The Brother’s Grimm (and their fairy tales) always have a preoccupation with law and order, with strict rules and fierce religious retribution and “The Ear of Corn”, this week’s fairy tale, showcases this extremely well. It is incredibly short so I will just quote the two paragraphs here.
In former times, when God himself still walked the earth, the fruitfulness of the soil was much greater than it is now; then the ears of corn did not bear fifty or sixty, but four or five hundred-fold. Then the corn grew from the bottom to the very top o f the stalk, and according to the length of the stalk was the length of the ear. Men however are so made, that when they are too well off they no longer value the blessings which come from God, but grow indifferent and careless. One day a woman was passing by a corn-field when her little child, who was running beside her, fell into a puddle, and dirtied her frock. On this the mother tore up a handful of the beautiful ears of corn, and cleaned the frock with them.
When the Lord, who just then came by, saw that, he was angry, and said, “Henceforth shall the stalks of corn bear no more ears; men are no longer worthy of heavenly gifts.” The by-standers who heard this, were terrified, and fell on their knees and prayed that he would still leave something on the stalks, even if the people were undeserving of it, for the sake of the innocent birds which would otherwise have to starve. The Lord, who foresaw their suffering, had pity on them, and granted the request. So the ears were left as they now grow.
Certainly a cautionary tale (as so many Grimm tales are) for gratefulness and a warning never to take bounty and plenty for granted. Be thankful, yes, but the subtext is or else.
I couldn’t help thinking of the out cry that came when people first started talking about using Soybeans for fuel. In a time when so many people are suffering from world wide food shortages to take that food and use it to power a car instead of feeding a starving person resulted in an outcry around the world. As Americans our image was already suffering from two unwieldy wars, a poorly spoken president, our flounce from the United Nations. Now this was made all the worse by essentially, well, ripping plentiful food off the stalk and using it to wipe off our dirty frocks.
I’m not against finding alternative forms of fuel, I think oil dependence is something I will see fade out in my generation. I do think that soybeans replacing oil in the millions of cars, planes, boats, trains, and factories in this country is a pipe dream that people just haven’t bothered thinking through to its logical conclusion. Look up how much oil we use, look up how much soybean we would need to use to equate that, then figure out how much of the food, the fields of other food, and so on that “we don’t use” we would have to give up to make that a reality.
Hopefully reality isn’t as cruel as a German fairy tale. Be thankful.