Illustration from: Sarah Foster
“Frau Trude,” also known as “The Old Witch” is another story by the Brothers Grimm that does not have a happily ever after ending. The tale starts with a girl who was “obstinate and inquisitive” and never obeys her parents. That doesn’t bode well in Grimm stories, disobedience is usually punished while those who are sweet and kind end up with the happy endings. The girl tells her parents she want to visit Frau Trude’s house. Her parents tell her not to go, Frau Trude is wicked, but also warn her that if chooses to visit the old woman, she will no longer be their child. A bit harsh, don’t you think?
The girl head over to Frau Trude’s cottage, and when Frau Trude answers the door she asks the girl why the girl is so pale. The girl tells of seeing three men on the steps, a black man, a green man, and a blood-red man. The woman of course has an explanation for all three. The first she states was a coal miner, the second a huntsman and the third a butcher. In a way, they reminded me of Baba Yaga‘s three horsemen, the witch’s servants.
The girl then adds the bit that she probably shouldn’t have.
“Ah, Frau Trude, I was terrified; I looked through the window and saw not you, but, as I verily believe, the devil himself with a head of fire.”
And the witch does not seem thrilled at this, announcing that the girl saw the with in her “proper costume.” The witch tells the girl that she has been waiting for her, and I’m sure the poor girl never expected what happened next.
Then she changed the girl into a block of wood, and threw it into the fire. And when it was in full blaze she sat down close to it, and warmed herself by it, and said, “That shines bright for once in a way.”
Not a pleasant ending, huh? Magic and murder, though, great for October. The Grimms sure had something against girls or women who thought for themselves, though. In general, they’re either disobedient and should be punished, evil witches, or wicked step-mothers.
You can read the whole story several places, including here. The version I read was from Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated by Margaret Hunt, published 1884 and 1892 in two volumes.
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.