Brothers Grimm tale no. 101, and Aarne-Thompson type 361

There was once a young fellow who enlisted as a soldier, conducted himself bravely, and was always the foremost when it rained bullets. So long as the war lasted, all went well, but when peace was made, he received his dismissal, and the captain said he might go where he liked. His parents were dead, and he had no longer a home, so he went to his brothers and begged them to take him in, and keep him until war broke out again. The brothers, however, were hard-hearted and said, “What can we do with you? You are of no use to us, go and make a living for yourself.” The soldier had nothing left but his gun, so he took that on his shoulder, and went forth into the world.

He came to a wide heath, on which nothing was to be seen but a circle of trees, under these he sat sorrowfully down, and began to think over his fate. I have no money, thought he, I have learnt no trade but that of fighting, and now that they have made peace they don't want me any longer, so I see before hand that I shall have to starve. All at once he heard a rustling and when he looked round, a strange man stood before him, who wore a green coat and looked right stately, but had a hideous cloven foot. “I know already what you are in need of,” said the man, “gold and possessions shall you have, as much as you can make away with, do what you will, but first I must know if you are fearless, that I may not bestow my money in vain.” “A soldier and fear - how can those two things go together?” he answered, “You can put me to the proof.” “Very well, then,” answered the man, “look behind you.” The soldier turned round, and saw a large bear, which came growling towards him. “Oho,” cried the soldier, “I will tickle your nose for you, so that you shall soon lose your fancy for growling,” and he aimed at the bear and shot it through the muzzle, it fell down and never stirred again. “I see quite well,” said the stranger, “that you are not wanting in courage, but there is still another condition which you will have to fulfil.” “If it does not endanger my salvation,” replied the soldier, who knew very well who was standing by him. “If it does, I'll have nothing to do with it.” “You will look to that for yourself,” answered greencoat, “you shall for the next seven years neither wash yourself, nor comb your beard, nor your hair, nor cut your nails, nor once say the Lord's prayer. I will give you a coat and a cloak, which during this time you must wear. If you die during these seven years, you are mine, if you remain alive, you are free, and rich to boot, for all the rest of your life.” The soldier thought of the great extremity in which he now found himself, and as he so often had gone to meet death, he resolved to risk it now also, and agreed to the terms. The devil took off his green coat, and gave it to the soldier, and said, “If you have this coat on your back and put your hand into the pocket, you will always find it full of money.” Then he pulled the skin off the bear and said, “This shall be your cloak, and your bed also, for thereon shall you sleep, and and in no other bed shall you lie, and because of this apparel shall you be called Bearskin.” Whereupon the devil vanished.

The soldier put the coat on, felt at once in the pocket, and found that the thing was really true. Then he put on the bearskin and went forth into the world, and enjoyed himself, refraining from nothing that did him good and his money harm.

During the first year his appearance was passable, but during the second he began to look like a monster. His hair covered nearly the whole of his face, his beard was like a piece of coarse felt, his fingers had claws, and his face was so covered with dirt that if cress had been sown on it, it would have come up. Whosoever saw him, ran away, but as he everywhere gave the poor money to pray that he might not die during the seven years, and as he paid well for everything he still always found shelter.

In the fourth year, he entered an inn where the landlord would not receive him, and would not even let him have a place in the stable, because he was afraid the horses would be scared. But as Bearskin thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out a handful of ducats, the host let himself be persuaded and gave him a room in an outhouse. Bearskin, however, was obliged to promise not to let himself be seen, lest the inn should get a bad name.

As Bearskin was sitting alone in the evening, and wishing from the bottom of his heart that the seven years were over, he heard a loud lamenting in a neighboring room. He had a compassionate heart, so he opened the door, and saw an old man weeping bitterly, and wringing his hands. Bearskin went nearer, but the man sprang to his feet and tried to escape from him. At last when the man perceived that Bearskin's voice was human he let himself be prevailed upon, and by kind words bearskin succeeded so far that the old man revealed the cause of his grief. His property had dwindled away by degrees, he and his daughters would have to starve, and he was so poor that he could not pay the innkeeper, and was to be put in prison. “If that is your only trouble,” said Bearskin, “I have plenty of money.” He caused the innkeeper to be brought thither, paid him and even put a purse full of gold into the poor old man's pocket.

When the old man saw himself set free from all his troubles he did not know how to show his gratitude. “Come with me,” said he to Bearskin, “my daughters are all miracles of beauty, choose one of them for yourself as a wife. When she hears what you have done for me, she will not refuse you. You do in truth look a little strange, but she will soon put you to rights again.” This pleased Bearskin well, and he went. When the eldest saw him she was so terribly alarmed at his face that she screamed and ran away. The second stood still and looked at him from head to foot, but then she said, “How can I accept a husband who no longer has a human form? The shaven bear that once was here and passed itself off for a man pleased me far better, for at any rate it wore a hussar's dress and white gloves. If he were only ugly, I might get used to that.” The youngest, however, said, “Dear father, that must be a good man to have helped you out of your trouble, so if you have promised him a bride for doing it, your promise must be kept.” It was a pity that Bearskin's face was covered with dirt and with hair, for if not they might have seen how delighted he was when he heard these words. He took a ring from his finger, broke it in two, and gave her one half, the other he kept for himself. Then he wrote his name on her half, and hers on his, and begged her to keep her piece carefully. Then he took his leave and said, “I must still wander about for three years, and if I do not return then, you are free, for I shall be dead. But pray to God to preserve my life.”

The poor betrothed bride dressed herself entirely in black, and when she thought of her future bridegroom, tears came into her eyes. Nothing but contempt and mockery fell to her lot from her sisters. “Take care,” said the eldest, “if you give him your hand, he will strike his claws into it.” “Beware,” said the second. “Bears like sweet things, and if he takes a fancy to you, he will eat you up.” “You must always do as he likes,” began the elder again, or else he will growl.“ And the second continued, “But the wedding will be a merry one, for bears dance well.” The bride was silent, and did not let them vex her. Bearskin, however, traveled about the world from one place to another, did good where he was able, and gave generously to the poor that they might pray for him.

At length, as the last day of the seven years dawned, he went once more out on to the heath, and seated himself beneath the circle of trees. It was not long before the wind whistled, and the devil stood before him and looked angrily at him, then he threw bearskin his coat, and asked for his own green one back. “We have not got so far as that yet,” answered Bearskin, “you must first make me clean.” Whether the devil liked it or not, he was forced to fetch water, and wash Bearskin, comb his hair, and cut his nails. After this, he looked like a brave soldier, and was much handsomer than he had ever been before.

When the devil had gone away, Bearskin was quite lighthearted. He went into the town, put on a magnificent velvet coat, seated himself in a carriage drawn by four white horses, and drove to his bride's house. No one recognized him. The father took him for a distinguished general, and led him into the room where his daughters were sitting. He was forced to place himself between the two eldest, who helped him to wine, gave him the best pieces of meat, and thought that in all the world they had never seen a handsomer man. The bride, however, sat opposite to him in her black dress, and never raised her eyes, nor spoke a word. When at length he asked the father if he would give him one of his daughters to wife, the two eldest jumped up, ran into their bedrooms to put on splendid dresses, for each of them fancied she was the chosen one.

The stranger, as soon as he was alone with his bride, brought out his half of the ring, and threw it in a glass of wine which he handed across the table to her. She took the wine, but when she had drunk it, and found the half ring lying at the bottom, her heart began to beat. She got the other half, which she wore on a ribbon round her neck, joined them, and saw that the two pieces fitted exactly together. Then said he, “I am your betrothed bridegroom, whom you saw as Bearskin, but through God's grace I have again received my human form, and have once more become clean.” He went up to her, embraced her, and gave her a kiss. In the meantime the two sisters came back in full dress, and when they saw that the handsome man had fallen to the share of the youngest, and heard that he was Bearskin, they ran out full of anger and rage. One of them drowned herself in the well, the other hanged herself on a tree. In the evening, some one knocked at the door, and when the bridegroom opened it, it was the devil in his green coat, who said, “You see, I have now got two souls in the place of your one.”

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notes

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0361.html

With regards the colour green, Cf. §406, CW9i

Commentary

I really like this fairytale for a number of reasons but one in particular that seems to resonate with my personal experience. It is the aspect of the tale that can in my view be summarised in the old proverb, “Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.” I see this come through in that the soldier enlists to join the army, becomes the best that he can be and in some ways then is stuck with that - he go what he wished for. He then needs to kill himself and live with that as he realises what he is, which precipitates his journey of individuation.
Anyhow, into the story then…

There was once a young fellow who enlisted as a soldier, conducted himself bravely, and was always the foremost when it rained bullets. So long as the war lasted, all went well, but when peace was made, he received his dismissal, and the captain said he might go where he liked. His parents were dead, and he had no longer a home, so he went to his brothers and begged them to take him in, and keep him until war broke out again. The brothers, however, were hard-hearted and said, “What can we do with you? You are of no use to us, go and make a living for yourself.” The soldier had nothing left but his gun, so he took that on his shoulder, and went forth into the world.

The story starts with the guy enlisting, i.e. I see this as him wanting to be part of the army. I see the army being less of a literal military depiction here and more the aspiration to join the collective objectives, be the best one can be, singularly minded with the collective conscious attitude and motivations, very one dimensional really…so not necessarily a military pursuit, could be anything. The constellation at the beginning of the tale is the guy, his captain and the two brothers…4 figures, a very masculine bias. His parents are dead - so no family home to return to. If the brothers represented in some ways other complexes or functions rather within an individuals psyche or even the collective consciousness we could say that these aspects have become hard of heart, want nothing to do with the singular objectives or skills that the army wanted even now that the fighting is over and those skills are no longer needed. It doesn't say why they are hard of heart but they are. So we have the 4 masculine figures. The captain would perhaps be a replacement father figure, but he is only so in 'that world', outside of the army he does not venture with or guide the young man, rather he releases him - as often happens in other fairytales where the father releases the son in to the world to find his fortune. Its not exactly the same but fair to say I think that the captain is the old constellation, part of the old way that is no longer going to be able to move in to the new psychic development. So we end up in the new potential with the soldier and the two brothers = 3 male figures.
What position is he in? It seems to me to be an odd situation because there is no indication that he doesn't want to be a soldier, on the contrary he is looking to when war/fighting may break out again…so at this point I think it is fair to say that - psychologically speaking - he is not aware of his situation. He has aspired and got what he wished for. Now that he has reached a point where he no longer needs the skill he has developed it is a change in the psychic evolution perhaps…I'm not sure what may have precipitated this psychic state - for e.g. I can see the tangible aspect of someone actually coming out the army, but I don't want to fixate on that because as I said, I don't think this is about that, about the military element per se. So back to my question, I'm not sure exactly what real life situation this may be…perhaps someone who has reached a point where they are no longer happy with their job or who they have been striving to be?…not sure, I will see if the tale tells me.

He came to a wide heath, on which nothing was to be seen but a circle of trees, under these he sat sorrowfully down, and began to think over his fate. I have no money, thought he, I have learnt no trade but that of fighting, and now that they have made peace they don't want me any longer, so I see before hand that I shall have to starve. All at once he heard a rustling and when he looked round, a strange man stood before him, who wore a green coat and looked right stately, but had a hideous cloven foot. “I know already what you are in need of,” said the man, “gold and possessions shall you have, as much as you can make away with, do what you will, but first I must know if you are fearless, that I may not bestow my money in vain.” “A soldier and fear - how can those two things go together?” he answered, “You can put me to the proof.” “Very well, then,” answered the man, “look behind you.” The soldier turned round, and saw a large bear, which came growling towards him. “Oho,” cried the soldier, “I will tickle your nose for you, so that you shall soon lose your fancy for growling,” and he aimed at the bear and shot it through the muzzle, it fell down and never stirred again. “I see quite well,” said the stranger, “that you are not wanting in courage, but there is still another condition which you will have to fulfil.” “If it does not endanger my salvation,” replied the soldier, who knew very well who was standing by him. “If it does, I'll have nothing to do with it.” “You will look to that for yourself,” answered greencoat, “you shall for the next seven years neither wash yourself, nor comb your beard, nor your hair, nor cut your nails, nor once say the Lord's prayer. I will give you a coat and a cloak, which during this time you must wear. If you die during these seven years, you are mine, if you remain alive, you are free, and rich to boot, for all the rest of your life.” The soldier thought of the great extremity in which he now found himself, and as he so often had gone to meet death, he resolved to risk it now also, and agreed to the terms. The devil took off his green coat, and gave it to the soldier, and said, “If you have this coat on your back and put your hand into the pocket, you will always find it full of money.” Then he pulled the skin off the bear and said, “This shall be your cloak, and your bed also, for thereon shall you sleep, and and in no other bed shall you lie, and because of this apparel shall you be called Bearskin.” Whereupon the devil vanished.

Although it is here that the soldier makes his pact with the devil I wonder if it happened sooner psychologically speaking, at the time when he chose to be the best soldier he could be at the expense of everything else? Perhaps this is less a 'deal with the devil' as we normally think. Here it is an encounter with the self, he has reached a point of destitution where he is alone, without prospects and thinks of death, “I shall have to starve”. There is also no energy here, psychologically speaking there is no currency, no food and no fountain of any kind. An encounter with the Self (big S) is shown in the circle of trees - the circle being a symbol of the Self, as well as a return to nature, to the instincts, to the unconscious layer = trees, nature. The devil arrives. He is a mercurial figure here, and in this regard he is both God and the devil, as a symbol of the Self too, appropriate as they meet in the grove of trees. The Self has at its disposal the fountain of energy that will allow the psychic energy, the libido economy to flow once again. However, for the energy to flow again he must encounter his shadow = himself; the bear.
There is a slight incongruent element here that does not sit well with me in the encounter with the devil:
The devil, although known as the devil to the soldier (he recognises his cloven foot, and ensures that his 'salvation' will not be in jeopardy if he enters in to contract with the devil) the soldiers attitude seems to me to still be within his 'old ways', i.e. still with the idea that his skill, his 'soldier'ing is still at the forefront of his 'salvation' if that makes sense. The devil I suppose tricks him in to this hubris in presenting him with the challenge of killing the bear, to which he responds with his skill and confidence - as he should I guess. There is an incongruence here though and what seems a bit like a 'relapse' in that he has reached an impasse in his life and knows that his skills as a soldier are not going to help him now and then the devil tricks him and says he can give him money etc, i.e. get the energy and things going again, and in order to do so must demonstrate his skill, and of course the soldier will jump at this prospect because he is very confident and so the initial stages of an encounter with the Self is perhaps an inflation of what one encounters, of the primary function that has brought one to encounter the Self. This is very subtle, and perhaps necessary as we see, because it is just this act that then provides the means of his salvation. So the devil is both his salvation and his demise (for 7 years). It is very difficult to integrate an archetype (like the shadow even) without some initial inflation with it, as in order to recognise this archetype you must first get to know it. If the ego is not strong enough to discern and distinguish itself from the archetype, it will become consumed with it, i.e. identified with it. So he would become Bearskin, but his ego - as we'll see is strong enough to bear it (no pun intended :D). Inflation is inevitable, as the archetype needs to be constellated, i.e. his shadow = him = bear. Then humility is required = his not washing and inability to pray etc. (as the Oracle at Delphi said). There is an element of inflation leading to identity, or participation mystique here…in as much as Identity with the 'thing' is the foundation of participation mystique. The soldiers encounter with his shadow = bear is a tick and before he knows it he is 'identified' with the bear. This is very interesting. His shadow (as an aside, the brother figures are also shadow figures) figure is less developed, or rather, is more instinctual in the form of the bear. I think that as a shadow figure the bear is the part of his skill that the soldier did not see, did not appreciate. It is the ferocious fighting machine. The bear holds great value in mythology not only as a beast, but also close to nature, to the earth. There is a wonderful bit of text from Jung that almost sums up this whole fairytale and explains this attitude and 'incongruent' element.

Its clear here then that the soldier is first inflated with his encounter - as he should be, and then it becomes a test as to whether he will survice the encounter with the Self, is his ego strong enough? I think the green coat of the devil helps with this. Firstly, it provides the means by which the energy in the psyche may flow again but also, it is a layer between the soldier (as an ego figure) and the bearskin that would otherwise perhaps consume him.

In regards the Green coat, Jung says of the colour Green…

The soldier put the coat on, felt at once in the pocket, and found that the thing was really true. Then he put on the bearskin and went forth into the world, and enjoyed himself, refraining from nothing that did him good and his money harm.

During the first year his appearance was passable, but during the second he began to look like a monster. His hair covered nearly the whole of his face, his beard was like a piece of coarse felt, his fingers had claws, and his face was so covered with dirt that if cress had been sown on it, it would have come up. Whosoever saw him, ran away, but as he everywhere gave the poor money to pray that he might not die during the seven years, and as he paid well for everything he still always found shelter.

In the fourth year, he entered an inn where the landlord would not receive him, and would not even let him have a place in the stable, because he was afraid the horses would be scared. But as Bearskin thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out a handful of ducats, the host let himself be persuaded and gave him a room in an outhouse. Bearskin, however, was obliged to promise not to let himself be seen, lest the inn should get a bad name.

As Bearskin was sitting alone in the evening, and wishing from the bottom of his heart that the seven years were over, he heard a loud lamenting in a neighboring room. He had a compassionate heart, so he opened the door, and saw an old man weeping bitterly, and wringing his hands. Bearskin went nearer, but the man sprang to his feet and tried to escape from him. At last when the man perceived that Bearskin's voice was human he let himself be prevailed upon, and by kind words bearskin succeeded so far that the old man revealed the cause of his grief. His property had dwindled away by degrees, he and his daughters would have to starve, and he was so poor that he could not pay the innkeeper, and was to be put in prison. “If that is your only trouble,” said Bearskin, “I have plenty of money.” He caused the innkeeper to be brought thither, paid him and even put a purse full of gold into the poor old man's pocket.

When the old man saw himself set free from all his troubles he did not know how to show his gratitude. “Come with me,” said he to Bearskin, “my daughters are all miracles of beauty, choose one of them for yourself as a wife. When she hears what you have done for me, she will not refuse you. You do in truth look a little strange, but she will soon put you to rights again.” This pleased Bearskin well, and he went. When the eldest saw him she was so terribly alarmed at his face that she screamed and ran away. The second stood still and looked at him from head to foot, but then she said, “How can I accept a husband who no longer has a human form? The shaven bear that once was here and passed itself off for a man pleased me far better, for at any rate it wore a hussar's dress and white gloves. If he were only ugly, I might get used to that.” The youngest, however, said, “Dear father, that must be a good man to have helped you out of your trouble, so if you have promised him a bride for doing it, your promise must be kept.” It was a pity that Bearskin's face was covered with dirt and with hair, for if not they might have seen how delighted he was when he heard these words. He took a ring from his finger, broke it in two, and gave her one half, the other he kept for himself. Then he wrote his name on her half, and hers on his, and begged her to keep her piece carefully. Then he took his leave and said, “I must still wander about for three years, and if I do not return then, you are free, for I shall be dead. But pray to God to preserve my life.”

The poor betrothed bride dressed herself entirely in black, and when she thought of her future bridegroom, tears came into her eyes. Nothing but contempt and mockery fell to her lot from her sisters. “Take care,” said the eldest, “if you give him your hand, he will strike his claws into it.” “Beware,” said the second. “Bears like sweet things, and if he takes a fancy to you, he will eat you up.” “You must always do as he likes,” began the elder again, or else he will growl.” And the second continued, “But the wedding will be a merry one, for bears dance well.” The bride was silent, and did not let them vex her. Bearskin, however, traveled about the world from one place to another, did good where he was able, and gave generously to the poor that they might pray for him.

At length, as the last day of the seven years dawned, he went once more out on to the heath, and seated himself beneath the circle of trees. It was not long before the wind whistled, and the devil stood before him and looked angrily at him, then he threw bearskin his coat, and asked for his own green one back. “We have not got so far as that yet,” answered Bearskin, “you must first make me clean.” Whether the devil liked it or not, he was forced to fetch water, and wash Bearskin, comb his hair, and cut his nails. After this, he looked like a brave soldier, and was much handsomer than he had ever been before.

When the devil had gone away, Bearskin was quite lighthearted. He went into the town, put on a magnificent velvet coat, seated himself in a carriage drawn by four white horses, and drove to his bride's house. No one recognized him. The father took him for a distinguished general, and led him into the room where his daughters were sitting. He was forced to place himself between the two eldest, who helped him to wine, gave him the best pieces of meat, and thought that in all the world they had never seen a handsomer man. The bride, however, sat opposite to him in her black dress, and never raised her eyes, nor spoke a word. When at length he asked the father if he would give him one of his daughters to wife, the two eldest jumped up, ran into their bedrooms to put on splendid dresses, for each of them fancied she was the chosen one.

The stranger, as soon as he was alone with his bride, brought out his half of the ring, and threw it in a glass of wine which he handed across the table to her. She took the wine, but when she had drunk it, and found the half ring lying at the bottom, her heart began to beat. She got the other half, which she wore on a ribbon round her neck, joined them, and saw that the two pieces fitted exactly together. Then said he, “I am your betrothed bridegroom, whom you saw as Bearskin, but through God's grace I have again received my human form, and have once more become clean.” He went up to her, embraced her, and gave her a kiss. In the meantime the two sisters came back in full dress, and when they saw that the handsome man had fallen to the share of the youngest, and heard that he was Bearskin, they ran out full of anger and rage. One of them drowned herself in the well, the other hanged herself on a tree. In the evening, some one knocked at the door, and when the bridegroom opened it, it was the devil in his green coat, who said, “You see, I have now got two souls in the place of your one.”

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