Märchen Monday: Die Drei Spinnerinnen

Today we continue discovering (or rediscovering) the more unknown Grimms’ Märchen. Last week’s Marienkind or Our Lady’s Child (Link) will probably always be the most obscure, but Die drei Spinnerinnen or The Three Spinners is the closest second so far. But this is just my impression, and the result of an unscientific survey of family and friends in the Philippines. Read it yourself in German, English or another available language and see if it is familiar to you!

Märchen Memories

I remember Die drei Spinnerinnen strangely well. My best guess is that I read it in the Reader’s Digest anthology World’s Best Fairytales (Link), which introduced me to other uncommon stories. The characters of the drei Spinnerinnen were especially memorable.

But I can see why the world in general does not remember this Märchen. These days, spinning is a niche hobby rather than a regular household chore. And you need some specialized knowledge of spinning to appreciate the odd-looking Spinnerinnen. This isn’t the case for two other spinning-themed Märchen that remain very popular: Rumpelstilzchen and Dornröschen. (Can you guess what the English titles are?)

Going Back to Grimm

The Mädchen of this Märchen is a bit of an anti-heroine. We read that she was “faul und wollte nicht spinnen” — “lazy and didn’t want to spin.” She doesn’t sound like someone who deserves a happy ending, does she? But she gets one anyway.

In a Christian reading of the Grimms Märchen, a happy ending means the salvation of a soul. And the lazy Mädchen seems to get one very early, when die Königin — the queen — takes her to the castle. The girl even has a chance to marry the queen’s firstborn son! There is just one problem: She first has to spin all the flax that fill up three rooms von unten bis oben — from floor to ceiling. For the next three days, she does nothing but weep at her fate. But remember that three days in Grimm symbolize the three days before the Resurrection. And indeed, the turning point comes on the third day, with a third set of three: Die drei Spinnerinnen!

The real heroines of the Märchen, the spinners save our anti-heroine from having to admit how lazy she is. But they also reveal a real virtue of hers: The Mädchen can keep her promises! This is very good to know about a young woman on her wedding day.

Next Monday: Die drei Schlangenblätter (The Three Snake-leaves)

Read it here: Link

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