On the brink of Canadian Thanksgiving, I thought I would step into the fairy tales to see who might give me a new way of thinking about gratitude.

I soon met a young woman who had gone out into the forest to find food for her father. She had become lost, and after getting very upset, she came to a cottage with a light in the window.

Here’s what she said:

I knocked on the door, and a rough voice cried, “Come in.” I stepped into the dark entrance and knocked on the inner door.

“Just come in,” cried the voice. When I opened the door, I saw a grey-haired man sitting at the table. He had his chin in both his hands, and his white beard went almost to the ground. There were three animals lying by the stove: a hen, a cock, and a brindled cow.

I asked if I might be able to spend the night in the cottage, and the old man asked his animals for permission. They agreed to let me stay. I went and stroked the smooth feathers of the two birds, and I caressed the brindled cow between her horns. I made something to eat for myself and the old man, but the animals had nothing, so I went outside for barley and hay.

If I have received any riches in my life, it is only because of the generous animals who feed and clothe us. So why should they go unfed?

The girl and the old man are bound by their respect and appreciation for the animals who give them life. It’s easy to lose that sense of gratitude when the animals aren’t living with us, and come from the supermarket.

Her words also remind me of the blessing that Metis elder Ron Evans once made over a meal we were about to eat. He gave thanks for the lungs that breathe for us, the brain that thinks for us, the heart that beats for us, all from Mother Earth.

If you’d like to meet a character who might inspire your own sense of gratitude, there’s an easy way in. Just go to the Story Finder Themes, and click on Gratitude. There are quite a few characters in there, just waiting to make your acquaintance!


The story comes from: “The Hut in the Forest,” Grimms

The feature illustration is by John B. Gruelle (1880-1938)

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