Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Day 20: my favourite fairy tale

The Master Thief (Brothers Grimm)

When I was a child, "The Master Thief" was my favourite fairytale and still is.
It is the story of a young man who ran away from home as a boy to live his life freely and without having to bend into a shape like a young tree tied to a pole, and who returns many years later to see his parents, telling them and his godfather, the country's lord, that he became a Master thief. The lord, being the keeper of law and order, wants to hang him but, also being his godfather, promises to let him go if he is able to prove his skills in three impossible thieving tasks the lord makes up. Of course, the Master thief succeeds brilliantly. His godfather grants him free passage but warns him at the pain of death never to return.

THere are many reasons why I favour this fairy tale over every other.
It's a story on how intelligence will always trimph over sheer force and on how creativity will never surrender to what appears to be an impossible task. The Master thief succeeds to beat the violent authority and to defend his life and freedom grace to his creativity, fearlessness and wit, not by force, strenght, supernatural powers or by being a prince (it is greatly emphasized that his parents are peasants). He doesn't shed a drop of blood. It is a very light-footed tale. The Master thief carries a beautiful aura of playfulness and even with his life at stake seems to enjoy himself during the challenges. During the second task he even uses the victims of authority to beat it.
Fairy tales are allegedly all black and white, good vs evil, yet in this one it turns around. Obviously, we root for the criminal, not for the judge who, apparently for his own amusement's sake, abuses his power to force another human being into an unfair and obviously completely unlawful game for his very life,. He even claims that this is an expression of his mercy. But then it turns out that it is a very unequal game indeed but that it's the lord who never even stood a chance. His threats never impressed the Master thief.
And yet the tale always felt sad to me as well. The Master thief defends his freedom but lost a childhood with his parents and, when returning to see them again because he missed them, has to leave again, never to return. He knows that the past cannot be undone and expresses regret that he became a crooked tree that can't be pulled straight any more.

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