This fairy tale, classified as KHM 3 in Grimm’s collection, is actually a morality tale with a strong religious note. It bears resemblances with Fitcher’s bird (KHM 46) and more well-known Bluebeard. Its main motif is remorse and punishment over the broken promise about the forbidden doors.
We’ll walk through the story with some help of illustrations signed by Heinrich Lefler and his brother-in-law Joseph Urban.
This picture book was number two in a series of Grimm’s Tales by Joseph Scholz.
There were several reprints and they are all collectible.
Once upon a time, there was a poor family. The woodcutter and his wife were not able to take proper care of their only daughter. when she was three Virgin Mary appeared in front of the father and offered her help.
She took the girl into heaven and she was raised there.
One day Virgin Mary went on a journey and gave the girl thirteen keys. She was allowed to open twelve doors but not the last one.
Of course, the girl couldn’t resist and after finding twelve apostles behind the first twelve doors, she opened the thirteenth as well. There she found Trinity and her finger became golden.
Mary asked her about the forbidden room and the girl lied. She did that three times. Then Mary punished her by transporting her from heaven to the woods.
The girl is forced to live in the forest alone for years.
A king found her there and although she was unable to speak at the time, he took her to the castle.
There they married.
When the young queen got her kid, Mary visited her and asked her about the forbidden room. The girl wasn’t able to speak but is still unwilling to confess her sin. Mary took her son away and the queen was accused of infanticide and cannibalism.
The king protected her and they had another son about one year later. Mary came to her again. The girl still wouldn’t confess. She lost another son.
Her third kid was a baby girl. The queen still can’t and won’t confess.
She was condemned to burn at the stake.
Only when the flames started licking her the queen confessed her sin.
Her kids were returned and Mary forgave her. All ended well.
Apart from the major theme of the forbidden chamber, there are some other classic elements of older fairy tales:
- Poor parents who were unable to take care of their children, like in Hansel and Gretel.
- Extremely powerful protector who could change the life of her (or his) protegee in a blink of the eye, like in Cinderella.
- Some kind of expulsion of the member of society (namely the girl from heaven) to dangerous and chaotic place (namely forest), like in Snow White.
- Saving of the same member and consequential restoration from deadly wilderness to optimistic civilization by the entrance of high authority, like in Little Red Cap.
- Degradation of the main character, who didn’t just lose the placement in her old life but literally lost all, including her clothes, like in Star Money.
- Accusation of ultimately cruel and unacceptable crime, namely infanticide and cannibalism, like in Little Brother and Little Sister.
- Last minute saving of the main character, who is falsely accused of the crime and can’t protect himself or herself, like in Six Swans.