Goethe’s Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily
In 1794, Goethe and Schiller were engaged in a correspondence concerning the connection of the human soul with the world of the senses on one hand and with the suprasensory on the other. While Schiller approached the question in a philosophical way, Goethe embodied his thoughts in a fantasy entitled The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily.
In his fantasy, Lily represents the ideal world of the suprasensory that is separated from the Green Snake, or the sensory, by a river. The goal is to build a bridge across the river that will connect the sensory and the suprasensory realms, and thereby establish a new, conscious spiritual awareness. The other characters in the fairy tale - the Ferryman, the Old Woman, the Youth, the Will-o’-Wisps, and the Old Man with the Lamp represent various aspects of the soul working together to accomplish this mighty task.
About the Author
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) is a giant of German and world literature. Indeed, he coined the term Weltliteratur and spoke Greek, Latin, French, English, and Italian. In addition to its profound quality, the volume of work during his eighty-two-year lifetime is impressive. Among other works, Goethe wrote a worldwide, bestselling novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers, 1774), volumes of poetry, and several dramas, including his masterwork Faust— a massive two-volume work that was not entirely finished by the time of the poet’s death. Goethe also engaged in painting and science, from which came his Theory of Color (“Farbenlehre”) among other scientific works—a collected edition that Rudolf Steiner edited and introduced as a young man (see Nature’s Open Secret). Indeed, Goethe’s body of scientific and philosophical works was one of the most important influences in the development of Rudolf Steiner’s early work and for Anthroposophy as a whole.