• European Fairy Tales,  Fairy Tales,  Grimm Brothers

    Fitcher’s Bird is the Word

    Question: What do you get when you cross evil wizards, bloody eggs, blinged-out skeletons and giant chicken-people? Answer: The most absurdly spastic tale ever told, also known as “Fitcher’s Bird.”

    Where it’s from: Collected and published by the Grimm Brothers in Germany, 1812.

    Why you’ll love this tale: Personally, I’m fond the giant bird-person. But the nonsense is strong with this one. There’s a lot to ridicule. Read on and see what speaks (re: squawks) to you most.

     

    SUMMARY: 

    “Once upon a time there lived a sexual predator named Fitcher….”

    OK, the story doesn’t begin like that, but it might as well have.

    As I mentioned, our lead villain’s name is Fitcher. And Fitcher’s favorite pastime is kidnapping. He loves to go begging from door-to-door and whenever a pretty girl offers him food, he repays her kindness by kidnapping her. This story is from 1800’s Germany, so instead of a stereotypical white van, Fitcher uses a magical basket to abduct his victims. Then he “makes long legs” and carries them away to god-knows-where.

    Note: Fitcher is also a “wizard,” which means that he is a master-level creep. The town is in a perpetual amber alert because of him.

    One day, Fitcher goes a-creeping to a house where three daughters reside. Fitcher performs his signature backpack trick on the eldest girl, “makes long legs,” and carries her off to his dark forest lair.

    Clarification: Fitcher’s house isn’t so much of a “lair” as it is a “luxurious palace of awesomeness.” It has entire rooms filled with glittering gold and jewels.

    In addition to owning a veritable palace, Fitcher is a surprisingly gracious host (at least as far as deviant wizard-perverts go). He wants his victim to be happy living in his evil, pimped-out lair. And it sounds like she was. The girl doesn’t seem to care that Fitcher just abducted her from her front doorstep. The jewel rooms are throwing her off.

    One day, Fitcher gives the girl a fistful of keys and announces that he is going away for a few days. He tells her that she is free to explore his jewel-filled lair while he’s gone. But there’s a catch: the girl is forbidden to enter one particular room, under penalty of death. Note: I don’t think Fitcher understands the purpose of keys.

    He also gives the girl an egg. He orders her to keep it safe, and to never let it out of sight. If that egg gets lost, he’ll be really ticked off.

    Side question: This house has gold and jewel rooms. So why not an “egg room?”

    Anyway, Fitcher leaves and the girl begins exploring. For some reason, she diligently obeys all Fitcher’s random egg rules. And yet, she completely disregards his very sincere promise to murder her if she enters the forbidden room. For some reason that doesn’t seem as important to her. So she goes inside. With egg in hand.

    Unlike the luxurious jewel rooms in that house, the death room is definitively more utilitarian in style. It’s a masculine space, starkly furnished with a wood block, a gleaming ax, and a blood basin. Like “craftsman” meets “carnage.”

    The girl is so shocked at this horrible scene that she drops the egg into the blood basin. Note: she must have forgotten about Fitcher’s murderous threats, as well as the fact that he literally human-trafficked her here in the first place. She manages to fish the egg out of the basin “Double Dare” style, but it’s completely saturated with blood. Like the worst Easter ever.

    Try as she might, the girl can’t clean the egg. Blood stains are notoriously tricky to get out. Oxy-Clean may have helped, but unfortunately, this was several hundred years before Billy Mays was invented.

    Then right on cue, Fitcher returns. He sees the blood soaked egg. And as promised, he adds another body to the basin.

    But alas. Life without a hostage is boring. So after the obligatory slaughter, Fitcher returns to the village and abducts the middle sister. And in true fairy tale style, the exact same story repeats in the exact same way.

    Fitcher returns to the village again, and abducts the third sister.

    Just as before, Fitcher leaves the newest girl with keys, egg, and his usual death threats. But this time, the third girl is “crafty and sly.” She puts the egg in a safe place (EGG ROOM) before snooping around.

    The girl enters the forbidden room, unencumbered by the egg. She discovers the bloody basin, which is now overflowing with her dismembered sisters. The girl collects their bloody stumps together, aligns them like a jigsaw puzzle, and shazam! The sisters magically fuse themselves back to life. The freshly-reanimated girls hide themselves somewhere in the house. And everyone waits for Fitcher to come home.

    When Fitcher returns and sees that the egg is blood-free, he announces that the girl has passed the test. Hooray, they can get married now! Note: I’ve never actually seen “The Bachelor,” but I imagine that Fitcher’s egg challenge was its 19th century equivalent.

    As her first order of wedding business, the fiancee tells Fitcher that he must deliver a basket of gold to her parents. He has to carry the cargo on his back and is not allowed to stop. The girl claims that she’ll  be watching him from the attic window to make sure of this. Even wizards are powerless against a new Bridezilla, so Fitcher doesn’t argue. Nor does he consider the limitations of human eyesight.

    Fitcher sets off with the gold, and is completely unaware that the two Frankenstein’ed sisters are stowed away on his back. Every time Fitcher slows down, one of the sisters harps at him from inside the basket. Fitcher believes that the voice is that of his fiancee (who is god-knows-how-many-miles-away). Note: If Fitcher is really a “wizard,” he could’ve used a few years at Hogwart’s.

    Meanwhile, back at Fitcher’s lair, the girl is in full Martha Stewart mode and is busy making handmade crafts for the wedding. She finds a human skull, bedazzles it with flowers and jewels, and places it in the attic window facing the road. This is what brides did before Pinterest. It was her best idea.

    Then she slathers herself with honey, slashes open a mattress, and rolls around in a pile of feathers until she resembles a giant, sticky chicken. After virtually tar and feathering herself for no apparent reason, she’s ready to hit the town.

    Disguised in her makeshift bird outfit, the girl wanders around the village and speaks with various people who are en route to her wedding. Note: news travels fast in this town. She must have tweeted about it. Har, har.

    And for some reason, none of these people question how a bird managed to grow human legs, why it reeks of honey, or where it learned to speak in rhymes:

    Random People: “Oh, Fitcher’s feathered bird, where from, where from?”

    Giant Chicken: “From Fitze Fitcher’s house I’ve come.”

    Random People: “And the young bride there, how does she fare?”

    Giant Chicken: “She’s swept the house all the way through, And from the attic window, she’s staring down at you.”

    The absurdly disguised girl also speaks with Fitcher, who she encounters on his way back home. He doesn’t recognize her, of course. Like everyone else, Fitcher does not question this very-questionable situation. But he smiles and waves at the blinged-out skull, which is sitting in his attic window. Typical Fitcher.

    Some time later, Fitcher returns home and is greeted by his wedding guests. And also a vengeful mob. They have been sent to rescue the girl, who is probably still encrusted in honey and feathers somewhere. The vengeful mob traps the wizard inside his house and burns it to the ground. Fitcher and his crew all die a miserable, fiery death.

    And there was much rejoicing.

    The End.

     

    SCHOLARLY TREATS:

    1.) “Fitcher’s Bird” is similar to the French fairy tale, “Bluebeard.” Both are cautionary tales about man caves, and both warn their female protagonists against disrespecting the privacy of serial killers. But unlike Bluebeard, this tale doesn’t portray the women as helpless imbeciles (in Bluebeard, the girl can’t save herself; she waits to be rescued by her brothers). Fitcher’s Bird also doesn’t blame the girls for being sinfully curious about the man’s death room (in Bluebeard, the wife is made to look like a dishonest snooping fool, in spite of the fact that her husband is a murderer and keeps dead bodies in their house). But Fitcher’s Bird does dress the heroine up like a giant chicken…..so there’s that.

    2.) The feathers and egg are both symbols of life, safety, and celestial powers, which the girl uses to save her own hide, as well as that of her sisters. This is in contrast to Fitcher’s death symbols, which include the decorated skull and probably the fact that he keeps a blood basin in his house.

    3.) If you’re like me, you might be questioning how Fitcher can be called a “wizard,” when he shows us almost no magical powers whatsoever (in fact, he’s kind of a moron). Fortunately, scholars know everything so they have a scholarly answer for this: Fitcher’s “magic” is a metaphor for his sexual attractiveness.

    Got that? Good. Now check out this classic “Fitcher’s Bird” illustration by the artist, Arthur Rackham (and vandalized by yours truly).

    Seriously, Scholars?

    BANANA THOUGHTS:

    Lesson learned:

    EGG ROOM.

    Lingering Question:

    If the final girl was able to bring her sisters back to life, then why didn’t she save the other slaughtered women…instead of bedazzling their skulls?

    This Line is BANANAS:

    I enjoy the phrase “he made long legs.” Makes me think of Stretch Armstrong.

    Featured Recipe:

    Honey-glazed chicken. Eggs on the side. Hold the blood.

    Cosplay Challenge:

    (WIZARD) This is an easy project, since all you need to be a “wizard” is a basket and a dulled intellect. Note: according to scholars, wizards should be “sexy,” too. This project has COSPLAY written all over it!

    Overall Rating:

    This story is so flipping spastic, it feels like it’s being told by an attention-deficient squirrel. That said, I appreciate the enthusiasm and the abundance of strangeness that “Fitcher’s Bird” has to offer. I give this tale 4 eggs out of 12 eggs.

  • European Fairy Tales,  Fairy Tales,  Little Red Riding Hood,  Video

    The Story of Grandmother: “Little Red Riding Hood” Gone Wild

    Let’s kick things off with a tale that has it all: evil werewolves, potty humor, strip teases, and grandmothers! If you’re judging based on the title, you may think that “The Story of Grandmother” sounds like a mature, conservative story (re: lame). But whoever was in charge of naming this was pulling a fast one on us: “The Story of Grandmother” is a lot of things, but “conservative” is not one of them.

    Where it’s from: No original author is known. Folklorists credit medieval French peasants.

    Why you’ll love this tale: This is a lessor-known ancestor of the “Little Red Riding Hood” story. But with a smidge more nudity. And a dash of cannibalism.

     

    SUMMARY: 

    A girl embarks on a quest to deliver bread and milk to her grandmother, who resides deep in a wolf-infested forest. As grandmothers do.

    She encounters a wolf at the crossroads of The Path of Needles and The Path of Pins. Which sounds like a magical spot, indeed.

    The wolf asks the girl where she is going. Having no sense of “stranger danger,” the girl offers the predator turn-by-turn directions to grandmother’s house. The wolf dashes ahead of her, taking The Path of Pins. The girl meanders her way down The Path of Needles. She demonstrates her Mensa-like intelligence by picking up stray needles along the way, just for the fun of it.

    The wolf reaches the house first and wastes no time in slaughtering grandmother. Like a good carnivore, he enjoys a bit of the carcass then stores the “leftovers” on the pantry shelf because meal planning is smart.

    Some time later, our unsuspecting hero arrives at the crime scene. The wolf (who now self-identifies as “grandmother”) offers the girl a snack of wine and sausage (aka: blood and grandmother meat). The girl enjoys the feast and is blissfully unaware that she’s consuming her grandmother.

    The resident cat disapproves of cannibalism, and it calls the girl a “slut.” I’m not sure why, exactly. Doesn’t seem relevant to me. But anyway, the cat clearly knows something we don’t. Because at this point, things get awkwardly pornographic.

    Now that snack time is over, grandmother suggests spending some quality time together. In bed. Naked.

    The girl seems all too comfortable with this idea, as evidenced by the strip-tease routine that she performs. She asks where she should put each article of clothing (because that is the appropriate question to ask at this juncture) and Grandmother tells her to throw them all into the fire. This must’ve been before closet space was invented.

    Now that she’s stark naked and in a terribly compromising position, the girl has a startling revelation: Grandmothers do not have fur!

    The girl is understandably grossed-out: she thought she was naked with her grandmother, not some random animal. She’s not looking for a serious relationship right now, so the girl plans to extricate herself from this mildly awkward (re: rape-y) situation.

    To do this, the girl tells the wolf that she has to go to the bathroom. When the wolf asks her to “do it in the bed” (yikes) the girl clarifies that she has to go. Like, really go.

    Fortunately for all of us, the wolf isn’t into that sort of thing. He lets her go outside to do her business, but first he ties a woolen thread around her ankle. She couldn’t possibly escape its bonds.

    But once she’s outside and out of sight, the girl unties the thread! *cue victory music*

    Meanwhile, the wolf (who is still in the house, holding the thread-shackle through the window) doesn’t realize that our heroine has escaped. He calls out to her, demanding to know if she has finished yet .

    Scholarly Note: in some translations, he bellows “are you making cables?” and in others, he asks if she’s “doing a load.” Both are very seductive and classy things to say to a love interest, but I think the “cables” one is particularly charming.

    Also, this whole scene seems incredibly short-sighted for the wolf. Up to this point, he seemed pretty crafty (at least in comparison to the other dolts in this story). Though in the wolf’s defense, who would’ve thought that this girl could untie a thread all by herself? Certainly not me.

    And thus the story ends. The wolf is left alone and scorned.

    And our heroine presumably scurries home naked.

     

    SCHOLARLY TREATS:

    1.) The girl stands apart from other European “Little Red Riding Hoods” because she rescues herself. In more popular versions of “Little Red Riding Hood,” she is either rescued by a huntsman (Grimm Brothers: 19th century Germany) or just straight-up dies in the end (Charles Perrault: 17th century France).

    2.) Some translations call the wolf “Bzou,” or werewolf (a creature known to be a “real” danger back then). This story would’ve been popular in medieval networks for sure. People were legitimately afraid of those things.

    3.) There is an Italian version of this story (called “The False Grandmother”), where the villain is an ogress. She prepares a meal of “beans” and “fritters,”  made from grandmother’s teeth and ears. Sounds like offal meat was trendy then, too.

     

    BANANA THOUGHTS:

    Lesson learned:

    If you are ever taken hostage by a forest animal, remember this life-saving tip: stay calm, identify an escape route, and tell it that you have to crap.

    Lingering Question:

    Was this girl accustomed to getting naked with grandmother?

    This Line is BANANAS:

    “Phooey! You’re a slut if you eat the flesh and drink the blood of granny.”

    Featured Recipe:

    Enjoy this tale with a loaf of hot bread and a glass of milk. Adventurous foodies should try the sausage and wine.

    Cosplay Challenge:

    (THE GIRL). This is an easy DIY project for any skill level! Remember that the girl “doesn’t need clothes,” according to grandmother/wolf, so just disrobe and call it a day! This attention-grabbing costume is easy to make and great for cosplay on a budget.

    Overall Rating:

    I love this tale! I shall award it 4 cables out of 5 cables.

    Very Extra Special Bonus Treat:

    To celebrate this first ever post, I made you this zippy animated video for your scholarly viewing pleasure. Enjoy!