(An Irish Castle, A Russian Castle, and A French Castle)
Well, I've loaned out my book of Russian Fairytales, so lately I've been reading my fetus Myths and Folk-Lore of Ireland, by Jeremiah Curtin. I like the Irish tales, lots of humans turning into animals in the daylight, only to return to their man form (and their wives) at night. Also, I wonder if the Irish ever had daughters that didn't come in threes.
Speaking of three sisters, this morning I read an Irish tale that was suspiciously like a Russian tale I read some weeks ago, both of which are suspiciously like Cinderella. In the Russian tale there are three sisters, the youngest of whom is not allowed to go to church with the older two. One church-day morning she is crying into a well, when a magical fish takes pity on her, and grants her the finest clothes to go to church in. Well, all the church men are smitten of course, and as she leaves after church one grabs her shoe, and the hunt is on for the woman it fits...
In the Irish tale there are three sisters, the youngest of whom is not allowed to go to church with the older sisters. A henwife with a cloak of darkness gives her a dress, a horse, and shoes and off to church she goes, leaving as all else arise from mass. The next church day she is given a different outfit and a different horse, and escapes before the other church-goers leave the building. The third church day she is given yet another set of clothes and another horse, but the prince (who previously had wanted to marry her oldest sister) waits outside the church and grabs her shoe as she is riding away. So of course we then have the hunt for the woman who fits the shoe, but this time when she is found the prince must battle all the other princes of the world for her. They then marry, and she has a child. She invites her oldest sister to the castle to help her recover from labor, and her sister pushes her into the ocean where she is swallowed by an enchanted whale. Each day the whale vomits her onto the beach, but she cannot escape without the princes help, so she gets a young boy minding cows (the cowboy) to tell the Prince of her plight, and the Prince comes and shoots the whale with a silver bullet in a special place under the whale's fin, thus freeing the Irish Cinderella. As punishment the evil sister is put out at sea in a barrel with provisions for seven days. The Irish Cinderella gives birth to a daughter who is promised to the cowboy as a wife. Ta Da!
The Irish Cinderella tale was pulled from Gaelic in the late 1800s, the Russian Cinderella was recorded in the mid 1800s. It was Perrault's French version of Cinderella (from the late 1600s) that inspired the currently popular Disney version of the tale. All I can say is that people traveled a lot before the advent of airplanes.
Here is a fun website, discussing the Cinderella myths, and the tragedy of the feminist ideal they support: http://www.kstrom.net/isk/stories/cinder2.html . This website made me realize that maybe Drew Barrymore was trying to do something real when she re-wrote and made a Cinderella movie where Cinderella saves herself. I do have to give kudos to the Irish version, the Irish Cinderella makes the decision that the cowboy should have her daughter, and the Prince husband can do nothing to change it.
Anyway, I think my fetus and are going to be enjoying the Irish Fairytales for a while. The translation is superb, the stories flow beautifully with a delightful almost random whimsy. AND so far there hasn't been any spousal abuse! (Their has been child abuse as one Woodcutter traded all his three daughters for their weight in gold, but their animal/human husbands treated them well). Also, no one other than evil magical beings has yet to die. I guess Ireland was more politically correct than Russia.
And in line with modern fairytales let me mention one of my favorite young adult authors, Robin McKinley, who has not only created fantastic new tales with books like The Hero and the Crown and (my personal favorite) The Blue Sword, but has also done some decent fairytale retellings with books like Beauty. She is really great, I mean even her description of herself (stolen from her blog) is great:
"I am a writer. Mostly I write fantasy: wizards, dragons, enchanted swords, retold fairy tales and, er, vampires. Mostly my stories feature Women Who Do Things, as opposed to women who sit around waiting to be rescued by guys, or who aren’t in the story at all because the story is conspicuously about not sitting around. Most of my stories are so-called High Fantasy, laid in various la-la-la never-never lands, although I’ve written a few that are happening somewhere similar to this world with additional bugs/features, and I like being able to say I also write Low Fantasy. Mwa ha ha ha ha ha."
As I've been writing this post I've enjoyed listening to Irish fiddle & guitar music on http://www.pandora.com/ , if you haven't visited their site it is a MUST. Fantastic music from all over the world, and it's FREE!