Ready for battle? Come into the dark woods with our heroine on a covert mission as she infiltrates the enemy's camp, rescues those she loves, and destroys her adversary once and for all.
**PG for violence**
Judges Ch 4
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Shield Maidens: Episode 1
“Fitcher’s Bird: Free to Fly”
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. If you’re just joining us, this podcast is about uplifting women through fairy tales and scripture. The two may not seem connected, but stories have always been an effective tool in ministry. Jesus spoke in parables constantly to make the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven relatable to people on earth. He designed the stories so that those that have ears to hear would hear. I believe that we have continued to do the same, and that these fairy tales from childhood contain so many symbolic messages for God’s children, who are seeking to find their place in this world, struggling to understand their relationships with others, and boldly overcoming obstacles in it. If you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, you’re my people! You understand that there are eternal truths in stories and archetypes that keep us coming back to them for reference and comfort well into adulthood. And that’s what this podcast is here to celebrate: the fact that we can see God’s true love for us and reflections of our Christian walk in fairy tales.
In each episode, I read a favorite fairy tale from my childhood that explores these ideas and then provide an analysis of the things that the story reveals to us from a Christian perspective. Last season, we focused on stories of displaced female identity. Tales about taking back your identity and reclaiming your place as God’s daughter in spite of attacks from the enemy. Once you know who you are and what you are capable of, what comes next?
You were given the gifts and talents you have to glorify God and to bless others; to encourage and fight for the people in your life. Sometime last season, I introduced you to the phrase ezer kenegdo. Ezer comes from two Hebrew words meaning a strong rescuer and warrior. Kenegdo means a complementing opposite, as in left and right shoes. Women are strong warriors who rescue others and are complementing opposites of men. Ezer kenegdo is the first phrase used by God to describe woman in Genesis before He creates her as an answer to the problem of loneliness. You and I are answers to problems, not problems to be controlled. As daughters of God, we are expertly fashioned to be women of war. This doesn’t mean we battle against all the men or use our weapons against each other. We may not even stand on a literal field of combat. The human heart is our fortress and battleground, and we are charged to defend it against the attacks of the enemy and fortify it with love, encouragement, and the Word of God.
This season, we will be examining stories of warrior women. Women who protect those in their charge and use their skillsets to defeat the evil that would destroy them and all they love. I’m starting us off with “Fitcher’s Bird” from the Brothers Grimm. It’s my favorite version of the “Bluebeard” story type. You may know it better as “Mr. Fox” or the Grimms’ other version, “The Robber Bridegroom.” I had a tough time deciding which one to share, but “Fitcher’s Bird” suits our purpose best. You’ll see why as we go on. There are some frightening scenes in it, but stick with me, and we’ll make it through. Our heroine is grittier than her counterparts in the tales mentioned above, and she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty if it means healing can begin and the bad guy can be taken down. We’re taken on the journey with her, as she undergoes a covert rescue mission to infiltrate the enemy’s camp, rescue those she loves, and destroy the adversary once and for all.
So, let’s get lost, as we read the story of (Fitcher’s Bird).
There was once a wizard who used to take the form of a poor man, and went to houses and begged, and caught pretty girls. No one knew whither he carried them, for they were never seen more. One day he appeared before the door of a man who had three pretty daughters; he looked like a poor weak beggar, and carried a basket on his back, as if he meant to collect charitable gifts in it.
He begged for a little food, and when the eldest daughter came out and was just reaching him a piece of bread, he did but touch her, and she was forced to jump into his basket. Thereupon he hurried away with long strides, and carried her away into a dark forest to his house, which stood in the midst of it.
Everything in the house was magnificent; he gave her whatsoever she could possibly desire, and said, “My darling, thou wilt certainly be happy with me, for thou hast everything thy heart can wish for.” This lasted a few days, and then he said, “I must journey forth, and leave thee alone for a short time; there are the keys of the house; thou mayst go everywhere and look at everything except into one room, which this little key here opens, and there I forbid thee to go on pain of death.” He likewise gave her an egg and said, “Preserve the egg carefully for me, and carry it continually about with thee, for a great misfortune would arise from the loss of it.”
She took the keys and the egg, and promised to obey him in everything. When he was gone, she went all round the house from the bottom to the top, and examined everything. The rooms shone with silver and gold, and she thought she had never seen such great splendour. At length she came to the forbidden door; she wished to pass it by, but curiosity let her have no rest. She examined the key, it looked just like any other; she put it in the keyhole and turned it a little, and the door sprang open. But what did she see when she went in? A great bloody basin stood in the middle of the room, and therein lay human beings, dead and hewn to pieces, and hard by was a block of wood, and a gleaming axe lay upon it. She was so terribly alarmed that the egg which she held in her hand fell into the basin. She got it out and washed the blood off, but in vain, it appeared again in a moment. She washed and scrubbed, but she could not get it out.
It was not long before the man came back from his journey, and the first things which he asked for were the key and the egg. She gave them to him, but she trembled as she did so, and he saw at once by the red spots that she had been in the bloody chamber. “Since thou hast gone into the room against my will,” said he, “thou shalt go back into it against thine own. Thy life is ended.” He threw her down, dragged her thither by her hair, cut her head off on the block, and hewed her in pieces so that her blood ran on the ground. Then he threw her into the basin with the rest.
“Now I will fetch myself the second,” said the wizard, and again he went to the house in the shape of a poor man, and begged. Then the second daughter brought him a piece of bread; he caught her like the first, by simply touching her, and carried her away. She did not fare better than her sister. She allowed herself to be led away by her curiosity, opened the door of the bloody chamber, looked in, and had to atone for it with her life on the wizard’s return.
Then he went and brought the third sister, but she was clever and crafty. When he had given her the keys and the egg, and had left her, she first put the egg away with great care, and then she examined the house, and at last went into the forbidden room. Alas, what did she behold! Both her sisters lay there in the basin, cruelly murdered, and cut in pieces. But she began to gather their limbs together and put them in order, head, body, arms and legs. And when nothing further was wanting the limbs began to move and unite themselves together, and both the maidens opened their eyes and were once more alive. Then they rejoiced and kissed and caressed each other.
On his arrival, the man at once demanded the keys and the egg, and as he could perceive no trace of any blood on it, he said, “Thou hast stood the test, thou shalt be my bride.” He now had no longer any power over her, and was forced to do whatsoever she desired. “Oh, very well,” said she, “thou shalt first take a basketful of gold to my father and mother, and carry it thyself on thy back; in the meantime I will prepare for the wedding.” Then she ran to her sisters, whom she had hidden in a little chamber and said, “The moment has come when I can save you. The wretch shall himself carry you home again, but as soon as you are at home send help to me.”
She put both of them in a basket and covered them quite over with gold, so that nothing of them was to be seen, then she called in the wizard and said to him, “Now carry the basket away, but I shall look through my little window and watch to see if thou stoppest on the way to stand or to rest.”
The wizard raised the basket on his back and went away with it, but it weighed him down so heavily that the perspiration streamed from his face. Then he sat down and wanted to rest awhile, but immediately one of the girls in the basket cried, “I am looking through my little window, and I see that thou art resting. Wilt thou go on at once?” He thought his bride was calling that to him; and got up on his legs again. Once more he was going to sit down, but instantly she cried, “I am looking through my little window, and I see that thou art resting. Wilt thou go on directly?”
And whenever he stood still, she cried this, and then he was forced to go onwards, until at last, groaning and out of breath, he took the basket with the gold and the two maidens into their parents’ house. At home, however, the bride prepared the marriage-feast, and sent invitations to the friends of the wizard. Then she took a skull with grinning teeth, put some ornaments on it and a wreath of flowers, carried it upstairs to the garret-window, and let it look out from thence. When all was ready, she got into a barrel of honey, and then cut the feather-bed open and rolled herself in it, until she looked like a wondrous bird, and no one could recognize her. Then she went out of the house, and on her way she met some of the wedding-guests, who asked,
“O, Fitcher’s bird, how com’st thou here?”
“I come from Fitcher’s house quite near.”
“And what may the young bride be doing?”
“From cellar to garret she’s swept all clean,
And now from the window she’s peeping, I ween.”
At last she met the bridegroom, who was coming slowly back. He, like the others, asked,
“O, Fitcher’s bird, how com’st thou here?”
“I come from Fitcher’s house quite near.”
“And what may the young bride be doing?
“From cellar to garret she’s swept all clean,
And now from the window she’s peeping, I ween.”
The bridegroom looked up, saw the decked-out skull, thought it was his bride, and nodded to her, greeting her kindly. But when he and his guests had all gone into the house, the brothers and kinsmen of the bride, who had been sent to rescue her, arrived. They locked all the doors of the house, that no one might escape, set fire to it, and the wizard and all his crew had to burn.
I love it when the villain just keeps losing. Especially when the intended victim becomes the instrument of his defeat. That’s such a God thing to do. 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 the bad guy. From the get-go, we are introduced to a character whose methods of attack are so in sync with what the devil likes to do to us that the story might as well be about Lucifer rather than the wizard Fitcher. He disguises himself as a poor beggar, preying on the innocence of the women he kidnaps, turning their natural tendencies to protect, seek, equip, and nurture into a snare around their feet. Fitcher knows that his deceptive disguise is the perfect bait to lure women who want to help their fellow creatures. He takes advantage of their goodness and twists it for his own sick satisfaction, trapping his intended victims into a game they cannot possibly win. With a simple touch, each girl is “forced to jump into his basket.”
Why is it that touch gives Fitcher power over the women? It isn’t just that he’s a practitioner of the dark arts. Touch is a language all its own, one that both genders respond to, but women use it to communicate intentions, thoughts, and emotions faster and surer than words can fly out of a mouth. Positive touch is essential to healthy development in both humans and animals, because it offers assurance, expresses love, reduces stress, and instills trust, recognition of value, and connection. It is a wonderful thing, but it can be used for manipulation as well. Has anyone ever wrapped an arm around your shoulder while trying to convince you of a decision they want you to make? Or held your hand across a desk and said they only want what’s best for you? This unwelcome attention is meant to play on your body’s natural response to positive touch and forge a connection with the manipulator whether you want it or not. A more innocuous example would be shopping in a store. You are more likely to purchase an object you have handled and touched because you have taken the step to develop a connection with it and assign it a value as your potential possession. By touching each woman, Fitcher is using a good thing to wickedly claim power over them and command them as his possessions.
Similarly, Satan loves distorting what God has called good. He’ll pervert the traits we are given for glorifying God and edifying others into character flaws meant to discredit us and seal our destruction. He did it to Adam and Eve. Like us, they were created with a natural curiosity, a desire to pursue and learn, and a penchant for developing connection through touch. These things are not wrong. God puts them into every human heart because He loves relationship. He wants us to seek Him and avidly search out who He is through His Word and creation. How could we follow His first commands to be fruitful and reign over the earth if we were content to complacently stay stuck in the same spot (Genesis 1:28-29)? Observing Adam and Eve’s natural tendencies in the garden, Satan waited until they were not interacting with God and played their beautiful traits to his advantage, twisting curiosity into disobedience, a thirst for knowledge into pride and selfish ambition, and connection through touch into grasping for power. His attack bent the beings created in the image of God to reflect his own rebellious countenance as he encouraged them to reenact the same sins that got him kicked out of God’s presence in the first place.
If you think I am going to draw a parallel between the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the bloody chamber—you’re wrong. The storylines are perpendicular, intersecting at a point of the forbidden; each command is given from a different nature. God forbade Adam and Eve to access the tree of knowledge because He wanted them to naturally recognize Him as their source while giving them free will. Have you ever been in a room with someone who is visiting you out of obligation? It’s awful. It’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t foster intimacy. You can’t have real intimacy without freely choosing to trust and love, and that’s exactly what God wants from us. He loves us so much, He is willing to give us the choice to fail if it means we may also choose to return to Him on our own.
In contrast, the wizard forbids the first sister to go into the bloody chamber because, like the accuser, he is eager to see her fail and earn her destruction. He knows that her natural curiosity will inevitably lead her into the room of doom and that the sight will be too much for her. She will drop the egg and stain it with her own cowardice and immobility. She will freeze and no longer be a threat to him. Why would she be a threat? She could go to the authorities and report him. She could sneak back home and bring a torch and pitchfork operation down on his house. She could even blackmail him or kill him herself. He is double-minded, desiring that she open the door so that he may gleefully destroy her, but dreading her opening it because she could be his undoing. Fitcher wants to eliminate her and every woman who comes after her without consequences, and in order to do that, he has to make her believe that she is powerless to stop him.
He accomplishes this by providing her with everything she could possibly want in her isolation, causing himself to appear to be the source of her happiness and well-being in his lonely house in the dark forest. He then cements the lie by giving the girl objects reflecting his idea of who she should be and how she should behave and makes sure to keep her hands full so that she cannot properly respond in a crisis because she is so consumed with fulfilling his demented demands. In his game, the egg represents a woman in captivity. He expects her to be blank, vapid, naïve, and fragile, limiting her to the harshest and most superficial aspects of the domestic sphere; reducing her to her biological function as a female. When combined with the egg, the keys are a symbol of false authority. She may flit through the house and explore all she likes, taking delight in the splendorous trappings she finds in the rooms, but she is bound by the bars of his rule as long as she clings to his false idea of womanhood. In presenting these objects to the eldest sister, Fitcher is giving her the curse of bondage packaged as freedom. She may exercise the gifts she has been given, but only on his terms. He wants her so blinded by bling that she cannot think clearly and act against him.
Like Fitcher, Satan seeks to silence women and distract us so that we are oblivious to his wicked schemes, and even become willing participants because we believe that the system he has set up in this world is the way it will always be and that there is nothing we can do to stop it. We become isolated in our pursuits for what we believe will make our lives better, trading our freedom for a set of rules we were not created to obey. We adopt the pigeonholing labels of the world hoping to use them as stepping-stones to success, rather than being transformed by the renewing of our minds through the Word of God (Romans 12:2). It is not wrong to seek beauty and knowledge, have a successful career or run a warm household. Those things are put in us by God because he appreciates them, too. It’s when those things consume us because we are so busy juggling them and trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations of others that we get in trouble. You can’t wield a sword when your hands are full.
This numbing existence is not what we are called to live. You and I are more than a bank account, a pretty face, a uterus, a workhorse, or a social media page. Ultimately, we are royalty from a kingdom not of this world. We are Daughters of the Most High God called to love Him and one another. We were given mouths to proclaim the Kingdom of God on earth and do battle in the heavenly realms, tearing down the kingdom of darkness with our words. Even in the middle of the terrible events affecting our world now, we must remember that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).” We have been given authority to trample serpents and scorpions, cast out demons, overcome all the power of the enemy, and lay hands on the sick and watch them recover (Matthew 10:1; Luke 10:19). We cannot adopt the narrow labels the devil or the world would thrust on us. We cannot close our mouths and forget who we are and why we’re here. We can’t get lost in a haze of activity. The enemy’s evil plot is to provoke you into such a state of willful exhaustion, that you forget to prepare for battle. You can’t wield a sword if you’re too tired to lift it up.
Back to this egg and key business. The truth is that outside of Fitcher’s cruel limitations, eggs also represent creation, creativity, nurture, hope, and promise. The keys are authority, determination, action, and command. God freely gives His daughters all these things and so much more. We must never mistakenly believe that anything we have comes from the world or its temporary master. You have freedom to be everything good that you are because God declared it of you before you were born, not because the world gives you permission now.
Unfortunately, the first sister swallows the lie that her existence is limited to the two objects the wizard places in her hands and that she must hold them always. She forgets about her former identity, her sisters, and the world outside her prison. The scope of her reality constricts to the confines of her cage as she places herself under the authority of her captor and begins taking pleasure in what he has to offer. By the time she has exhausted herself admiring his treasures, she comes upon the forbidden door. She considers avoiding it, but her curiosity is strong. She wants to know what is being kept from her. Call it woman’s intuition, call it discernment. If you knew better before you started down a path of sin and death, you will be pricked by the Holy Spirit when something is amiss. The question is, what are you going to do about it?
When the first sister opens the door to the bloody chamber, she is so shocked by the horrors she finds there that she drops the egg into the terrible basin. She is frozen in fear and cannot comprehend what to do about what she finds in that room. When her mind finally catches up to her trembling body, she realizes that she has dropped the egg into the gory tub, fishes it out, and spends all her energy trying to scrub it clean. Unfortunately for her, the mark of her misadventure is indelible. Fitcher returns, and, seeing that he has permission to destroy her, brutally murders the girl and hurries off to make her younger sister his next victim.
The girl’s mistake is not going in the room: it is choosing inaction. She is concentrating so hard on keeping the objects in her hands that she is unprepared to deal with disaster. Clutching the items to which the wizard has limited her worth, she stands rooted to the spot before Fitcher’s terrible work and begins to concern herself with how the atrocity she sees affects her personally, rather than stepping up to end it once and for all. Fitcher is right about one thing: losing the egg does bring about a great misfortune. This misfortune is not just that another woman is victimized by an evil man: it is that his violent actions are allowed to continue unchecked.
Remember that the egg also represents nurture, which is an important part of fierce love. It’s not limited to physical mothers, either. It comes from the desire for those we protect to do well and thrive better than ourselves. It is powered by a legacy mindset that longs for deeper connections, freedom from captivity, and steadfast relationships with God. Without fierce love, strong actions lose their effectiveness. You need something to fight for. The first sister forgets about those she loves when faced with the bloody basin. She forgets compassion and righteous indignation. By letting go of the egg in panic, she symbolically relinquishes the traits she has been gifted with to handle this calamity. She does not try to identify any of the women, or piece them back together as her youngest sister does. She doesn’t even flee the house and run for help. She allows the situation to consume her, and places herself under a death sentence before the wizard can do so himself. By playing by his rules and not seeking any loopholes or outside help, the eldest sister agrees with the lie that she deserves no better than the chopping block.
There is a dark cycle of objectification perpetuated in this story. Fitcher reduces women to their various parts, and each girl who enters the chamber assimilates his attitude. They no longer see fellow sisters, mothers, and daughters in that tub. The victims have been dehumanized by his depravity, and each woman confronted with this message believes she can do nothing to break the curse. In our own lives as women, we are daily confronted by cultures engineered to break our spirits, destroy our bodies, and render healthy relationships a distant dream. We in the West are told by diabolical people we may never meet that we must adhere to certain standards for beauty, sexuality, and success or be counted worthless. Human trafficking and pornography have taken the world by storm, ruining lives and distorting God’s gifts of marriage and healthy sexuality. Sharia law is used as a license to commit terrible atrocities against women in the name of God. The oppression and limitation of women in India has caused the rate of female suicides and illegal bride purchases to skyrocket. And this list barely scratches the surface of the enemy’s attack against us. When we agree with these outrages or remain silent, pretending they are not real because they are a world away, we too become accomplices in the enemy’s plot. The stories we hear or witness are happening to real people. People breathed into existence by a God who loves them so much He paid the ultimate price to give them life and life more abundantly before they were even born. It is not time to dissociate. It’s time to get on our knees and fight. And if the Holy Spirit moves you to further action, be obedient. It’s God’s desire that His anointed ones “proclaim good news to the poor… bind up the brokenhearted… proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1).”
Men may have been instrumental in this onslaught, but they are not our true enemy. They are our brothers. They need rescuing as much as we do. It is our job as defenders of the heart to go to war for this world. To live by godly example and pray for the oppressed and the oppressors. Do not be frozen in fear. Be active in love, because perfect love casts out fear. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6).”
In our story, Fitcher is very clearly the devil figure and beyond redemption. So far, the wizard’s pattern is to deceive, isolate, distract, immobilize, and destroy. He tricks the first two sisters into captivity by exploiting their good intentions. He isolates them in his remote house in the dark woods. He pretends to give them authority by granting them access to splendor while keeping their hands full as they attempt to live up to his expectations. They become so distracted that when they do finally confront danger, they freeze, forget to use their God-given capabilities to rectify the situation, and mark themselves for destruction. We are told in John 10:10 that the devil is a thief who comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; that he was a murderer from the beginning, and goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (John 8:44 and 1 Peter 5:8). He delights in destruction because it grieves the Lord. The roaring lion seeks the isolated and friendless because they are less likely to be equipped to stand against him, since there is no one to fortify them with fighting words from the scriptures. Because God operates through the connections of a family, relating to us through terms like Father, son, and daughter, Satan takes despicable pleasure in being a homewrecker. Notice that, like the enemy, Fitcher centers his attack not only against women, but against a family.
As guardians of the heart, women are gifted with a drive to foster communities and relationships; to make a family out of broken and abandoned people. We have a high emotional intelligence and are positioned to speak life and pour God’s love into multiple generations of men and women. We can train up people that fear the Lord and devastate the enemy. You need to be able to do battle effectively on your own, but we all get weary, and that’s where the support of community comes in. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we as women protect those around us from fear, despair, and loneliness. It’s time to rescue those under our watch. Call, text, Zoom, meet up whenever you can. Be there to help in big crises and mini breakdowns. Encourage each other with what God is doing in your lives and spur each other on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). In the army of the Lord, we do not leave soldiers behind. We protect family.
The youngest sister knows that the enemy is coming. She’s seen her sisters vanish into the mysterious basket and not return. We aren’t told this directly, but I believe she allows herself to be kidnapped by the wizard and taken to his foreboding house so that she can learn what has become of her sisters and save them. She is described as clever and crafty. Crafty has both positive and negative connotations. It used to bring up images of slavering foxes, wily coyotes, and deceitful wolves, once upon a time. Now, we think of our friends who can take safety pins and charisma and make a Pinterest-worthy art project. Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you as lambs among wolves; be therefore crafty as snakes and innocent as doves.” This is taken from the Aramaic Bible in plain English. Other translations use the words wise, cautious, shrewd, and cunning in lieu of crafty. Synthesizing all of this, we see that Jesus means for us to be innocent of wrong, but wise enough to know what our enemy is doing and how to creatively avoid his traps and rescue others from them. My favorite of these synonyms, cunning, is defined by Merriam Webster as “dexterous or crafty in the use of special resources (such as skill or knowledge) or in attaining an end.” I think this describes our resourceful and intelligent heroine perfectly.
Wisely, she leaves the egg behind when the wizard departs, refusing to allow Fitcher to define and confine her. She already knows that she has the capacity for love, nurture, creativity, hope, and new life. She won’t put those things under his control. But she will take the keys to his house, because in doing so, she takes authority over him and assumes the right to build what he has torn down and demolish what he has built. After searching through the house to see what resources are available to her, she comes upon the door to the forbidden chamber, and opens it without hesitation.
Fitcher has a habit of hitting the same house until it is depleted. More than likely, before their deaths, both the first and second sisters recognize other women they know in that horrible place, but fear renders them helpless to preclude the wizard’s power. But their little sister knows them right away and does not fall into the trap of dissociation or worry about her own life. She plunges her hands into the muck and begins to piece her broken sisters back together again, leaving nothing of them to the pit. How is she able to complete this daunting task? She knows her sisters, inside and out. She does not let them get lost in the shuffle of victims. She calls them out and speaks life over their bones like Ezekiel, as with each careful movement, she says, “I will never give up on you. You do not deserve this. You are loved and not hated. Stick with me, and I’ll help you become whole again.” When she has set her sisters in order and done all she can do, their bodies knit themselves back together and begin to live again. After embracing her resurrected sisters, our heroine hides them in another chamber until she can formulate the next part of her plan and secure their escape.
Like her, we are meant to take the pieces of lives that seem beyond repair and facilitate healing and rejuvenation. Jesus is our ultimate healer, and He gives us power to do all that He has done and greater. When our brothers and sisters are hurting, we must be willing to get down in the dirt with them and encourage them back to abundant life without giving in to despair, because that is what Jesus modeled for us. He defied discouragement, a storm, and principalities to deliver a suicidal demoniac living in the tombs of the Gadarenes. He foreshadowed His power over death and the grave when He called Lazarus out of his tomb. He spoke with and delivered women of all walks of life and showed tenderness to the ones people despised the most, refreshing their parched spirits with living water. He gently but firmly commands us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34). And while God’s love is tender, it is also ferocious. He has no problem raising up a deliverer when the enemy threatens His children.
Just as Jesus descended into Hell, rescued God’s children, defeated sin and death, and rose again, the youngest sister has braved the hellish chamber of blood, set her captive family free, and remained spotless as a lamb. Therefore, the wicked wizard loses all “power over her, and [is] forced to do [whatever] she [desires].” When we behave as the Bride of Christ, exercising our divinely appointed authority, Satan has no power over us. Under the blood covenant of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are redeemed from the pit and crowned with love and compassion (Psalm 103:4). We are given authority to “overcome [our adversary] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of [our] testimony (Revelation 12:11).”
The wizard tells the youngest sister that she will be his bride because she passes the test, but we know better. She would never truly ally herself to such a despicable creature. But she will wield the power she has over him to restore what has been stolen and exact retribution on him for his crimes, ensuring that he never destroys another life again. Think Jael and Sisera from the book of Judges. You can read chapter 4 for the full context, but here’s a brief summary. General Sisera was oppressing and attacking the people of God. Village life had ceased in Israel because everyone was so afraid of him, until its armies, led by Deborah and Barak, struck back. After a great battle at the River Kishon, his army defeated and in shambles, Sisera crawled away to the tent of Heber, the Kenite, an ally of Sisera’s wicked king. Unbeknownst to the general, Jael, the wife of Heber, was an ally of Israel. She allowed him to presume on the connection with her husband and pretended to go along with his requests for nourishment and refuge. Once Sisera was sleeping soundly, Jael grabbed a hammer and a tent peg, drove it through his skull, and delivered Israel from its violent oppressor.
It is in this spirit that the youngest sister puts phase two of her rescue plan into operation. Forcing Fitcher to bring her parents a bride price in his treacherous basket, she conceals her sisters underneath the dowry, and admonishes the bewildered bridegroom to carry it on his back to her home without stopping to rest, for she will be watching him through her window and know if he falters. The very thing that Fitcher uses for theft and kidnapping is now a transport for restoration and freedom. We have a saying derived from Genesis 50:20: what the devil meant for evil, God turns for our good.
Sure enough, Fitcher stops and rests frequently, panting under the unexpectedly heavy burden. But the sisters are unified now, and they pester and torment him from inside the basket, mimicking their youngest sister’s voice and repeating her command to go on without resting. Finally, he drops the basket inside their parents’ home and trudges back to his house, too winded to cause further trouble. This reminds me of Jesus describing the way demons travel to and fro, seeking dry places to rest, meaning areas and people where the Spirit of God is not permitted to flourish. Remember that water is associated with the Holy Spirit. Jesus explains in Matthew 12: 43-44:
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.”
It is interesting then, that when Fitcher encounters the youngest sister on the road in disguise, she tells him that the bride has “swept all clean” in the house.
Our heroine has been hard at work, but not at cleaning house. She has invited the wizard’s dastardly friends for a wedding feast that will not take place. She has prepared the banquet like a sugar ant trap, luring the guests into one spot for a meal they cannot possibly digest before they are destroyed. To cover her tracks before escaping, the girl erects a grotesque body double in the garret window to make it appear as though she has been keeping watch for the wizard’s return. The garret window would be located in the upper room of the house. Upper rooms symbolize the mind, and a person’s innermost thoughts, desires, or secrets. It is fitting that she uses a skull (probably recovered from the vat) as the bride’s head, because Fitcher is in love with death. He is obsessed with it; his home is dedicated to it and he takes perverse delight in causing it. This is our protagonist’s own private joke. “If you love death so much, why don’t you marry it?”
Then the young woman dunks herself in a barrel of honey, tears open a featherbed, and rolls around in it, performing a gentler version of tar and feathering on herself. Why does she do this? Tarring and feathering is done with boiling hot tar as a punishment for criminals, to shame them and cause them physical agony. Our heroine uses honey instead of tar as a rebellion against her would-be groom. Honey is used to represent wisdom and Godly words in the Bible. It is food in wilderness and transition settings as seen in Exodus, Judges, and the Gospels. Looking at it this way, rather than coating herself in shame and the lies of the wizard, the youngest sister is covering herself head to toe in truth, wisdom and Godly words, preparing herself for her daring flight from the house of death. Psalm 91:4 says that God “will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.” The young woman has chosen a disguise that reflects the spiritual protection surrounding her. The effect is beautiful and intriguing rather than disfiguring, and no one, not even her Bluebeard groom, recognizes her as the bride. In this form, she is free to fly from her prison.
I love that she rescues herself in the end. She has set a trap to ensure the success of anyone who comes to avenge her family, but she will be saved whether the wizard and his friends are destroyed or not. Her bravery encourages her older sisters to open their mouths and speak up against what has been done to them and the other women of their village, inspiring everyone else to rise up and take action, ensuring that Fitcher and his associates can never ruin another life. Their punishment is executed Revelation style, with the murderer and his hoard being consumed by fire
As daughters of the Living God, we are meant to spur each other on to right the wrongs in this world and rescue our brothers and sisters. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, but we need to be brave enough to pray and act against injustice. The more time we spend in the Word, the more skilled we’ll be at tearing down the lies of the enemy with the truth. We have each been given a unique skillset by God to reach the people in our immediate spheres and beyond. Sharpen your sword, ezer kenegdo, and use the tools you have to set captives free and speak God’s kingdom into this earth.
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