Monday, 29 May 2017

Murder Ballad Monday-- The Little Bone (Switzerland)

Welcome to part 6 of Murder Story Monday. This week I am looking at another version of The Singing Bone from Switzerland. This is an unusual version in that the bone does not speak/sing, but bleeds in order to reveal the guilty party. Apparently, it was widely believed in medieval Europe that a murdered corpse (or any of its parts) would bleed in the presence of the murderer.

We see this idea in William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Richard III, act 1, scene 2 where Lady Anne is speaking to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who has murdered her husband King Henry VI .

O, gentlemen, see, see! dead Henry's wounds
Open their congeal'd mouths and bleed afresh.
Blush, blush, thou lump of foul deformity;
For 'tis thy presence that exhales this blood
From cold and empty veins, where no blood swells;
Thy deed, inhuman and unnatural,
Provokes this deluge most unnatural.

I could not find a version that featured a bleeding bone in any of my fairy tale collections, so this story is unique to me. If anyone else knows of a fairy tale/folk tale that features a bleeding bone, please let me know. 

This story  was also collected and retold by Swiss folklorist Otto Sutermeister in his 1873 book Kinder- und Hausmärchen aus der Schweiz. (Children and Domestic Fairy Tales from Switzerland)

This version came from here.
                                 Image result for tibia fibula graphic fairy

The Little Bone
Many years ago, a wicked man lived in a pasture hut. Like other herdsmen, he spent the summer there with his cattle. He was quick tempered and arrogant. He had a poor servant boy, whom he tormented in every possible way with hard work, rough words, and cruel blows. One day he gave the boy a task to do which beyond his strength. He was then overcome by such anger that he grabbed the boy and thrust his head into a a kettle of milk that was being boiled in order to separate it. Thus the boy died, and the herdsman threw his body into a mountain creek. Back at home he said, "The stupid boy must have been carried away by a rockslide. He went off to milk the goats, but never came back."

Many years passed, and the boys' bones hung unavenged on a cliffy bank of the mountain creek. From time to time a particularly strong rush of water would pick up one of the little bones, play with it for a while, and then leave it lying on a remote bank.

Once it happened that there was a fair in the valley. Everyone was making merry. The wicked herdsman, drugged by the wine, music, and dance, had lost all humility and good sense, and was reveling in his sinfulness. It was too hot for him inside, so he went out to the creek, which, swollen by a heavy, warm rain, was rushing by much stronger than usual. He kneeled down and took off his hat to scoop up some water. He drank the water that had run into his hat, but at the bottom he found a small white bone. He stuck it onto his hat and returned to the hall.

Suddenly the little bone began to bleed; and now everyone knew what had happened to the boy. The festivities were quickly brought to a close, and the evildoer was taken forthwith to the place of execution.

1 comment:

  1. These stories remind me of scary stories we'd tell at sleepovers! I can envision you dramatically telling one of these with a flashlight under your chin to a captivated group of junior high girls! (Shiver....)