Fairy-Tale Files, published once weekly, feature three variations of a fairy tale chosen by one of Fairy Tale Review’s editors.
Like a Shaman Climbing the World Tree
According to fairy-tale scholar J.C. Cooper, “In Shamanism and in myth, poles, lianas, beanstalks or any climbing plant can be scaled to reach other realms and obtain magical knowledge and powers.” Cue the cow. First appearing as a burlesque called The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean, we have Englishman Benjamin Talbert to thank for the story’s best-known version. Venturing out of his Wonka zone, Roald Dahl spun the work in a bleaker direction with 1982’s Revolting Rhymes in which Jack’s mother becomes the giant’s meal.
In some Shamanic societies, the universe is divided into the Upper, Middle and Lower worlds, a ‘World Tree’ acting as the bridge between our reality and the spirit plane. During their Upper-world journeys, shamans travel to the other side of the sky for teachings, divination and restoration. Interestingly, clouds and space are still considered part of the Middle realm, where humankind resides.
Weigh Station of the Gods
Norse mythology’s World Tree, Yggdrasil, consists of nine segments, ending with Asgard and the All-Father Odin who often visits Hlidskjalf, his watchtower over Midgard (Earth). Odin is aided by raven servants Hugin and Munin, the pair reporting our good, bad and indifferent. Should Midgardians need an Odin intervention, he’ll reach us via the Bifröst (Rainbow Bridge), passing through Ljosalfheim and Vanaheimr, realms elven and ocean.
This fairy-tale file brought to you by Fairy Tale Review editorial assistant Cindy Kilbourne and poetry editor Jon Riccio.