Wounds: New Openings Into Old Stories
Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.
This week we look at a variation on last week’s tale of All-Kinds-Of-Fur. In many of the tales, the incest is just implied (the father had an “unnatural” desire to marry his daughter or he was forced into it because she was the only one who could fit his late wife’s ring) but this tale goes full out on the incest front. It was collected by German scholar and father of Albanian studies, Johann Georg von Hahn who studied law and worked in the newly founded kingdom of Greece. He published Griechische und albanesische Märchen (Greek and Albanian Folk Tales) in 1864.
What makes this story quite so serious is the way it is condoned by the church. She is a God-fearing young woman and pleads with him to ask the Bishop, certain that the clergy will back her up. The father couches his request in hypothetical language by saying, "If someone has a lamb that he himself has cared for and raised, is it better that he should eat it, or that another person should eat it?" to which the Bishop replies that he should eat it. I am not really sure if the Bishop is thinking literally or figuratively here, but either way it is disconcerting.
Like many other tales under the ATU 510b heading, our heroine agrees to marry her father but only after certain conditions are met. Mostly these requests are for fine dresses, but here she asks for two dresses of pure gold with pockets filled with ducats. This is interesting as our protagonist rarely asks for money, just clothes or a cloak that will be used as a disguise. She also asks for a bed and a shaft that goes ten fathoms deep into the earth. In other versions, she escapes wearing a disguise, but here she just says, “Earth open further” and it does, and she and the bed end up someplace else entirely like when you we were children and tried to “dig to China.” A prince finds her wrapped in an animal skin, but the tale is very vague as to where the skin has come from. It is not clear as in other tales that the animal skin is her disguise and part of her dowry.
In several of these tales our heroine is forced into lowly circumstances in a neighbouring kingdom—most often working as a scullery maid, but in some versions working with farmyard animals. Here she is a Goose Girl who attends the dance and loses a shoe and the story plays out like other versions we know. However, she plays a little trick of her own to get herself notices in her animal skin disguise. She offers to take the Prince water and then carefully splits her animal skin at the knee. Not much, but just enough for her gold dress to show when she kneels before him. He sees the gold and recognises the dress and leaps up to claim his beloved.
Once upon a time there was a king whose wife died, leaving him a small daughter. With time she grew into a beautiful maiden, and when the king saw how beautiful she was he said to her, "I want to marry you. You must become my wife."
"How can you take me for a wife," said the girl, "for I am your daughter."
"That is all the same to me. I want to marry you."
"That is entirely impossible!" said the girl. "Just go to the bishop and listen to what he says. If he says that you are right, then take me in God's name."
So the king went to the bishop and asked, "If someone has a lamb that he himself has cared for and raised, is it better that he should eat it, or that another person should eat it?"
"No," answered the bishop, "it is better for the person to eat it who raised it."
Then the king went back to his daughter and said, "He told me that I may take you."
"If he really told you that you make take me, then take me in God's name. But first make me two dresses of pure gold and fill the pockets with ducats. Also make a bed for me, and a shaft that goes ten fathoms deep into the earth."
When the king had done all this, the girl took the dresses, climbed into the bed, then rode in into the shaft, saying, "Earth, open further." And the earth opened further, and she rode one until she came out at another place, and there she remained.
A prince was hunting there, and he found the girl, wrapped in an animal skin. He approached her and asked, "Are you a human?"
She answered, "Yes, I am a human. May I go with you?"
He replied, "For all I care you may come with me." He took her with him and let her herd the geese.
One day the king gave a feast, and the women began to dance. Then the girl slipped out of her animal skin and went to the ball in her golden dress and danced. The prince saw her and said to himself," Who can that be? When she leaves the ball, I will follow her."
When the ball was over the girl left, and the prince crept after her. She noticed him, and she began to run, and he ran after her. Then the girl took a handful of ducats and threw them to the ground. While the prince was gathering up the gold she slipped away and hid herself in her animal skin.
Then the prince said, "Tomorrow I will give another feast, in order to see who she is."
The next day at the ball the girl came again and danced, and when she left the ball the prince ran after her. While running away she lost a shoe, and while the prince was picking it up, she escaped half barefoot, then hid herself again in her animal skin.
The prince took the shoe and tried it onto all the girls in order to see whom it fitted, but he could not find the right one.
When the servant girls were taking wash water to the king before he ate, the girl split her animal skin a little at her knee so that her gold dress was visible. Then she went to the servant girls and said that she would like to take the water to the king.
But they said, "What? You, a goose girl want to take water to the king?"
"What is the matter?" asked the king.
"The goose girl want to bring your water."
"Then let her do so. Just let her come."
When she knelt down the golden dress shone through the slit. The prince saw this and cried out, "So you are the one who tormented me so!" And with that he took her as his wife.
That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for another version of a poor Donkeyskin.