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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Our Lady’s Child

Author: Brothers Grimm
Story Originally Published: 1812
Found in Collection: Grimm’s Fairy Tales

The Story

There’s a poor farming family with a 3-year old daughter. Unfortunately, her parents cannot afford to feed her, so when the Virgin Mary appears to them and offers to take the daughter to live with her in heaven, they agree.

When the child is older, the Virgin Mary has to go off on some journey, and leaves a set of keys with the girl. The girl is told that she can use any of them except the small thirteenth one. During her explorations, she uses all twelve keys to open twelve different doors, to find the twelve apostles behind each door. Of course, curiousity gets to her, and against the Virgin Mary’s warnings, she uses the thirteenth key to open the last door, and comes into contact with the presence of God.

As a result of a direct betrayal of Mary (and MASSIVE denial of the direct betrayal), the child is banished to earth, where she meets a lovely king who ends up marrying her. And each time they have a child, the Virgin Mary appears to the girl and asks the girl to confess that she opened the thirteenth door; when the girl continues to deny it, Mary takes each of the girl’s children.

Of course, this leads the people around her to believe that she is eating her children, so they decide to burn her like a witch.

And of course, as the girl is burning to death, she confesses that she used that thirteenth key, and Mary comes down in a cloud of awesomeness and not only saves the girl from death but also gives her her children back.

The Response

Overall, this wasn’t the best fairy tale that I’ve read. But! Something about it sticks out in my head. And do you know what it was? It was the fact that I DO NOT KNOW THIS STORY.

I thought I was fairly well-versed in my fairy-tale lore. Apparently I was wrong, because I have NEVER HEARD this one before.

Yes, there are motifs that I’ve read before – opening the forbidden door, asking the same question three times, someone stealing the main character’s child… but I don’t recall ever reading a fairy tale where the Virgin Mary is one of the major players in it. I don’t know – have I been missing out on a whole bunch of fairy tales this whole time that revolve around some of the major biblical figures?

It’s weird because not only do I know my fairy tales, but I was VERY Christian for a fairly long period of time, and would have devoured this up if I knew there were Christian fairy tales. Is this just more prominent in Catholicism than Protestantism, as Mary plays a more prominent figure there?

And that makes me wonder what other figures I’ve missed out on in Western fairy tales. It all just leaves me so flummoxed! Someone, please tell me! What other fairy tales am I missing out on that have religious figures in them?! Am I going to next stumble upon a story where John the Baptist is living under a bridge charging tolls to those who want to pass it? Are there stories about Noah going on a quest to find a princess under an evil witch’s spell? What else is there?!

Also? The moral of this fairy tale? If the Virgin Mary ever asks you a question, don’t lie to her. Lying makes you burn, yo.

I think I should probably end both of those trains of thought before I guarantee myself a spot in the deepest pit of hell.

The Bottom Line

Fairy tale I don’t know! Yay for new introductions! Odd that it was Virgin Mary! Fairy Tales in general! Yay fun was had all around!

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 6:25 am August 13, 2010.
Category: Short Stories
Book Author(s):

  • bitwhizzle

    What? I have never heard of this either! And it sounds pretty awesome! Now I’m going to have to find it and read it myself! Crazy!