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Seven Ravens

The Seven Ravens, illustrated by Franz Stassen

Seven Ravens is a classic fairy tale from the collection by Brothers Grimm. This picture book is a combination of full-colored and black and white line drawings, published by Mainz, Scholz in 1910 as number 13 in their collection of fairy tale books. It was republished several times.

Here is an edition with a cover on red background:

And the edition from 1920, for instance, has a redesigned cover with decorative borders made of flower stalks with characteristic fairy elements.

The story is not among the best-known ones anymore, so we'll recap it with Franz Stassen's illustrations.

It was customary to start with a so-called frontispiece. In this case, this is a scene where the girl starts making shirts for her cursed brothers. It's not the most dramatic scene in the story yet it's a decisive point for her character. She'll have to sacrifice a lot before her mission is completed.

The story starts with the birth of the first daughter in the family with seven sons. She was so weak they were sent to bring some water for her christening. Parents were afraid she could die before her soul was protected. But boys spilled the water and father cursed them.

They were transformed into ravens. The daughter grew up without knowing she has brothers. But eventually, she finds out and decides to rescue them. The task won't be easy. She must make seven shirts of nettles and stay silent until the last one is finished. (Time to revisit the frontispiece?)

She stays in the forest for many years until a king finds her. He falls in love and wants her for his wife. She can't speak and she still works on shirts yet she likes him too.

She accepts his invitation to the castle.

When they arrive further problems arise.

While the wedding ceremony goes well, she is not accepted at everybody.

She seems strange. She never talks, she never laughs, and it seems some ravens follow her wherever she goes.

The new queen is all about good deeds but her night activities look strange even to her husband. Why is she making the shirts? Of course, she can't explain that.

Finally, she is accused of witchcraft. She can't defend herself. If she speaks, her brother would stay ravens forever.

She is thrown into a dungeon.

Her husband still loves her but he can't rescue her either. And she still doesn't speak. she just wants to make shirts.

Finally, the shirts are made and delivered to the ravens.

The time of her sacrifice is over. Her brothers come right on time to explain why she behaved as she did. The curse is defeated and she can speak again. Her happiness with the king and their kids is restored.

This version is one of two possibilities. It's best known from Andersen's retelling of the same story under the title Six Swans. The other version of Seven Ravens starts with the same issues but instead of silence and shirts she has to find the new home of her brothers. She must overcome a few dangers, get a magic object, and finally make a sacrifice. The ending is the same  - a happy reunion with her brothers.
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