Mother Holle, translated from the German Frau Holle, originally called Frau Hulda, is actually thought to represent a pre-Christian deity. Like most of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s tales, at least the ones I have read and written about in this occasional series, it carries a deeper message within the story. Although Mother Holle might pre-date Christianity there are nevertheless still aspects to it that parallels Christian teaching and Ethics.
For the second time in this series we find the name of Cinderella appearing, although this time it is not a girl’s name but is used descriptively as one of the girls in the story was “the Cinderella of the family”. She was the poorly treated stepdaughter of a rich widow, her stepmother who, with her spoiled and ugly daughter, was treated as little more than a household servant. We are not told the girls’ or the mother’s name in the tale, only Mother Holle, of the title, is named. For convenience in the rest of this article, I shall refer to the stepdaughter as Cinders.
Cinders , it seems, was diligent in her work in both the house of her stepmother and in the ‘other realm’, where she met and worked for Mother Holle. It was because of that diligence, that when Cinders becomes homesick and eventually decides to go back to her stepmother, Mother Holle richly rewards her with gold and fine clothes.
When Cinders arrives home in her finery, her stepmother sends her ugly daughter to Mother Holle, so that she too might come back rich. The ugly daughter though, is not diligent and hard working but lazy and indolent, lying in bed and grumbling. When she decides to go home Mother Holle rewards her with an appropriate “reward for your services”. The ugly girl arrived home covered in pitch.
In Ashenputtle’s (Cinderella’s) story we saw that her beautiful clothes might be likened to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can see a similar thing here in Cinders gifts from Mother Holle, who might, with a bit of imagination, represent the Holy Spirit in this tale.
Both Cinders and the ugly girl are rewarded for the work they do for Mother Holle, the rewards each being appropriate to how well they worked.Cinders did everything the best she could whilst the ugly girl got little. Jesus shows us something similar in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14 – 29), where those who work well and try their best, are rewarded beyond what they earn but that sluggards and the slothful may lose even what they have.
Jesus does not expect us to work so that we run ourselves into the ground but, He does expect us to use our best efforts in what we are called to do.
Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.