Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tauy Creek Digest #36: The Juniper Tree

Once upon a time, there was a rich man who had a beautiful wife. They loved each other dearly and wanted children. Though they wished for them, and the woman prayed day and night, they didn't get any. In front of their house there stood a juniper tree. One day, in winter, the woman was sitting beneath it, peeling an apple. As the penknife slid around the apple, it slipped and cut her finger.

"Oh," she looked at her finger. A drop of blood fell onto the snow. "I wish I had a child as red as blood and as white as snow." As the last word left her lips, she became quite content and felt sure it would happen.

The months began passing. The snow was gone after the first month, everything was green after the second. The third, all the flowers came out. The trees grow thicker and larger during the fourth and during the fifth, she grew happier and she stood beneath the juniper tree which smelled so sweet. At the sixth month, she grew still and somber. After the seventh month, she picked the juniper berries and ate them greedily. In the eighth month, she grew sick and sorrowful. She called for her husband and cried "If I die, bury me beneath the juniper tree." After the ninth month, she had a son as white as snow and as red as blood. When she saw him, she was so happy. So happy that she died.

Her husband buried her beneath the juniper tree, and began to cry bitterly. After some time he was more at ease, though he still cried, he could bear it. Some time later, he took another wife. He had a daughter by the second wife. When the woman looked at her daughter, she loved her very much, but then she looked at the boy, and it pierced her heart, for she thought that he would always stand in her way, and she was always thinking how she could get the entire inheritance for her daughter. She grew angry with the boy and pushed from one corner to the other, slapped him here and cuffed him there, until the poor child was always afraid, for when he came home he could find no peace.

One day, the woman was in her room when her daughter came in, "Mother, give me an apple," she requested.

"Yes, my child," the woman said and gave her a beautiful apple from a small chest next to her.

"Mother, can brother have one too?" the daughter asked.

This made her angry. "Yes, when he comes home from school." Soon, she saw the boy coming home. She snatched the apple from her daughter. "You shall not have one before your brother." She threw the apple into the chest and shut it. The boy came in the door and the woman asked kindly, "My son, do you want an apple?" her eyes glowed angrily.

The boy was hesitant but nodded sheepishly. "Yes, please."

The woman opened the chest and motioned toward it. "Take an apple for yourself," she said. As the boy leaned over, she slammed down the lid. The boy's head snapped off and fell among the red apples. The woman hid what she had done. "Daughter, go downstairs and start the water for dinner."

The girl happily left. The woman grabbed a silk scarf out of a drawer, placed the head back on the neck and tied the scarf around so nothing could be seen. Then she placed him on a chair with an apple in his hand. The woman went downstairs and into the kitchen. "Daughter, brother has an apple for you upstairs, if he won't give it to you, box his ears."

The girl, again, happily left. "Oh, brother, thank you for holding that apple for me," but he was silent and didn't move. She gave him a slight rap on the ear and his head fell off. The girl was terrified and began crying and screaming. "Mother, I have knocked my brother's head off."

"What have you done? Be quiet and don't tell anybody. It cannot be helped now. We will cook him into stew." The woman took the little boy, chopped him into pieces and put him into the pot. The girl stood by, crying, and all her tears fell into the pot.

Father came home and sat down at the table. "Where is my son?" he asked. The woman served up a large dish of stew. The girl had not stopped crying. "Where is my son?"

"He has gone to visit is great uncle. He asked to stay six weeks."

"What is he doing there? He didn't even say good-bye to me."

"He asked to go."

"It isn't right. He should've said good-bye," the man began to eat. "This is good. Give me more," he ate more and more and as he ate, he threw all the bones under the table until he had finished it all.

After dinner, the girl took her best silk scarf and gathered up all the bones from beneath the table and carried them outside.  She placed under the juniper tree and suddenly felt better and her crying stopped. The branches of the tree moved and a beautiful bird flew out and high into the air singing magnificently. The girl looked down and saw the scarf with the bones was no longer there. She felt as happy as though her brother were alive, and she went inside.

The bird flew across the countryside. Using his song, he entranced a goldsmith to give him a necklace, beautiful red shoes from a shoemaker, and a millstone from a miller. He returned to the juniper tree and began singing his beautiful song again.

"That music," the man said. "It's lovely. I must go see what kind of bird is making it." He ran outside and the bird dropped the necklace over the man's head. He went back inside and showed him what the bird gave him.

"Maybe the bird will give me something," the girl ran out of the house and under the juniper tree. The bird, still singing, dropped the red shoes in front of the girl. The girl tapped herself back into the house. "He gave me these beautiful shoes. Oh, Mother, you should go out and see what the bird has for you."

"It feels as though my blood is boiling. A thousand pin pricks on my skin," she breathed. "Why is it so hot in here?" The singing from the bird seemed to get louder. The woman acted like she was on fire. Finally, unable to stand the feeling her flesh burning and blood boiling, she ran out of the house and the bird dropped the millstone from the tree onto her head, crushing her.

The father and daughter and the bird, singing, were very happy. The three of them went into the kitchen, sat down at the table, and ate.

Story by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
This version by Brian Hall