Universal Stories or: Were the Brothers Grimm Jungians? – by Alma Boykin

*Yes, I have posts by others of you, but they have the potential to be controversial and since I’ll still be mostly out of pocket today and tomorrow, I don’t want to post those.  (Yesterday’s, btw, should have come with a note that it was written as I was contemplating coming out of the political closet and what it might mean about what was going on in my life at the moment.  I never expected it to become an argument on faith and religion.  Don’t you guys know already where you stand and that you’re each as stubborn as … the most stubborn thing on Earth [ Probably youngest son, really.]  For the record when I said if nothing existed after death what I did today wouldn’t matter I meant WOULDN’T MATTER TO ME.  I’m a nervibore and the condemnation I’m most afraid of is always my own.  Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t care about the people who come after me.  I have kids.  I might have grandkids.  AND I think you should behave as if you’re going to live forever anyway.  Anyway — floors to wax (yes, the infinite painting is done, except for the stairs to the basement) and things to do.  Sarah out.*

Universal Stories or: Were the Brothers Grimm Jungians? – by Alma Boykin

Many years ago, shortly after the planet cooled, when I was in Junior High and the Dead Sea was only sick, I found a book of folk tales and fairy tales from Vietnam, Korea, and China. I was fascinated to discover that Cinderella, the Little Goose Girl, Sleeping Beauty, and other stories had Asian parallels, and in some case almost identical stories, down to the wicked stepmother and evil stepsisters. Gee, maybe there was something to this idea that all people really are identical under the skin.

Well, once you start reading more widely (I typed “wisely.” Interesting, that) you discover that despite major similarities, there are also enormous differences, particularly in the unexpurgated versions. And in what gets left out. Sarah the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess has talked about Portuguese tales and what is missing, and some of the tales that strike modern, north-of-the-Alps or Across-the-Pond readers as brutal, misogynist, or just flat bizarre. Some things do linger though, like the power of a supernatural force to punish the unjust or badly behaved.

If you visit the main square in Klagenfurt, Austria, down almost on the Slovene and Italian border, you will find the statue of a dwarf. He has a large keg under one arm, and raises his other hand in warning. According to regional legend, he is responsible for the creation of the Wörthersee, the large, narrow lake just south of Klagenfurt that is beloved of Austrian vacationers (and gamblers). According to the stories, once upon a time, the people of the valley enjoyed all the blessings of soft rains, good weather, and fertile soil. They prospered, and the lords of the valley had a large, rich hall where people gathered to celebrate. The people began to ignore what had made them so prosperous. They continued to celebrate during the days before Easter, dancing and enjoying rich meals and fine music.

The dwarf appeared in the hall and warned them to stop dancing and to prepare for the feast of Easter. But the people ignored him, instead laughing and inviting him to dance. He vanished. He appeared a second time, and the third time, this last time with a cask under his arm. The dancers again refused to listen, instead insulting and teasing the dwarf. “You have been warned,” he said, turning the tap on the cask. Water poured out of the cask, unending streams of water, as a storm broke over the hall. When the sun rose on Easter day, nothing could be seen but a lake where once the rich hall and prosperous fields stood.

Now, if you replace Wörthersee with Bala, and the dwarf with a bard, and failing to heed the laws of religion with failing to heed the laws of hospitality, you have the story of Lake Bala in Wales. Add another twist and you have the Lost City of Ys off the coast of Brittany (or Cornwall). It’s easy to see where Carl Jung and other folk-tale and fairy-tale researchers came up with the idea of a group unconscious and archetypes. That some researchers then proceeded to dive off the deep end, and I’m glaring at you, Bruno Bettelheim, is also understandable. I had a phase where I thought Frazier’s Golden Bough explained Shakespeare, especially King Lear, and wrote a lengthy English lit paper about the fertility imagery in King Lear, using Medieval animal and botanical symbology. Yes, I got an A+ on the paper.

As an aside, Katherine Kurtz used Jungian ideas beautifully in her Adept series. The protagonist (and his mother *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*) is an adept in a magic system that uses past-life regressions and initiations, along with other forms of magical practice. He is also a psychiatrist, as is his mother. She studied with Jung, and he’s a Jungian. Kurtz did a magnificent job with her world-building and magic system, which makes room for a number of esoteric traditions as well as Christianity.

Back on the main topic, what catches my eyes now are the differences between fairy tales and folk tales, not the similarities. Sarah mentioned that there are no fairies or spirits in Portuguese tales, but that the saints intervene instead. To my surprise, the stories I read from Carinthia and Styria are full of mountain spirits, vengeful dwarves, water spirits, and other creatures. The devil, the Virgin, and a few angels also appear, but usually in disguise. Quite often, when someone tries to get out of a bargain with the devil, it is “an uncanny old woman” or “a mysterious stranger” who provides the clue as to how to outwit Old Scratch. None of the creatures are called fairies, and there is no unified fairy realm like the Irish (and Welsh and Scottish) stories describe. I would have thought that I’d find more saints’ stories, like all the tales I read from New Mexican folklore, and Italian. But no, mountain spirits and ghosts predominate. The Wild Hunt also appears, especially around St. John’s Eve (the summer solstice) and the twelve nights of Christmas (an especially uncanny time to be out after dark.)

Now this area is a mining region and has been since, well, at least the early Bronze Age. I have not come across anything yet like the tommyknockers, the little warning spirits that helped miners and warned of pending disaster. Instead there is the mountain king, all in grey, who insists on proper moral conduct by the miners and puts limits on what they will find. And mountain spirits that must be appeased (usually by good behavior and humility) or they allow scalding water into the mines, or collapse the mountain. St. Barbara and other overtly Christian figures don’t play any role in those stories.

I’m sure someone will say that this is because the stories long predate Christianity, and what remains are the pagan gods converted into mountain and water spirits. It is certainly possible. It could also be that by the time these were collected (late 1800s), people didn’t want to mention church things in folk tales. And the miners, mine-managers, and others, had been among the first to convert to Protestantism (Lutherans). Most of the miners had left, along with the regional nobility, when the Ferdinand III of Inner Austria terminated the edict of toleration, terminating a large chunk of his tax revenue in the process. It took over a century before the regional economy recovered, if then. Much of the area remains rural and lightly settled, looking back to the golden years of 1300-1550s. It could well be that the Protestants jettisoned the saints for mountain spirits. Or “yes.”

The other interesting thing is the lack of earthquake stories. I say this, because the region has been hit several times in the last 1000 years by massive quakes. You are hard pressed to find large walls that predate the 1360 quake, and others in the 1600s knocked down buildings farther north. But very few stories try to explain earthquakes, aside from very local tales about a specific mine, or a particular meadow (alp/alm) that was buried in debris because of someone’s misdeeds and greed. Did the presence of the Church prevent the development of earthquake folklore that lasted long enough to be collected? Or perhaps later disasters (the Turkish raids in the mid-1400s, the exodus of the 1500s and the woes of the 1600s) overshadowed the quakes.

Folk tales are fascinating things. I grew up reading them, and I enjoy authors who can take fairy tales and turn them into longer stories, if done well. They are a vast field to mine for ideas and world-building material, as well as to read for pleasure.

115 thoughts on “Universal Stories or: Were the Brothers Grimm Jungians? – by Alma Boykin

    1. ” I never expected it to become an argument on faith and religion.”

      Sarah, you put up a post dealing with death and the afterlife, and didn’t expect religion and faith to be part of it? You definitely need some rest.

      1. Not to mention the Huns’ collective ability to find a justifica, er, excuse, um, reason? for a brisk discussion at the drop of a hairball. 🙂

            1. Who said anything about fully? Arguing with myself is an important part of the boot sequence.

            2. I didn’t get the memo, either. Something’s wrong down in the minion pool…

              1. Pulls out flashlight, goes down, plays light on water

                Ok, who’s the wise guy who hid some pirate gold down there? A water serpent decided that’s its treasure and is taking up the minion pool.

                1. Not me. I don’t do plumbing or accounting, remember?

                  Um, are you certain its pirate gold? If its fairy gold, we could try using mirrors to shine sunlight down there and making it go away. Although that might tick off the water serpent, and we’d have to issue a sunlight warning so people and you-know-whats can get out of the way.

                    1. I think those are wrenches, not bones. It’s a hologram courtesy of the fellas at Hackaday.

      2. Could’ve been worse… I was thinking of bringing up the way Marines roll up their sleeves wrong. 😉

  1. But Sarah! There wouldn’t be those arguments if everybody just agreed with me! [Very Very Big Kidding Grin]

        1. It wouldn’t be boring if all agreed with moi, as I am of (at least) two minds on practically everything, frequently starting arguments with myself just to break up the monotony.

    1. Yes, the unfortunate phenomenon of Agreeing With People Who Are Not Me is the source of most arguments I’ve seen.

      1. “Is it just this dress, or is it me?”

        Is that the type of agreement to which you refer?

  2. One notes that a folklorist proved that the publication of Grimms’ fairy tales produced a noticeable shift in the oral fairy tales in Japan. (Story tellers can know a good idea when they rip one off see one.)

    So the connection may be even simpler.

    1. I think it’s on the recording “Live from the Hungry I” where the Kingston Trio joke that a folk song that’s been recorded isn’t “pure.” There’s probably some truth to that, but not quite the intended way. Did folk-lore collectors who had read, say, the Child Ballads or Grimm, unconsciously tweak what they heard from story tellers to fit into the patterns they were already familiar with? As well as storytellers thinking “ooh, that’s a good one, I bet the village will like that.”

      1. As always, the master said it best:

        “When ‘Omer Smote ‘Is Bloomin’ Lyre”

        When ‘Omer smote ‘is bloomin’ lyre,
        He’d ‘eard men sing by land an’ sea;
        An’ what he thought ‘e might require,
        ‘E went an’ took — the same as me!

        The market-girls an’ fishermen,
        The shepherds an’ the sailors, too,
        They ‘eard old songs turn up again,
        But kep’ it quiet — same as you!

        They knew ‘e stole; ‘e knew they knowed.
        They didn’t tell, nor make a fuss,
        But winked at ‘Omer down the road,
        An’ ‘e winked back — the same as us!

      2. eh, folklorists had some singularly silly goose ideas about folklore oozing out of the primordial slime and any variation on that being contamination of the pure form.

      3. I’ve heard that theory re: folk songs before – people who don’t want you to record or write down their performance of a song, because they want it to stay in a state of creation (as they believe it was during times of oral tradition), not get frozen.
        It’s a theory … but it undervalues the better-developed skills at memorization that, I think, used to be common, and which arguably result in pretty good persistence of the “nut”, or central meme, of the song or story.
        Granted, some folk tale memorization is selective – adapting the details for local interest.

        1. That’s an interesting argument. I first heard “Witch of the Westmorland” at a concert in Little Five Points in Atlanta. I memorized it as I heard it (95%), and sang it around here and there just for fun. Does that mean the song “froze” the moment it imprinted into my mind, or the first time I sang it as I cleaned my dorm room? And what if the original musician never hears/sees the recording? *shrug* To each their own.

        2. There is a qualitative difference between live and “fixed” performance. Every artist I have ever heard/read discussing this makes the point that a live performance of a song or a dance is different for every audience, and different in ways other than the artist not being able to reach certain notes or manage certain turns on a given day.

          In a recent series of articles on the retirement of prima ballerina Julie Kent (after nearly 30 years with the American Ballet Theatre), Jay Nordlinger elicited this observation:
          “If someone watches a video of you online,” I ask, “has he seen Julie Kent dance, sort of?”

          She answers, “He’s seen a film of Julie Kent dancing, and that is something else. As soon as you film ballet, it’s no longer ballet. It’s film. A film of ballet. Because what makes any live performance so moving is that, well, it’s a live performance. And you are there to experience it. As soon as it’s filmed, the whole medium has changed. It’s different. It’s still beautiful, and it still has value, but it’s a captured moment, as opposed to a live moment.”

          Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420839/julie-kent-interview-part-iii?target=author&tid=1853

          1. Another example:
            Robert Morse tells of seeing the music for the role of Finch in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” and telling Frank Loesser that he would never be able to reach the high note in “I Believe In You” (on the phrase: I take heart”) — only to have Loesser take him out on the stage and assure Morse that with a house full of audience he’d manage it.

            Sure enough, every night (and twice weekly matinees) Morse managed to reach that note.

            1. Sigh. Strike the quote mark after … Without Really Trying and insert a close italics.

      1. I belief recent unbowdlerized translations have been recently published; Amazon offers several options. For a sense of the Weltanschauung try looking into Struwwelpeter:

        per Wiki:
        Hoffmann wrote Struwwelpeter in reaction to the lack of good children’s books. Intending to buy a picture book as a Christmas present for his three-year-old son, Hoffmann instead wrote and illustrated his own book.[1] In 1845 he was persuaded by friends to publish the book anonymously as Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder mit 15 schön kolorierten Tafeln für Kinder von 3–6 Jahren (Funny Stories and Whimsical Pictures with 15 Beautifully Coloured Panels for Children Aged 3 to 6). For third edition, published in 1858, the title changed to Struwwelpeter, the name of the character in the first story. The book became popular among children throughout Europe, and, writes author and researcher Penni Cotton, the pictures and characters showed a great deal of originality and directness.

        Struwwelpeter has been translated into several languages. In 1891, Mark Twain wrote his own translation of the book but because of copyright issues, Twain’s “Slovenly Peter” was not published until 25 years after his death in 1935

    2. And that’s before whoever is collecting the stories starts “organizing” them– brings whole new meaning to “remove everything that doesn’t look like a statue.”

    1. Thank you, and to coincide with Ms Boykin’s discussion it includes the warning to change one’s ways.

  3. There’s one story I know of that you can track from Arabia all the way to germany (Seems to have followed the trade routes into Russia then through to germany). In Russian it’s called (usually) Ivan Tsarovitch, in German I think it’s called ‘The Golden Bird, the Golden Horse, and the Golden Girl” (or princess, I don’t have my notes handy). The stories are remarkably similar. The main change is the arabian story has a fox helping hte hero, the Russian has ‘Brother Wolf’, and the Germans go back to a fox. Odds are good a lot of similarities came from ‘we’re tired but not enough to sleep on the ground… Stories!’ between traders.

    I don’t think the stories themselves are ‘universal’ or some copy of a master archetypal story… but I think the things humans want and need to hear about, at a fundamental level, is very similar. Courage, hope, that the down trodden can rise up.

    1. The German one is generally called “The Golden Bird”, there’s a French variant “The Golden Blackbird”; a Irish one “The Greek Princess and the Young Gardener”, and a Scottish one “How Ian Direach got the Blue Falcon.”

      Of course, tracing tales is harder than it might seem at first owing to the oral transmission. Prior to the Grimms, it’s all under the sea surface except for a few literary outcroppings: Psyche and Cupid alias “The Search for the Lost Husband” type, Jason and Medea, alias “The Girl Helps the Hero Flee” and “The Forsaken Fiancee” with some nasty twists.

    2. It works with “urban legends” as well.

      One gentleman traced the “Vanishing Hitchhiker” story to pre-automobile stories from China. (Remember the Chinese workers in places like California).

  4. I am amazed that how quickly some stories will take root. We have the fictional Paul Bunyan, Captain Stormalong and Pecos Bill; we have the mythologized Johnny Appleseed , Daniel Boone and John Henry we have the literary Br’er and Headless Horseman. We’ll continue to have them as long as we allow them to be read and told.

    1. Bre’er Rabbit stories are essentially bowdlerization’s of Anansi stories. Having read the first, and heard the later (mother grew up on Anansi, and passed some off to me and my brothers), all that changes is more or less is the spider became a rabbit. Now I wonder how Coyote stories in the Midwest compare to Anansi.

      1. Which leads me to suggest the Lenny Henry audio book reading of Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. It was written for Lenny Henry’s voice and the recording demonstrates it.

  5. Wait till you get into African tribal folklore – Lumukanda, the Blind Immortal (and cannibal), the tokoloshe (you defend against them by raising your bed on bricks placed beneath each leg, so they can’t climb the legs and kidnap you while you sleep), the Lightning Bird, and so on. Fascinating!

  6. …I have posts by others of you, but they have the potential to be controversial and since I’ll still be mostly out of pocket today and tomorrow, I don’t want to post those.


    I never expected it to become an argument on faith and religion.

    While it isn’t always on matters of faith and religion we argue, you know we can and will argue. We lock horns on about just about anything if the mood strikes. Moreover, whatever it is that starts this may seem to sprout out of an offside comment or even thin air.

    1. It’s not us she’s worried about. Some subjects bring interlopers from the more…unsavory ends of the Internet. Since only the BbESP can operate the Flamethrower of Banning, she likes to be available when they go up.

        1. While that may be true I can only remember with regret the circumstances in my early days here where I locked horns with a fellow Hun over a misunderstanding created by a less than meticulous post relating a friends experience with the TSA …

  7. And then there’s something I’ve noticed very recently: Islamic versions of European fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella.

    1. With their own fillips. Like where the boy finds the lost golden sandal, brings it to his mother, and says he wants to marry the girl behind it, and his mother thinks it may be the same girl that she saw a festivity (women only of course).

      Or the father who asks his three daughters — is it through my fate or your fate that you are living so well? The youngest daughter is naturally the one who says, because there is a fate for every person, it must be my fate. Proceed as normal. Sometimes. I have run across that in a Arab fairy tale where she promptly married and it was her daughter who was the heroine in a Goose Girl tale.

  8. “Sarah the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess has talked about Portuguese tales and what is missing”

    Talked as in “orally spoke about”? Or talked as in “has blogged on this website”? If the latter, does anyone have any links. I’ll admit, I’m curious to see what she has to say on this.

  9. Not surprised about similarities between Welsh, Scottish, Brittany, Cornwall, or much of mid Europe north of the Alps – all Celtic country, now and in the past. A people with a long memory for folktale memes. Exported with Celts to New World, also.

    More interesting per the “universal stories” discussion is how & when these ideas came into being in more-thoroughly independent places: Transmission by vectors much older (persistence), or parallel development (universality)?

      1. The problem with “persistance” is that tales have been amazingly mutable in even the decades we have an accurate view of.

        1. Yeah, I’m looking for the limits to mutability. Does the core of the story – moral, logical progession, whatever – persist/get preserved through most mutations, or does the core actually evolve over sufficient time &/or cultural change? Or does it split, so both are true: a new branch with a new core idea and also a persistent branch, identifiable as essentially the same story but a very long time later/elsewhere?

          1. I think I get what you’re saying, but… it’s like that episode of Star Trek where there was a transporter accident years ago, and one Riker ended up on the ship, the other on the planet’s surface. “Which one is the real one” depends on how you’re going to define “real.” (Well, really it depends on what you mean by ‘real,’ but the only way I can know what you mean is if I know the definition you’re using….)

            1. “Except for certain metaphysical purposes the question ‘Is this real?’ had generally best be parried by the question ‘Is it a real what?’ This is not a real ghost, but it is a real dummy made out of a turnip and a dust sheet. That is not a real house, but it is a real bit of stage scenery. No real crocodile disturbed me in the night; a real nightmare did. Mr Chadband’s piety was not real piety but real hypocrisy. Is this picture a real Rembrandt or a real forgery ?” C. S Lewis

          2. What really complicates it is that the only way to verify changes, namely writing them down for comparison, can itself affect what tales are told. Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales included notes about how he choose things — like a Snow White tale with an innkeeper and robbers even though most had queens and dwarves — guess why.

            1. Since I’m currently looking at references about economics and politics in Europe between 1920 and 1933, I hesitate to guess, but . . it was a different version and Calvino was/is a Socialist?

  10. IMO….

    ‘Archetypes’ are only representative of a ‘collective unconscious’ if you like to sit around and pretend that history, and older stories, simply never existed.

    Just because i don’t buy into Sigmund Fraud doesn’t mean I’m Jungian either.

    1. It is axiomatic that all humans share certain experiences, such as being born of woman, raised in a family unit (however defined), the need for sustenance and a place to excrete waste, and experiencing death. Thus there must be some universal elements of human culture, even if every culture finds distinct ways of addressing these universalities.

      Paired with that is a human tendency to travel, to explore, to trade. One trade good common to all travelers is The Story. Whether it is news or anecdotes or folk tales, The Story is often the most valued of exchange items, one which costs the teller little and enriches the recipient greatly.

      But tales have to be tailored, for what fits a herding culture likely doesn’t suit a society of miners, and what offers wisdom to farmers may be nonsense to those folks who make their living in a Highlands pass, charging tolls of all who seek to cross. In his autobiography Harpo Marx tells of touring 1930s Russia, about which Wiki relates

      In 1933, following U.S. diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union, he spent six weeks in Moscow as a performer and goodwill ambassador. His tour was a huge success. Harpo’s name was transliterated into Russian, using the Cyrillic alphabet, as ХАРПО МАРКС, and was billed as such during his Soviet Union appearances. Harpo, having no knowledge of Russian, pronounced it as ‘Exapno Mapcase’. At that time Harpo and the Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov became friends and even performed a routine on stage together. During this time he served as a secret courier; delivering communiques to and from the US embassy in Moscow at the request of Ambassador William Christian Bullitt, Jr., smuggling the messages in and out of Russia by taping a sealed envelope to his leg beneath his trousers, an event described in David Fromkin’s 1995 book In the Time of the Americans. In Harpo Speaks, Marx describes his relief at making it out of the Soviet Union, recalling how “I pulled up my pants, ripped off the tape, unwound the straps, handed over the dispatches from Ambassador Bullitt, and gave my leg its first scratch in ten days.”

      The Russia trip was later memorialized in a bizarre science fiction novella, The Foreign Hand Tie by Randall Garrett, a tale of telepathic spies which is full of references to the Marx Brothers and their films.

      Unfortunately for Harpo, most of his schtick was indecipherable to the Russians until his hosts hit upon the idea of having a narrator tell a story setting up Harpo’s gags, such as handing his leg to an official. Speaking no Russian, Harpo never learned what those set-ups were, but they worked, rendering his routines hilarious to the audiences.

      So each tale is adopted and adapted by the audience, adjusted by discarding those elements making no sense (there would be no wicked step-mothers in a matrilineal culture, I s’pose) and adapting those elements for which there is no clear equivalent, such as substituting local fae for the Tuatha Dé Danann, or weretigers in lieu of werewolves (much as returning Roman legionaries told of unicorns.)

      1. Eh, in a matrilineal society you’d have wicked aunts and wicked stepfathers, instead of wicked uncles and wicked stepmothers.

        Except that you get those in folktales, too, so it’s not only the lineality. Your stepmother still wants your father’s resources dedicated to her and her kids.

  11. Google things it is a typo for herbivore. The only exact matches come from this blog. And the only other matches area small number of Italian hits include “Nervi Bore” as part of some other phrase, as part of what appears to be a travel site. I’m flummoxed. Perhaps Sarah has created a new word, in the grand tradition of the Bard?

    1. I’d guess typo-of-unusual-size or a neologism. “Nervivore – something that eats nerves”? “Nervi-bore – that guy at the party that interrupts your conversation and then drones on and on”? “NerviBore – a gizmo used in root canal surgery”?

  12. A character from a totally different mythology appeared in the Baba Yaga story. And so did something I don’t recogniz— Well, actually I do recognize it, and I have a terrible feeling it is the herald of a sequel. *whimper, whimper* Why do you do this to me, muse, whyyyyyyyy????

    1. ::A Female Voice Is Heard Saying “Because It Is Fun”::

    2. In Enchantment, Orson Scott Card made Baba Yaga the evil witch of the Sleeping Beauty story. And he introduced a literal “bear as embodiment of Russia”.

      Who knows – five centuries from now, a specialist in folklore might try to explain how it fits in with the evolution of the Sleeping Beauty narrative.

  13. One additional factor to consider in the tales told: listener expectations.

    A Hungarian miner may be less likely to ascribe a warning against an impending mine collapse to a kobold than to a saint when telling his story in the village pub afterward — with the village priest in attendance.

    1. Or the other way ’round. Depending on spirituality and personality.

      Re: the dwarf — There’s a whole class of German Catholic fairies that are assigned to making sure people fast and work when they’re supposed to, and also that they rest and make merry when they’re supposed to. (Yeah, because they’re Germans.) Usually the Lent fairy is a little old lady, though.

      1. Interesting. I’d never caught the Lenten fairies before, but then this is the first time I really immersed myself in the material.

        1. I’m trying to find a link for you, but I’m not finding it. I think last time I wandered over from the Eisheiligen or from St. Martin’s Day stuff. (Every so often, I have to get my inner German going.)

          I have now learned that ice hockey fans like the Eisheiligen much better than anyone else, and there’s a charming picture of the bishop saint leaning on a hockey stick instead of a crozier, and saying (instead of the traditional farming rhymes), “Eishockey und bier, so sind wir.” I’ve also seen a lot of pictures of Kalte Sophie. No holiday fairies yet. (I thought I’d blogged about ’em, but maybe not.)

          1. Well, there’s a particularly nasty Epiphany fairy or saint or ex-goddess, Bertha or Berchta or Perchta, who in Bavaria and Austria “was said to roam the countryside at midwinter, and to enter homes between the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany (especially on Twelfth Night). She would know whether the children and young servants of the household had behaved well and worked hard all year. If they had, they might find a small silver coin next day, in a shoe or pail. If they had not, she would slit their bellies open, remove stomach and guts, and stuff the hole with straw and pebbles. She was particularly concerned to see that girls had spun the whole of their allotted portion of flax or wool during the year. She would also slit people’s bellies open and stuff them with straw if they ate something on the night of her feast day other than the traditional meal of fish and gruel.”

            I don’t remember this being in Maria Von Trapp’s holiday book, but maybe I missed it. I guess some people really like to add a bit of horror story to their holiday cheer… man, I’m glad we did St. Nicholas instead!

            OTOH, of course a lot of times these super-gruesome stories are actually more of a humorous scare, depending on how it’s told. But yeah, I think I’ll be over here staying away from Perchta. 🙂

            1. Some of the similar holiday fairies for totally different holidays apparently were associated with Perchta by the Grimms, like Frau Faste and Quatembermann. I do seem to remember that sometimes they were listed as “witches” or “angels” instead of fairies.

              Germany. They have time on their hands and space enough between regions to think up some weird, weird stuff.

              1. Some of the hard-core (as in have degrees in) folklore and religion people put Frau Perchta in as as aspect of the Wild Hunt, because of the similar timing and because in a few regions (southern Switzerland and the Vosges, Southern Tirol) she has familiars like those with the Wild Hunt. In other places, the krampus and St. Nicholas pick up the house-patrol aspect and Frau Perchta is purely a night spirit who “encourages” good folk to remain at home or to find shelter at sundown on Ember Days and the Twelve Nights of Christmas.

            2. I don’t remember this being in Maria Von Trapp’s holiday book, but maybe I missed it.

              IIRC it was the basis for a big musical number (featuring Gretl as the naughty girl) that opened the second act but was eliminated during out-of-town tryouts.

        2. There’s one in North America that appears to have sprung from missionary tales about gargoyles, because it’s dangerous to look it in the eye. Once when a dance was held during Lent, it appeared; fortunately, they immediately stopped the dance and did not get the punishment epidemic.

          1. Nah, gargoyles are native to North America; they’re hibernating in the southwest. I saw a documentary about it, once.

            1. Oh no, those gargoyles are native to North America only in the sense that humans are native to North America.

              The documentary made it clear that those gargoyles had been competing with humans everywhere that humans lived.

              Going serious, I saw an ebook that appeared to based on that movie. IIRC it had a touch of “humans are evil” in it. [Frown]

              1. Considered philosophically, only humans have moral capacity, ergo only humans can be evil.

    2. I know of at least one book from period of folk tales, compiled by a priest, specifically to be used in sermons as illustrations. This was likely done in other cultures as well – and I imagine that whether the oral version of the miner’s tale featured a kobold, the written version that came down to us via the priest did not!

  14. The story that occurred to me while reading about the dwarf was, oddly enough, Soddom and Gomorrah.

    The residents are acting inappropriately (they try and rape Lot’s guests). There’s a warning that is largely ignored (Lot warns his sons in law, but they think he’s nuts). And the cities are replaced by a large body of water (a popular line of thinking is that Lot’s wife was transformed into a “pillar of salt” because she went back… and ended up at the bottom of the newly formed Dead Sea).

    1. The Wörthersee story does fit the pattern. It also fits the “breach of hospitality” (as does Sodom and Gomorrah), which makes me suspect it’s a hybrid of the German Lenten spirit and the rule about not abusing guests.

      The lake is rather dramatic. It’s the largest body of water in Austria, and is in a deep valley with a steep ridge to the north and the Karawankan Alps to the south. I can easily imagine people wondering how it came to be, and senseing something odd about it that invited an unusual origin. (It formed when an ice dam formed, then burst and drained a much larger lake in the space of only a few days or a week.)

    2. The description more closely matches getting caught in a pyroclastic flow. Look back… the superheated vaporized minerals catch up to you because they’re traveling 200mph. I’m firmly in the camp of the ‘Don’t look back’ was not an implicit ‘I will punish you’ it was a ‘or you won’t be able to run far enough before it’s too late.’

      1. I favor that one, also– partly because it appeals to my sense of the orderly. How much dang time does He spend telling us “Look, no, really— you do not want to do that!“, then people do it, and then they complain about being punished by the one who warned them of the results….

  15. “Long ago, when the Dead Sea was only sick” — I love it 🙂 (In Hebrew, it’s not called “Dead Sea” but “Sea of Salt”, by the way.)
    Each language seems to have its own metaphors for “long ago”. I particularly love the Dutch “in the days when the animals could still speak”…

    1. My personal favorite that’s acceptable is “Back when the earth was green and still cooling…”. Least acceptable, “Back when Christ was still a corporal…”.

      1. “Once upon a time, when wishing was still of some use. . . ”

        “Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, though it wasn’t in my time, nor in your time, nor anyone else’s time, . . .”

      2. “Way back when, before the Devil got his law degree . . .” I’m not sure if that was invented by the story-teller or a regionalism (heard in North Carolina).

    2. You can roughly date some Russian Faerie Tales (at least in that version of the telling) by how they open. “Long Ago, when the Tsar still lived in Kiev.” Usually means it was written down around the time of Ivan the Terrible or later.

      The Russians also had a special way of constructing their verbs and a complete mode of writing for Faerie Tales (Still researching it).

  16. Sounds like you have some on tap already. But if you want a controversial guest post after the 31st – I’ve been writing up capsule reviews of the Hugo nominees as I go through them (for my own reference).

    So far, it’s shaping up as I’ll get crucified by Chorfs – and then pissed on by Puppies…

    1. They all suck. Georgie Martin says so:
      ‘Game of Thrones’ Author George R.R. Martin Would Like to Recommend Some Books
      By Michael Calia
      George R.R. Martin is busy. Between working on several book projects, including a “Game of Thrones” coloring book and a little novel called “The Winds of Winter,” he is developing another HBO series, and he is always on the road.

      Just recently, he has been to Finland, Sweden, Germany and Chicago. Thankfully for the Martin, however, traveling enables him to read a ton. In a post Tuesday on his “Not a Blog,” Martin shared his thoughts about some of the books he has read during his recent travels. It’s not all science fiction and fantasy, either. The list also includes two of the current biggest titles in popular fiction and nonfiction.

      Here’s a glance at Martin’s recent reads and what he thinks about them. (And, no, he didn’t offer an update on the status of “The Winds of Winter.”)


      “Angles of Attack” by Marko Kloos

      This is an interesting selection because it’s one of the books online campaigners for popular modes of science fiction had included on the controversial slate for the Hugo Awards, which are awarded to exemplary literary science fiction works. (It’s a complicated Culture War story. Read this piece for background.) Martin has been critical of the groups, so-called “Puppies,” but he enjoyed Kloos’s book. (Kloos, incidentally, withdrew his book’s status as a Hugo finalist “as an act of conscience,” according to Martin.) The “Game of Thrones” author said that while military science fiction isn’t usually his thing, he is entertained by Kloos’s work. “Kloos is a writer to watch,” he writes.

      As for other Hugo nominees that weren’t withdrawn, Martin hints that he isn’t much of a fan of them. “Hoo boy,” he writes. “Suffice it to say that I was very glad that I had the books listed above [on] hand, to cleanse my palate after sampling some of the Hugo stuff.”
      — — —
      So, no need for you to think when an eminence such as Fat George will do it for you. Embedded links can be found by accessing the article (linked above) from Wall Street Journal Arts & Entertainment blog, Speakeasy.

      1. So he likes the work of the guy who declined his nomination. But if Kloos hadn’t done that, I rather suspect he’d get lumped in with the “Hoo boy”.

      2. Game of Thrones *coloring book*!?

        A book for kids that focuses on Game of Thrones?

        That’s one series (both book and television) that should be kept as far away from kids as possible.

        1. There are adult coloring books (ie, made for booootiful coloring and shading with a lot tinier areas and more squiggly lines). One hopes that is what Martin is developing.

          1. Assuredly the moral universe of George R. R. Martin would preclude a GoT coloring book targeted at children.

            My apologies to all who are now busily wiping clean their monitors.

    2. Yeah, I know.

      I have to admit – I’m not so much a Puppy as I am someone who the Chorfs just plain pissed off too much. So I “lean” towards the Puppy party. I try really, really hard to live up to my moniker, though – which is why I’m certain to make some of them unhappy with me.

      Note, though, how I phrased that. Puppy piss can be washed off; crucifixion is forever (with a single exception…)

  17. Somewhat apropos quote: “When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

    C.S. Lewis, “On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature”

    Snitched from Cedar Sanderson’s blog. (BTW, she’s running a contest giving away a signed copy of “Dragon Noir” – so go check out her blog. No, I don’t know her at all, except to say that she looks stunning in green…)

  18. If you haven’t yet read C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man, I recommend picking up a copy, skipping the entire book and reading the back bit – an appendix summaizing human cross cultural beliefs. Then re-read Ms Boykin’s essay. Congratulations! You’ve just discovered “human nature, universality of same”

    Hmmm.. I may need to recommend that combo to Tom Simon. I’ll bet something rather more brilliant than this comment will ensue. Speaking of which, his non fiction is highly recommended. Google “bondwine books” to sample his stuff, and you’ll agree.

    I also recommend Sun and Moon Ice and Snow. Although thoroughly grounded in medieval Norway, the Elizabeth Day George pulls all the iterations of “East of the Sun West of the Moon” from ancient Greece to baroque France into the tale.

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