No one is all bad, or all good.
In previous posts of this occasional series, I have associated stories from Grimms’ Fairy Tales with particular stories or passages in the bible. I could have done that with The Raven too and, if you want to look up some passages with parallels in this tale, you might try these:
In this musing though, I want to consider how the tale relates not to a specific biblical story but to a theme that runs throughout The Bible, especially The Old Testament.
In the Grimms’ tale of The Raven the main characters, the girl who was turned into a Raven and the man who frees her from the enchantment are unnamed. For convenience I will refer to the girl as either the Princess, or the Raven, depending on weather or not she is enchanted when I mention her, and the man I will simply refer to as the hero.
At first I thought that the hero of the tale reminded me of Jesus’ disciple Peter, for mostly the reason that he kept getting things wrong just like Peter did. Peter made mistakes, was accident prone and at times fearful but Peter’s mistakes so rarely harm anyone but himself, certainly not deliberately. Our hero, in accomplishing the task of freeing the princess, uses questionable methods and on at least one occasion inflicts deliberate harm.
Unlike Peter, and perhaps more like one or two Old Testament characters, our hero’s actions are not entirely selfless or motivated by fear, even though they were in pursuit of his task which he ultimately accomplished, as you might have guessed, since the Raven is a fairy tale.
Our hero’s mistakes, I use “mistakes” advisedly, begin almost from the time he first meets the Raven, for the Princess is already enchanted before their first encounter. First he takes food and refreshment at the old woman’s house, causing him to sleep when he should be awake for the coming of the Raven.
Upon reaching the castle where the raven was residing, he came upon 3 robbers each with something that would help him complete the task of lifting the enchantment from the Raven, restoring it to be a Princess. By resorting to trickery, violence and theft, he stole all three items.
Upon reaching the castle and the Raven, he did not simply lift the enchantment but resorted to unnecessary showmanship and theatrics in completion of the task. This last clearly and purely for his own self aggrandisement.
What the tale shows is the lengths a man will go to to complete a task when he thinks there is benefit in it for himself. But it’s not just the lengths he will go to but that he will be devious and dishonest too if he thinks it to his own benefit.
Our Princess in the tale used a flawed man to free her from an enchantment; how many times has God used a flawed human being to bring about some necessary part of his ultimate plan?
Think of Jacob, who stole his brother’s inheritance. Rahab, a prostitute and 5th columnist. King David, murderer and adulterer. Judas the traitor. These are just a few examples of a recurring theme where flawed, imperfect people were necessary, indeed crucial to reaching a greater goal. Our hero in the Raven, had he been a biblical character, might be added to that list of imperfect people God uses to achieve his aims.
I am adding a second fairy tale today, The Old Man And His Grandson. I make no additional comment beyond my own added subtitle, A Parable That Jesus Might Have Told.