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The Spirit in the Bottle and The Three Languages, Fairy Tales About the Relationship of Father, Son, and Education in the Industrial Revolution.

             One of the more unique stories among the Grimm’s fairy tales is that of “The Spirit in the Bottle,” this story explores in the magical way that only a fairy tale can the relationship between a poor peasant and his educated son. This story is one helps to remind us that although many fairy tales have their roots in the Middle Ages, the Grimm’s tales are in fact from the Industrial Revolution with the stories being collected starting in 1807. The Spirit in the Bottle is about an impoverished man works hard to send his son to school, so that his son may have a better future. However sadly the father does not have enough money for his child to finish his education and so the young man must return home before graduating. The father is upset at this turn of events, for the hard times that have come upon them prevent him from earning what they need. The son however comforts his father telling him that if this is gods will it will work out in the end.

            The father later goes to chop wood for extra money, his son being a good son wishes to come help him, however the father does not think that this is a good idea answering his son “that would be hard for you. You are not accustomed to rough work, and will not be able to bear it.” The son of course persists and so it is that he goes with his father into the woods to work. The son is a merry and happy worker, however even so his father still thinks he is not quite so smart nor able to understand the basics of labor. This argument between an uneducated father and an educated son could be seen playing in a movie or book today, for although parents may often realize what education can do, their children’s ideas upon being educated become strange to them. It is interesting to see this theme played out in a fairy tale which is a few hundred years old.

            One sees a similar argument playing out in “The Three Languages,” the story of a father who sends his son to be educated, but does not understand what his son is learning and so has his son banished from his site. The father in both these stories though they saw the value in education, they did not trust the education given. In the case of the three languages this misunderstanding is perhaps more humorous, and leads to what should be more dire consequences. However the son in this story is able to use his education to become the new Pope.

            The Spirit in the Bottle does not see the son rising quite so high however this story continues further the relationship of the father and his now educated son. For in this story the son uses his wits to outsmart an evil spirit and so gains two abilities, the ability to heal any wound and the ability to turn iron into silver. Rather then rush back to his father and tell him of his good fortune however the son decides to create heart ache for his father by turning the axe that his father borrowed into silver so that it bends. The father is of course very upset by this as he cannot afford to pay for an axe, but the son reassures him. The boy then tells his father that it is time for a holiday, that he can work no more. The father is upset thinking his son is lazy and that they won’t be able to afford to be so lazy.

            Why should the son torment his father for so long, pretending to be both incompetent and lazy even as the father is struggling to make a living. The answer is simply that often times those who are educated often seemed a mystery to their parents at the time of this story, their ability to earn money doing what appeared to be very little was inexplicable. These children do not have magic, and so they required time to conduct the business which they had learned, making their actions often frustrating to their parents. The story of The Spirit in the Bottle and The Three Languages, shows parents that they should trust the education of their children, for with this knowledge and intelligence the children will be able to rise above their traditional station.