I is for Iron
Symbols in Stories from Around the World
People can rule “with an iron fist” or lived during the “Iron Age” or cheer a hero named “Iron Man.” This metal is strong and durable and means that across many lands.
Ancient civilizations had the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages. Though the length of time within each age varied by region, it was thought that the Iron Age ended before the rise of the Romans. The Greeks saw iron in much of what they made and attributed the strength of iron to Ares, the god of war. There is even a company today called Ares Iron.
Iron sometimes is within the story indirectly. Blacksmithing and craftsmanship are highly valued in many cultures. These blacksmiths could get big egos and even a bit of mischief in how they interacted with others. Wicked John was nice to St. Peter in disguise, and then received three wishes that got people stuck or trapped within his blacksmithing shop.
The Chinese, the Egyptians, and the Islamic people all saw iron as something evil or representing the underworld. The Chinese dragon, revered and welcomed, iron. As these dragons brought blessings and prosperity to the people, then having iron was not desired. Yet, many European countries saw iron to combat against evil such as witches and vampires.
Iron can fall from the sky and are then known as thunderbolt iron or meteoric iron. Many meteors fell in the Tibetan area and many iron jewelry or weapons made from these pieces were thought to be filled with magic.
In fact, for some European cultures, any found iron was considered lucky. Finding old horseshoes caught on as to hold luck when nailed a certain way above the doorway (pointing up or down is debated). For some African tribes, iron was imbued with the life force. In Southern China, the iron-tree blooms every 60 years and blesses others with longevity. Iron could be represented by the color black and stand for determination and justice. This does contrast with the general view of the Chinese for iron, though it is nice to know that iron has its redeeming qualities.
Some stories that involve iron:
- “Wicked John and the Devil,” American southern tale, a normally wicked man has a good day and gains three wishes and makes it possible to trick the Devil when coming to take the wicked man away
- “Princess and the Glass Mountain” or sometimes known as “Iron John,” Swedish folktale, a dwarf named Iron John is captured by the king and then released by the prince (who must be punished as a result) and this prince eventually saves the princess on the mountain after wearing three different sets of armors (iron being one of them) as a gift from Iron John
- “Loki and the Dwarves,” Norse tale, Loki cut Sif’s golden hair and must trick some dwarves to craft new hair out of gold as well as other legendary pieces such as Thor’s hammer and Odin’s ring Draupnir
What stories do you know that involves iron? Do you know any stories that has blacksmithing? Please comment below and share with others of this post.
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