Fitcher's Bird and Bluebeard are both tales of inner sorcery, and the reclamation of personal power. Bluebeard is, due to its more popular format, much better known in the U. S. today, so I include it. The version that's popular is Charles Perrault's, not surprisingly! Just as he did for stories like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and more, Perrault took an alchemical, symbolic tale and reworked it in order to eliminate most of the more difficult bits. Indeed, the main symbolic part left in Bluebeard is the blue beard!
Fitcher's Bird, however, is still quite alchemical in its Grimm's brothers versions. By alchemical I mean that it directs us towards the matter of reclaiming our wholeness, our cocreative powers. It's concerned with wisdom development. It focuses not so much on the outer as the inner. Perrault's version goes on and on at length with details of the rich Bluebeard's holdings, for example; a version on Sur la Lune here.
Excessive description and conversation as in Perrault's Bluebeard not only focuses our consciousness into physicality, the "outer", it makes symbolic interpretation more difficult. Alchemical stories are meant to evoke our inner experience, as in the case of poetry and other arts. Too much "stuffness" keeps us in the mundane, away from our "isness". And just as that "stuff" makes it hard to see the forest for the trees, so do all the excessive details cover over the story bones wisdom, like so much trash on the beach or billboards along the road.
The story's title is explained thus in the Wikipedia article;
"Regarding the meaning of Fitcher, the Grimms wrote in the notes to the tale that 'The Icelandic fitfuglar (swimming-bird), which looked as white as a swan, will help to explain Fitcher's Vogel...'"
There are other ideas presented, but this is the one I am going with. The white water bird which resembles a white swan fits in perfectly with alchemical symbolism, and that will be addressed at the end of the interp.
The elements that both Bluebeard and Fitcher's Bird share are those of the man who takes or lures a young woman/young women to his house, the key which he gives to her/them with the injunction not to use, and the punishment of death and/or dismemberment should she do so. There is also a theme of rescue, but in Bluebeard the woman is rescued by her brothers, while in Fitcher's the 3rd sister orchestrates and participates in the rescue.
In Bluebeard, the man in question is rich, but weird looking. He convinces the young woman to marry him through showing her a good time and displaying his wealth. However, she has some reservations and tells her brothers to listen for her voice and to come instantly when she should call them. This is how she avoids getting her head chopped off by her husband. From the simple elements of Bluebeard, it would seem to be a story about women's uncontrollable curiosity, and/or spousal abuse. However, it's actually socio-psychological commentary on a pickle lots of us find ourselves in, that of giving away our personal power. The forbidden room is the one which contains the truth about this matter, where we realize that we have chopped ourselves up in order to survive and thrive, to get along and go along. Fitcher's still contains the necessary elements with which we can make that conclusion.
Fitcher's Bird includes no blue bearded rich guy. Instead, it begins thus, from my translation by Jack Zipes;
Once upon a time there was a sorcerer who was a thief, and he used to go begging from house to house in the guise of a beggar. One time a maiden opened the door and gave him a piece of bread. He only had to touch her to force her into his basket. Then he carried her off to his house, where everything was splendid inside, and gave her whatever she desired.
I'm going to go into the creativity thing soon. I want to point out a few more things about this guy. He is fed by this young lady; she is giving him energy to thrive, to live, within the psyche. That is our first lesson here. This beggar-entity is only around because we feed it. We believe in our intrinsic state of "not good enough", of "never enough". for beliefs are thoughts we keep on thinking, thoughts we give our energy to- however innocently!If she had not given bread, he would have left and bothered another. She would not be feeding those thoughts and experiences and thus inviting them to stick around, or even relating to them. In the olden days, on days which negative spirits were supposed to roam, folks did not give anything to those who begged.
Next point; he begins and will end the story with a big old basket on his back. When we carry a load on our backs, it symbolizes psychological "baggage". The most common way for me to symbolize this in my dreams is as a backpack. Anything that's on your back is stuff you're not aware of consciously, because you literally can't see it. This basket holds the sort of thing we uncover during self inquiry; this is the stuff that Jung included in his designation of Shadow, rejected and unknown psychic material. In my dreams, the shadow backpack is black.
Self inquiry or looking into the basket is exactly what our young lady, or ladies in the case of Fitcher's Bird, are doing when they open the forbidden door. The basin of body parts is the same as this basket, symbolically speaking.
Next, notice how easy it is for this/these lack belief(s) to be transmitted;He only had to touch her to force her into his basket. In fact for perhaps all of us, the experience of lack in the sense of our ability to create the lives we want was invisibly transmitted and duly received by the time we exited childhood. Most of us are still in touch with our magical abilities in childhood, and look forward to using our creative power in a bigger way when we move towards adulthood. However, the further we get into the adult realms of experience removed from childhood's freedom of creativity, the more our conditioning becomes "real" in adolescence, the more we feel bits of our creative selves chopped off. We begin to focus a certain amount of energy on what we don't have and what we can't do.
Notice also this powerful "touch of powerlessness" for future reference, for it is very much the bloodstain that cannot be rubbed off of the key(s) and egg(s). The wizard's power over the young women (there are three in Fitcher's) is the same as the blood which will not wash off the egg (or key, in Bluebeard). What is it that induces us to give up our power of creativity so easily? What is the powerful pull of powerlessness? Well- our beggar-sorcerer-thief-magician hurries off with the young lady,to his house, and
Everything in the house was magnificent; he gave her whatsoever she could possibly desire, and said, "My darling, thou wilt certainly be happy with me, for thou hast everything thy heart can wish for."
Somehow we make these devil's bargains in trade for, shall we say, physical abundance, "everything thy heart could wish for". This theme of temptation, of blinding oneself to the loss of various kinds of subtle power in order to easily attain physical riches and comfort, is the one emphasized in Bluebeard. In fact, this rich guy also represents the power of creative expression, for his beard is the color of the throat chakra, the color of self-expression and of speaking truth. Of course the beard covers the throat, so that emphasizes this interpretation. It's also worth noting that, at least in my society, women tend to have problems with throat chakra. It's a masculine chakra, whose most basic task would be expressing your true self in the world.
For the dude leaves and gives his new house mate the keys to the house (or castle);
"there are the keys of the house; thou mayest go everywhere and look at everything except into one room, which this little key here opens, and there I forbid thee to go on pain of death."
This, then, is the invisible bargain she made when she decided to feed this beggar (to marry, in the case of Bluebeard). The sorcerer/blue bearded rich man lied, as we would expect such an unattractively presented character to do, for she is not getting everything her heart desires; she is getting every thing, instead. Of course the forbidden room's contents is not a thing she desires, is it? So he is correct in the sense that she probably doesn't want to know the truth of the deal they made. In his ordering her as to what she can and cannot do, he is dominating her, controlling her behaviors so that she does not find out what she gave up, so that she does not find out how destructive the values she's taking on are to soulful creativity.
For it's the egg the sorcerer gives to the maiden that symbolically describes her loss of creative power;
Likewise he gave her an egg and said, "Preserve the egg carefully for me, and carry it continually about with thee, for a great misfortune will arise from the loss of it."
First, the egg. Eggs are obviously symbols of creativity, particularly associated with the "beginnings" end of creativity. That's one way to think about their ubiquity around the spring holiday usually called Easter; they symbolize the new year's beginning. Easter is named for Eostre or Ostara, a goddess of the dawn, of enlightenment, even. Dawn and enlightenment are linked symbolically. This idea of beginnings links us into the key symbolism. Keys are for opening doors, and just as dawn is the door or gateway to the day, and spring is the door to the new year of growth, so we can imagine new levels of growth and development, new levels of consciousness, as doors. In that, we are alone responsible for turning such keys. We alone have to decide that we are ready, willing, and able to open those new doors, though we may not know this with our intellectual brains. Biology drives a certain amount of these changes.
Here, with the giving over of the keys and the egg, we are symbolically obliged to imagine, as we ultimately do in all Jungian style interpretation of story, that all characters in the tale are representing one psyche, one person, one soul. This is where symbolism can confound folks sometimes. So if this part is hard for you, don't worry about it.
If we have only one person here, there is a masculine and a feminine side. The feminine characters are the feminine side, and like-a dat. The masculine passes the egg to the feminine, to the aspect of experience that is capable of being the egg-holder. Thus, there is only one egg! So within the psyche of this masculine-feminine protagonist, the egg represents this ability to self develop, which always asks us to change. Of course this ability is an archetypally feminine ability. You may have noticed that generally women are more interested and capable when it comes to changing, to psychospiritual self development, shall we say. After all, who are the egg-holders of planet Earth? Guys contribute lots, but eggs are out of their provenance except as inner experience of their feminine side. They are better at manifesting permanent structures.
It happens in lots of marriages for example, where the man has seemingly no interest whatsoever in personal development, in personal growth; they have handed over the egg. They see the promptings and frustrations of their wives as only bitchy or nagging criticism of themselves, and believe that when they married, the woman acceded to "purchasing" a finished product. They don't understand eggs or egg-ness, the need to burst out of old shells. This means they will go through life attaching themselves to women in order to get this side of themselves "taken care of". The woman will change, as long as she's brave enough to open the room, and the man will be left behind in the dust; the reverse can also be true, of course.
The meeting in the beginning of the story between maiden and sorcerer is no less than a mock up of a meeting experienced by lots of folks, in bars, at parties, anywhere; a woman looking for a man to take care of the physical manifestation, the man looking for her to fulfill for him the responsibilities of soulful growth and development! Like that magical touch that throws her into the basket, ZAP! their inadequacies, their particular lack beliefs, magnetize them together. They carry the other side for each other.
Enough for today! That is the bulk of the set up, so the rest will be smooth sailing til we get to the Fitcher's Bird part. Notice how much of the symbolism is eliminated by dropping the egg. From the story, I mean!