What do you do when someone meant to protect you is bound and determined to ruin your life? Grab a coat and curl up in the forest with Thousandfurs, as she strikes out on her own in the name of integrity.
*This episode is rated PG for thematic elements.
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Lost and Found: Stories of Displaced Female Identity - Episode 4
“Thousandfurs: Pieces of Me”
Welcome to Lost in the Woods: Finding Your Way as God’s Daughter Through Fairy Tales ™. I’m your host, Autumn Woods, and I’m so excited you’re here. As always, I will be reading a favorite fairy tale and providing an analysis of it from a Christian perspective, mining the story for the gold and gems of wisdom hidden inside. We are continuing our season of tales focused on displaced female identity, aka, the Lost Woman stories. As a reminder to listeners both loyal and new, at the heart of the Lost Woman story, no matter which rendition is being told, is a woman who has lost her value rediscovering it and moving forward with confidence and dignity, stepping into the role we know was meant to be hers all along. Last time, we talked about reclaiming your Godly authority after having passively given it away through insecurity. Our next story of displaced female identity deals with holding on to your value when those meant to protect you do you harm. We are dealing with a rough topic this time, because it involves potential parental abuse. It does not actually occur in the story, but the threat of it looms large. If this is something you struggle with and you’d rather not listen this week, no worries, I’ll see you next episode. If you’re ok to hang on with me, come curl up by the fire, and let’s begin.
“Thousandfurs” is one of the many variants of “Cinderella,” also provided by the Brothers Grimm and their army of female story sources. It is one of the few variants in which there are no evil female characters making life miserable for our heroine. It is her father who actively threatens her happiness and well-being. I fully believe that this story came about to encourage women who faced the very real potential of abuse in a culture that was not designed to protect them; that it was meant to serve as a little beacon of hope. A reminder that you cannot always prevent the evil intentions and actions of others against you, but you can guard your own heart, and give yourself time to mend, remembering that in spite of those who would spitefully use you, you are worthy of a King’s love. We’re taken on the journey with the princess as she plunges into the unknown with nothing but her pure heart and an unusual dowry, and rebuilds her confidence in disguise, gradually healing and becoming better equipped to handle the next phase of her destiny.
So, let’s get lost, as we read the story of (“Thousandfurs”).
There was once upon a time a King who had a wife with golden hair, and she was so beautiful that her equal was not to be found on earth. It came to pass that she lay ill, and as she felt that she must soon die, she called the King and said, "If you wish to marry again after my death, she must be as beautiful as I am, and have such golden hair as I have: this you must promise me." And after the King had promised her this, she closed her eyes and died.
For a long time the king could not be comforted, and had no thought of taking another wife. At length his councilors said, "There is no helping it. The King must marry again, so that we may have a Queen." And now messengers were sent about far and wide, to seek a bride who equaled the late Queen in beauty. In the whole world, however, none was to be found, and even if one had been found, still there would have been no one who had such golden hair. So the messengers came home as they went.
Now the king had a daughter who was just as beautiful as her dead mother, and had the same golden hair. When she was grown up the King looked at her one day, and saw that in every respect she was like his late wife, and suddenly felt a violent love for her. Then he said to his councilors, "I will marry my daughter, for she is the counterpart of my late wife, otherwise I can find no bride who resembles her."
When the councilors heard that, they were shocked and said, "God has forbidden a father to marry his daughter, no good can come from crime, and the Kingdom will be involved in the ruin."
The daughter was still more shocked when she became aware of her father's resolution, but hoped to change his mind. Then she said to him, "Before I fulfill your wish, I must have three dresses, one as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, and one as bright as the stars; besides this, I wish for a mantle of a thousand different kinds of fur and hair joined together, and one of every kind of animal in your Kingdom must give a piece of his skin for it." But she thought, "To get that will be quite impossible, and thus I shall divert my father from his wicked intentions."
The King, however, did not give it up, and the cleverest maidens in his kingdom had to weave the three dresses, one as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, and one as bright as the stars, and his hunters had to catch one of every kind of animal in the whole of his kingdom, and take from it a piece of skin, and out of these was made a mantle of a thousand different kinds of fur. At length, when all was ready, the King had the mantle brought, spread it out before her, and said, "The wedding shall be tomorrow."
When the king's daughter saw that there was no longer any hope of turning her father's heart, she resolved to run away from him. In the night while everyone was asleep, she got up, and took three different things from her treasures, a golden ring, a golden spinning wheel, and a golden reel. The three dresses of the sun, moon, and stars she put into a nutshell, put on her mantle of all kinds of fur, and blackened her hands and face with soot. Then she commended herself to God, and went away, and walked the whole night until she reached a great forest. And as she was tired, she got into a hollow tree, and fell asleep.
The sun rose, and she slept on, and she was still sleeping when it was full day. Then it so happened that the King to whom this forest belonged, was hunting in it. When his dogs came to the tree, they sniffed, and ran barking around it. The King said to the hunters. "Just see what kind of wild beast has hidden itself in there."
The hunters obeyed his order, and when they came back they said, "A wondrous beast is lying in the hollow tree; we have never before seen one like it. It’s skin is fur of a thousand different kinds, but it is lying asleep."
Said the King, "See if you can catch it alive, and then fasten it to the carriage, and we will take it with us.”
When the hunters laid hold of the maid, she awoke full of terror, and cried to them, "I am a poor child, deserted by father and mother; have pity on me and take me with you."
Then said they, "Thousandfurs, you will be useful in the kitchen, come with us, and you can sweep up the ashes." So they put her in the carriage, and took her home to the royal palace. There they pointed out to her a closet under the stairs, where no daylight entered, and said, “Hairy animal, there you can live and sleep.” Then she was sent into the kitchen, and there she carried wood and water, swept the hearth, plucked the fowls, picked the vegetables, raked the ashes, and did all the dirty work.
Thousandfurs lived there for a long time in great wretchedness. Alas, fair princess, what is to become of you now! It happened, however, that one day a feast was held in the palace, and she said to the cook, “May I go upstairs for a while, and look on? I will stand outside the door.”
The cook answered, "Yes, go, but you must be back here in half-an-hour to sweep the hearth."
Then she took her oil lamp, went into her den, took off her fur-dress, and washed the soot off her face and hands, so that her full beauty once more came to light. And she opened the nut and took out her dress which shone like the sun, and when she had done that she went up to the festival, and everyone made way for her, for no one knew her, and thought no otherwise than that she was a king’s daughter.
The King came to meet her, gave his hand to her, and danced with her, and thought in his heart, “My eyes have never yet seen anyone so beautiful!” When the dance was over she curtsied, and when the Kings look round again she had vanished, and no one knew where. The guards who stood outside the palace were called and questioned, but no one had seen her.
She had, however, run into her little den, had quickly taken off her dress, made her face and hands black again, put on the fir-mantle, and again was Thousandfurs. And now when she went into the kitchen, and was about to get to her work and sweep up the ashes, the cook said, “Leave that alone until morning, and make me the soup for the King; I, too, will go upstairs awhile, and take a look; but let no hairs fall in, or in future you shall have nothing to eat.”
So the cook went away, and Thousandfurs made the soup for the King, and made the bread soup the best she could, and when it was ready she fetched her golden ring from her little den, and put it in the bowl in which the soup was served. When the dancing was over, the King had his soup brought and ate it, and he liked it so much that it seemed to him he had never tasted better. But when he came to the bottom of the bowl, he saw a golden ring, and he could not conceive how it could have got there. Then he ordered the cook to appear before him. The cook was terrified when he heard the order, and said to Thousandfurs, “You have certainly let a hair fall into the soup, and if you have, you shall be beaten for it.”
When he came before the King, the latter asked who had made the soup? The cook replied, “I did.”
But the King said, “That is not true, for it was much better than usual, and cooked differently.”
He answered, “I must acknowledge that I did not make it. It was made by the rough animal.”
The King said, “Go and bid it come up here.”
When Thousandfurs came, the King said, “Who are you?”
“I am a poor girl who no longer has any father or mother.”
He asked further, “Of what use are you in my palace?”
She answered, “I am good for nothing but to have boots thrown at my head.”
He continued, “Where did you get the ring which was in the soup?”
She answered, “I know nothing about the ring.” So the King could learn nothing, and had to send her away again.
After a while, there was another festival, and then, as before, Thousandfurs begged the cook for leave to go and look on. He answered, “Yes, but come back again in half-an-hour, and make the King the bread soup which he likes so much.”
Then she ran into her den, washed herself quickly, and took out of the nut the dress which was as silvery as the moon, and put it on. Then she went up and was like a princess, and the King stepped forward to meet her, and rejoiced to see her once more, and as the dance was just beginning they danced it together. But when it ended, she again disappeared so quickly that the King could not observe where she went. She, however, sprang into her den, and once more made herself a hairy animal, and went into the kitchen to prepare the bread soup. When the cook had gone upstairs, she fetched the little golden spinning wheel, and put it in the bowl so that the soup covered it. Then it was taken to the King, who ate it, and liked it as much as before, and had the cook brought, who likewise this time was forced to confess that Thousandfurs had prepared the soup. Thousandfurs again came before the King, but she answered that she was good for nothing else but to have boots thrown at her head, and that she knew nothing at all about the little golden spinning wheel.
When for the third time, the King held a festival, all happened just as it had done before. The cook said, “Surely, rough-skin, you are a witch, and always putting something in the soup which makes it so good that the King likes it better than that which I cook,” but as she begged so hard, he let her go up at the appointed time. And now she put on the dress which shone like the stars, and thus entered the hall. Again the King danced with the beautiful maiden, and thought that she had never yet been so beautiful. And while she was dancing, he contrived, without her noticing it, to slip a golden ring on her finger, and he had given orders that the dance should last a very long time. When it ended, he wanted to hold her fast by her hands. But she tore herself loose, and sprang away so quickly through the crowd that she vanished from his sight. She ran as fast as she could into her den beneath the stairs, but as she had been too long, and stayed more than half-an-hour she could not take off her pretty dress, but only threw over it her fur-mantle, and in her haste she did not make herself quite black, but one finger remained white. Then Thousandfurs ran into the kitchen, and cooked the bread soup for the King, and as the cook was away, put her golden reel into it. When the King found the reel at the bottom of it, he had Thousandfurs summoned, and then he spied the white finger, and saw the ring which he had put on it during the dance. Then he grasped her by the hand, and held her fast, and when she tried to run away, her mantle of fur opened a little, and the star-dress shone forth, The King clutched the mantle and tore it off. Then her golden hair shone forth, and she stood there in full splendor, and could no longer hide herself. And when she had washed the soot and ashes from her face, she was more beautiful than anyone who had ever been seen on earth. The King said, “You are my dear bride, and we will never again part from each other.” Thereupon, the marriage was solemnized, and they lived happily until their death.
A Grimm story with a happy ending and no punishment for the villain? Shocker, right? But this time, the bad guy getting his comeuppance is really not the point of this story, especially since there are unkind men at every turn in it. The focus is on the princess’s healing and restoration, because that is the ultimate victory in the end. Many of the tropes and symbols of “Thousandfurs” bear a striking resemblance to those in “Cinderella,” but remember, not every healing process is the same. Let’s explore the fine details that make Thousandfurs’ experience uniquely applicable to us. Don’t wander away from the campfire. We’re about to shed some light on the incredible treasure hidden in this story, after a brief message.
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Alright, back to the analysis. We begin with a royal love and a swift tragedy. The princess’ parents are thoroughly in love with each other, but their relationship is cut short by the queen’s untimely death. Before she passes, the queen elicits a promise from her husband that if he remarries, he must choose someone as beautiful and golden-haired as she. Other versions of this story, like Perrault’s “Donkeyskin,” claim that the queen’s strange request is meant to ensure that he never marries again. I take the position that the queen is circumspect enough to know that her husband will remarry, and may choose a woman who will turn into a jealous, wicked stepmother at the sight of their beautiful daughter. Perhaps the queen’s final wish that the King marry someone as lovely as herself is meant to ensure that her daughter’s future stepmother is secure and confident in herself, able to focus on being a good wife, mother, and ruler, rather than on tormenting the poor princess out of envy. Looking at it this way, we are still starting off with a mother’s love.
Who knew that the queen’s protection plan could produce such ghastly results. When, after years of solitude, the king sets his sights on his gorgeous daughter, his appalled councilors try to reason with him, advising against this unholy alliance. They remind him that God forbids incestuous relationships, and that his lustful actions will bring the kingdom to ruin. Leviticus and Deuteronomy are filled with verses prohibiting incest; it will bring a curse upon those who practice it and on the land in which they dwell. Look at Genesis 19 for the origins of Moab and Ammon, two of the wickedest nations in the Old Testament, for further proof. Incest is a violation of the parties involved and a perversion of God’s intentions for familial relationships. If a husband and wife relationship is meant to reflect Jesus’ love for His Bride, the Church, how much more is an earthly father-daughter relationship meant to reflect God’s holy, fierce, and protective love for His daughters? The adjective “violent” is used to describe the king’s affections toward his daughter, meaning lustful and sadistic. Our Heavenly Father is nothing like that. He loves us with an everlasting love, and draws us to Him with His unfailing kindness (Jeremiah 31:3). In short, He gives us free will and respects it. He will never force Himself on us, because that is not love.
Our heroine recognizes this as well. She is horrified by her father’s plan, and seeks to thwart him, hoping that he will come to his senses if he is given a challenge as impossible as his foul desires. Her request for a dowry of beautiful dresses and the coat of a thousand furs is not unlike Tamar’s plea to Amnon, that he should not simply take her by force, but go to her father and properly ask for her hand. If the word properly is even appropriate, since they were half-siblings, but that makes it even more pertinent to the case, doesn’t it? In “Thousandfurs,” there is no higher authority for the princess to appeal to, other than the Lord, and the king has rejected Him by sticking to his despicable scheme. He succeeds in producing every item his daughter requests, including the fur coat.
It is interesting to note that the princess wishes her dresses to imitate are the sun, moon, and stars, the same elements seen bowing to Joseph in one of his dreams before his brothers strip him of his coat and his place in their father’s house (Genesis 37:9). The mantle of a thousand furs is absolutely loaded with symbolism. From a biblical standpoint, it hearkens back to the coat of many colors worn by both Joseph and Tamar. The original Hebrew phrase used to describe these articles of clothing, ketonet passim, refers to a garment made with elongated sleeves and possibly elaborate patterns. This coat would have been costly to make because of all of the dyes and embroidery involved, not to mention the extra fabric for the longer sleeves. It would have instantly marked its wearer as a person of the upper classes, exempted from work. That explains even more why Joseph’s brothers would have been irate at his receiving this mantle from their father, Jacob. Tamar’s coat represented her standing as a virgin daughter of the king, a phrase which also describes our princess. The coat of a thousand furs, therefore, represents her royal heritage, social standing, and her purity.
The violation of purity is also symbolized in the mantle through the manner in which it is made. One of every kind of animal in the kingdom must be caught and surrender a piece of its skin and fur to the monstrous project. Innocent blood is shed and virtuous creatures are harmed in the name of the king’s wicked desire. The princess too would have suffered the same fate, if she had not chosen to rescue herself from her dire predicament. The animals’ sacrifices are not in vain, for they give her the means to cover herself and escape. Committing herself to God, the princess stashes her royal dowry, both the garments from her father and the golden implements symbolizing femininity from her mother, in a nutshell, dons her disguise, and flees into the forest
Something that many of us learn the hard way growing up, is that not all adults or authority figures are in the right, simply because they are in positions of power. It is important that we discern between what is just and unjust, because while we should honor our parents and those in power, we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). When the law requires of us things contrary to God’s law, we must be brave enough to cross the line and become outlaws in the name of righteousness. The princess is wise enough to recognize that she must disobey her father without dishonoring him, and yes, such a thing is possible. She gives him an opportunity to come to his senses and listen to wise council, as we in the body of Christ are expected to do, but he persists in wickedness. When there is no evidence of him changing, she removes herself from the situation, choosing hardship over spiritual compromise.
Not all of us have been fortunate enough to escape predatory situations, and abuse takes many forms. I want you to know that if you’ve lived through any of them, whether you fought as hard as you could, froze in shock and horror, or remained silent in those terrible moments, it is not your fault that these things happened to you. It doesn’t matter what you wore, what you said, where you were, or how sober you were or weren’t, no one deserves to be violated, misused, or abused. The devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He will use anything, including broken people, to try to destroy and demoralize God’s children. But greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). If you were failed by a parent or someone else meant to lead or protect you, your loving Heavenly Father waits for you with open arms to dry your tears. Jesus has born our grief and carried our sorrows, and by His stripes, we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5). Through His sacrifice, Jesus already defeated everything that has and will ever try to come against you. Lean into Him and let Him gently complete in you what has already been won for you.
Making the right decision to protect yourself does not guarantee that the healing process will speed up any faster. In our humanity, we still have to come to grips with what is happening to us as our minds and hearts recover from trauma. Our princess demonstrates that in the first part of her escape. Blackening her face is meant to disguise her and prevent her from being dragged back to the castle, but it is also reminiscent of the old custom of placing ashes on the forehead as a sign of mourning, shame, and despair. She conceals herself under dirt and an unflattering garment, like sackcloth, because, although she has not sinned, her world has been turned upside down by it. She is reeling at the idea that the man meant to protect her wished to do her ill. She no longer feels like a princess, but a filthy, used rag, and she will need to regain her strength, confidence, and ability to trust again. The forest is the perfect place for transition, inner thought, and lost things being found. It is no surprise that by fairy tales rules, that is where our heroine must go. Curling up in the hollow tree represents turning into herself to rest and shut everything out while she begins to heal. The tree also represents the cross of Christ. When we shut the world out, it is easier to hear Him and turn to the one who gives rest for the weary. Her prolonged sleep can be viewed as a sign of depression, or a time to recharge and gather her strength. Remember that Jesus, too, had to rest and be ministered to by angels after resisting the devil in the wilderness. Even though he did not sin, His human body still had to overcome the visceral shock of all that it had just survived. Think about that next time you need to hide out and pull the covers over your head. It isn’t meant to be a lifestyle, but sometimes it is crucial to rest a little longer so that you can face your next challenges at full strength.
The vagabond princess’s sleep is interrupted by the king who owns the forest she has fled to, and his hunting party. She has enough wits about her to tell her story quickly without giving herself away, and secures passage for herself in the royal carriage. Even though the huntsmen give her a place to stay and work to do, it is far from ideal and certainly not what she is used to as a princess. Calling her a “hairy animal,” they send her to live in “a closet under the stairs where no daylight [enters].” Unfortunately, only God really looks on the heart; man looks at the outside. These men treat her roughly because of her wild, animalistic appearance, forgetting that she is a woman, a fellow human being, in need of assistance, and relegating her to the position of insignificant drudge.
Once again, we have a heroine who must endure a bit of Wilderness Bootcamp. If you missed Episode 3, this is the term I use for a time of testing and purification in a lowly, scaled back environment, which allows the heroine to rediscover herself and what she is skilled at, preparing her to confidently step forward into her destiny. Thousandfurs is forced to do all of the nasty, low-level, dirty work in the kitchen, things she was never meant to do as an exalted daughter of the king. There is no outlet for her in this wretched existence. She continues to endure physical and verbal abuse from the cook, who ridicules her, threatens her, and throws boots at her head off-page. But she is not broken. She does not curl up and die in the tiny, dark closet. She is meek, not weak. The difference between meekness and weakness is that weakness has no power. Meekness has power, and chooses when to wield it and when to keep silent. Think Jesus at His rigged trials before crucifixion. He was a perfect example of meekness. He could’ve called down legions of angels to destroy the people that were trying to take His life. But He didn’t. His willful silence and restraint bought our freedom. The princess has hidden the treasure representing her value in her pocket, and she can open it up and unleash it whenever she chooses. She’s just waiting for the right moment.
I once lived through a four-year period in which every sphere of my life was governed by manipulative, power-mad women who enjoyed making me miserable. I was mocked, undermined, dressed in rags, slandered, excluded, made to feel stupid, ugly, crazy, and insignificant. Others were turned against me under their influence and encouraged to be cruel to me. I was made to wish I had never been born female. That I had never been born at all. Because these women were put over me, there was no one I could go to for help, not even my parents, who also suffered hard blows from these people. I turned inward, where my defiant fire blazed and illuminated the knowledge that I was a child of the Most High God, who punishes those who touch His anointed. I did not deserve what was happening to me. It was my job to be my own advocate until I could leave, and not buckle under their cruel mistreatment. I would follow orders out of respect, but I didn’t have to swallow the poison that came with them.
Even though I knew these things, I looked over my shoulder for years after I was released from their reigns of terror. I was constantly grateful for any kind interaction with directors, bosses, and leaders, remembering how terrible it was before. Afterward, I endured a protracted Wilderness Bootcamp, which also lasted four years, probably because I’m so stubborn and there was a lot of damage in me still. I used to joke that I had to do four years of good in the arenas where I had gone through four years of evil. Because of what I’d survived, I knew how to be kind and resourceful during that time. How to make a difference in a sphere much smaller and less demanding than what I’m trained for. And in the end, I did figure out the tools in my belt and how to use them effectively. I just needed the right opportunity to whip them out.
The princess’s opportunity comes with the announcement of, what else, the king’s festival. She gets permission from her boss to sneak upstairs and place herself outside the door to watch the party. She does keep her word, in the sense that her drab-I’m-in-recovery self is placed far outside the door, while her true, royal self, head-held high, exits the closet in her golden dress, which symbolizes majesty and perfection, and makes an entrance at the palace door. Her inner beauty doubles her splendor, and everyone who sets eyes on her knows at once that she is a king’s daughter. When you are a child of God, there is an unmistakable light and presence about you that will either put people off or draw them to you, seemingly without explanation. The king is absolutely enthralled with her and dances with her until she curtsies and disappears, returning to her rags and drudgery. This is the princess’s first big outing since before she left her father’s castle. She’s excited and scared about pushing the boundaries of her current circumstances. It’s just as well that she only has half an hour to explore. She is slowly becoming more secure of her worth, and this is a good first step in the direction of her destiny.
A quick-change later, she is charged with a new task: preparing the king’s favorite soup for him to enjoy after the festival. Be faithful in the little things, and you’ll be entrusted with much (Luke 16:10). She’s never been allowed to cook before. If the cook had not been so eager to sneak up to the ball himself, she might not have been given the chance. But she’s up for the challenge. After making the bread soup to the best of her ability and then some, Thousandfurs quickly capitalizes on her increase in territory, and places the golden ring from her dowry into the soup bowl for the king to find.
You may wonder why it’s such a big deal that the princess is able to make an amazing soup on the first try. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with the misguided notion that women belong in the kitchen. Throw that nastiness away if you haven’t already. The soup is meant to demonstrate to our heroine that the traits and virtues she has been given are blessings and not curses. Earlier in the story, she was told to engage in an inappropriate relationship because of her physical gifts. Now, she willingly chooses to entrust someone with pieces of herself on her own terms. She is seeing that all of her gifts and abilities can be enjoyed honorably in the right setting. She can bring comfort and joy to the weary. She can dazzle with her beauty rather than enflame. She can tackle a new task and be successful. She has hidden treasure in her heart waiting to be discovered. And so do we.
Remember how Cinderella dives into the pigeon house and the pear tree to bring the prince closer to understanding the environment she lives in, her personal baggage, and her future intentions? This princess is doing the same thing in a more direct way with the objects from her dowry. She shows the king that she has authority through her ring. It is a seal and symbol of her heritage and birthright as the eldest and only child of a royal house. She gives it to him hoping that he will be canny enough to see her value through her disguise and brave enough to pursue her.
Upon discovering the ring in his soup, which tastes much better than usual, the perplexed king summons the cook to ask him about it. After lying and blustering, the cook finally admits that “the rough animal” made the soup. I always laugh at the king’s response, because I get the impression that he has a sense of humor, and he suspects the truth already. I get a “he who is without sin” vibe when he says, “Go and bid it come up here.” He doesn’t say “bring it” or “drag it.” Bid implies submission and gentle surrender, knowledge that your request can be rejected. It is a hopeful, vulnerable nudge.
When Thousandfurs arrives, the king addresses her as a human being, asking not what she is, but who. He inquires about what she does at the palace and how she has come by the ring she put into the soup. Jesus gently presses us the same way. He offers opportunities to get to know Him, and yourself. He doesn’t force a confession out of you. He doesn’t have to. He knows you inside and out. Instead, He draws you to Him with compassion and kindness, and sometimes tough love, until you recognize what needs to be confessed, corrected, or left behind so that you can grab hold of the cup of living water He holds out to you. Think about the conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. He didn’t come out, guns blazing, making accusations about the woman and her life. He gracefully and ingeniously met her where she was, and allowed her to steer into the difficult parts of their conversation, which led to a complete transformation of her life.
The Samaritan woman had a bit of an edge to her from all she had been through, just like us, and just like our princess. Her response that she is “good for nothing but to have boots thrown at [her] head” demonstrates two things. First, that she is bitter about her ill-treatment at work, and the princess part of her that is allergic to injustice is flaring up in righteous indignation. She hasn’t given up her value entirely. Don’t let the sackcloth and ashes fool you. Second, that the vulnerable little girl part of her is still wounded and scared. She won’t give her trust away to just anyone. She dares the king to contradict her statement and her plea of ignorance about the valuable ring, a symbol of her own worth. Freakish as it may sound, it is normal to be ambivalent about your value. It doesn’t make for an effective warrior woman when you’re unable to believe in it, but it’s something we all experience from time to time, especially if we have been grievously wounded where it is concerned. We don’t have to be “on” all the time, and God knows that. He won’t push us beyond where we will allow Him to come. He’ll give us a break to think about things before knocking on the doors of our hearts and trying again. In like manner, the king releases Thousandfurs to go back to her den once he realizes that he won’t get any more information out of her tonight. But he does not give up his pursuit.
Soon afterward, he throws another festival and Thousandfurs once again appears in her royal glory, wearing a dress as silver as the moon, symbolizing righteousness. He rejoices that she has returned and dances with her again, until the music stops and she barrels back to the closet. Swiftly flinging on the coat of a thousand furs, she transforms into the lowly kitchen wench once more, and prepares the king’s favorite soup for the end of the party, this time adding as the secret ingredient the little golden spinning wheel. Yes, this is another object of domesticity, but that is not the point. What does matter is the concealed meaning in her gift. The function of a spinning wheel is to bind fibers together to make thread or yarn, to be used in the creation of future products. She’s basically proposing to the king. They are two different rulers from separate kingdoms with diverse resources. When they are bound together, they can create a tightly woven strand that will benefit their kingdoms as well as themselves. Once again, the royal pair goes through the charade of dancing around the woman’s true identity, and the princess does not give ground. But we know from the king’s next move that he is convinced about who Thousandfurs really is.
Determined to draw her out at last, the king throws a third festival, which the princess attends in the dress that shines like the stars. No one can truly number the stars. Their ranks are too vast. They only seem smaller than the sun and moon because they are so far from us, but in reality, stars are even brighter and more splendid. The princess may not know her effect on the king and those around her, but he certainly does. By slipping her ring back on her finger during the dance, the king quietly tells the princess,
“I know who you truly are. You are a king’s daughter, given power and authority from your birth. You are kind but firm, meek and strong, intelligent and skilled, and you would be an incredible partner to have by my side. I want you with me always. Now, come out of hiding.”
In case you didn’t know, God feels that way about you, too. Psalm 139 says He made you on purpose, fearfully and wonderfully, and He wants you in His home, on His team, and by His side doing what He has designed you to do in complete love and freedom. He has given you a spirit of power, of love, and a sound mind so that you can operate effectively in your life (2 Timothy 1:7). No longer will you, princess, be cast into the kitchen. You will be called to ascend to your rightful place on the throne.
Knowing his princess will bolt once the music ends, the king instructs the orchestra to play longer than usual. His partner is so enraptured by the dance and the acceptance in his eyes that she forgets she is supposed to forsake it and hide in her furry, dingy prison. She is learning to trust the king and forget her pain, but she still has a job to do, and she’s running late! She has spent so much time being her true self and reveling in the splendor of the king, that she can’t even properly conceal her elegant dress, her true nature, under the ratty, filthy disguise of fur, dirt, and grime. In her hurry to blacken her face and prepare the soup, the princess leaves one finger completely clean. When Moses spent long periods of time in God’s presence, his face shone so brightly from being exposed to glory that he had to wear a veil over it (Exodus 34:29-33). The more time we spend with God, the harder it is to curl back up into our sin natures and self-protective habits. As His light burns away the dross and purifies us, it becomes easier and more natural to behave like the brave, regal, warrior daughters we are called to be.
The final secret ingredient in the princess’s special soup is a golden reel. In sewing, this object is referred to as a bobbin, a little piece used to wind up thread to be pulled out or stored for later. Taking her other messages into account, the golden reel represents the mutual trust between the king and the princess. She will preserve the thread of their bond, and believes that he will do the same. In fishing terms, she has cast her reel and caught a king, or the king has waited patiently and drawn her to him. I think it’s a little bit of both. Upon discovering Thousandfurs’ latest token in his soup, the king readily takes the bait and summons her. When he spies the golden ring on her white finger, he loses no time in taking her hands. Startled, the princess pulls back, revealing her beautiful ball gown from beneath her dingy coat. The king immediately tears it off of her for good, releasing her lovely golden hair. I love the phrase “and she stood there in full splendor, and could no longer hide herself.” This scene makes me think of the veil tearing in the temple after Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross. The veil was thick, and prevented all but the High Priest from entering into the Holy of Holies, where the ark of the covenant resided and God’s presence dwelt. Unholy man could not be permitted to enter into the presence of God, on pain of death. Jesus’ sacrifice means that there is no longer a separation between God and mankind. The veil was torn forever! We are welcome to experience His full glory without fear because the blood of Jesus makes us holy.
I also love this part of the story because I imagine myself and all sons and daughters of God being completely liberated from everything that holds us back; being gently but firmly compelled to leave behind all pretense that we do not know who we are for the sake of our wounded hearts or for the comfort of those disturbed by the light within us. We are meant to be a light for all men so that they may see our good works and glorify the Lord (Matthew 5:16). Our light does not belong under a bushel.
Free of her disguise at last, the princess washes away all vestiges of Thousandfurs, allowing her radiant beauty and true self to shine. She marries the king, never again to part from him. She has learned to trust again, and begun to heal from the trauma of her past. She even goes on to lead a happy life with the man who loves her. Our eternal King, Jesus, is ready and willing to take those steps with us. The Man of Sorrows knows suffering and heartache, and how devastating it is when you are wounded by those meant to love and protect you. Whatever you are missing in your life, He wants to be that for you. And He will never leave you or forsake you. You are so loved. And if God is for you, who can stand against you?
If you’ve been fortunate enough to come from a supportive, healthy home, make sure you’re pouring out your love on the people around you who didn’t get to have that. Your cup overflows so that it can spill out for others. Show them the best way you know how that they are adored and valuable children of God, worthy of a King’s love, and designed to shine.
Thanks for stopping by. I’m Autumn Woods, and I can’t wait to see you on the path next time you get Lost in the Woods.