Short Bibliography on Mythical Thinking. Especially for Men.

The following story is used in meeting 4. It will help the activity succeed if you refrain from reading it prior to the meeting. Only the story teller should read the next two pages.


A soldier who left the army after many years of service had little to live on and did not know what to do. So he went to dwell in the forest and when he had walked for a short time he met a Darkman. The Darkman said "What ails you, you seem very sorrowful?" The soldier said, "I am hungry, but no food fills my hunger". The Darkman said "If you will come and work for me, and be my serving man, I will give you all you need for your life. You shall serve me for seven years and after that you shall be free. But one thing I must tell you, and that is, you must not wash, comb or trim yourself, cut your hair or nails, or wipe the water from your eyes". The man said, "All right, if there is nothing else I can do," and went off with the Darkman, who straight away led him down into hell.

Then he told him what he had to do, he was to poke the fire under the kettles wherein the hell-broth was stewing, keep the house clean, drive all the sweepings behind the doors, and see that everything was in order. But if he once peeked into the kettles, it would go ill with him. The man said, "Good, I will take care." And then the Darkman went out on his wanderings, and the man entered upon his new duties, made the fire, and swept the dirt well behind the doors, just as he had been bidden.

When the old Darkman came back again, he looked to see that all had been done, appeared satisfied, and went forth a second time. The soldier now took a good look all around him. The kettles were standing all round hell with a mighty fire below them and inside they were boiling and sputtering. The man would have given anything to look inside them if the Darkman had not been so forceful in forbidding it.

Finally, he couldn't restrain himself any longer; he raised the lid of the first kettle, peeked in, and there he saw his former sergeant shut in. "Aha you old dork," said he. "Do I meet you here!?! You once had me in your power, now I have you," and he quickly let the lid fall, poked the fire underneath the kettle, and added a fresh log.

After that he went to the second kettle, raised its lid and found, inside, his former captain. "Aha you old dork, so I find you here! You once had me in your power, now I have you." He closed the lid again and fetched yet another log to make the fire really hot.

Then he wanted to see who might be shut up in the third kettle - it was the general. "Aha you old dork," he shouted. 'You once had me in your power, now I have you," and he fetched the bellows and made the hell-fire flare up hot under the kettles.

He did his work for the Darkman for seven years, did not wash, comb or trim himself, did not cut his hair or nails, or wash the water out of his eyes, and the seven years seemed so short to him that he thought he had only been half a year.

Now, when the time had fully gone by, the Darkman came and asked "What have you done?" "I have poked the fire under the kettles and I have swept all the dirt well behind the doors," said the man. "But you have peeked into the kettles as well! It's lucky for you that you added fresh logs and increased the heat or your life would have been over. Now that your time's up, will you go home again?" "Yes," said the man, "I would very much like to see what my father is doing at home." The Darkman said, "In order to receive what you have earned, go and fill your knapsack full of the sweepings, and take it home with you. You must also go unwashed and uncombed, with long hair on your head and beard, and with uncut nails and dim eyes, and when you are asked where you come from you must say 'From hell, and when you are asked who you are you are to say, 'The Darkman's sooty brother, and my King as well'."

The man held his piece and did what the Darkman told him to, but he was not at all satisfied with what he had earned. As soon as he was back up in the forest he took his knapsack and was about to dump it, but upon opening it the sweepings had become pure gold. "I wouldn't have expected that!" said he, and was well pleased and entered town.

The innkeeper was standing in front of the inn, and when he saw the man he was frightened because the soldier looked so horrible, worse than a scarecrow. He called to him and asked, "Whence comest thou?" "From hell." "Who art thou?" "The Darkman's sooty brother and my King as well." The innkeeper would not let him enter, but when the soldier showed him the knapsack full of gold, he unlatched the door.

The soldier ordered the best room and attendance, ate, drank his fill, but neither washed nor combed himself as the Darkman had bidden him, and at last lay down to sleep. But the knapsack full of gold stayed in the innkeeper's mind, and left him no peace, and during the night he crept and stole it away.

Next morning, when the man got up to pay the innkeeper and travel further, behold, his knapsack was gone! But he soon composed himself and thought, "I have been unfortunate from no fault of my own," and straight away went back to hell, complained of his misfortune to the old Darkman, and asked for his help. The Darkman said, "Seat yourself, I will wash, comb and trim you, cut your hair and nails, and wash your eyes for you," and when he was done with him, he gave him back the knapsack full of sweepings. "Go and tell the innkeeper that he must return your money to you or else I will come and fetch him and he shall poke the fire in your place."

The soldier went up and said to the innkeeper, "You have stolen my money; if you do not return it, you will go down to hell in my place and will look as horrible as me." Then the innkeeper gave him the money, and more besides, only begging him to keep it secret.

The soldier was now a rich man. He set out on his way home to his father, bought himself a shabby old coat to wear, and strolled about making music, for he had learned to do that while he was with the Darkman in hell.

There was, however, an old King in that country, before whom he had to play. The King was so delighted with his playing that he promised him his eldest daughter in marriage. But when she heard that she was to be married to a common fellow in an old coat she said, "Rather than do it, I would go into the deepest water."

Then the King gave him the youngest daughter, who was quite willing to do it to please her father, and thus the Darkman's sooty brother got the King's daughter, and, after the aged King had died, the whole kingdom as well.

You may be interested to know that this is a slightly adapted version of The Devil's Sooty Brother from Grimm's.

A simple, Jungian type of interpretation of the story is that after a man has worked in the world for some time he needs to explore his unconscious (the forest) and go into the deeps where parts of him that have been unacceptable to society have been banished (hell - the Darkman is symbolic of the "shadow" side of the personality that needs to be reintegrated into the personality later in life). There he finds that he needs to "cook" those parts of him that are society's rules and standards that he has adhered to (the army personnel) and let his natural self come out (no washing or trimming).

Having tempered social mores with his instinctual and darker aspects, he returns to society a "richer" man. The part of him that wants to be a traditional member of society (the innkeeper) may try to steal these riches away. Having learned how to make music he is ready to work on incorporating the feminine part of his nature (the King's daughter).

Do not reveal this interpretation until your group reaches Step 6 of Activity 1 in Meeting 4.