A Carpenter found himself in Heaven and he enjoyed exploring the Grand Hall which was lined with row upon row of satin covered chairs, one for each of the Saints. At the head of the Grand Hall stood a massive throne that was intricately carved and of the highest construction. Wanting to get a closer look the Carpenter waited until the Grand Hall was empty to investigate.
From a distance what appeared to be ornately carved scroll work on the wooden parts of the throne were in fact detailed representations various creatures from the animal kingdom. The arms of the throne were carved to look like intertwined snakes and lizards, the flat back like a manta ray, the legs of the chair were like totem poles of smaller animals, and so on. But the most fascinating aspect of the throne was that the seat had been carved into an elaborate shuttered mechanism which would open like a camera iris and provided a clear view of the Earth below! The slightest shift of the Carpenter’s gaze through this viewing portal would allow him to view any one of the millions of people below. Surely, thought the Carpenter, this is how One keeps track of Creation.
Then the Carpenter noticed something odd. In his gaze he caught sight of a man in a Great Hall on Earth that looked very similar to the one in Heaven. The man on Earth looked almost identical to the Carpenter. He watched in fascination as the man went up to the throne in the identical Great Hall and looked through a hole in the seat into what he imagined to be Hell. It was as if watching a child mimic what an adult has done, thought the Carpenter. But on Earth the man made some kind of adjustment to the throne, removed a part of it, and threw it into the portal toward Hell. This action so enraged the Carpenter for some reason that he immediately began searching for something to throw down to Earth to let the man there know he had been seen. Finding nothing in the Great Hall to throw the Carpenter did as he’d seen and removed a foot from the throne – a detailed carving of a turtle – and hurled it through the portal where it struck the man on Earth on the head. Confused, the man looked up toward the heavens and when he did the Carpenter had a clear view of the portal to Hell, which turned out not to look like Hell at all but another Great Hall. Peering deeper he saw another Great Hall beyond that, and another beyond that.
Suddenly the Carpenter was struck upon the head by a heavy object that fell from the sky above. He picked up the object and was surprised to find it was an exact replica of the carved turtle he had thrown at the man on Earth. Looking up the Carpenter saw a viewing portal in the sky with a man who looked very much like him peering down, and over his shoulder was another viewing portal, and beyond that another.
“What did you expect, Carpenter?” the One said, attaching the newly-arrived replacement foot to his throne . “It’s turtles all the way ’round.”
The New Grimmoire is my take on the stories found in The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm edited by Jack Zipes. This tale, number 260, originally published in 1818 and credited to Wilhelm, featured a tailor who witnesses another tailor throwing cloth into hell. At the end God points out that he He’d punished the tailor in heaven for all his similar transgressions he’d no longer have any part of a chair to throw. Somewhere in my head I dredged up the oft-repeated paradox of the world resting on the back of a turtle, which itself is on the back of a turtle, and so on, turtles all the way down. I thought it might be fun to suggest in “all the way ’round” that instead of a straight line, time and space are curved into a circular infinity.
I’m not sure what die Brüder Grimm (or Professor Zipes for that matter) would make of this version.