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4663RE: [steiner] Goethe's Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

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  • Durward Starman
    Dec 13, 2007

        Perhaps we can see how the first Mystery Play is a transformation of the 'legend'.
      Scene One
      It starts in a land at night, divided by a great river. A Ferryman is one way to cross the river. Two Will-O-Wisps come to him asking to be taken over, to see the beautiful Lily who they have heard lives on the other side. Will-O-Wisps are legendary fairies made of flame who can "drink" gold and then send it out of themselves in gold coins. They go to pay the Ferryman in gold, but he says he can't take it but must be paid in fruits of the earth, which they know nothing about: but some magic forces them to agree to pay him 9 fruits, 3 of each of 3 kinds. He lets them leave, and then throws the gold down a chasm in the rocks.
      Scene Two
         Now we switch to down below, where a mysterious creature, the Green Snake, lives. She has always lived in darkness but has heard a legend about it being possible to have light with the aid of gold; and she swallows the gold when it comes down and becomes radiant. She goes up above to find where it came from and sees the Will-o-Wisps, who offer her more. They ask where to find the Lily but are told she is on the other side of the River, and there are only three ways to cross: the Ferryman at night (but he can only bring people from the farther shore to here, not back), the Snake makes a magical bridge of her own body at noon, and a Giant has a magic shadow which, shadows being longest at sunrise and sunset, can carry people across the river then. Being creatures of the fairy-world, they do not like to travel at noon, so they decline the Snake's offer to take them across at noon, and leave.
      Scene Three
          The Snake now descends to the underground Temple, which she has often visited, but could only feel by touch the figures there in darkness; now that she is radiant, she longs to see them as well. When she enters with her new Light, she sees they are 4 statues, of gold, silver, bronze and one of all 3 mixed. The gold King speaks to her now that she is 'enlightened', in a cryptic conversation, like a Masonic rite, where the Snake knows the answers to give, about gold and light and speech. Suddenly appears the Man with the Lamp, who moves through walls by the light of his Lamp dissolving the metal seams in the rock. He now continues this symbolic conversation with the Kings. He says he knows three secrets but needs to know the fourth one: the Snake says she knows it, and whispers in his ear, and he declares "The time is at hand!" and speeds away west from the Temple while the snake runs east.
         Scene Four
         The Man with the Lamp returns to his cottage, and his wife tells him how the 2 Will-o-Wisps visited there while he was gone, absorbed all the gold from the walls which his Lamp had created and shook out gold pieces, one of which their dog ate and died. She says she has promised to pay their debt of 9 earth-fruits to the Ferryman for them. The Man changes the Dog to a gem with his Lamp and tells her to bring it to the Lily, who would bring its dead form back to life just as her touch turns any living thing dead, and to tell her that her curse will soon be lifted---for 'the time is at hand!'
      To Be Continued

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