Fairy tales are old tools to express certain human emotions, experiences or interactions with nature. You will find them everywhere on the Eurasian continent, and mostly preserved on the rural countryside. These tales and myths provide us with an insight into the symbolic world of the early Indo-Europeans. We all know “Rumpelstilzchen”, or “Beauty and the Beast”, and for some, these tales come straight out of Disney. Well, not true. They have indeed a lot to do with the pagan past of the Eurasian tribes! The German word for fairy tale is “Märchen”, deriving from the word “Mär”, which means “message”.
It surely is not easy to come up with an exact date on how old these tales really are. But there have been recent studies, one which is called “Comperative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales” which provides deeper knowledge into this more and more forgotten or commercialized realm. We all know that most of the fairy tales were written down between the 17th and 18th Century, however, through certain Analysis, researches have come up with the conclusion that these fairy tales have existed far longer than just the 17th century. I am not surprised, to be honest.
Most of the knowledge the early Germanic tribes had was preserved via orally told tales and not letters or writing. The diary tale with the title “the smith and the devil” has been already known in the bronze age, around 6 000 years ago in comparison to the younger fairy tales like “Rumpelstilzchen” and “The Beauty and the Beast”, which are around 4 000 years old. And so, Wilhelm Grimm remained right with his assumption that those tales do perhaps originate from one common Indo-European language. These tales have existed far longer than what most people thought or were led to believe. You will find a lot of symbolism within these tales. If you take a closer look at “Frau Holle”, you will also learn that her being is actually an ancient Archetype. Sure, she has different names, various differences in different areas. But her Archetype is that of the Mother. She’s the womb and the tomb, her Underworld is a realm of Death but also of new life, of transformation. She is both light and dark. Kind of like Maha Kali in Hindu Mythology.
While studying Mythology, we can find many correlations between her and Holda, Berchta in Bavaria. You might be more familiar with her norse Archetyp called Hel. Her Underworld is not the christian version of Hell, nor is it evil. It’s neutral. It’s about transformation. The worldview of animistic tribes was first and foremost cyclic, and not linear. Every ending held a new beginning. People believed that her essence is strongest during the dark time of the year, around the 21th of december, during the Rauhnächte, and so on. No matter how we twist and turn it, a lot of people completely underestimate the importance of these tales and what their deeper meaning is. Also in the Neopagan subculture, there is hardly ever any talk on these european and local tales, except the Edda. I find that to be sad. A lot of tales are traces, remnants of Indo-European tribes. We will find the same way of story-telling and a similar symbolism in a lot of shamanism-tribes around the world.