And obligingly, she does. Well, the machine in the tower does. It’s not low enough to catch hold of and climb up but it kept a lot of loud-voiced fathers (and a certain husband) occupied. (Soon I will embed here a video of this event. For now, the technological wizardry of movie transfer has defeated me. I await the intervention of my actor and movie-maker child.)
This place is a fairytale come almost true. In fact, it’s a plethora of them.
Not only do the grounds at Ludwigsburg, about 12 km north of Stuttgart‘s city centre, contain three palaces, a Japanese garden, a parterre garden, a conservatory, ponds, fountains, fruit trees, glorious displays of colourful blooms, and a flurry of bridal parties and photographers making use of it all, they also have a huge area devoted to fairy and folk tale buildings and characters.
Come with me.
For many of us, weaned on tales from around the world, the palace acts as a symbol, a marker of an alternative or deeper reality, an exploration of cultural imagination. Its presence in a story signifies departure into the realm of story and archetype.
One might thus expect a physical palace to blur the lines of fantasy and reality. Ironically, it pushed the line of fantasy further away for me. My mind jumped to the real people, sans glass slippers, transformative sticks and talking mirrors, who have lived here. But my mental response was different in the fairytale landscape.
All around me, fairy and folktales had manifested in the physical world.
Even as I pondered their construction, it was a magical experience. ‘Magical’ happens when one allows oneself to remember or be in another time and self; to be alive in a fantastical moment – knowing all the while that one doesn’t quite believe. ‘Magical’ is flying on the end of a kite string, aware of its connection to the earthly mountains below. One can immerse in the sensation, knowing one will not slip off into the stratosphere of wild beliefs.
Fairy and folktales tap into our deep experience of what it is to be human. We experience and understand them at multiple levels of reality as they speak to us about human nature.
Seeing the witch pop her head out of the sweet-laden cottage one confronts abandonment, deceit, physical hardship, bravery, resourcefulness, care for others and transformation – to name a few.
Knowing oneself through the other, that is the timeless pleasure and instruction of story and this place’s service to us.