If you’re not familiar with the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, Fitcher’s Bird, I recommend clicking here to read the story before proceeding to my commentary.
We’ve seen the wedding theme before in the Brother’s tales, such as in our last story, King Thrushbeard. The theme delivers a royal wedding and a happy ending that points us to Christ and His Bride, the Church. In this tale, however, we’re exposed to that which we might consider an anti-king, and the bride preparing for an anti-wedding, indeed we see the picture of an anti-Christ. But in keeping with the truth of Scripture we’re delighted to know that the Bride isn’t wed to her evil captor, instead she’s given the power (through the blood of Christ) to overcome him and a part in bringing about his destruction (the proclamation of the Gospel). (Revelation 12:11)
“There once was a wizard” whose house stood in the midst of a dark forest. Make no mistake, this is not the fictional wizards we love to celebrate. We’re not dealing with Tolkien’s Gandolf or Rowling’s Harry Potter. No, dear reader, we have before us a wicked wizard who dwells in the midst of darkness. A characterization of Satan.
We’ve encountered the dark forest before, haven’t we? (The Frog-King) It’s our fallen world, God’s good creation shrouded in darkness. Now, here we are in the middle of it. What should we expect to find in such a sin-filled place, but a vile sorcerer and the most horrifying of images. And indeed we do. This story is by far the most disturbing we’ve read, filled with bloody basins and death by dismemberment.
As I read this story, thoughts of the Garden of Eden came to mind. A forest of trees with a particular tree in the middle that was forbidden, a tree of death, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). Did you hear the account of Genesis 2:16-17 when you read what the wizard said to the first pretty daughter?
“…thou mayst go everywhere and look at everything except into one room, which this little key opens, and there I forbid thee to go on pain of death.” He likewise gave her an egg and said, “Preserve the egg carefully for me, and carry it continually about with thee, for a great misfortune would arise from the loss of it.”
The wizard (the devil) being clever, but not original, reconstructs the Garden of Eden in his house of horror. He has his Eve in the pretty girls whom he catches, and with them in his house all seems perfect:
Everything in the house was magnificent; he gave her whatsoever she could possibly desire, and said “My darling, thou wilt certainly be happy with me, for thou hast everything thy heart can wish for.”
Eden’s stage is set. There are good things all about and only one thing forbidden. His darling is even given to care for an egg, an obvious symbol of life. The mishandling of life, as was true in Eden, leads to death.
Of the three pretty daughters who we see brought to the house, only the third is not chopped into pieces for entering the room, and it’s because the wizard doesn’t know she entered it. Life and resurrection come with daughter number three. The wizard thinks she passed his test and therefore aims to make her his bride.
At this point in the story we begin to notice aspects of Jesus’ words,
And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Mark 3:25-27)
The actions of the third daughter emphasize the binding of the strong man, whose would-be bride undoes the death he inflicts by confronting it in a way that removes his power, by converting his bloody basin full of hewn human beings into a baptismal font, where there is death to be sure, but from where life also emerges. She engages the gleaming axe and block of wood – the wizard’s instruments of death – just like Christ faced the Roman cross, in a way that undid death’s power and sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
Christ was resurrected on the third day. In like manner, the third daughter kept death’s blood off life’s egg and reassembled her sisters’s bodies, concluding their resurrection with what amounts to the kiss of peace (Romans 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14).
This is a glorious scene that draws our attention to the truth Jesus spoke to Peter about the Church. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” Christ said. And “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19).
We’re dealing with the downfall of our old evil foe, the binding of Satan by our Lord and His Church. We’re dealing with keys. Not the keys the wicked wizard would give, keys to a sin-filled world – to a house in the middle of a dark forest – but the keys to heaven. Those are the keys the Bride of Christ holds, and, yes, they are the keys of life. When the pretty girl, who stands in for the all those whom Jesus would have believe in him, cares for the egg (life) and is baptized, that is, goes into the wizard’s forbidden room, she sees that which brings about death and, according to God’s good will, also brings about life.
I wonder, is there any doubt why the wizard (Satan) would forbid the girl (us) from this one room, which is full of death? No. The room is a baptistry. Unlike the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which was forbidden because it would bring about man’s death, the wizard’s forbidden room is off limits because the evil one knows it will bring about his death.
The wizard (devil) is undone when he returns to find no blood on the egg.
“Thou hast stood the test, thou shalt be my bride.” He now had no longer any power over her, and was forced to do whatsoever she desired.
Indeed, for she is the Church, and she has been given the keys (by Christ). The wizard doesn’t know it but his house is divided. With him bound, his affianced immediately begins to plunder his goods, and does so by his own manual labor. What inspiration! This pretty girl in effect says, “Act as if I’m yours, devil, and in the meantime I will prepare for the wedding… the true wedding with Christ.” In the preparation for the marriage feast of the Lamb, that is, in our earthly lives of faith, the devil goes about his plans thinking he’s to have the Bride. But his power is undone. The Bride is not his, but another’s, and she is not one to be underestimated.
The conclusion of the story depicts the fiery destruction of the devil and his demons, the wizard and his friends, who the bride invited to the marriage-feast and lured into the house. “The wizard and all his crew had to burn.” Or, in other words, “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
That’s where the Brother’s end their tale. But that’s not the end of what Scripture says. After Revelation 20 comes 21. Had the Brother’s pen continued to reveal what happened to the bride in this story, would it not have been a fictionalized form of chapter 21?
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:2-4)
The next Finding Truth in The Story will be on The Robber Bridegroom. 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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