Halloween Meltdown ’13: The Rye-Mother

Two in one day? Madness! Well yesterday’s post came in in the wee hours, so I’m pretending it doesn’t count.

This is a good one, what with it being the end of summer and nearly time for the harvest. As you jerks in the northern hemisphere enjoy the cooler weather and the farmers’ markets and the pumpkin lattes, keep in mind that this lady may be hiding somewhere in that picturesque scenery, waiting for the right moment. That’ll learn you.

D.L. Ashlimann, an American folklorist formerly of University of Pittsburgh, gives this translation of a story about the Roggenmuhme, the Rye-Mother, from the Grimms’ Deutsche Sagen:

The Rye-Mother

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, German Legends

The rural people of Mark Brandenburg tell the legend of the Rye-Mother who hides in grain fields. For this reason children do not dare to walk into a grain field.

In Altmark children a kept silent with the words: “Hold your mouth or the Rye-Mother, with her long black tits, will come and take you away!”

In the vicinity of Braunschweig and Lüneburg she is called the Grain-Wife. Children seeking cornflowers tell one another stories about how she steals little children; and hence they do not dare go too far into the green fields.

In the year 1662 a woman from Saalfeld told Prätorius the following story: A nobleman from there forced one of his subjects, a woman who had given birth less than six weeks earlier, to help bind sheaves during the harvest. The woman, who was still nursing her baby, took it with her to the field. In order better to perform her work, she laid the child on the ground. Some time later, the nobleman, who was present there, saw an Earth-Woman with a child come and exchange it for the peasant woman’s child. The false child began to cry. The peasant woman hurried to it in order to nurse it, but the nobleman held her back, saying that he would tell her the reason in good time. The woman thought that he was doing this in order to make her work harder, which caused her great concern. Meanwhile, the child cried incessantly, until finally the Rye-Mother returned, picked up the crying child, and layed the stolen child back in its place.

After seeing all of this transpire, the nobleman summoned the peasant woman and told her to return home. And from that time forth he resolved to never again force a woman who had recently given birth to work. [1]

I’d never heard of the Rye-Mother until I stumbled on the following video, which is decidedly creepier than the Grimm’s version. Her “long black tits” don’t make an appearance here, thankfully, but the twisted maternal imagery is still there, a good horror standby when done properly. (When done poorly, you get Mama.)

Anyway, enjoy–and drink some lattes for me.


[1] Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, Die Roggenmuhme, Deutsche Sagen, no. 90. Cited in D.L. Ashlimann, “German Changeling Legends” (1998-2005). http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/gerchange.html#GrimmRyeMother

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6 thoughts on “Halloween Meltdown ’13: The Rye-Mother

    • Haha, yeah, the fairy one had more substance. But I agree, I really liked the style of this.

      Actually, it reminds me of an awesome animated miniseries from the ’90s that would make a great post topic…

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