The Golden Blackbird

    The Golden Blackbird by Walter Crane


The Golden Blackbird by Walter Crane

The Golden Blackbird is a story with many variations. The Walter Crane illustration I have used is from The Golden Bird by the Grimm brothers. It has a fox instead of a hare. 

Andrew Lang’s first Fairy Book (Blue) was published in 1889 and became a famous series of twelve. “The series proved of great influence in children's literature, increasing the popularity of fairy tales over tales of real life”. Why was there a resurgence at that time, I wondered? It occurred to me that perhaps the current resurgence corresponds with the upheaval of the times we are living in now when so many people feel overwhelmed and confused. And this idea was confirmed for me when I researched the times of Andrew Lang (1844-1912) and his contemporaries, such as JRR Tolkein (1892-1973) and the Grimm brothers in Germany (Jacob 1785-1863, Wilhelm 1786-1859).  

The Industrial Revolution (mid1700s to mid1800s) had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the United Kingdom, spreading rapidly to the rest of the world. Many people did not like what they saw in the shadow side of the innovations of the industrial revolution - the resulting poverty and disrespect for nature. After all there are two sides to everything, and as Marie-Louise von Franz has said, the greater the light the darker the shadow.

“Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe and strengthened in reaction to the Industrial Revolution … and the Age of Enlightenment …. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature”. (Wikipedia)

The Golden Blackbird appears in Andrew Lang’s Green Fairy Book and was collected from Paul Sebillot (1843-1918), native of Brittany and a folklorist, painter and writer who was also a first-hand collector of stories from the peasantry. Being both Celtic these men had much in common, and who knows, they probably met.


Reflection Questions

These questions are for your own personal reflections on the story. Perhaps you don’t relate to the whole story, but parts of it do resonate with aspects of your experience. Those are the parts you can work with. And if you find a question disturbing, do seek out a wise and trusted friend or therapist to talk it over with.

I would encourage you as you reflect on these questions to have your favourite creativity materials or a visual journal nearby. Be open to any images that may come to you and concretize your reflections in some sort of art-making.

  • Are you at a crossroads on your journey through life? How do you decide which path to take when there are few or no sign-posts? What resources to you rely on to help you to decide?
  • Inheritances and caring for an ailing and elderly parent can bring out the worst and the best in us. What is your experience of this in light of the fairy tale? What provisions have you made for your old age? How do you want your children to be involved? Do you play them off against each other?
  • Recall a mistake that turned into a great opportunity for you. If ……….hadn’t happened, I would never have…………
  • Recall a situation where you have used a little help and a lot of your own ingenuity to extricate yourself from trouble. How does it feel?
  • How have you had to “eat humble-pie” for a while, till you could prove yourself?
  • If you feel out of balance in terms of the masculine/feminine principle, how would you go about restoring equilibrium?