In Grimm’s Fairy Tales, there is a story called The Robber Bridegroom. Written in 1812, at a time when books were rare (the most common book was the Bible), the Grimm Brothers (primitive librarians) were trying to preserve tales of the storytellers in Germany. These fairy tales, which included some magic, had been propagated by mouth for hundreds of years partly because they contained teachings and advice for the common people.
The Robber Bridegroom is a story about evil^^. After a marriage has been arranged by her father, a beautiful girl is invited to visit her fiancée who lives deep in the forest. To show the way, the fiancee deposits a trail of ashes. The girl feels uneasy, and leaves her own trail of peas and lentils. When she arrives at the large gloomy house, she finds the master is away according to the cook, an old woman who tells the girl the house is evil. She hides the girl behind a barrel when the master arrives with his companions, who have kidnapped a maiden. In a ghoulish scene, they strip off her clothes cut the maiden up with a meat cleaver, and prepare to cannibalize her. A finger wearing a gold ring spins through the air and lands behind the barrel in the petrified girl’s lap.
After drugging the villains’ wine, the old woman escapes with the horrified girl and they run through the forest by moonlight, following the peas and lentils which have now sprouted. The townsfolk are reluctant to believe the girl’s story until they see the ring finger. During the wedding celebration, the girl traps the robber by relating a dream in which she witnessed the maiden’s murder. When the ring finger is revealed and the robber exposed, the townsfolk convict him and he is hanged with his henchmen.
What are the teachings in this tale? First, that evil exists in the world and must be challenged and fought. Second, the old woman who knew the house and its inhabitants was able to plan an escape for the young girl who did not have that knowledge. Third, the trail through the forest was originally marked by the robber using ashes (a symbol of death) while the trail blazed by the girl became a pathway of pea and lentils sprouts (a symbol of life). Fourth, the townsfolk acted together to confront the evil and punish the perpetrator, the robber bridegroom.
I was intrigued by parallels between this fairy tale and the Bible.First, the entire Bible is about good and evil, starting from the oldest book (Job). Jesus talked a lot about evil, and the Lord’s Prayer ends with the words “Deliver us from evil”. Second, Jesus brought hope to struggling peasants….offering a real escape from the delusion and ravages of sin. Third, the Bible talks directly about a broad road that leads to death but also a narrow road that leads to life. The fourth speaks of justice. At the end of time, perpetrators of evil will be held accountable to God for their deeds.
The awful senseless killing of twenty young children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut reminds us that evil lurks close beneath the surface of our civilized society. Although bad decisions can be made by people whose soul is darkened by drugs, or mental illness (such as bipolar), or because they do not feel loved, when a person plans and deliberately kills twenty young children, that has to be evil. While Jesus the Christ offers redemption from the degrading effect of sin in personal lives, we must be ready to live and show this hope and love that is in us. We may be the only Bible that some people read!
There are also occasions when we need to stand up and instigate changes that will help to deliver us from future evil. An obvious question that arises from Sandy Hook is about owning assault weapons. This is not to be confused with ownership of regular guns, which is a different issue. Would someone explain why this country allows people to buy semi-automatic guns such as the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle (similar to the military’s M-16)? This was the primary weapon of Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook, and why so many kids died. He sprayed the children with bullets, first from a distance and then at close range, hitting some of them as many as eleven times. In contrast, in a recent attack in China a man with a knife attacked and wounded over twenty people, but no one died. A semi-automatic extracts the spent cartridge and loads the next cartridge into the chamber automatically, ready to fire again (one round is fired with each trigger pull). Note that various semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns are classified as “assault weapons” when they have certain combinations of features.
So what is the reason for the open sale of assault weapons? If it is for hunting, using a semi-automatic to bring down a deer or an elk doesn’t seem to be necessary or sporting. If it is to protect our homes from burglars, I suppose you might feel safer if you have a Bushmaster by your bed. But note that burglars commit only about 9% of violent crimes that occur in a victim’s home (yes, 91% are committed by people you know against other people you know).++ And only about 10% of violent crimes committed by burglars involve a firearm.++
It may be hard to see now, but in the end love and justice are more powerful than evil. Meanwhile the tears we shed, thousands of miles across the country from Sandy Hook, are a tiny snippet of love and support that we send your way on the wings of prayer.
The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers….
“Then little children were brought to Jesus that He might put his hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But He said leave the children alone! Allow the little ones to come to Me, and do not forbid or hinder them, for of such as these the kingdom of heaven is composed. And He put his hands upon them, and then went on his way” (Matthew, chapter 19, Amplified Bible).
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble and sin – who entices him or hinders him in right conduct or thought – it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be sunk in the depth of the sea” (Matthew, chapter 18, Amplified Bible).
“Beware that you do not despise or scorn one of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels always are in the presence of and look upon the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew chapter 18, Amplified Bible).
PS: thank you Neil and Kim and Mary Ann and Kim and Sherrie for editorial assistance.
^^ The Robber Bridegroom by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
++ From Bureau of Justice Statistics.
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