#23 “Concerning the Little Mouse, the Little Bird, and the Bratwurst”
Analysis and Commentary
by Lois Wilkins, PhD, APRN
Immediately this title recognizes a relationship exists between these three dissimilar characters. In addition, we know that the word “little,” of course, refers to size but also can refer to innocence and youth. Beyond this, we also know with the use of the word “concerning” that perhaps something troublesome will arise or has arisen within their relationship. We also note from the title the lack of innocence of the Bratwurst: he is not referred to as “Little”. By including the word “Concerning” in Hartman’s translation, the subtleties are allowed to come through.
The Initial Paragraph:
We meet our threesome aware from the first sentence with the use of the phase, “fell into each other’s company,” that there was a lack of conscious intention in their being together. Yet, in such a seemingly haphazard beginning, they have been able to maintain a household, delegate duties according to individual skill sets, and live in peace and prosperity, as noted by the increase “in their holdings most admirably.”
Our Fairy Tale opens with the an imbalance that alerts us to the need for the role to move toward a fourth character. This imbalance is shown in the fact that there are only three main characters. We know that the fourth must come from the feminine in order for wholeness to occur, since we have a masculine bird and a masculine bratwurst, with a feminine mouse. The shadow bird is feminine, because she is the shadow figure for Little Bird and, hence, is representing his feminine nature (anima).
The structure of wholeness, recognized as four-foldedness, is not present in the opening paragraph. For the careful reader aware or in pursuit of the psychology and universal significant in fairy tales, there is evidence of the need for consciousness to be increased. Therefore, alchemically and psychologically, a catalyst must emerge. We first note the haphazard (unconscious) manner in how the three came together and also, the caution assigned to the role of the Bratwurst (who “was supposed to cook”), contrasted by the roles of the mouse and the bird which are clearly stated. Added to the energy of concern, we now become aware that the direction for movement in the tale must be to find a fourth.
In this Fairy Tale, there are three main characters; the Little Mouse, the Little Bird, and the Bratwurst. Each has assigned roles for supporting the peaceful and prosperous household. Signifiant to these three characters is that the bird and the mouse are naturally occurring in everyday existence, but the Bratwurst is not.
The Little Mouse, whose skill set revolves around the Hestian principles of caring for the family by maintaining the hearth (lighting the fire), keeping order (setting the table), and securing the life force (carrying water), provides the feminine energies of the tale.
On the other hand, Little Bird provides the masculine energies of this tale. His work is to leave the home, fly into the forest and fetch wood. His work of going out into the world and returning to the home provides for the necessary expansion of the family unit. As such, even his return, with the challenge of each changing their assigned roles, brings about a movement away from the stagnation of which they had been unaware. Like Prometheus, stealing the fire from the Gods, Little Bird is constantly moving his family unit toward greater consciousness.
Bratwurst, a type of hot dog, illustrates by its phallic representation, the life force via the energy of the masculine—sexuality, temporary desire, and enthusiasm. In the tale, he flirts with the cooking pot, jumping/swimming in and out four times to flavor the broth. With this playful manner of flirtation, his influence is short-lived. Psychologically, we know early in the tale by his inauthentic role that his influence will be temporary. As the tale progresses, we learn of the destruction of Bratwurst when the dog eats him because of the “false papers,” which provide evidence of his long-standing deception. Yet, even in his deception, he overtly provides a representation of the wholeness dynamic with the four times each day that he jumps in and out of the soup. His unconscious/innocence of what he provides for the threesome does end up costing him his life. as he has carried “false papers” which justified the dog in eating him.
Additional characters necessary for moving the plot include the bird in the forest who provokes the Little Bird of the title, causing him to no longer be content. The instruction of this bird is of a shadow figure, bringing forth into consciousness, aspects of life for the Little Bird that he a never before encountered or considered for his existence. Our quest to find the fourth character is now complete. Attention can now be paid to the alchemical need for fire, for the heat to increase, so transformation can occur.
Now the other characters take their place in the tale. These are the woods, a dog, the cooking pot, the fire, the bucket and the well.
Parallels with Other Fairy Tales and Literature:
When not read alchemically, this tale is often experienced in a linear fashion, as seen in our illustrator, Cindy Hutchison’s, comment: “Be happy with what you have, and use your skills wisely.” Other common examples of the moral of the tale are: people living the good life are always seeking something better; watch out when taking on a new role; innocence/ignorance is not bliss.
Psychologically, we can benefit by recognizing, in other fairy tales and literature, the themes that are mirrored and therefore, amplify the universality of our tale. In all religious doctrines, from every corner of the world, there is a quest to return to the idyllic state of wholeness represented by a return to Eden, to paradise, or to nirvana, etc. What is similar in all such quests is the desire to return to the innocence of youth—a stress-free existence—with no illness, and a place where abundance is the norm.
Psychologically, an individual in such a state of perfection is not evolved. Until consciousness emerges with the awareness that the experience of life is not one -dimensional but multidimensional, the individual remains in a state of innocence. Instead of living life to its fullest, the person does not evolve. It is the spark of the Divine that produces the desire to search for more, when to the outside onlooker, everything is perfect. This desire that there must be more to life is what causes Little Bird to be receptive to the challenge from the more worldly bird, who some could say may be jealous of the contented and prosperous family. He is forced to see beyond the idyllic life that the three have been living. With the help of his shadow energy, Little Bird grows in consciousness. This seemingly disastrous outcome, all three of them losing their lives, is analogous to Eve’s fall from grace in the Christian creation story. Both of these disastrous occurrences represent the metaphor of the life-death-life cycle, reflective of the evolution of consciousness. When this metaphor of evolution is explored, we discover the necessity for such disasters that facilitates evolving consciousness.
The two trees in the Garden of Eden are the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. In this Christian myth, most of the attention has been in relationship to the fall from grace caused by Eve eating the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, which awakens awareness of evil as well as good. The Tree of Life has not received as much attention. The Tree of Life is a representation of the holographic movement into the both/and, contrasted with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is stuck in only the either/or linearity of polarizations.
In some mythologies, the Tree of Life contains, within it, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is important to our tale in confronting the significance of moving beyond polarizations, continuing to know that we never transcend polarizations completely. The process of alchemical movement required at the second stage—the tension of opposites—is equally necessary to the psychological process of individuation.
In our tale, as the threesome live an idyllic existence ignorant of the fullness of life, they are vulnerable to failures resulting from their innocence. They must—and do—die from the exclusive either/or existence and now can be resurrected into an opportunity for both/and lives more fully expressed (more consciously evolved).
The reader must remember that all fairy tales, at their core, illuminate different aspects of the evolutionary process of consciousness. To move into the both/and, we do not dissolve the either/or; we learn to grow through polarizations. This growth through, what Jung refers to as the tension of opposites, is what allows us to evolve. This will be demonstrated, as we look more deeply into the alchemical processes at work in this fairy tale.
Quotes from literature that are amplified:
Taking into account our illustrator’s comments, we can see some of the most often recognized morals affiliated with this tale. Here are Cindy Hutchison’s and a few other examples:
- Be happy with what you have and use your skills wisely…
- Know your place in the world and don’t stray from it or bad things will happen…
- The grass is always greener on the other side…
- Stay in your own lane…
- To thine own self be true…
- Whoever has it too good, longs for new things!
The above provides an incomplete list of the some of the recognizable moral(s) found in this tale. By viewing the tale through the portal of symbolism and alchemy, we find more depth of meaning(s), showing direct support to the process of individuation.
The woods/forest represent a place of transformation where nature and spirit come together. Not surprisingly, we find our Shadow energy in the woods. Alchemically, this shadow bird is the catalyst for transformation potential.
The dog, being true to its nature as a protecter for the family unit, ate Bratwurst, explaining to Little Bird that he found false papers on him and, therefore, Bratwurst had to forfeit his life. Also, consummation (eating) represents the sacrament of communion, and the processes of ingestion, digestion, and the return to the prima materia. Water is an implied necessary basic element found in alchemy and in each of the above-listed processes. Aware of Bratwurst’s deceit by his possession of false papers (a misrepresentation of the Self), the dog as a protector for the family unit fulfills his and Bratwurst’s destiny. Bratwurst’s deceit was taking on the false persona of a cook and playing with that role. By playing with the role of the cook, he was not living his authentic life. You will recall in the first paragraph of this tale, we became aware of the deceitful nature of Bratwurst when we learned he was “supposed” to cook.
In addition, the appearance of a dog in a tale reminds us of its mythological role in human mortality. We have from Greek mythology Cerberus (the five-headed dog) guarding the entrance to the underworld, from Egyptian mythology Anubis (the jackal-headed dog/God) as an underworld guide, and from the Native American belief that dogs influenced God in making humans mortal, rather than granting them immortality. Alchemically, this interaction between Bratwurst and the dog provides an example of the first stage in the alchemical process (the prima materia) which is represented by the color black.
The cooking pot is fueled/heated by both the wood brought by the Little Bird and the fire and water provided by the Little Mouse. In this manner, they unconsciously support the deception of Bratwurst as a “cook.” Who, paradoxically, brings the number four, the number of wholeness, to the story with the times he jumps in and out of the broth. In addition, we have an image of the container which, from alchemy and from the psychological work of individuation, provides the boundaries necessary for the work of the transformation process. Now, we are aware of the energies of both the masculine (Little Bird) and the feminine (Little Mouse) as they provide necessary elements and balance. Once they take on the new unfamiliar roles, for which they are not suited, the balance is lost. As a result, Bratwurst has already lost his life to the dog. By jumping into the cooking pot, Little Mouse loses her hair, skin, and, therefore, her life. In the chaos that ensues, Little Bird falls into the well with the bucket and dies. This second stage, is recognized as the color white and symbolized by the vessel/cooking pot.
Fire can alert the astute reader to the fact that changes are forthcoming. Fire— represented by heat, embers, flame and blaze—can symbolize sexuality, procreation, and the alchemical element of sulfur. Fire, in its experience of combustion, requires air and heat. Literally, in our tale, the fire is fueled by the wood brought by Little Bird and stoked (air) by Little Mouse. Metaphorically, Little Bird brings the catalytic heat/flame into the family unit, when he accepts the challenge from his shadow bird, forcing a transformational chain of events. At the end of the tale, confusion results when Little Bird is not able to find the new cook (Little Mouse). In the chaos, he throws the wood about, which catches on fire and starts an un-contained blaze. The final image we have is of Little Bird drowning with the bucket in the well when he tries to get water to put out the blaze. This completes the life-death transformation process of all three main characters. The images here represent the third stage in the alchemical process, known as the fire heating up the contents in the vessel and recognized as the color yellow.
Just as fire has been evident from the beginning of the tale, so has the element of water. Water is both life giving and life taking. In our tale, Little Mouse, representing the feminine, meets her transformation/death in the waters of the cooking pot. Little Bird drowns by falling into the well with the bucket. The cooking pot, the bucket, and the well are all containers for water found in the tale. Water, by its nature, is mercurial as it can exist in many forms—solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.
The Numerology of the Fairy Tale:
Our tale begins with three characters, alerting us to the notion that a fourth character must emerge in order for wholeness to be manifest. As mentioned earlier, the number for wholeness, four, is overtly presented by the Bratwurst as he “coiled himself four times through the soup…”
Other examples of the numerology of our tale will be illuminated in the section on the alchemical processes represented.
The Colors in the Fairy Tale:
In our tale, “Concerning the Little Mouse, the Little Bird, and the Bratwurst,” colors do not play a primary role. However, as with the numerology we will see the color representations of alchemical significance in the next section.
The Alchemical Processes found:
Jungian archetypes can be understood or conceptualized as “organs” of the Psyche. As such, how does the alchemical process support the evolution of consciousness and, therefore, individuation? Jung experienced the alchemical process as analogous to modern-day psychoanalysis. His associations to the four major processes of alchemy were to see nigredo as the Shadow, albedo referring to the anima and animus (contrasexual soul images), citrinitas as the wise old man (or woman) archetype, and rubedo as the Self archetype which has achieved wholeness.
We now enter into the discussion supporting alchemical significance in our tale. It is important to recognize the profound difficulty of presenting alchemical concepts in a linear fashion. Alchemy is multifaceted and holographic; therefore, one must keep in mind that the processes occur simultaneously. The Axiom of Maria Prophetissa— “One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth”—is beneficial to recognize as a linear process within multifaceted-holographic experiences. This Axiom may be the most important revelation to grasp—the significance of alchemical symbolism in fairy tales and, therefore, in the psychological process of individuation. In fairy tales, as in individuation, it is important to be aware of both polarizations and transcendence.
What are the images found in our tale representing the stages of consciousness explored alchemically and how do they support an individuation journey?
Nigredo—Prima materia—Black: The shadow bird, in alerting Little Bird to the potential of living a different life, heralds the appearance of the dog. Remember the role of the dog in sniffing out the deception of the sausage. Both in our tale and in myths, most literally, what is eaten will be digested and as an end product of digestion, produce the compost for new growth/life. Excrement is referred to as the color black and containing all potential. In the beginning, there is the ONE—the prima materia—the beginning of the alchemical/individuation process.
Albedo—Vessel—White: The cooking pot is a container for the opposites to come together, and therefore, a new creation to emerge from their union. Alchemically, these opposites are recognized as the energies of the masculine and the feminine. We can now recognize the number TWO from our Axiom—setting up the feminine energy of Little Mouse and the masculine energies of Little Bird and Bratwurst.
Citrinitas—Heat—Yellow—Wisdom: The knowledge and energy to undergo and endure a transformational process is brought forward by the dynamic of fire. Fire that represents passion and desire, as well as, the fire that contains heat and burning flames of combustion, symbolize this process of individuation. In our tale, the desire to change and take on new roles is evident. Also, the flames that get out of control,cause the ultimate experience—death of Little Bird. Similarly, death for Little Mouse occurs when the container became contaminated by her ignorance (lack of wisdom). These events support the number THREE from our Axiom. The masculine (bird) and feminine (mouse) are combined with the catalyst of energy (fire and water), which supports a transformation.
Rubedo—Transformation—Red: Now all three characters have entered into the stage of death supporting the life-death-life (water) transformational structure of wholeness. The next stage will be a return to the One as demonstrated in the Maria Prophetissa’s Axiom as “…and out of the third comes the one as the FOURTH.” Having lost their innocence/life, the characters in our tale are now ready for the next stage of conscious evolution.
Spirituality in the Fairy Tale:
Spirituality is about finding a purpose or meaning to life, our threesome moved out of innocence in order to live life more fully—with consciousness, and ultimately with an awareness of the dynamic of co-creation.* Our threesome died to bring forward an opportunity to be resurrected into a new level of evolved consciousness and assistance in finding a life with meaning. By confronting the consequences of their death of ignorance, they now have returned to the prima materia, bringing into it a new dimension of conscious potential. Humanity grows in consciousness on the shoulders of those preceding us. Meaning flourishes within the opportunity of co-creation, rather than living a life of only innocence and ignorance.
*Co-creation is the process—within psyche, spirit, and matter—influencing the consciousness of both the individual and the Divine.
© 2019 Lois E. Wilkins, PhD, APRN