Monday, February 5, 2018

Mythic marriage, mythic divorce (Following folktales around the world 57. - Lithuania)

Today I continue the 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!

A csodamalom
Balti népmesék
Bojtár Endre, Bojtár Anna, Nagy Ilona
Akadémiai Kiadó, 1989.

This book is the fist publication that contained Lithuanian folktales translated into Hungarian. It also has some Latvian stories, but I already read a separate book for that, so in this one, I focused on the 44 Lithuanian folktales included. The volume contains an afterword about Lithuanian (and Latvian) history an culture, a glossary, and a tale type index, so it is a fairly informative book to read. The stories themselves did not really enchant me as a whole, but there were, of course, some wonderful highlights that made it worth the read.
(For English speakers, I recommend this book, or this one)


The most intriguing story in the book, that of Perkunas and the Prince, is a Beauty and the Beast variant - except the youngest daughter is given away to Perkunas, the God of Thunder himself. When the father changes his mind, the god destroys his lands, and all around behaves like a storm deity could be expected to behave. He did reconcile with his wandering wife in the end. On the other hand, the theme was definitely divorce in Why the Sun shines during the day and the Moon at night, in which the celestial couple decided to separate, but they had to agree on custody for their daughter - the Earth. That is why half the time one watches over her, and half the other.
The Magic Duck combined two of my favorite tale types: That of the boys who can spit gold (I included a Mongolian version of that in my book, because it's such a unique superpower), and that of Fortunatus, where magic fruit grows antlers on the mean princess' head. Similarly complex and fascinating was the tale of The youth and the snake, in which an enchanted snake-princess trained the wandering hero in swordsmanship (and also civilized behavior, because he was "like a bear"). After the youth was almost murdered by a princess they forced to marry him, he returned to marry the snake girl instead.
I loved the tale of Death deceived for its unique characters. It is a classic story about trapping Death in a water skin - except Death in this case was a "large woman," and she also had a sister, who determined people's fate in the hour of their birth (I'm assuming she was Destiny). I have seen someone like her in an Irish tale before, called the Queen of the Planets.


The tale of The enchanted girl and the dragon was a reverse Cupid and Psyche: It was the girl who visited her husband in secret at night, until he spied on her - at which point she threw him out the window. He had to defeat a dragon to get back into her good graces. Bonus points to the story because the death of the dragon dried up the sea, and that is how America was born. (Yup, it says so in the story).
The tale of Unlucky Jonas was mostly the same as the Devil's three golden hairs, and the Merciful son combined two popular tale types about respecting the elders - it was a story in which old people were ordered to die, but one man hid his old father, and managed to help the king following his sage advice.
Because we are still in the Baltic countries, of course there was a Magic Mill, explaining why the sea is salty.

Where to next?


  1. Hang on, isn’t there a Scandinavian story about a magic mill which grinds salt? And when someone forgets the word needed to stop it, it keeps grinding till the sea is salty?

    1. Scandinavian and Baltic (see the Sampo in the Kalevala). I have been noting them in each country since Norway :)