If you’re not familiar with the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, Allerleirauh, I recommend clicking here to read the story before proceeding to my commentary.
If we wish to venture any further into the wondrous world of fairyland, we would be wise to prepare ourselves for the abundance of princess stories that occupy the fortified castles and fairy-filled forests we will encounter. The volume with which they occur is itself a fascinating fact for the reader on a quest to find God’s truth in the stories of man. The Bridegroom comes to rescue His bride. It’s a theme that would appear to predominate fairyland, if not all the corridors of fiction that fill our libraries.
If the central event in human history is the incarnation of Christ – God taking on flesh to save His people, the Bridegroom rescuing the Church – it makes sense that mankind would repeat this theme in story after story, intentionally or otherwise.
But what does that mean for you and me? Are we to close our books and conclude that that is all there is to every story? By no means. Did not four men record the Gospel of our Lord? And even within the synoptics, are there not nuances and distinctions that teach us truth? Indeed, there are.
We find a unique expression of the truth with each fairy tale, and yes, with each princess we meet. So, what do we find in the story of Allerleirauh?
The answer is in the title, which is the name of the princess, Allerleirauh. This German word translated into English means, “All kinds of fur.” When we focus our attention there we see that this story presents the relationship between the Old Testament’s sacrificial system and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
There is a great wickedness in the beginning of the story, a father who wishes to marry his own daughter.
When the councillors heard [that the king wished to marry his daughter] they were shocked, and said, “God has forbidden a father to marry his daughter, no good can come from such a crime, and the kingdom will be involved in the ruin.”
The fairyland counselors have a clear understanding of God’s Law. All would suffer the ruin the sin would bring about. We’re pleased to read that the King’s daughter develops a plan to free the kingdom from the sin.
Before I fulfill your wish, I must have three dresses, one as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, and one as bright as the stars; besides this, I wish for a mantle of a thousand different kinds of fur and hair joined together, and one of every kind of animal in your kingdom must give a piece of his skin for it.
Consider the second half of her demand. She wants a garment made of every kind of animal in the kingdom. That’s a lot of dead animals. For what purpose? To “divert [her] father from his wicked intentions.” To deal with sin. The Old Testament sacrificial system involved a lot of dead animals, and for the same reason, to cover the sins of the people.
The princess’s father didn’t give up; he continued in his sin. The three dresses were made, as was the mantle of a thousand different furs. He persisted in his wickedness. The shedding of blood that had, to that point, worked against the sin would either be all for naught or would lead to the actual means by which sin is undone, the source of its effectiveness – the final sacrifice. Of course, I’m speaking of the death of Christ. Read Hebrews 10 to further grasp the relationship between Christ and the sacrifices of the Old Testament.
In Allerleirauh, like in the Old Testament, the sacrifice of animals for the benefit of the kingdom (Israel) wasn’t wholly sufficient. The sacrifices are a precursor to the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). In our fairytale, the making of the mantle is much the same. The princess’s plan, though it was insufficient in staying the sin of her father, was the precursor to a new life, for her and consequently for her father’s kingdom that was freed from his sinful desires once she was gone. This new life came only after an episode with a tree.
Yes, the hollow tree in which our princess sleeps, covered in a thousand different kinds of fur, draws our imagination to the tree of Christ, the place where the sacrifices of the Old Testament terminate, the cross. The place where Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), where full atonement was made for the ruinous sins of mankind. This point is underscored in that she is covered in what is described as a “fur of a thousand different kinds.” In Scripture the number 1000 symbolizes completion and perfection. The cross is where the imperfect animal sacrifices find their perfection. The cross is also where we see “a wondrous beast,” so to speak, that “we have never before seen,” namely a perfect human being, Jesus Christ.
What follows in our tale is the threefold revelation of our beautiful princess. Should we be surprised that this takes place when she “washed the soot off of her face and hands, so that her full beauty once more came to light”? Not at all. It’s baptism! After which “she went up to the festival.” The Grimm brothers spread this out across three episodes that give opportunity to display the princess’s humble heart as she is hidden under a thousand furs.
I am good for nothing but to have boots thrown at my head.
In baptism the Christian is hidden in the humility of Christ, covered in the mantle of His perfect and complete sacrifice, His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). But this hiddenness is not permanent. Consider Colossians 3:1-3.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Is that not what is being conveyed at the end of our tale?
The King clutched the mantle and tore it off. Then her golden hair shone forth, and she stood there in full splendor, and could no longer hide herself. And when she had washed the soot and ashes from her face, she was more beautiful than anyone who had ever been seen on earth.
But the King said, “Thou art my dear bride, and we will never more part from each other.” Thereupon the marriage was solemnized, and they lived happily ever after until their death.
The next Finding Truth in The Story will be on Cinderella. 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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