rackham_fitchersbird1

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

Today’s tale is another of the Grimms’ stories. I can’t help it if some are just perfect for this time of year. “Fitcher’s Bird” is quite gruesome – women chopped up with an axe left in a bloody room, a house full of guests burned to death.

Once up a time, a wizard took the form of a beggar and carried off young women from their homes. He carried off an oldest sister and assured her she would be happy with him. He took her to his house, which was marvelous, but then he had to go on a short journey. He told her she could go anywhere in the house except one room; he also gave her an egg and told her to carry it everywhere and be careful with it. Of course she went into the forbidden room, who wouldn’t?, and found hacked-up bodies and a basin of blood. Shocked, she dropped the egg into the basin. The wizrd returned and demanded the egg. When he was the blood stain on it, he said that since she had gone in against his will, she would go in against her own, and killed her there.

He carried off the second sister, and the same thing happened with her.

Then he carried off the youngest. We’ve talked about enough fairy tales to know that the youngest is almost always the heroine and she is no exception. She’s much smarter than her sister and set aside the egg before she searched the house. When she found her sisters’ bodies in a bloody heap, she put all the parts back together, and the sisters came to life again. The wizard returned and saw that the egg was bright and clean. As she had obeyed him, he announced she would be his bride. At that point, he no longer has any power over her and he has to do what she tells him. She told him that first he had to carry her parents a basket of gold without resting on the way, and she hid her sisters in the basket and covered them with gold. She told them to send help back to rescue her. Whenever the wizard tried to rest, one sister would shout that she could see him and that he should keep moving.

Meanwhile, the youngest prepared a wedding feast, dressed up a skull and put it in the window to give the illusion that she was there watching out the window. She covered herself with honey and feathers, so she looked like a strange bird and headed toward her home. Along the way, she is addressed as “Fitcher’s Bird” by the wedding guests the wizard had invited and by the wizard himself. She tells them all that bride is preparing the house. The guests and wizard went into the house, but the three sisters’ brothers and relatives, who had ben sent by  the girls, barred the doors and burned down the house. The wizard and all his guests died.

At least it has a happy ending for the sisters. And the wizard gets what he deserves. The poor guests, I wonder if they knew how evil the man was or if they had been duped into believing him to be a good, honorable person.

It’s reminiscent of Bluebeard, who had a habit of cutting up the women in his life too.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.

 

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This was my second short story read for R.I.P. VIII’s Peril of the Short Story. R.I.P VIII is a reading event embracing the ghastly and ghostly, mysterious and grim hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.

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