Today we discuss the Märchen that made me want to do a Märchen Monday series! Der Wolf und die sieben jungen Geißlein — The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids — seems to be one of the more obscure stories in the Grimm brothers’ collection. Although I was lucky to have read it as a child, I had completely forgotten it until I found it again in my Bavarian tutor’s book. I remembered the main story, but needed to reread it to recall some details. If you want to review it as well, it’s available in multiple languages on GrimmStories.com (Link).
Der Wolf und die sieben jungen Geißlein is one of the more obscure Märchen. I recall it from my own childhood (I think I read it in a picture book), but few others also do. After asking family members, friends, and even people at work, I found only one other person who could remember it. The others thought I was asking about The Three Billy Goats Gruff, a Norwegian story!
Of course, this is my own experience. Perhaps Der Wolf und die sieben jungen Geißlein is more popular where you live! But I think it’s safe to say that when we hear of a “big bad wolf” and clever little animals who outsmart him, most of us think of pigs before we remember goats!
Going Back to Grimm
Again, I am reading the Grimms’ Märchen for their Christian heart. As I mentioned in the first Märchen Monday post, I learned to do this with Aschenputtel, thanks to an Orthodox podcast. (Link) But I wasn’t used to reading children’s stories or folktales this way. And it was not until I read the first sentence of Die sieben jungen Geißlein that I saw how to do it myself.
That sentence was: “Es war einmal eine alte Geiß, die hatte sieben jungen Geißlein, und hatte sie lieb, wie eine Mutter ihre Kinder lieb hat.” (My translation: There was once an old goat, who had seven little kids, and who loved them as any mother loves her children.) And it was just obvious to me that the loving mother was the Church. Every loving mother reflects Holy Mother Church, of course, but our extra clue is this mother’s Kinder. There are sieben jungen Geißlein because there are seven sacraments.
When the wolf enters the house, the Geißlein all try to find hiding places. A friend and I had fun checking if the hiding places had sacramental symbolism. While there were some easy matches (the Waschschüssel — wash basin — would be Baptism), we didn’t have a perfect analogy. The Ofen (oven) and the Küche (kitchen) could both represent the Eucharist; but we don’t have anything that clearly suggests Reconciliation. The Grimm brothers rewrote all their Märchen very carefully, but I think they could have worked on this story a little more. (I’d recommend a curtain for Reconciliation.) Nevertheless, they picked the perfect hiding place for the smallest Geißlein: der Kasten der Wanduhr — the clock case. When time is running out and everything seems lost, the sacrament of Extreme Unction can still save souls from the wolf.
Next Monday: Marienkind
Read it here: Link