Happy Halloween weekend, everyone! To celebrate this, the spookiest time of the year, I suggest we all read the classic Grimm tale, “The Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear.” (It’s sometimes called, “The Boy Who Learned How to Shudder.”)
In this terrifying tale, our hero is so dumb that he’s not afraid of anything. But he wants to be! So he sets out to find something that will make him shudder with fear: Ghosts! Gigantic black cats that play poker! A flying bed! And women!
Marie-Louise von Franz gives a lovely interpretation of this story that somehow makes it all about teh sexx, which made me like this story even more than I originally did.
(This is not that book, but it is still a good one of hers and it is all on Scribd for you to enjoy for free.)
So settle into your chairs and get ready to explore the very soul of fear…
The Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear
A father had two sons. The oldest one was clever and intelligent, and knew how to manage everything, but the youngest one was stupid and could neither understand nor learn anything. When people saw him, they said, “He will be a burden on his father!”
Now when something had to be done, it was always the oldest son who had to do it. However, if the father asked him fetch anything when it was late, or even worse, at night, and if the way led through the churchyard or some other spooky place, he would always answer, “Oh, no, father, I won’t go there. It makes me shudder!” For he was afraid.
In the evening by the fire when stories were told that made one’s flesh creep, the listeners sometimes said, “Oh, that makes me shudder!” The youngest son would sit in a corner and listen with the others, but he could not imagine what they meant.
“They are always saying, ‘It makes me shudder! It makes me shudder!’ It does not make me shudder. That too must be a skill that I do not understand.”
Now it happened that one day his father said to him, “Listen, you there in the corner. You are getting big and strong. You too will have to learn something by which you can earn your bread. See how your brother puts himself out, but there seems to be no hope for you.”
“Well, father,” he answered, “I do want to learn something. Indeed, if possible I would like to learn how to shudder. I don’t understand that at all yet.”
The oldest son laughed when he heard that, and thought to himself, “Dear God, what a dimwit that brother of mine is. Nothing will come of him as long as he lives. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”
The father sighed, and answered him, “You may well learn to shudder, but you will not earn your bread by shuddering.”
Soon afterward the sexton came to the house on a visit, and the father complained to him about his troubles, telling him how his younger son was so stupid in everything, that he knew nothing and was learning nothing. “Just think,” he said, “when I asked him how he was going to earn his bread, he actually asked to learn to shudder.”
“If there is nothing more than that,” replied the sexton, “he can learn that with me. Just send him to me. I will plane off his rough edges.”
The father agreed to do this, for he thought, “It will do the boy well.”
So the sexton took him home with him, and he was to ring the church bell. A few days later the sexton awoke him at midnight and told him to get up, climb the church tower, and ring the bell.
“You will soon learn what it is to shudder,” he thought. He secretly went there ahead of him. After the boy had reached the top of the tower, had turned around and was about to take hold of the bell rope, he saw a white figure standing on the steps opposite the sound hole.
“Who is there?” he shouted, but the figure gave no answer, neither moving nor stirring. “Answer me,” shouted the boy, “or get out of here. You have no business here at night.”
Do you dare find out what happens next?