Image by tinkerbelky at DeviantArt.

I know I often feature fairy tales from Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, but they are, in general, the most well-known and some are just so odd, like today’s, “Faithful Johannes.” You can read the whole story here.

A king on his deathbed orders his servant, Faithful Johannes, to take care of his son, to teach him everything, but to never let him see into a certain room, which holds a portrait of a princess.

After the father’s death, the new young king of course forces his Johannes into letting him into the room and he falls madly in love with the princess of the golden palace after laying eyes on the portrait. Johannes agreed to help the king win the princess’ hand. The young king and his faithful servant Johannes travel to the golden kingdom, trick the princess into coming onto their boat and then set sail when she is below deck. Initially she is terrified, but when her kidnapper reveals he is a king all is forgiven and she agrees to marry him.

As they are sailing, faithful Johannes overhears three ravens conversing with each other. They predict three misfortunes that will befall the king: a fox-red horse, a poisoned shirt, and the death of his wife. The only way to save the king is if someone shoots the horse in the head, burns the poisoned shirt, and takes three drops of blood from the right breast of the new queen. However, the savior must not utter a word of his tasks or he will turn to stone. When they arrive ashore, the king sees a chestnut horse and is about to mount it when Johannes pushes him aside, jumps on the horse and shoots it. When they arrive at the palace, the king finds a shirt that looks to be made of gold, but faithful Johannes throws the shirt in the fire. At the wedding dance, the queen falls down as if dead on the palace floor but faithful Johannes “picked her up and carried her into a chamber. He laid her down, then knelt and sucked three drops of blood from her right breast, and spat them out,” saving her life.

The king, understandably angered by Johannes’ actions toward the queen, sentences Johannes to death by hanging. I don’t blame him. Johannes reveals the whole story, but as expected turns to stone. The king keeps the statue, placing it in his bedroom next to the bed, and wishes day after day that he could bring Johannes back to life. The king and queen eventually have two children and one day while the queen is at church the statue of Johannes tells the king that if he will slaughter his own children, his trusty servant will be brought back to life. The king is horrified, but takes his sword and lops off his own children’s heads. He smears his children’s blood onto the stone and faithful Johannes comes back to life.

As a reward for the king’s willingness to execute his own children, faithful Johannes places the children’s heads back onto their corpses and brings them back to life; they continue to run around as if nothing had happened. The king hides Johannes and the children in a large chest, and when the queen comes back he tells her that he knows how to bring Johannes back to life, but they will have to sacrifice their children’s lives. And the queen sadly agrees!

“The king rejoiced to hear that she agreed with him, then he opened up the chest and brought forth faithful Johannes and the children, saying, “God be praised! Faithful Johannes has been saved, and we have our little sons again as well.” He told her how everything had happened. Then they lived happily together until they died.”

I’m always surprised by how quick fairy tale parents are to kill their children or step-children, or leave them out in the woods to die, or send them off to beasts’ homes. I’m not impressed with the queen in this one. She’s beautiful and I would have to assume kind and gentle, after all she is in a Grimm story, but she’s tricked into getting on the boat, so not overly intelligent, she decides “okay I’ll marry my kidnapper” which always annoys me, when women in fairy tales or novels fall in love with the creepy stalker guy. Then she’s to kill her own children to save the man who helped her husband trick and kidnap her. Of course, he had saved her life, but still.

What do you think of the queen?

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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