Gold and Silver. Radiance and Greed

by Sabine Schimma. The sixth chapter in:

Rotes Käppchen. Blauer Bart – Farben im Märchen. Red Hood. Blue Beard – Colour in Fairy Tales

© 2019 arnoldsche Art Publishers, Stuttgart, editors/authors, translator. ISBN: 978-3-89790-573-3

(footnotes – references – removed)

Of all colours, gold is the most highly rated in fairy tales. Its properties of stability (it is untouchable by most chemical influences) and scarcity make it a special material. It symbolises something outstanding, unusual, elevated from the mundane. Its radiance recalls the shining of the sun and stars. In ancient imaginings gold was considered a heavenly fire that fell to the Earth. In the Christian tradition gold is the indicator of the divine. Often, gold points beyond the worldly towards something supermundane. The Tailor in Heaven (GFT 35) seats himself on God’s golden chair and throws the latter’s equally golden footstool at a thieving old woman on Earth. God casts him out of Heaven in response to this transgression. Our Lady’s Child (GFT 3) – while she is staying in Heaven – has golden clothes. Just as it represents the divine spirit, gold equally symbolises the supreme consciousness.

Owing to its high value, gold is regarded on Earth as the metal of kings. It refers to the special status of a person or object. In its predilection for the metallic, the fairy tale virtually teems with golden animals and things. The princess in The Frog-King, or Iron Henry (GFT 1) owns a golden ball, a golden crown and a golden plate. In One-Eye, Two-Eyes and Three-Eyes (GFT 130), for instance, there is a tree that bears golden apples and silver leaves, from which only Two-Eyes can break off a branch for the young knight. Twelve golden plates for the invited Wise Women signal to the thirteenth fairy in Little Briar-Rose (GFT 50) that she is not to come to the feast. In The Gold-Children (GFT 85), a golden fish cut into pieces bestows the two gold children, two golden lilies and two golden horses upon a poor married couple.

Gold also stands for a consciousness that is disengaged from the earthly, which is why those bestowing it are usually not of this world. Our Lady’s Child, for example, obtains her golden clothes from Mary, Mother of God; for Two-Eyes, a wise woman causes the magical tree to grow out of the entrails of her slaughtered goat.
Heroes, and the strength that slumbers within them for overcoming their great tasks, are indicated by means of golden body parts and clothing. (… …)

(…) (…)
(…) (…)

Next, the poppy leads to the humble colours Grey and Brown:

(Click here to go back to the beginning of the Red Hood. Blue Beard extracts.)