Monday, 1 May 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Singing Bones (French Louisiana)

Hello and welcome to the next part of Murder Story Monday. Last week I introduced the idea of the ATU classification system for folk tales and the first prose version of The Singing Bones that follows the same theme as Child ballad 10, The Twa Sisters.

This week our version of the story hails from my homeland. Not just America, but specifically Louisiana. This version was collected by AlcĂ©e Fortier in the book Louisiana Folk-Tales in French Dialect and English Translation  in 1895,  Fortier's source for the tale was "an old negress, 77 Esplanade Avenue [New Orleans]."

This version bears more than a passing resemblance to the Grimm's fairy tale The Juniper Tree. 
In that tale, the stepmother kills her stepson and feeds the boy to his father in the form of a stew. Little Sister Marlene saw the fate of her brother and refused to eat the stew, but instead carried the bones and buried them beneath the Juniper tree. The boy was reborn in the form of bird who sang a pretty song which said:

My mother, she killed me,
My father, he ate me,
My sister Marlene,
Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,
Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I.

The bird sang his song to the goldsmith, the shoemaker and the miller who gave him a gold chain, a pair of red shoes and a millstone. He gave the gold chain the the father, the red shoes to his sister and dropped the millstone on his wicked stepmother. (I always loved this tale, but struggled to believe that a tiny bird could carry a millstone round his neck like a collar. But I suppose he was an enchanted bird.)

If you'd like to read a version of the Juniper Tree then please go here.

Here is this week's version of the Singing Bones.

                              Image result for bones pen and ink hand graphics fairy

This version comes from here.

The Singing Bones
French Louisiana

Once upon a time there lived a man and a woman who had twenty-five children. They were very poor. The man was good, the woman was bad. Every day when the husband returned from his work the wife served his dinner, but always meat without bones.

"How is it that this meat has no bones?"
"Because bones are heavy, and meat is cheaper without bones. They give us more for the money."
The husband ate, and said nothing.
"How is it you don't eat meat?"
"You forget that I have no teeth. How do you expect me to eat meat without teeth?"
"That is true," said the husband, and he said nothing more, because he was afraid to grieve his wife, who was as wicked as she was ugly.

When one has twenty-five children one cannot think of them all the time, and one does not see if one or two are missing. One day, after his dinner, the husband asked for his children. When they were by him he counted them, and found only fifteen. He asked his wife where were the ten others. She answered that they were at their grandmother's, and every day she would send one more for them to get a change of air. That was true, every day there was one that was missing.
One day the husband was at the threshold of his house, in front of a large stone which was there. He was thinking of his children, and he wanted to go and get them at their grandmother's, when he heard voices that were saying:

Our mother killed us,
Our father ate us.
We are not in a coffin,
We are not in the cemetery.

At first he did not understand what that meant, but he raised the stone and saw a great quantity of bones, which began to sing again. He then understood that it was the bones of his children, whom his wife had killed, and whom he had eaten. Then he was so angry that he killed his wife, buried his children's bones in the cemetery, and stayed alone at his house.
From that time he never ate meat, because he believed it would always be his children that he would eat. 

That's all for this weeks Murder Story Monday. Stay tuned next week for a version of The Singing Bones from Antigua. 

1 comment:

  1. Gory tale, but fascinating! 77 Esplande Ave...I'm going to have to check that out next time I'm in NOLA!