“A king had a daughter who was beautiful beyond measure but so proud and haughty that no suitor was good enough for her.”
So begins my favorite fairytale – “King Thrusbeard” by the Brothers Grimm. I enjoy it so much that several years ago, I memorized my own abridged version of it for a speech meet in the category “dramatic interpretation.” I have also read several different variations of the story which I now combine when telling the tale to the kids at daycare.
The story of “King Thrushbeard” begins with a haughty, yet beautiful, young princess. She ridicules her suitors so much that her father marries her to a beggar instead of a king. The princess spends the following months learning what it is to be poor, learning humility. Everything climaxes when she discovers that the beggar she married was actually a king in disguise – the prince she had nicknamed King Thrushbeard. He loved her despite her faults and had manipulated the situation in order to humble her so that she would become a better person.
At first glance, this so-called “King Thrusbeard” doesn’t appear to be too great of a person. I mean, he did all those things to humble the princess, but they were cruel however necessary. If he truly loved her, would he really deceive her about his identity for so long? How chivalrous is it of him to allow her to be forced into a marriage with a man she does not love? And, furthermore, isn’t it God’s job to humble and judge the proud, not this king’s?
Ironically, it was one of those odd versions of the fairytale, one that did not even claim the name, that really made the story make sense to me. It changed King Thrushbeard, so-called because of his bird’s-nest-like beard, into a flawless, perfect King. In that version, the princess could not find a single fault in the man, which angered her.
The point is, the only human who could possibly be perfect is Jesus Christ. Placing King Thrushbeard as an allegorical Christ-figure completely changes the dynamics of the story. He has every right to humble the woman’s pride. And through everything, despite her ridicule of him, he continued to draw her closer to him out of his love for her. The princess ultimately regrets her choices, sees reason, and apologizes to him, all because of his actions on her behalf. Then he forgives her and welcomes her into his true home – the palace, not the rundown shack.
The picture of Christ in this tale is not perfect, but is it not a lovely portrayal of His love for us, despite our pride, ridicule, and selfishness?
I challenge you to read the original and tell me what you think.
(Here is a link to the story: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/grimm/ht22.htm)