreed to marry with the Marshal but asked also that the wedding take place in a year and a day. In the meantime, the animals found their beloved hunter dead, but the hare knew a magical root that could be used to bring the dead back to life. The hare was successful and the hunter returned to life again, but, desolated in his heart, he abandoned the kingdom and went away. Exactly after a year, he returned there and came to know that the marriage of his sweet princess was at hand: the parallel with the Arthurian romance continues until the unmasking of the false hero through the presentation of the tongues that were missing in the heads of the dragon.
The Marshal was condemned by the king to be torn apart by four bulls: aside from the obvious condemnation of the sinful, it is remarkable that this type of torture was a very ancient one that we can find even in the Greek mythology.

Tales and Translation: The Grimm Tales from Pan-Germanic Narratives to Shared International Fairytales (Benjamins Translation Library, V. 30)

Indo-European Poetry and Myth

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Box Set]

Indo-European Poetry and Myth

The hero became the new king and got married to the princess. One day he went hunting in a magic forest where he saw a white hind that he desired to capture, all alone. This is a very common theme of Celtic tales: the white hind is the clear symbol of enchantment, spell and incantation and a sign of the presence of supernatural creatures also, such as Gods, fairies, elves or witches. It is witch that the hero met, in the form of an old woman, seated on the top of a tree: she resided in this forest just as Circe in her land, she amused herself to turn into stone all men that arrived in her forest. This was also the fate of the young hero, turned to stone with his animals and thrown into a deep pit. Here returns the twin who, having seen the knife almost at all rusted, having realized that his brother was in danger, came to rescue him. When he arrived in the kingdom, he was mistaken for the king- they were indeed identical between each other- and all welcomed him with joy, after the fear of losing him. The brother went in turn to hunt in the enchanted forest, he too saw the white hind and met with the witch, but he was not bewildered by her spells and gained victory over her and, along with his brother, he "kills" the magic creature and the whole forest was liberated from the incantation. The king, when he came to know that his brother had even slept with his own wife, taken by fury, killed him. But soon after he repented for his cruel act and the hare used again the magic root to resurrect the good brother. And there is the last clear theme that takes us back to the literature of medieval court, that is the drawn sword, located between the princess and the second brother. In medieval times this was a symbol of chastity. This theme is in two famous medieval romances: the German version of "Tristan" and the legend of Siegfried and Brunhild. In the first example, the sword is misleading, serves to deceive the King Marke and convince him of the bride's chastity, in the second example, on the contrary, the sword, placed between the hero and Brünnhilde, indicates the chaste relationship that there is between the two characters. This fairy tale ends in this manner: with the chaste queen who asks why, in the previous days, he slept with her putting the drawn sword between them...she was so afraid...and so the hero understand the love that his brother has for him.

The charm of fairy tales: an introduction to the Brother Grimm's work

I've grown old but I've never forget the exquisite taste of the fairy tales. There are many motives, hear some of them...The mystery that accompanies the fairy tale, its origins, and the invariability of functions (such mystery that still exists today despite a very thorough study), enhances, in my opinion, the charm of fairy tales, perhaps especially for the adult reader, who is aware of the stratification that shines through these simple stories and is able to capture all the nuances of these narratives. A child can learn moral values, can get inspiration for his own imagination and have great fun rediscovering an old pleasure, to hear the elders of the family to tell these stories. An adult reader can instead focus on symbolic and hidden meanings of fairy tales, and so reclaim the baggage of ancient legends, common to all humanity.
This is actually the most striking thing in the comparison between the collections of folk tales: the extraordinary similarity of issues and actions, as if the fairy tales were created at a time when geographical distances and national borders or ethnic groups did not exist. As everyone knows, the brothers Grimm (to whom we owe one of the finest collections of fairy tales of the eight hundred century), were, first of all, two extremely precise and noticed philologists. To proceed to the transcription of the stories, they had to visit the farthest corners of the German countryside, trying to be told by the elders, the only repositories of an ancient memory and a knowledge exclusively oral, these tales, commonly called fairy tales. In fact, originally, these were not stories for children, but the misunderstanding arose from the fact that these stories were told by the elders around the fire on winter nights, and the listeners were mostly children. The Brothers Grimm were impressed by the fact that the elderly narrators repeated their tales always with the same words, idioms, expressions and even gestures, like in a ritual, that the sacredness of the text not allowed to alter. This makes us understand how, for these elders, who told their stories to the two philologists brothers in order to transform such knowledge from oral to written, these tales and legends were as the basis of the human memory.
The mere fact that, in the nineteenth century, still existed in the civilized Germany, the cradle of Romanticism (very important factor), an exclusively oral culture, never written down and never appeared in written texts, but handed down from generation to generation, is a fact worthy of great consideration. In fact, even today, I think that my grandmother knew the same stories that I know and the same fairy tales that my grandchildren in turn will listen: is inherent in the profound nature of the fairy tale's character to be as a chain to tie together the memory of the past and future generations, by means of undying and magic symbols.

Language and Gender in the Fairy Tale Tradition: A Linguistic Analysis of Old and New Story-telling

Morphology of the Folktale (Publications of the American Folklore Society)

Forewords and Afterwords

Another particularly interesting thing, as reported by two brothers, is that very often, even the elderly narrators did not understood, sometimes, the deep meaning of what they were telling. This, together with the constant repetition and precise details and forms of the tales, leads to the conclusion that the origin of the tale is ancient and mysterious, that the magical tales, whose heroes are princes and princesses, but also animals and fairies or witches or ogres, all having supernatural powers, are a phenomenon that dates back to the prehistory of mankind. The word "fairy tale" (from the Latin "fabula") conjures a magical and mysterious world, where spells and magic are common, everyday, and that almost always means that you accept the strangest things that happen, without asking why or without being verily surprised by them. A fairy tale is a complete unit, with a hero and a happy ending: these are the universal characters, common to all the tales of the Brothers Grimm's collection. The evolving story of the hero follows a trend opposite to that of the tragic hero: in the beginning, the protagonist has a very low social status, is despised by all and mocked for his lack of skills and talent, or it is a princess very unhappy and solitary, unloved by their parents or targeting ominous wedding. In any case, the protagonist, at the beginning of the tale, is always in very disadvantageous conditions and everyone expects that his/her destiny is already sealed or expects his/her complete failure or even a terrible death.

The Golden Book of Fairy Tales (Golden Classics)

Archetypal Patterns in Fairy Tales (Studies in Jungian Psychology By Jungian Analysts)

Allegory of the Fable (Allegorie De La Fable; La Fantasie) By Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), 10-3/4-inch Statue

Though in the end the hero always triumphs, his route to complete victory is not without struggles, in which is always questioned his final success, as are opposed to him, not only natural difficulties (such as icebergs or barriers of flames), but also supernatural powers, like witches and wizards, evil men and ultimately human characters who hate him or threaten him, as stepmothers, jealous brothers etc.
In many cases it is certain that the hero would fail the test, but he is helped by good and very great powers, which give instructions to him on how to resolve his tests or even they carry out actions that the protagonist would not be able to do by his only efforts. In addition to his own ability, then the hero always needs the help of luck. This aid, however, is not accidental nor fortuitous: it depends on his good character and his actions. The tale ends with the triumph of justice, the so-called happy ending: not only the good ones are rewarded, but also the bad ones suffer just punishment for their misdeeds. Surely, this is one of the features that make these stories popular among children: even though the fascination of fear plays an important role, the children are aware that in every story, at the end, the good fairy will help the princess, the young hero will defeat all his enemies and all will live happily forever. Probably this is also one of the reasons why adults do not get tired reading stories to their children: after all, it's nice to imagine a world where justice will prevail and the good is always victorious. This constant "happy ending" that characterizes all of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales is, in a sense, the common basis of all folktales, worldwide. In all, the main character, good and helpless, after being the victim of a stronger and more fierce opponent, often with great magical powers, escapes the dangers and oppression of his pursuer and won the prize of his nobility, generosity, truthfulness and justice.
Above all, the clearest proof of how the fairy tales have ancient origins, it is the brief analysis of a famous fairy tale from the collection by the Brothers Grimm. There is certainly a deep relationship that binds the narrative of fairy tales with epic and chivalrous poems, and this relationship is still very mysterious, for the moment, one cannot say for sure that fairy tales are derived from the chivalric epic and medieval courts, but one can certainly assert their undoubted kinship. This, to me, is one of the most fascinating aspects of fairy tales, that provide endless material for thought for the scholars and, at the same time, entertain adults and children.

The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales

The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales

Fairy Tale As Myth Myth As Fairy Tale (Thomas D. Clark Lectures)

When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition (Literary Studies)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Waterlilies: the beauty of the lake

Here is a species in which we can find many varieties, all equally beautiful and delicate;
personally, I love greatly the waterlilies and, if not against the most elementary rules of garden design, I would cover the entire surface of a lake, large or small, with these incredible flowers. As you know, the waterlilies can grow in conditions of high, medium and low deep of the water, but care must be taken to choose the right model of flower, suitable for each situation. All waterlilies have floating leaves and the flowers are all of great beauty and charm, closely resembling the lotus of the East regions. I love greatly the water plants, they are so incredible: most terrestrial plants cannot tolerate having their roots submerged in wet soil or in water, but, for these water plants, these conditions are beneficial, even vital, to their survival. The waterlilies have a wide range of colors, shapes and fragrances, they bloom from the early summer until the first frosts of winter, creating very pleasant spots of colorful flowers, floating gently on the water surface. The hardy waterlilies can survive a cold winter climate, their only requirement is that they must be protected from a hard freeze during winter. All waterlilies are day blooming, their flowers open in the early morning and then close in mid to late afternoon.
All waterlilies are widely used for decoration of garden ponds and, in my opinion, there are really necessary to create a water garden of great charm and grace. Most are white or pink, though a few are reddish in color, certain species are very small, miniature even, but others are very large and can be so rampant as to overtake a natural pond in few years. Some waterlilies even change color as the flower ages: most of these blossoms start light yellow, mature to a reddish-orange over the next few days and, finally, reach a darker red for the last day before fading completely.

All species of water lilies that I will mention in the article, have the following common features: all tolerate the climatic conditions of the zones 5-9, all require a position constantly exposed to sunlight and, above all, stagnant water.

Water-Lilies And How To Grow Them: With Chapters On The Proper Making Of Ponds And The Use Of Accessory Plants (1907)

The Essential Garden Design Workbook: Second Edition

The Master Book of the Water Garden: The Ultimate Guide to the Design and Maintenance of the Water Garden With More Than 190 Plant Profiles

The Complete Guide to Water Gardens, Ponds & Fountains

-Plants for shallow-water

Because of their size, very small, dwarf or pygmy waterlilies are ideal for plants grown in shallow water (15-45 cm). Some of them are real pygmy waterlilies, other are smaller versions of traditional waterlilies. The dwarf and pygmy waterlilies should be grown in baskets or planted directly in the soil of the pond. Must have constant sunlight and the water, as for all species of waterlilies, is to be stagnant. The water depth varies by species, and then I show you the depth needed for every variety of flower. In most cases, the width of the plant corresponds to a time, or one and a half, the depth at which it grows.
Here a list including some of the most famous and beautiful varieties of dwarf and pygmy water lilies (I've chosen my favourites, please, tell me yours and your experiences):

Aurora Water Lily

This is one of the most beautiful lilies to grow in the tank, one of my favourites!
Type: Rural
Size: Small
Depth: 30-70 cm.
These are a most accommodating pond plant and are of especial benefit in providing essential Summer shade to fish, and do help keep the water ‘sweet' due to the absorption of toxins and actual water filtration provided by the underside of their leaves in Summer.
Once the cream-colored buds unfold, become cup-shaped yellow flowers; these same flowers, at the stage of maturity, go from orange to a blood red hue. One of the most fascinating factor is that the phase of each color lasts a day. The leaves are olive green and are streaked with purple.

Candida Waterlily

This species is very beautiful, very hardy and produces a very large quantity of flowers, it is ideal for smaller or medium ponds. Its flowers are very small and shaped like a chalice, but their whiteness makes them stand out against the backdrop of the lake water; the flowers have the stamens of a brilliant gold, dotted with crimson stains.

Type: Rural
Size: Medium
Depth: 30-70 cm.

"Caroliniana" waterlily

This waterlily is very pretty, has very fragrant flowers, deep pink, the petals are very thin, the stamens are bright yellow.
Type: Rural
Size: Small
Depth: 30-70 cm.
It is not a true dwarf or pygmy water lily, it grows well in shallow water and do not develop much rebound. Are also many popular varieties, such as the Carolinian Nivea, snow white, and the Carolinian Rosea, deep pink in color.
>Caroliniana perfecta: this was one of the first pink cultivars. The flowers are salmon-pink in color and the sepal are of the same tonality, the stamens are bright yellow; the number of its petals is up to 30 petals, and its fragrance is very sweet. It is very suitable for medium and large pools.

"Ellisiana" waterlily

This plant blooms in shallow water, although not a pygmy or dwarf waterlily. It does not tolerate excessive heat.
Type: Rural
Size: Medium
Depth: 30-70 cm.
It has a contained extension, it is very prolific, blooms abundantly and the flowers are really beautiful, brilliant red that deepen to purple in the center, tulip-shaped or stellate shaped, with bright orange stamens; they are quite fragrant. The new leaves are dark green with purple blotches; it performs best in cooler climates because it stops flowering in hot weather.

"Graziella" waterlily

This plant is not a dwarf waterlily but it grows well in small tanks with a little deep of the water (30 cm), but it can also grow in deeper pools. It is small, ideal for little and medium-sized lakes.
Type: Rural
Size: Small
Depth: 30-70 cm.
The flowers are deep orange in colour, shaped like a cup, the stamens are colored bright orange. The leaves are olive green with many purple spots.

"Laydekeri" species

(depth: 30 cm, but they resist with double the depth).

Laydekeri purpurata waterlily
The flowers are cup-shaped with a diameter of 13 cm. The 25 petals change color in the opening three days going from light pink to red. The petals are very particular: the tips are white, the inner rows are pinkish red, deepening, and the outer rows are slightly paler. The stamens are bright orange in colour and the leaves are green bronze, have a rounded shape and a diameter of 20 cm. A plant can occupy a space of 1 m in diameter. This cultivar is a very reliable waterlily that I recommend for any size pool. Its very free-blooming makes this flower a great waterlily.

Laydekeri fulgens

This plant has very fragrant flowers.
It is a waterlily with many medium large ruby red or vivid burgundy-red flowers, the stamens are also reddish, or deep orange-red. The green leaves initially bronzed and flecked with purplish-brown. A medium grower that could adapt to both tubs and ponds. Situate in full sun for best results. Fertilize throughout the active growing season for optimum results.
In my opinion, this is one of the most wonderful waterlilies, it is also one of the very best bloomers, it has very large flowers and large leaves: a bed of this flowers attracts immediately the eyes of everyone. This waterlily is one of the first to bloom in spring and keeps on flowering through summer and far in autumn.

Laydekeri Alba
The flowers are cup-shaped, white, and has a scent of tea-like fragrance. Leaves are oval to round, purplish-deep green with purplish-brown splashes fading to medium green with age.

Nymphaea tetragona species

(depth: 15 cm, but they tolerate up to 30 cm of water).

Known also as "pygmy water-lily" or "small white water-lily", it is a species with many varieties. All waterlily of this species are really pigmy waterlilies and not simple specimens of dwarf size. The white to pinkish, yellow-centered, non-odorous flowers open in the afternoon and close in the evening. The leaves are green and sometimes mottled red-brown to purple above (young leaves) and green to dull purple beneath.

Pygmaea 'Alba'
Indigenous of the northern Asia; this is the smallest. The small, slightly fragrant, star-shaped white flowers up to 5cm across with slightly scalloped petals float atop round, mid green leaves from June to September. These pygmy waterlilies will happily grow in as little as 15cm of water, and they are perfect candidates for a small pond or tub in a sheltered, sunny site. This is at all a good choice for small ponds and even sinks and tubs, this waterlily in fact needs only shallow water to cover its crown.

Pygmaea Helvola
This dwarf waterlily is a hardy hybrid that floats its round foliage and produces a slightly fragrant, multipetaled, star-shaped yellow flower just above the water. It needs only about 3 square feet of water surface area to spread its leaves, of green olive colour. This makes it nicely suited for a small tub on a deck or sunny patio. Each mottled leaf lasts about 6 weeks before turning yellow. Flower showiness is legendary and each flower lasts several days, but flowers close in late afternoon and at night.

Encyclopedia of Water Garden Plants

The Water Garden Encyclopedia

Waterlilies and Other Aquatic Plants

Encyclopedia of the Waterlily

Water-Lilies and How to Grow Them: With Chapters on the Proper Making of Ponds and the Use of Accessory Plants [ 1907 ]

Aqualog Special: Magnificent Flowers for the Garden Pond--Irises, Primulas, and Waterlilies

The Waterlilies: Taxonomy And Bibliography (1905)