Thursday, 19 September 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--How a Pious Greengrocer Tested His Daughter's Virtue (India, 1895)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

This week we look at a tale from India. According to the source is:

The Jataka; or, Stories of the Buddha's Former Births, translated from the Pali by various hands, under the editorship of E. B. Cowell; vol. 2, translated by W. H. D. Rouse (Cambridge: University Press, 1895). 

This one differs from other tales we have looked at as the father does not actually want to have sex with his daughter, it is just a test to see if his daughter is a disreputable slut. Then, once he finds she is innocent and upset by the fact that the one who should love her best treats her with violence, he gives her away to a man in marriage because she is his property. There are so many things about this tale that make me angry, I do not know where to begin.

There are many ballads and poems and stories about men testing their sweetheart to see if she is true or not then rewarding her with marriage when she proves to be virtuous. I have never liked this genre of literature. It is much harder to find works where the woman tests the man. They are there I am sure, but few and far between compared to ones where the man tests the woman. If you can think of one, please leave me a comment below.

There is also that issue, which is still around today, where a father “gives” his daughter away. In the past it was a literal transfer because women were viewed as property, but today it is symbolic. You still see it at modern weddings when a father walks his daughter down the aisle and gives her away. I have no trouble with a parent who wants to walk his beloved daughter down the aisle, but the idea of transferring her from one man to another really rankles me. We solved this at our wedding by getting married in a church with two aisles—my parents walked me down one aisle and my husband’s parents walked him down the other and then we made the voluntary choice to be joined.

This really doesn’t fit the Cinderella motif that we have been looking at except for the father wanting to have sex with her bit. So why did I include it? Mainly, I wanted it included as these stories all show the difficult circumstances women have faced. That they are second class citizens, that marriage really is the only way they can raise their status. They hope to marry for love, but many of the heroines we have looked at marry an abuser because having the protection of an abusive man is better than having no protection at all.

This story bothers me because as her father calls her the town whore and pretends to rape her, he looks for a certain reaction. He wants to see her protest that she is virtuous. But what does non-consent look like? What if she had frozen? What if after the person she trusted the most in the world called her a slut and pawed at her body she could not move and stood like a deer in the headlights? What if she was too afraid to cry out? Would he have found her virtuous then? But because she has the reaction he expected, he is well pleased and marries her off to a young man.

At least it wasn’t an old man.

Image result for indian wedding sad bride
Seggu-Jataka: How a Pious Greengrocer Tested His Daughter's Virtue source

This story the Master told, while dwelling at Jetavana, about a greengrocer who was a lay-brother. The circumstances have been already given in the First Book [Jataka 102]. Here again the Master asked him where he had been so long; and he replied, "My daughter, Sir, is always smiling. After testing her, I gave her in marriage to a young gentleman. As this had to be done, I had no opportunity of paying you a visit.”

To this the Master answered, "Not now only is your daughter virtuous, but virtuous she was in days of yore; and as you have tested her now, so you tested her in those days. And at the man's request he told an old-world tale:

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was a tree spirit. This same pious greengrocer took it into his head to test his daughter. He led her into the woods, and seized her by the hand, making as though he had conceived a passion for her.

And as she cried out in woe, he addressed her in the words of the first stanza:

All the world's on pleasure bent;
Ah, my baby innocent!
Now I've caught you, pray don't cry;
As the town does, so do I.

When she heard it, she answered, "Dear Father, I am a maid, and I know not the ways of sin"; and weeping she uttered the second stanza:

He that should keep me safe from all distress,
The same betrays me in my loneliness;
My father, who should be my sure defence,
Here in the forest offers violence.

And the greengrocer, after testing his daughter thus, took her home, and gave her in marriage to a young man. Afterwards he passed away according to his deeds.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week as we begin to look at Cinderella in picture book form (unless I find another story worth sharing in the mean time!)

No comments:

Post a Comment