If there is one message that most fairy tales have, it is that good will always triumph over evil. That is also prevalent in the dark tale from the Brothers Grimm, “The Juniper Tree”. A story full of cannibalism and homicide still manages to lead up to an iconic happy ending. Interwoven through every ironic sentence are symbols. Connections with tales from Greek Mythology to Biblical times hide the true macabre nature of the story of (as it is also called) “My Mother Slew Me, My Father Ate Me”.
The very first line of the fable, “Long, long ago, some two thousand years or so”, is an allusion itself dating back to the era of Jesus Christ. The boy’s untimely and undeserved death by the hands of another references the unjust crucifixion of Jesus. He is sacrificed for the good of the others around him. The son’s reincarnation as a bird and as a feeling of happiness for those who loved him represent the Holy Spirit, commonly symbolized as a bird (dove) as well. This, combined with his later resurrection surrounded by “mist and flames and fire rising from the spot” where the stepmother (symbolic of sin) was killed adds more proof that the boy is a Christ figure. Other Biblical allusions throughout the story, the “evil thought [possessing]” the stepmother, the “evil spirit [entering] her” practically adds horns and a forked tail to the traditionally wicked stepmother, showing her as Satan himself (Grimm).
Not only do the allusions add a point of reference for the people reading the story (with the majority being Christian at the time), but the age old battle of the Original Sin, the battle of the angelic driven by naiveté and of the hellish driven by desire written ingeniously into a children’s tale reiterate that no matter the circumstances, good will always triumph over evil—the theme of “The Juniper Tree” (Grimm).
The biggest event in the tale, and what gives the tale its reputation as one of the most gruesome children’s stories written, is the chopping up and eating of the son. This closely resembles the act of the Titan of Time himself: Kronos. Deadly afraid of the power of his children, he chops them up and eats them to ensure he remains in control. The stepmother mimics this act almost to a tee. After beheading her stepson with the lid of an apple chest and tricking her daughter to re-knock off his head, she and her daughter (against her will) chop him up and cook him into puddings. They then share a meal together, father included, feasting on the child’s remains. This sociopathic and remorseless act also reflects upon Kronos’ character traits. Unforgiving, unyielding, and controlling, he (as the mother does) sets his downfall up through the desire for power. And she, as Kronos did, found her death through the cunning of the person she was desiring to control.
Kronos wanted to remain the Lord of the universe eternally, and he was told that his children would overpower him. The Stepmother feared that her stepson would inherit more than her...