Thursday, April 27, 2017

X11. Red pepper for the slow ass (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

X in the Motif Index stands for Humor. You would think it would be an endless chapter, but actually it is not all that long. It includes jokes, lies, Münchhausen tales, and the favorite practical jokes of various tricksters ("X34. - Use of itch-producing ointment"). Among them I found a story that my grandfather used to tell... as if it happened to him.

(You know you grew up in the oral tradition when you read folktales and go "But... Grandpa told me he did that!!!")

X11. Red pepper for the slow ass

To my endless surprise, this is originally a Nasreddin Hodja story (I always knew Grandpa was a professional trickster). 

The Hodja has a very stubborn donkey. He goes out to cut firewood, but the donkey refuses to move on the way home. A man rides by on a very vigorously prancing donkey, and the Hodja asks him how he made the animal move so quickly. For a small fee, the man agrees to tell the Hodja his secret.


"Once you are done loading up the firewood, buy some red pepper, and smear it on the donkey's butt. Then you'll see how fast he goes."

The Hodja does just that. The moment the red pepper starts burning, the donkey shoots down the road, running towards home. The Hodja realizes he can't keep up... so he decides to use the same trick on himself. Lo and behold, it works. The Hodja runs so fast that he overtakes the donkey, and gets home first. His wife is in the doorway, and she hears him yelling as he runs past:

"The donkey is right behind me! Please unload him while I run a couple of times around the village..."

(To be clear, my Grandpa claimed to be the other guy, not the Hodja.)

(Found the story in English here, in German here, and in Hungarian here.)

Runner-ups
X31.2. Pig licks sleeping man’s lips: man thinks he is being kissed
X142.1. Dwarf king falls into porridge-pot at court of human king
X222. Tailor always associated with goat
X351. Music teacher charges double for those who have taken music before
X372.3. Eyedrops prescribed for stomach ache so that patient can see what he eats
X372.4.1. Man with cheeks stuffed with food operated on to remove swellings
X413. One-eyed parson in dimly lighted church joins the wrong couples
X435.3. Parson: Where was Christ when he was neither in heaven nor on earth?--He was in the willow-grove looking for a stick to beat those who ask foolish questions
X651. Battle between lice of Strassburg and of Hungary
X1280.1.1. Bumblebees imported to rout mosquitoes; the two insects crossbreed and have stingers on both ends

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

W111.2.5. Boy to see whether there is fire in the house: feels cat to see if she is warm (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

W is for Traits of Character, both favorable and unfavorable. Folktales are full of nice and less nice characters, and their personalities are represented through various actions - some more peculiar than others. Tales depicting extraordinary laziness (W111) are especially entertaining. Observe:

W111.2.5. Boy to see whether there is fire in the house: feels cat to see if she is warm 

This story, commonly known and shared around Europe in the Middle Ages, features an extraordinarily lazy servant. When his lord tells him to get up and see if it rained, the servant calls in the dog instead, to see if it is wet. When asked whether there is enough fire in the house, the servant, instead of checking the fireplace, calls in the cat and pets it, to see if it is warm. When his lord asks why the door has been open all night, the servant answers: "I knew you would ask me to open it in the morning, so I left it open the night before to save myself the trouble."

Let's face it, we all know that person (like someone who asks the phone if it's raining instead of looking out the window). Also, most of us have been that person, from time to time. I know from experience that you sometimes only notice it's raining when the dog comes in soaking wet...

(Read the French version of the story here, the German version of the story here, and the Yiddish version of the story here.)

Runner-ups
W11.9. Prince donates all including a tooth
W11.16. Generous king gives away his only eye
W28.4. Saint threatens to take place of homicide in hell unless soul is released.
W111.1.1.1. Man is burned to death because he is too lazy to put out spark
W111.5.13. Man weeds garden from cushioned rocking chair, using fire tongs to reach weeds
W116.7. Use of strange language to show one’s high education
W128.3. Dissatisfied rivers complain against sea
W152.3. Stingy dead woman raises her head to correct account of laundress, who is overcharging her daughter
W152.7. Spider in stingy woman‘s house grows thin
W152.12.2. Stingy farmer encourages help by promise of hot lunch. The servant discovers that the hot lunch is a mustard sandwich.
W152.14.2. Man saves sausage skins, sends them back for refilling
W212.1. Eager warriors go through tent wall

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

V49.1. Werewolves hold mass (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

V in the Index stands for Religion. It includes tales and motifs that have to do with worship and sacrifices, sins, prayers, funerals, religious festivals, saints, angels, etc., as well as some fairly familiar people: "V211. - Christ," "V250. - The Virgin Mary," and "V294. - The Pope." On a more supernatural note, there is also:

V49.1. Werewolves hold mass

Which is a legend from Gascogne in France.

According to Gascon belief, even though they don't have souls, wolves hold midnight mass every year on New Year's Eve (the night before the feast of St. Sylvester). The mass is performed by a Priest Wolf; there are also Bishop Wolves, Archbishop Wolves, and even a Pope Wolf, allegedly, but no one talks much about them.
Legend says that once there was a wheelwright, who moved away from his home town of Mauvezin when he got married. One year, seven days before the feast of St. Sylvester, a messenger came to him, bringing news that his father was gravely ill. Being too far away to travel fast, the wheelwright went to a seer and asked for help. The seer told him that the only thing that could cure his father was eating the tail of a Priest Wolf - hair, skin, bones, marrow, and all.
In order to acquire the tail, the wheelwright agreed to be turned into a wolf. He spent a week with the other wolves, roaming the woods, killing sheep, and doing other wolf things. On the night of the new year, they all gathered in the woods for the mass. The Priest Wolf was in need of a helper, so the wheelwright-turned-wolf volunteered, and helped him perform the mass from start to finish.
After the mass, the wheelwright stayed behind to help the Priest Wolf undress - and as he did, he bit off its tail and ran away back home. When he got to the seer, he was changed back to a man... except he still had wolf ears (and he was still holding the bloody tail in his mouth). The seer tore the wolf ears off, and a pair of "Christian ears" grew in their place.

I am not entirely sure why Thompson tagged this as "werewolves" - the story just calls them wolves, although they are quite sentient. They even have a Pope.

(Find the original text - in French - here.)

Runner-ups
V1.10.1. Man worships a cake which from time to time he eats
V5.2. Negligent priests buried under bags filled with words omitted from service
V5.3. Devils cause monk to perspire and stay away from church service
V30.1.1. Flesh of Artemis eaten as quail or bear
V34.2. Princess sick because toad has swallowed her consecrated wafer
V41.1. Imprisoned miner kept alive by masses performed by his wife
V61.3.0.3. Man buried upright beneath kitchen stairway in order that he may watch his family
V143. Saint’s bones for lack of worship remove themselves from church
V211.1.6. A “crown of thorns” among gifts given by the shepherds to Joseph, husband of Virgin Mary.
V211.1.8.2. Christ in form of an infant fondled by nuns
V224.4. Performing fox accidentally killed miraculously replaced for saint
V229.2.2. Saintly babe disgorges unclean food
V229.2.3.1. Saint as baby refuses to take mother’s breast on Wednesdays and Fridays.
V229.14. Saint in anger shows strength: wall broken by his kick
V261.2. Virgin pardons man who repented for cheating in election
V346. Skeptic kicked by sacrificial animal
V523. The only king ever saved in spite of himself

Monday, April 24, 2017

U114. Mountain in labor brings forth a mouse (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

U in the Motif Index stands for the (rather short) category of The Nature of Life. It includes stories about injustices and inequalities, and wisdoms about how life is. It includes such entertaining tidbits as "U115. - The skeleton in the closet," or

U114. Mountain in labor brings forth a mouse 

This fable from Aesop is so short, I'm just going to copy and paste it.

"One day people noticed a Mountain in labor; smoke coming out of its summit, the earth quaking at their feet, trees crashing, and huge rocks tumbling. They felt sure something horrible was going to happen. They all gathered together to see what terrible thing this could be. They waited and they waited, but nothing came. Suddenly there was a still more violent earthquake, and a huge gap appeared in the side of the Mountain. The people all fell down upon their knees and waited. At last, a teeny mouse poked its little head and bristles out of the gap and came running down towards them."

Moral of the story: "Don't make much ado about nothing."
Moral of the story according to Phaedrus: "Some people make loud threats but don't deliver."

Read a bunch of versions of the Aseop's fable here. Read the Phaedrus translation here.

Runner-ups
U11.1.1.1. Animals confess sins to lion holding court
U11.2. He who steals much called king; he who steals little called robber
U15.0.1. Dwarf king (fairy) laughs at the absurdities he sees about him
U21.1. Hen complains that man eats her, but she eats ant
U67. Jester takes cow and tells king people have plenty of milk, for “he who is warm thinks everyone else is.”
U68. Optimist becomes pessimist when his money is stolen
U112. Beard on she-goats do not make a male
U119.5. Stories to show that one’s name does not alter his condition
U137. Mill horse when taken to war keeps going in a circle, as he has learned in the mill

Sunday, April 23, 2017

T543.4. Birth from fungus (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

T is the Motif Index stands for Sex (I'll never understand why he could not just make the initials line up...). Also, love ("T92.1. - The triangle plot and its solutions"). Marriage. Chastity. Incest. But no actual sex acts, so if you were hoping for something dirty, you are out of luck. What we do have, however, is all kinds of miraculous births and conceptions. For example:

T543.4. Birth from fungus

This tale from the Ekoi people in Nigeria and Cameroon is called The Fungus Daughter. It starts with a classic folktale motif: A childless couple wishes for a child.
The husband goes out into the bush and searches for a child. Instead, he finds a giant "ebbuya ball" (a sort of puff fungus), and, hoping it would turn into a child, carries it home in his bag. And lo and behold, the fungus indeed turns into a lovely daughter.
When the girl is old enough, she is sent to the fatting-house (a place of seclusion where she is supposed to fatten up to be healthy and attractive). A slave girl is supposed to care for her, but she refuses: "You are not the proper daughter of those whom you call parents. You are nothing but an ebbuya ball!"
Hearing these unkind words, the fungus girl returns to the bush, and turns back into a puffball. Her parents find out from a servant boy what happened, and the father goes out to search the bush for ebbuya balls again - but none of them turns into a child ever again. The story claims that if she had not been hurt by unkind words, people could still get children from puffballs.

Fungus children are children too.

(Read the story here.)

Runner-ups
T10.3. Girl continually falling in love
T11.4.4. Love through seeing marks of lady’s teeth in fruit which she has bitten
T76. Princess calls her suitors ugly names
T85.3. The Pot of Basil. Mistress keeps murdered lover‘s skull in flower-pot
T99.1. Death from excess of women
T117.5. Marriage with a tree
T126.2. Marriage of mountain and cockle-shell
T146.2. Woman requires thirty men
T322.1. Woman kicks lecherous monk down the stairs
T333.5. Hero cuts off head and wraps it in napkin so he will not be tempted by sight of virgins
T511.3.2. Conception from eating spinach
T511.8.3. Conception from eating mess of fairy pottage
T511.8.5. Woman impregnated after accidentally partaking of crane‘s dung
T515.1. Impregnation through lustful glance
T517.3. Conception through ear
T525.2. Impregnation by a comet
T532.1.3. Impregnation by leaf of lettuce
T532.10. Conception from hiss of cobra
T552.2.1. Child born bearing lizard in each hand
T581.2.2. Blind wives fall into a pool where they give birth to children
T583.1.1. Pains of woman in childbirth repeated in person of the man
T586.5.1. Woman bears child every month
T589.1. Co-operative birth. Each of two wives bears a half-boy. They are placed together and form a real boy

Tricksters and fairy tales (Following folktales around the world 22. - Ecuador)

Today I continue new blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!


Cuentos folklóricos de la costa del Ecuador
26 registros de la tradición oral ecuatoriana
Paulo de Carvalho-Neto
Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia, 1976.

This book was not an easy read, and took me forever to get through. It is a folklore collection, which means it comes with notes on tale types - but it also means that the stories have been transcribed from the oral telling word for word, including repeated fillers such as "said" and "then," and that many words were written down phonetically, missing parts or letters. My Spanish struggled to keep up with the omissions, and I had to sound a lot of the paragraphs out loud. I realize that this was supposed to give us a better understanding of what these stories sounded like when told - but it also made reading them a very painful process.
The stories themselves were mostly local versions of well-known types. They had some fascinating details, but none of them really captivated me as a whole.

Highlights


I loved the version of the Dragonslayer folktale type (here named The orphan boy) where the hero was helped by three hounds, who were really angels in disguise, named Santa María, Ligero (Light) and Pesado (Heavy). I also enjoyed The one-eyed king as the Moorish queen, where an old king lost an eye to the queen in battle, and his three sons set out to bring it back (later turned out the queen had been holding the eyeball in her mouth...). The quest was interwoven with the Animal Bride tale type, where the youngest prince married a toad, and she helped him bring the eye back. It was extra fun that the older brothers experimented with getting away with fake eyes, and the king did not even notice that he had been wearing the eye of a cat until his youngest returned...
It was also interesting to see a novel solution to the "Four Skillful Brothers" story. Here, four brothers - a thief, a musician, a marksman, and a carpenter - rescued a princess, and then could not decide who should marry her as a reward. In the end, they gave her as a wife to their father - since it had been the father that helped them start out in learning their professions...

Connections

Most tales in the book were Ecuadorian versions of well-known folktale types such as the Three kidnapped princesses (Juan del Oso, Mama Leche la Burra), or the Magic Flight (Bella Flor Blanca).
There were some trickster tales with African connections: Tío Conejo asking God to be large and menacing fell into the "Trickster asks for endowments" story type. God gave the rabbit all kinds of impossible tasks that Tío Conejo fulfilled easily - so well, in fact, that God began to worry what would happen if the wily little creature was also large and strong. Therefore, he only made the ears bigger. Tío Conejo had some classic adventures in these tales (including an encounter with the infamous Tar Doll). And while the rabbit had African connections, from Europe we had Pedro the trickster visiting - in this case, his last name was Imala (as opposed to Urdemalas or Malasartes, see earlier).
And finally, there is no folktale collection without animals running a race. This time it was Toad vs. Deer, and the Toad (family) won.

Where to next?
Colombia!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

S139.2.2.4.2. Brains of enemies fashioned into balls (as trophies for play) (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

S in the Motif Index stands for Unnatural Cruelty (it says a lot about traditional stories that this one needed its own category...). It includes things such as "S10. - Cruel parents," "S20. - Cruel children and grandchildren," and of course the all-time classic: "S31. - Cruel stepmother." Also, this:

S139.2.2.4.2. Brains of enemies fashioned into balls (as trophies for play) 

This is actually a pretty well known Irish legend, but it is worth repeating. 

The story starts with Mes Gegra, the king of Leinster, who is killed in single combat, and his brains are fashioned into a hard little ball with lime. (That'd the motif, everyone can go home now.)
The ball is kept as a trophy by the King of Ulster, Conchobar Mac Nessa. He likes to take it out sometimes to show it off. One day, the brain-ball-thingy is stolen by Cet, a notorious troublemaker from Connaught, who decides to save it for killing Conchobar. Every time there is a fight between Ulster and Connaught, Cet is there with the little brain-ball, until finally one day he gets a clean shot at the King of Ulster. He puts the brain-ball into a sling, and hits Conchobar right in the forehead.

And this is how Conchobar died.

Just kidding. He survived the shot, even thought two-thirds of the ball went into his own skull. The physician that examined him concluded that he would die if the ball is taken out, but he would live if it was left in there. Conchobar was keen on the latter, so they stitched the skin over the brain-ball with golden thread, and Conchobar went on living for another seven years. The physician also warned him not to ride a horse, lie with a woman, run, eat too much, or get angry, so those seven years were probably not much fun for him.
Eventually one day the sky darkened and the earth trembled. Conchobar asked his druids what was going on, and he was told that Christ, the son of God, had been crucified. Conchobar got so angry over the news, and so indignant about Jesus' death, than the brain-ball flew out of his skull, and he dropped dead. It's all good, though; according to some versions of the legend, the blood flowing from his forehead qualified as a baptism, as he was one of two people who believed in God in Ireland before the arrival of Christianity.

(Read the story here.)

Picture from here

Runner-ups
S110.3. Princess builds tower of skulls of unsuccessful suitors
S110.3.1. Princess makes necklace of heads of unsuccessful suitors
S111.2. Murder with poisoned lace
S111.7. Murder with poisoned slippers
S111.9. Murder by placing a poisoned fingernail on step
S115.3. Murder by piercing with pins and needles
S139.5. Murder by cutting off uvula
S143.2.1. Tortoise placed in tall tree and left
S263.1. Highest ranking man in land to be sacrificed for good crops
S268.2. Son sold for transfusion of blood to sick king
S326.1. Disobedient child burned
S461. Tale-bearer unjustly drowned for lack of proof of accusation

Friday, April 21, 2017

R9.1.2. Sun and Moon captured by creditor, thus causing eclipse (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

R in the Motif index is for Captives and Fugitives - including such folktale staples as "R11.1. -  Princess (maiden) abducted by monster," "R11.2.1. - Devil carries off wicked people," and of course "R111.1.3. - Rescue of princess (maiden) from dragon."

R9.1.2. Sun and Moon captured by creditor, thus causing eclipse

This story was collected from the Didayi people in Orissa, India.

The whole thing starts with the wedding of the Sun and the Moon, arranged by Rumrok, the supreme god. Platters were made of leaves for the wedding feast, but the last platter needed one more bamboo pin. Rumrok borrowed one from a merchant, and the wedding was duly celebrated.
After the wedding, Rumrok had a quarrel with the Sun, and went to live separately. Some time later, the merchant showed up, asking for the return of the bamboo pin, but Rumrok sent him to the Sun, since he was now the head of the house. The Sun returned the pin, but the merchant did not accept it - saying that with interest, the Sun now owed him one lakh (one hundred thousand) pins. The Sun could not pay, so he sent the merchant away.
Years passed by, and the merchant kept showing up; the Sun kept hiding from his creditor. One day the merchant threatened him, saying he would take his wife the Moon as payment. So ever since then, whenever the merchant shows up to collect their debt, the Sun and the Moon hide in their house, only leaving a crack in the door so they can peek out and see when the debtor is gone...

(Read the story here. Pg. 52)

Runner-ups
R5.1. Enemy host imprisoned by earthen walls thrown up by hero’s chariot wheels
R7. Men held captive in the Land of Women
R9.2. Grain and pulse in human form imprisoned by wicked king
R9.5. Cow imprisoned until it promises not to eat men
R9.6. King imprisons all living creatures
R13.1.3. Rhinoceros carries off man
R13.1.8. Abduction by rabbit
R13.2.3. Abduction by cat
R33. Fairy physician abducted to heal wounded mortals.
R115. King transformed to parrot frees captured parrots
R121.4. Ants carry silk threads to prisoner, who makes rope and escapes
R121.10. With her teeth woman files away chain tying up husband
R169.3. Boy saved by werwolf
R212.1.2. Captive buried alive to his neck fastens his teeth on jackal that comes to eat him and companions
R351.1. Milk drops from woman’s breast on tiger‘s leg and reveals her hiding place in tree

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q551.1. Undutiful son punished by toad clinging to face (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Q in the Motif Index stands for Rewards and Punishments. You encounter some fairly common folktale elements in it such as "Q112. - Half of kingdom as reward", or "Q45. - Hospitality rewarded." This section also lists all kinds of horrible executions and punishments (which are also a folklore staple), including:

Q551.1. Undutiful son punished by toad clinging to face 

This very popular medieval anecdote, known from French, German, and English sources, tells of a son who is too gluttonous and stingy to share his meal with his own mother or father. 
According to the story, the son of a wealth family inherits all his money and properties from his parents - and yet when one of them pays him a visit, the young man hides the meat / roast chicken / other delicacies away in a box, and lies to them, saying he does not have any food to share. After driving the parent away, the son returns to the meal - only to find a toad (or sometimes two toads) sitting on it. The toad launches itself at the son's face and latches on, impossible to remove (and, in some cases, blocking his mouth so he cannot eat). The sinner then goes to the bishop /archbishop / other church person for penance, and is paraded around as a cautionary tale against gluttony and for the importance of filial duties.

TOAD IN THE FACE!
Bring this up to your kids next time they don't want to share the Halloween candy.

(Read about this story here, here, here, or here.)

Runner-ups
Q42.6. Reward for tearing out eye when demanded
Q57.1. Reward for shielding Mary in childbirth from gaze of onlookers
Q88.1. Fra Lippo Lippi is freed by Moors because of his greatness as a painter
Q115.2. King promises daughter she may marry anyone she desires
Q151.2. Death passes by man who fed his stepmother
Q211.7. Punishment for splitting head and eating man‘s brains
Q265.2.1. Blotches on face of satirist (judge) as punishment for wrongful satire (judgment)
Q281.3. Woman eats flesh and leaves cat only bones of fish cat has caught for them. Cursed by cat
Q291.1. St. Peter’s mother dropped from heaven because of hardheartedness
Q415.2. Mice devour hard-hearted man
Q451.0.3. Strong girl breaks impudent suitor‘s right hand and left foot
Q497.1. Moustache pulled out as punishment
Q499.8. Humiliating penance: king to rub nose five times on red hot griddle
Q551.1.1. Betel-nut grows upon a person‘s knee as a punishment
Q551.8.4. Man’s eye bursts forth when he urges saint to marry
Q589.2. Man goes forth naked: cursed with nakedness throughout life

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

P327. Barmecide feast (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

P in the Motif Index stands for Society, and the people in it: Kings and Queens and where they come from; artisans, peasants, people of the church - as well as families ("P233.8. - Prodigal son returns"). It also includes law, military affairs, hospitality, things that go with dealing with other people ("P361. - Faithful servant"). The story I found the most entertaining was

P327. Barmecide feast 

On the thirty-first of the Thousand and One Nights, a barber tells a tale about his past adventures (The barber's tale of himself).

The story begins in Baghdad, where ten highway robbers had been arrested, and they are being taken to the Caliph for judgment. They are being embarked on a boat just when the Barber walks up, and seeing the ten men getting the boat, he immediately jumps into the conclusion that they must be going to a wedding feast. Not wanting to miss out (FOMO), he gets in the boat with them.


The boat takes the prisoners to the opposite bank of the river, where they are chained - the Barber along with them. He is too polite to complain, and never says a word. The robbers are taken to the Caliph, who orders them to be beheaded. The executioner goes down the line with a sword, striking heads off... until only the Barber remains.
Here is where things get a little confusing. The Caliph demands to know why the executioner only killed nine of the prisoners. The executioner swears up and down that he cut ten heads off, but the Caliph points out that one man is still alive, therefore they must have miscounted. In the end, they count the heads again, and turns out that ten are dead, and the Barber makes eleven. At this point a very confused Caliph asks the Barber who he is, and just what on earth he is doing in the lineup. The Barber very politely explains what happened, how he misunderstood a situation, but he did not want to make a fuss about it. 
The Caliph falls over laughing.

(Read the story here.)

Now, "Barmecide" according to the dictionary means "illusory or imaginary." The term comes from the Arabian Nights itself - and it is directly related to our Barber above. The Barber tells the Caliph stories about his brothers. The sixth brother, impoverished, seeks charity at the house of the Barmecides, a noble family famous for its generosity. The old Barmecide pretends to serve him food and drinks - but it is all just play. Still, the beggar goes through the motions, even pretending to get drunk from the invisible wine. The lord of the house is so pleased with his miming capabilities that he keeps him around as a guest for twenty years.

Runner-ups
P11.0.1. Prophecy that brother who first kisses saint will be king
P14.6. King‘s (prince’s) sulking chamber. He sulks here until his wishes are carried out
P14.7. None permitted to enter hall of king unless he possesses an art
P15.4. King is cursed by disguised dwarf-smiths whose work he criticised
P19.3. King must procure whatever visiting poets ask, or suffer from their satire
P192.4. Fool can live under water
P214. Wife drinks blood of slain husband
P233.3. Berserks scold their father who apparently without reason called their adversary invincible
P311.2. Flower-friendship
P341. Teacher dies of pride over success of pupil
P412.3. Hero as rabbit-herd
P427.7.2.1.1. Poets and fools closely allied.
P641. Injured husband will not kill a naked man.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Oil sold to iguana (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Once again, there is no O in the Motif Index (probably because it looks too much like a zero). So I just searched for random terms that begin with O in the Motif Index, and came up with this gem:

J1852.1.2 Oil sold to iguana

This is a folktale from the Shan people in Southeast Asia, titled The Poor Man.

The tale tells about a poor man who wants to make some money. He hears about a city where there is a shortage of oil, so he borrows money from his friends, buys two gourds of oil, and sets out to sell it. On the way to the city he sees an iguana; the iguana sees him too and runs. The man chases the iguana, hoping to catch it for dinner, but the lizard disappears in a hole in the ground. The man starts digging - and lo and behold, finds three pots full of gold, and three pots full of silver. He tosses the gourds of oil away, takes the six pots, and sets out to the city.
When he gets to the marketplace, he wants to walk around, but the pots are very heavy. He goes to a house, and asks the people who live there to watch his pots, saying "there is only a little oil in them." He spends the day strolling around the market, enjoying the thought of being rich... and by the evening, he completely forgets which house he left the pots in. So he goes from door to door, asking for his pots of oil, but everyone denies having them.
Disappointed and tired, the poor man goes back to the hole of the iguana, hoping to find more gold. What he does find, however, is a day's wages in coin, and a written note: "The owner of the gold and silver thanks you for carrying his pots to the city."
The poor man goes home and remains poor.

(Read the story here.)

I have so many questions. Who was the owner of the pots? Was it the guy the poor men left the pots with? Was it someone else? Was it the iguana?!?!



Sunday, April 16, 2017

N339.5. Uxorious king is burned to death while taking an alcohol bath (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

N in the Motif Index stands for Chance and Fate. It includes wagers and gambling ("N2.5. - Whole kingdom as wager"), treasure troves, divine helpers... and what I personally like to call the Folktale Darwin Awards. Behold an example:

N339.5. Uxorious king is burned to death while taking an alcohol bath 

For those of you like me, who never heard the word before: Uxorious means "having or showing an excessive or submissive fondness for one's wife." Which is totally NOT what is happening in this story. 

Although it is marked as a folktale motif, this story comes from the Novellas of Matteo Bandello, a 16th century Italian writer. His stories, just like other books of novellas such as the Decameron, are based on older tale types, anecdotes, and other folk genres. In this case, a very popular medieval legend about the death of Charles II of Navarre.

Bandello paints a none-too-kind picture of King Charles. He claims that he was a "man of very ill fashions and very cruel" - sins including siding with the English against the French, rebelling against the dauphin Charles (later Charles V) and killing many Parisians, sacking and burning towns and slaughtering people, ruling Navarre in terror by massacring men and ravishing women, and beheading envoys who were pleading with him to lower taxes. So, not a nice person.

Of course there is a painting
Legend says that Charles was "very old and decrepit", but still lustful and "never without a concubine." Shortly before his death he lusted after a woman of twenty-two years, and after a hard day of beheading envoys, he wanted to sleep with her - but alas, he "felt himself wax very feeble." In order to get his strength back up, he had himself wrapped in sheets soaked in spirits of wine (alcohol), and stood in a room, surrounded by copper vessels filled with red-hot coals. On top of this brilliant idea, he ordered his servants to blow on the coals with bellows, to keep them burning. As one would expect, sparks flew from the fire, alighted on the king, and promptly burned him to a crisp in his alcohol-soaked cocoon.

Bandello labels this as "an express judgment from God."
I'm surprised we have not seen this on Game of Thrones yet.

(Read the story here.)

Runner-ups
N2.3.5. Intestines wagered
N7. Trained rat upsets pieces in gambling game: trained (or transformed) cat chases it away
N56. Wager: woman to turn somersault in middle of public square
N119.1. Dog tries to catch its fate in its own tail
N125.2. Luck determined by whether a crooked-necked demigod is looking at one
N211.2. Unavailing attempt to get rid of slippers; they always return
N228. Leopard tied in bag in water floats to shore and finds a mate
N271.9. Tree follows murderer
N314. Persons fall asleep on rock, which magically shoots upward
N318.2. Princess accidentally elopes with wrong man
N334.3. Practical joker asks doctor to castrate him
N335.2.1. Sick queen lying under red satin carried off by bird who thinks it is red meat
N340.3. Woman wrongly condemned for drunkenness when seen to take one drink
N383.1. Man falls dead when he realizes that he has been riding over frozen sea
N542.2. Treasure to be found when three-legged cat shrieks over the burial place
N684. Naked soldier becomes general

Talking mountains, hidden treasures (Following folktales around the world 21. - Peru)

Today I continue new blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook! Tíz évvel ezelőtt perui mesékkel kedztem hivatásos mesemondói pályafutásomat. Nosztalgikus volt ismét elmerülni bennük.

Ten years ago I began my professional career with Peruvian tales. It was very nostalgic to return to them.


Mitos, leyendas, y cuentos peruanos
José María Arguedas, Francisco Izquierdo Ríos
Siruela, 2009.

This classic collection has gone through various editions since its first in 1947. It contains 65 tales, organized by genre and geography: Myths, legends, and folktales from the Coastal, Mountain, and Rainforest regions of Peru. It is the result of a national folklore collection campaign in the early 1900s when they mailed questionnaires out to all town and village teachers, who in turn had their students collect and record local stories, and submit them. The volume therefore is diverse, intriguing, and exciting; it has pretty much everything from indigenous myths to Catholic saints, from international folktale types to monster lore. The book comes with extensive notes on the local words, flora and fauna, and symbols embedded in the stories. It is a classic in its own field, and very much worth reading.

Highlights

One of my favorite stories was that of The three bulls, in which the fertile pastures of a mountain were protected by three terrible bulls - one orange-red, one black, one white. People decided to hunt them down, and chased them separately until they disappeared; later they found gold mines where the red one had gone, silver where the white, and coal where the black.
Talking about mines, I loved the legends featuring the Mother of Salt, an old hag who protects rock salt mines (places, lakes, mountains, etc. in Peruvian lore have "mothers", guardian spirits - who are not always female, by the way, and not always human). In the stories she either begs for food, or cooks for a traveler - and then seasons it by sneezing generous amounts of snot on it. If people are disgusted, she gets offended, and moves the salt mines far away.
I also found the legend of two neighboring mountains, Huatuscalla és Ccaser, very intriguing. People were building a road across the former, carving and torturing it; the locals claim to have overheard the two peaks talking at night, Huatuscalla complaining about the damage. Eventually they agreed that it would transfer all its riches to its neighbor for safekeeping before the humans found them. Two doors appeared in the mountainsides, then a giant bridge; warriors in red carried all treasures over to Ccaser, and disappeared. Huatuscalla has been angry and volatile ever since.
Huatuscalla (picture from here)
There was a charming story about the birth of dragonflies (or as locally called, Little Horses of the Devil), where a mysterious trickster kept spreading fake news and rumors until a village got a sorcerer to turn him into an insect. As a punishment, he now has to appear as the harbinger of good news. I was also entertained by the legend where two neighboring towns swapped guardian saints (Saint Anne and Saint Isidorus), but they kept returning home, because Isidorus was always colt and Anne thought her new home was unhealthy.
My archaeologist heart especially liked the legend of Narihuala, which claimed that when the locals got news about the arrival of Pizarro, they got so scared they buried themselves alive with all their treasures - this is how legend explains rich ancient burials full of gold and silver.

Connections


There were several familiar mythical creatures in these tales. I found sirens, fairies, dwarves, and even a Basilisk that killed off an entire village. I was partial to the Amazonian water-people called yacuruna, whose riverbed houses had roofs made of sand, vipers for beams, and turtles for chairs. Also of local flavor was the pishtaco, who, similar to Bolivian stories, kills people for their grease and blood at night. Those of you who watch Supernatural probably remember this one (interpreted by Dean Winchester as "fish taco").
There were multiple legends about my favorite Peruvian "dragon", the llama-headed Amarú. In one story there were two of them, one white and one black, and their fights over a river caused floods and earthquakes (reminiscent of the two dragons of Merlin).
Find more funny potoos here
The Legend of the Aymaman was the Peruvian version of Hansel and Gretel, where an evil stepmother made her husband take the two children, a boy and a girl, to the jungle and abandon them. Instead of a witch, however, they encountered a fairy, who turned them into birds so that they could live in the enchanted forest forever. Their call (aymaman) is to their deceased mother. It had to be a beginner fairy, too, because the bird, also known as the potoo, is one of the funniest-looking creatures in existence.
And of course there is no book without tricksters! This time it was carachupa, the armadillo (of course), who tricked Tiger by making him believe that the end of the world was near. I have seen this reading-from-a-leaf trick from the Mouse Deer in Indonesia before...

Where to next?
Ecuador.

Friday, April 14, 2017

M149.4. Quarreling prince and princess vow that if they are married he will desert her on the wedding day and she will make him eat boiled rice and thin broth for six months (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

M in the Motif Index stands for tales about Ordaining the Future. It includes judgments, vows, oaths, prophecies, bargains, promises, and curses - things such as "M211. - Man sells soul to devil." Some of them go into a little more detail than others... Case in point:

M149.4. Quarreling prince and princess vow that if they are married he will desert her on the wedding day and she will make him eat boiled rice and thin broth for six months 

(This is typically the type of motif that should not have its own number. I don't think there will ever be another tale that fits this description.)

The title of this tale is also pretty interesting: Katmanush, or The human being who was made of wood. It is a Bengali story. The motif pretty much describes the beginning: A prince and a princess haggle for the same item on the market one day, and they get into such a fight that they mutually curse each other out. The prince swears that if they ever got married, he would leave her right away; the princess swears that she would make him so ill he can only live on jhol bhaat for six months. 

Of course a few years later their parents arrange a marriage for the two (without them knowing about it). True to his oath, the prince walks away on the wedding day and never looks back. 
Some months later the prince's mother hires a very peculiar new servant: It is a woman made of wood, but she walks and talks like a living being. She insists on never cooking, and sleeping in her own room, but in all other regards, she works just like a regular servant.
One day when everyone is away from home, the princess - because she is the one inside the wooden doll, duh - comes out of her shell to sit on the roof. The prince returns unexpectedly and sees her. The whole palace is turned upside down, looking for the "beautiful woman" he had glimpsed - but there is no one there but the wooden doll. The prince get so lovesick that he is about to die.
The god Shiva reveals to the prince's sister that his life can be saved if the wooden woman cooks for him for six months, and sleeps in his chambers. The queen and the sister beg Katmanush to do it for the prince; after a whole lot of begging, the wooden woman agrees, but only if she can cook alone, and sleep with the lights off.
Six months pass by. The princess feeds thin broth and boiled rice to her husband for six months, as she had once promised. As she does, they slowly fall in love with each other. At the end of the six months, she reveals herself to him - and they lock themselves in the bedroom for a looong time, and the prince emerges "healthy and cheerful."

How is that for a love-hate romance?...

(Read the original text here.)

Runner-ups
M114.3. Vows taken on holy swine
M114.5. Taking oath on cowdung
M115.1.1. Oath so heavy it dries up stream; oath so great it splits the rock in twain; oath so violent it makes the tree wither
M119.7. Oath by placing hand on genitals
M142. Vow never to carry a woman
M166.3. Vow to kill anyone who touches his beard
M205.1.2. Cat witness to betrothal punishes violator
M211.6. Man sells soul to devil for visit home in boat that sails through sky
M242.1. Mortal fosters fairy child to prevent destruction of crops
M301.15. Mountain in human shape prophesies whole family’s death
M304. Prophecy from enigmatical laugh
M364.2. Prophecy: remission of tax through endeavor of saint
M429.1. Release from curse by burning vomit

Thursday, April 13, 2017

L315.5.1. Elephant killed by mouse who runs up open end of trunk to head and there smears poison over his brain (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

L is a fun little category within the Motif Index that stands for Reversals of Fortune. It includes unlikely heroes ("L10. - Victorious youngest son," "L50. - Victorious youngest daughter"), the triumph of the weak over the strong, and poor boys marrying princesses. Also... this:

L315.5.1. Elephant killed by mouse who runs up open end of trunk to head and there smears poison over his brain 

And this is not even just one story, but two. One from Nepal, and one from the Congo.

Rawr
In How the Mouse Won His Wife (Congo), a girl is offered as a wife to anyone who can cut down the mahogany tree outside her house. Elephant, Buffalo, Hyena, Leopard, and other large animals all try, but when they stop chopping to take a break, the tree grows back to a whole. Eventually Mouse shows up, gnaws the tree down, and wins the girl.
On the way home with his new wife, Mouse runs into Elephant, who wants to claim the girl for himself. Mouse runs up Elephant's trunk and causes him so much pain that he lets them go, and gives them two pigs. Farther down the road they run into Buffalo who makes the same claim, but Mouse gets into his ear and tortures him until he hands over five sheep. Hyena is next; this time, Mouse calls on a bunch of Squirrels to attack Hyena while he gets away with his wife. After this comes a large Rat; Mouse opens his bag and shows him the head of a dead rat, saying "I have eaten nine rats, you will be the tenth." Rat, very sensibly, runs away. They get home.
One day Leopard shows up at Mouse's house, and tries to run away with the wife. Mouse nonchalantly pulls a Leopard head out of his bag and flashes it, saying "I have killed nine Leopards, you will be the tenth." Leopard is so panicked, he gets into Mouse's calabash, which Mouse puts on the fire, and burns Leopard to death.
Then Mouse says: "I will govern this country, for there is not another chief left."

And if you think this Mouse is hardcore, let me introduce you to Mother Mouse.

Mom?...
In The Mouse's Three Children (Nepal), Mouse has three sons: A Tiger (she prayed for a strong child), a Peacock (she prayed for a beautiful child), and a human Boy (she prayed for a wise, wealthy, and powerful child). The latter gets the King's attention when it turns out that his hair, when cut, turns into pearls and diamonds, and his nails turn into turquoise. The King wants to keep him as a slave, and if the Boy wants to avoid that, he needs to fulfill tasks. The first two are solved with help from Tiger and Peacock, but the last one is different: Mother Mouse has to fight the King's largest bull elephant.
Mother Mouse covers herself in poison, ties a string to her tail, and goes to fight the elephant for her son. She jumps onto the elephant's leg, and then runs up inside of its trunk, and crawls all over its brain, smearing it in poison. When the elephant keels over, the Boy pulls the Mouse out by the string. 

Moral of this motif: Never, ever piss off a mouse.
Ever.

Runner-ups
L111.2.3. Future hero found on top of a tree
L111.2.5. Heroine found in harp
L112.11. Heroine born with pigeon’s head
L113.1.3. Mad fisherman as hero
L113.7. Quack-doctor as hero
L114.5. Hero with disgusting habits
L152. Daughter succeeds on quest where son fails
L301. Hermes distributes wit
L311.4. Little innocent girl is able to drive giant out of land
L315.12. Rabbit slays rhinoceros
L391.1. Reed pricks and drives away dog that urinates on it
L419.1. Goose boasts superiority to mushroom
L476. Jackal singing about his deeds falls down from tree and is eaten by alligator
L478. Gnats having overcome lion are in turn killed by spider

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

K366.7. Thieving butterflies (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

K is another very long list in the Index: It stands for Deception - which is a fancy way of saying these are stories about cheating. One famous example is "K11 - Race won by deception" - most commonly known as The Tortoise and the Hare. Or "K112.2. - Stone soup." The category also includes murder, villains and traitors, false accusations, bluffs, and...

K366.7. Thieving butterflies 

When I read the name of this one, I just had to look it up.

The story is titled Rongo and the Lizard-God, and it is a Maori legend from the Cook Islands. In it, Rongo, god of cultivated lands, and Matarau, the eight-headed, eight-tailed lizard god are at war with each other. Rongo captures a warrior, turns him into a swordfish, and intends to sacrifice him - but Matarau steals the swordfish from the altar, places it in a cave, and guards it with his two hundred eyes day and night. 

NZ copper butterfly
Rongo at first sends colorful little songbirds to find the swordfish and bring it back - but Matarau kills them. Then he sends large birds and birds of prey - but they die too. Then he sends two red-and-black velvety butterflies, but Matarau squashes them with his tail. Finally, he makes a plan involving two yellow butterflies, as well as other butterflies and moths. They all use mimicry to hide themselves among the yellow leaves of a nearby banyan tree, as well as pieces of bark, all according to their color, so that Matarau never notices he is surrounded by insects. Then, when the evening wind picks up and creates a shower of yellow leaves that blind the lizard, the yellow butterflies descend among the leaves, alight on the swordfish, and give a signal. All moths and butterflies descend, grab hold of the fish, and fly away with it, back to Rongo.

And this is how the first human sacrifice in the world was made possible. By "thieving butterflies."

(Read the full story here. And here is an article about it.)

Runner-ups
K11.7. Race won by deception: blinding opponent by spitting pepper into face
K12.5. Wrestling between porcupine and deer
K42.2.1. God cheats devil at mowing
K74. Deceptive contest in pulling fingers
K83. Deceptive scratching contest
K95. Finger-drying contest won by deception
K137.1. Two jars full of live black wasps sold as interpreters of foreign language
K219.7. Devil gets a flea instead of man‘s soul
K335.0.4.2. Porcupine, made to believe that rabbit‘s ears are horns, flees and leaves food behind
K335.1.5. Robber frightened from his goods by playing of bagpipe
K343.4. Monkeys lure tortoise into a tree and carry away his load of salt
K366.5. Speaking goat swallows gold coins in temple and voids for master
K417.1. Flower thief eats flowers to escape detection
K425. King‘s daughter put into brothel to catch thief
K437.3. Sausage as revolver
K499.6. God cheats birds by giving false description of tamarind fruit
K522.1.1. Woman covers fleeing man with placenta of goat and with blood to convince pursuers she has just given birth and thus prevents their capturing him
K546. Pope escapes captivity and death by dressing in full regalia and overawing captor
K602.2. ”Bee is eating the sweets.“ Man has eaten sweets and says his name is B
K771. Unicorn tricked into running horn into tree
K922. Artificial whale made as stratagem. Enemies surprised and killed
K951.6. Murder by feeding with honey-covered sharpened cross-pieces of wood
K952.1.2. Ungrateful rat defecates upon head of (or kills) octopus that rescues him from sea.
K1025.1. The fox suggests eating his own brains
K1211. Vergil in the basket
K1215. Aristotle and Phyllis: philosopher as riding horse for woman
K1227.10.1. Abducted princess tells her abductor to wait for her menstrual period of 12 years to terminate

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

J1762.7. Lobsters mistaken for Norwegians (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

The J section of the Motif index is for The Wise and the Foolish. All the numskull and noodlehead folktales are on this list, as well as moral judgments, such as "J711.1. - Ant and lazy cricket (grasshopper)," or "J1171.1. - Solomon’s judgment." Hands down the best line on the list, however, was this:

J1762.7. Lobsters mistaken for Norwegians

Which is a story from Denmark.

The tale is about a slightly foolish man who lives in a little town in Denmark, and owns a pastry shop. One day news come that a Norwegian ship has arrived to the town's harbor; our friend is very excited, because he has never met real-life Norwegians before. Leaving the shop to his wife, he goes down to the harbor to see them. He is pointed to the Norwegian ship, but when he gets aboard, there is no one there - the sailors had all gone to shore.
What he does meet, however, is a bunch of lobsters that had gotten free from their boxes, and are crawling around on deck. Our man assumes that they must be Norwegians (although he imagined them to be taller). He politely introduces himself to one of them, and offers a hand. The lobster pinches and holds on to his hand, causing a lot of pain. Eventually, he manages to shake it off, and goes home to his shop. When his wife inquires if he'd met the Norwegians he says "Yes. They are very short, but they have strong handshakes!"

(I could not locate the text Thompson referenced, but I found a children's book version of the tale here.)

Runner-ups
J21.4. ”Do not marry a girl from abroad“
J21.18. ”Do not trust the over-holy“
J21.47.1. “Do not send your wife for a long visit to her parents”
J21.49. “Never give a cup made of a single ruby as a present to the king”
J23. Merchants try honesty for a year and find that it pays
J25. Why great man plays with children
J52.2. King descends to bottom of sea in glass barrel to learn wisdom from observing fish
J229.8.1. Weaver prefers master with one hedgehog
J411.9.1. King refuses to quarrel with bird
J413.1. Lion licks sick man, who is thereby disgusted
414.3. Unsuccessful marriage of jackals and turtles
J512.15. Frogs want to collect honey like bees
J1309.2. ”How often do you kill your ducks?“ Answer: ”Only once.“
J1361. Monk says that he is a stallion
J1714.3.1. Forty wise men foretell violent rainstorm
J1756. Other animals thought to be a giant cat
J1757. Rabbit thought to be a cow
J1758.1. Tiger mistaken for goat
J1772.4. Culture hero’s pubic hair thought to be bear hair
J1785.1. Grasshopper thought to be the devil
J1971. Fools try to use buffalo tongue as a knife
J2106. Man kills self to make quarrelsome wife a widow
J2119.9. Hero beheads old woman who asks him to cure her of old age
J2133.11. Hedgehog and crab jump from boat after turtle
J2233.1. Innocent man executed because his neck fits the noose
J2275.1. Falling star supposed to have been shot down by astronomer

Monday, April 10, 2017

Interesting story dislodges frog from queen's nose (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Here is the thing: There is no I in the Motif Index (probably because it looks too much like the number 1). So instead of going through a section for today, I searched the Index for words that begin with I, and picked the story that fit best. And was the strangest.

N641.2 Frog removed from queen's nose by telling such interesting story that she gives quick breath and dislodges him

This is a folktale from Sri Lanka, titled The Frog in the Queen's Nose (you might have noticed by now that Thompson's motif index is very heavy on South Asian stories). 

One day a Queen, walking in her gardens and smelling flowers, accidentally inhales a small frog, which gets stuck in her nose. People are summoned to get it out, but six of them fail in a row, and are executed for their failure. The King announces that whoever succeeds at getting the frog out of the Queen's nose shall receive a district of the kingdom, and also as much treasure as an elephant can carry.
In the kingdom there is also a couple. The wife is cheating on the husband; one day, while he goes to the rice fields, she makes hot rice milk for her lover. However, the husband's plow breaks, therefore he has to return home early. The wife hides the hot delicacy under the bed in a hurry. The husband comes home, sits on the bed, and burns his butt.
Some time later, the wife hears about the King's announcement - and decides that if her husband is executed, she'd be free to be with her lover, therefore she gets the King's messengers to take him to the palace.
The poor husband, nervous that he will be killed, starts talking about what happened to him earlier - he tells the story to the Queen about the plow, and the rice milk, and his poor burned behind. Hearing the story the Queen is so amused that she snorts - and out comes the tiny frog, flying, from her nose.
The poor man is richly rewarded; and as a bonus, the wife gets to live with her paramour.

(Read the story here.)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

H506.5. Test of resourcefulness: To swing seventy girls until they are tired (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

The H section of the Motif Index lists all the Tests that heroes in folktales need to go through to accomplish their goals. And none of them are standardized... You might recognize some of them (such as "H41.1. - Princess on the pea," "H36.1. - Slipper test," or "H761. - Riddle of the Sphinx"), while other are a little more obscure. Case in point:

H506.5. Test of resourcefulness: to swing seventy girls until they are tired

The tale is aptly titled How Raja Rasalu swung the seventy fair maidens, daughters of the King, and it is from Punjab. 

Raja Rasalu, "tender-hearted and strong" (a popular Punjabi hero) rescues a cricket from a forest fire, and the cricket promises to return the favor. The Raja visits a King who has seventy daughters (whew!), and falls in love with the youngest princess. The other sixty-nine get jealous, and decide to give him tasks to win their sister. First he has to separate a hundredweight of millet seed from a hundredweight of sand - which he does successfully with the help of an army of crickets. Second - he has to swing all seventy maidens in swings until they are tired.

Raja Rasalu tells the girls that he has no time to swing them one by one - if they want to be swung, they all have to get into one swing. The girls all pile in, "merry and careless, full of smiles and laughter," and the Raja fastens the swing rope to his mighty bow, shooting an arrow into the sky. The swing goes up and up and up, pulled by the arrow - and when it swings down, the Raja draws his sword and cuts the ropes. All seventy girls fall out, getting bruises and broken bones - except for the youngest, who lands on top of the pile. 
The Raja also breaks seventy drums and seventy gongs; the father of the maidens then tries to poison him, but doesn't succeed. In one version of the story, a whole lot of other adventures follow; the others end kind of abruptly. 

(Read the story here, here, or here.)

Image from here

Runner-ups
H13.2.7. Recognition by overheard conversation with stove
H35.5. Recognition by manner of throwing cakes of different weights into faces of old uncles
H71.10.3. Frogs croak at prince‘s command
H186. Hero spits twice at his wife as sign of recognition
H316.5. Expressing love by throwing little stones
H322.3. Suitor test: bringing leg that fits into dragon claw left by the beloved of the princess
H326.1.1. Suitor test: constructing automatic peacock
H328.2. Suitor test: being swung by mustache without shedding tears
H411.16. Catching salmon as proof of virginity
H412.2. Chastity ordeal: holding shaven and greased tail of bull
H413.5. Chastity test: throwing certain number on dice
H1021.4. Task: making a knot of spilled brandy
H1154.10. Task: capturing badgers
H1212.3. Prince sulks until quest is accomplished
H1212.4. Quest assigned because of longings of pregnant woman
H1331.5. Quest for marvelous goat
H1377.2. Quest for bouquet of all flowers. (Beehive.)
H1381.3.2. Quest for Glass Princess
H1521. Clam test
H1522. Killing trees threaten hero
H1536. Toboggan test. Attempt to kill hero on dangerous toboggan
H1588.1. Litter of puppies tested by throwing them one by one at hanging hide of wild beast, and keeping the one that grips hide

The richness of the rainforests (Following folktales around the world 20. - Brazil)

Today I continue new blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!


Brazilian folktales
Livia de Almeida, Ana Portella, Margaret Read MacDonald
Libraries Unlimited, 2006.

Much like the other volumes of the series, this book was very well researched, well balanced, and presented by practicing storytellers (the editing still needs work, though). It contains a wide range of stories, both in terms of folk genre and in cultural origins, reflecting the rich diversity of the country itself. There is a concise introduction, notes and sources for all the stories included, and even some recipes.
A quick, but educational and enjoyable read. And some lovely stories.

Highlights

Among the indigenous myths and legends, the Creation of the Amazon River stood out to be for its beauty. It told about the love between Sun and Moon that could never be, and how the Moon cried the Great River in her grief. I also re-read an old favorite of mine, the Tupi myth of the How the night came to be, where people got the Night enclosed in a coconut from the Great Snake, but the unusual noises from inside (crickets, frogs) made them open it too soon, and they all turned into monkeys.
This is Cutia
In the animal stories, Jaguar was once again usually on the receiving end of things. In one tale, he was killed by Turtle who jumped on his head from a tree; in another, Cutia pretended to be the King of Termites by covering himself in honey and termites, in order to trick him.
I was especially pleased with the "Scary Tales" chapter. It is not usually my favorite genre, so I was pleasantly surprised by how many of them stuck with me. I loved Devil in a Bottle, where a jealous husband left his wife to the Devil while going on a trip - but the wife tricked the Devil into a bottle, and did whatever she wanted. Creature of the Night was darker and haunting: A girl was courted by a mysterious stranger, but her dog kept him away from her, even after she killed it in frustration. Another girl barely got away from the Beetle Man she married - he turned into a large black beetle every night, and killed animals. There were two kibungo legends, brought over from the Bantu traditions: The kibungo is a monster that kidnaps people in the pouch on its back, and eats them. In one tale, a girl was rescued by her brave grandma; in the other, a boy who was friends with the birds managed to save his whole community.

Connections


Guaraná fruit
The Story of the Guaraná bore a certain resemblance to another well-known myth: A girl was exiled from an idyllic, lush forest because she had been seduced by a snake... The end of the story also echoed many myths around the world where a new plant is born from a buried body (in this case, the eyes, which makes sense, when you look at the guaraná fruit). I was reminded of North American Coyote stories by Crab with the Flying Eyes, where a crab could make his eyes fly out of his head and look around - but when Jaguar tried the same trick, her eyes were eaten by fish, and Buzzard had to make her new ones. Familiar from other South American traditions was the Party in Heaven, where Turtle snuck into a party for birds, hidden inside the guitar of Vulture - but she was discovered, and made the return trip a lot faster...
It was surprising to encounter a tale of Arab/Persian origins - The Cockroach's Wedding. What was not surprising, however, was that most "Tales of Enchantment" were familiar from European traditions (e.g. Louse skin, Kind and Undkind Girls, Dancing Princesses, Frog Princess, etc.); although all of them had their local spin and flavor.
And, obviously, there were tricksters. The local guy is called Pedro Malasartes (distant cousin of Pedro Urdemalas from Spanish-speaking countries). The Tar Doll was also a common motif that appeared here, echoing many African and American trickster stories. There were many familiar ones in the "Death Tales" chapter - such as the very well known Tía Miseria, and a Brazilian version of "Meeting in Samarkand."

Where to next?
Peru!