Friday, December 28, 2012

the old grandfather and his grandson, a lesser known grimm's fairytale

I've been so busy working on a new novel that I've let this blog slide. I'm battling with words and with pages, which doesn't require weapons so much as it does time, and of time there's never enough. Only  so many minutes in an hour, hours in a day, days per week--though in my case that promises to change soon. Very soon. There's a riddle for you: how I'm going to stretch my hours.

When I began this blog I'd said that I would occasionally translate a Grimm's story from the book my grandfather sent when I was a child. Here I've chosen a short one... to ease myself away from the holiday mood and back to my desk.

"The Old Grandfather and his Grandson"
There was once a very old man. His eyes had grown bleary, his ears deaf, his knees trembled. When he sat at the table, he could hardly hold his spoon and spilled soup on the tablecloth, and sometimes it dribbled from his mouth too. His son and his son's wife were disgusted, and decided that the old grandfather should sit in the corner behind the stove. They gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and even then didn't fill it. Saddened, he gazed at the table and his eyes grew wet. One time his hands shook so much that he couldn't hold his bowl and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing, only sighed. She bought a wooden dish for a few cents, and that was his now. And so they sat: the old man in the corner behind the stove, the husband and wife at the table. The four-year-old grandson was on the floor trying to fit small pieces of wood together. "What are you doing?" asked his father. "I'm making a little trough," answered the child,"that Mother and Father will have to eat from it when I'm big." Husband and wife looked at each other for a while, finally began to cry, and fetched the old grandfather to the table and let him eat with them from then on, and said nothing, even when he spilled food.

This story affected me as a child. Maybe because the simple settling of justice appealed to my child's sense of right and wrong. Maybe because the four-year-old child is the hero.
Today I found the story by flipping through the pages and looking for the illustration which I still remember.
The German is confusing with its grandfather, son, husband, wife, mother, father, grandson. The perspective changes every sentence.
I'm not sure how to translate the Tröglein, which the child wants to build for his parents. Was it a kind of dish or basin that doesn't exist in modern kitchens? Trog means trough--see the similarity in spelling--but a trough sounds more appropriate for a barn. In German the suffix lein gets added to any number of nouns to shrink the size. A Tisch is a table and a little table is a Tischlein.
It doesn't work with every noun, but if you see a German word with lein on the end, think small. That's my free blog advice for the end of 2012.

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