Forgiveness and Redemption

legends of Aarne-Thompson-Uther types 755 and 756

translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2001-2019


  1. Tannhäuser (Germany).

  2. The Woman Who Had No Shadow (Scandinavia).

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Noble Tannhäuser, a German knight, had traveled through many lands. He even visited the beautiful women of the Mountain of Lady Venus, hoping to see what great miracles occurred there. After sojourning there for a while, with joy and contentment, his conscience finally directed him to return to the world, and he asked to take leave.

Lady Venus, however, tempted him with whatever it might take to make him change his mind. She offered him one of her comrades for a wife, pointing out her red lips that never ceased smiling.

Tannhäuser answered that he desired no woman other than the one he was now thinking of, nor did he want to burn forever in hell. He was not interested in the red lips. He did not want to stay here any longer, for to do so would destroy his life.

Then the she-devil tried to lure him into her room, tempting him with love, but the noble night cursed her loudly, calling upon the Heavenly Virgin to help him escape.

Filled with remorse, he set forth toward Rome in order to confess his sins to Pope Urban, and thus do penance to save his soul. However, after he confessed that he had remained an entire year with Lady Venus in her mountain, the Pope said: "Not until leaves begin to grow on this dry stick that I am holding in my hand, will your sins will be forgiven!"

Tannhäuser said: "Had I but had only one more year to live, I would have shown remorse and done penance such that God would have taken mercy on me." Grieving that the Pope had cursed him, he left the city and returned to the demonic mountain, intending to stay there forever and ever. Lady Venus welcomed him as one welcomes a long absent lover.

Three days later leaves began to grow on the stick, and the Pope sent messengers throughout the country, attempting to discover where Tannhäuser had gone. But it was too late. He was inside the mountain and had chosen a lover.

There he will remain until Judgment Day, at which time God may send him to a different place. And a priest should never discourage a sinner but should forgive all who present themselves with remorse and penance.

The Woman Who Had No Shadow


Once there was a pastor's wife who was afraid to have children. Other women are concerned when they have no children, but she was constantly afraid that she could have children.

One day she went to a wise woman, a wicked witch, and asked her what to do to avoid having children. The wise woman gave her seven stones and told her if she would throw them into the well she would be spared from having children.

The pastor's wife threw the stones into the well. As each stone splashed below, she thought that she heard the cry of a child, but still she felt a great sense of relief.

Some time later the pastor and his wife were walking across the churchyard by the light of a full moon, when the pastor suddenly noticed that his wife did not have a shadow. This frightened him, and he asked her for an explanation, stating that she must have committed a dreadful sin, a sin that she would have to confess to him.

He continued to press her for a confession, until finally she admitted what she had done. Upon hearing her story, he angrily proclaimed, "Cursed woman! Flowers will grow from our slate roof before God forgives you of this sinful deed!" With that he sent her away, telling her to never again step across his threshold.

One night, many years later, a wretched and tattered beggar woman approached the parsonage and asked for shelter. The housekeeper gave the poor woman a bit to eat and made a bed for her next to the kitchen stove.

The next morning the pastor found the beggar woman dead on the kitchen floor. In spite of her rags, he recognized her immediately as the woman he had cursed and disowned. As he stood there contemplating her lifeless, but serene face, his housekeeper burst into the room. "Pastor!" she exclaimed. "Come outside! A miracle has happened during the night!" The pastor followed her outside and saw that his slate roof was covered with blossoming flowers.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised September 9, 2019.