If you’re not familiar with the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, Fair Katrinelje and Pif-Paf-Poltrie, I recommend clicking here to read the story before proceeding to my commentary.
Names, names, names. What fun! But what work. All these curious names. Names like Mother Malcho and Pif-Paf-Poltrie. Oh, and the ever informative name of Brother High-and-Mighty. Everyone in the family is called something superb, at least to my eyes. Father Hollenthe, Sister Käsetraut, and of course, fair Katrinelje.
The progression of the story puts these names front and center by repeating them over and over again, making the story that much more fun, and that much more challenging to read, especially aloud. But what of the actual story? Where do we find God’s Word in this tale?
To answer that we must ask ourselves, what’s the story about? A suitor, Pif-Paf-Poltrie, seeking the hand of his bride, fair Katrinelje, right? That’s it. That’s the whole story. In this simple plot the Christian sees a picture of Christ and His bride, the Church. Like Christ, Pif-Paf-Poltrie didn’t simply walk up to His bride and ask her to marry Him. It wasn’t as easy as that. The betrothal wasn’t without trial.
In order to win His bride, our Lord obeyed the will of God perfectly, which led to the grueling experience of dying on the cross (Isaiah 53:5). He earned her hand. Likewise, Pif-Paf did as was proper and obeyed the will of Father Hollenthe, in order to win Kat’s hand.
It’s a pleasant misery that the reader endures as he walks through this story, for the difficulty Pif-Paf endured is subjected upon you and me in the tiresome reading of each name over and over and over again. The Grimm brothers don’t spare us a single syllable. There’s no reprieve for the weary reader. Every name is declared in it’s entirety each time our humble broom-maker asks to have Katrinelje, as he obeys the father’s law. Through this literary technique, we’re brought into Pif-Paf’s labor to experience something like what He endured in order to have his bride. In this way, we come to understand something of the theology of the cross, as we take up our cross and follow Pif-Paf-Poltrie, who suffered in order that we might know Christ and Him crucified.
What’s more, all this work is put forward to gain a wife who brings nothing to the marriage, though, to be fair, she would like to think she does. Christ went to the cross to earn for Himself a bride who has nothing to offer Him (Romans 5:8).
To this, one might say, “But with such a worthless dowry she’s a right fit for a humble man with a trade such as broom making.” Dear reader, trouble yourself to see the truth. Kat and Pif-Paf are not of the same lowly estate.
In this story Kat stands in for the Bride of Christ (sainted sinners who can do no good on our own). Pif-Paf’s trade, however, is truly “something better” than all those she lists. We see this throughout the Gospels; she, like the disciples, is used to thinking in earthly terms. When Christ came the Jews were expecting an earthly king to restore the glory of Israel. But, Pif-Paf, in his humility, is the servant of servants (Christ) as he makes the tools servants use to carry out the work of cleaning. Kat would’ve liked him to be a tailor, shoemaker, husbandman, joiner, smith, or miller, but he was “something better.” Christ is “something better” than an earthly king. He’s “something better.” He’s a broom-maker! The servant of all servants!
The next Finding Truth in The Story will be on The Old Beggar-Woman. Click here to read the fairy tale in advance.
I’m reading the fairly tales from the Fall River Press publication, Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Click here to purchase a copy for yourself.
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