I’m back with another chapter of Le Morte D’Arthur! This chapter has a lot of murder this time, so that’s very fun!
Previously on Le Morte D’Arthur: Balin, some guy who just got out of prison for murdering a guy, pulled out the special sword that only the best knight could take from the sheath! Yay! He then proceeds to ignore the lady when she tells him that the knight who wields the sword will kill the man he loves best in the world. I’m sure that little incident won’t end up being important later!
As Balin made ready to depart, a lady who was called The Lady of the Lake came to the court. [Because medieval authors like to be confusing, this is not The Lady of the Lake who is Lancelot’s cool mom, but instead is a completely separate Lady of the Lake, the same one who gave Arthur Excalibur.] She came on horseback, dressed in fine clothing, and greeted King Arthur, and asked him for the gift he had promised her when she gave him his sword.
“It is true that I promised you a gift,” said Arthur, “but first, I have forgotten the name of the sword that you gave me.”
“The name of the sword is Excalibur, which means ‘cut-steel,” said the lady.
“Ask what you will and you shall have it, if it lies in my power to give it,” said the king. [Promising to do things for people without asking what they want first is something that has never gone wrong for anyone in mythology ever!! /s]
“Well,” said the lady, “I ask for the head of the knight that won the sword, or else the damsel’s head that brought it. I feel no guilt for asking for their heads, for the knight slew my brother, a good, true knight, and that gentlewoman was the cause of my father’s death.” [Love that Balin has now been accused of murder twice now]
“Truly,” said King Arthur, “I may not grant either of their heads and keep my honor, so ask for something else, and I shall fulfill your desire.”
“I will ask for no other thing,” said the lady.
When Balin was ready to depart, he saw the Lady of the Lake, whom he had sought for three years because she had slain Balin’s mother. […Is everyone in this story a murderer?? I know the answer to that question is yes] When he was told that she had asked King Arthur for his head, he went straight to her, and said, “Evil is our encounter! You would have my head, and therefore you shall lose yours.” And with that, he cut off her head in front of King Arthur. [None of these characters have ANY chill]
“Alas, for shame!” said Arthur. “Why have you done so? You have shamed me and all my court, for this was a lady I was beholden to, and she came here under my safe-conduct. I shall never forgive you for this trespass.”
“Sir,” said Balin, “I regret causing you displeasure. This same lady was the falsest lady living. By enchantment and sorcery she has been the destroyer of many good knights, and she caused my mother to be burned alive through her falsehood and treachery.”
“Whatever your cause was,” said Arthur, “you should have forborne from killing her in my presence. Therefore don’t think you won’t repent it, for such another outrage I have never had in my court. Withdraw out of my court in all haste.” [Okay I’m sorry but it’s so funny to me that he’s yelling at Balin for not killing her later when it wouldn’t have caused trouble for Arthur personally. I honestly can’t help but love Arthur, what a silly little trashbag king]
Then Balin took up the head of the lady and bore it with him to the inn, [HELP] and there he met with his squire, who was sorry that Balin had displeased King Arthur, and so they rode forth out of the town. [The innkeeper: *currently regretting all the life choices that led to him setting up an inn near Camelot*] “Now,” said Balin, “we must depart. Take this head and bear it to my friends, and tell them how I have fared, and tell my friends in Northumberland that my greatest foe is dead. Also tell them how I am out of prison, and what adventure befell me when I got my sword.” [YOU’RE JUST GOING TO GIVE THE SEVERED HEAD TO YOUR SQUIRE AND ASK HIM TO TRAVEL WITH IT ACROSS THE COUNTRY????]
“Alas,” said the squire. “You are greatly to blame for displeasing King Arthur.”
“As for that,” said Balin, “I shall hurry in all haste to meet with King Rience and destroy him, or die trying, and if I happen to win against him, King Arthur shall forgive me and accept me into his service.”
“Where shall I meet with you?” asked the squire.
“In King Arthur’s court,” said Balin. So he and his squire departed at that time.
King Arthur and all the court felt great sorrow and shame for the death of the Lady of the Lake, and the king buried her richly.
I kind of feel like there’s a parallel between Gawain and Balin? They’re both down for murder and revenge until finally they’re in over their heads and (**spoilers**) their brothers end up dead. Idk, my thoughts on this are half-formed, but I find it interesting. Also casually carrying a severed head around town is SUCH a Gawain move, ngl
I don’t think I say this too often, but I am genuinely sorry for how long I took in between updates for this series. Thanks for your patience, everyone!
Also, did anyone else read The Adventures of Sir Balin the Ill-Fated as a kid? That was a great series. Also surprisingly faithful to the legends? (Surprisingly because it’s sort of hard to do that with a kid’s book. I tried when I was sixteen and failed so hard lmao.) Lancelot DOES have very shiny armor, btw. Le Morte D’Arthur may not mention that but that’s because it didn’t need to, it was implicit in the text
Previously on Le Morte D’Arthur:King Rience has declared war against King Arthur, but that’s not important. What’s REALLY important is that a damsel from Avalon has shown up to the court with a magic sword that only the Best Knight can pull out of the sheath. Unfortunately Lancelot and Gawain haven’t shown up yet in the story, so we’re stuck with a bunch of b-listers. (Arthur can’t pull the sword out, presumably for infanticide-related crimes.) This is a terrible problem.
It happened at that time that there was a poor knight with King Arthur who had been a prisoner for half a year or more, for he had slayed a knight who was King Arthur’s cousin. This knight’s name was Balin, and the barons helped to deliver him out of prison, for he was a good man, born in Northumberland. And so he went quietly into the court and saw this adventure, which caught his interest.
He would have attempted to draw the sword as all the other knights did, but because he was poor and poorly arrayed, he hung back in the crowd. But in his heart, he knew he would do as well as any knight here, if fortune were on his side. [I’m genuinely kind of confused by the structure of the original sentence, but I think that’s what it’s saying. I love middle English and I hate middle English. It’s very fun to read but it’s SO hard] And as the damsel took her leave of Arthur and all the barons and began to depart, Balin called unto her, and said, “Damsel, I pray that you will allow me to attempt to draw the sword along with these lords, though I am so poorly clothed. In my heart, I think I stand as good a chance as some of these others, and I think I will fare well.”
The damsel beheld the poor knight, and saw he was a fine-looking man, but because of his poor clothing, she thought he would not be without villainy or treachery. [Literally what do his clothes have to do with anything, classism is a hell of a drug] “Sir, you need not put me to more pain or labor, for I wouldn’t think you would succeed where others have failed,” she said to the knight.
“Ah, fair damsel,” said Balin, “worthiness and good traits and good deeds are not only in arrayment, but honor is hidden within a man’s person. Many a worshipful knight is not known unto all people. Honor and bravery are not in arrayment.”
“You speak the truth,” said the damsel. “I will allow you to attempt to draw the sword.”
Balin took the sword by the belt and sheath and drew it out easily, and when he looked at the sword, it pleased him greatly. [You know, if I had just gotten a sword that meant I was a good person, I think it would please me greatly, too] The king and all the barons marveled at this, and many knights were envious of Balin.
“Certainly,” said the damsel, “this is a passing good knight, the best I have ever found, without treason, treachery, or villainy. He shall do many marvelous things. Now, gentle and courteous knight, give me the sword again.”
“No,” said Balin. “I will keep this sword unless someone takes it from me by force.” [Are you KIDDING me, someone take the sword from this man]
“Well,” said the damsel, “You are not wise to keep the sword from me, for you shall slay the best friend that you have with that sword, the man that you love the most in the world. That sword shall be your destruction.”
“I shall take the adventure that God gives me, but you shall not have this sword.” [Some people are just genre-blind. The creepy lady telling you that you will kill your best friend is not always lying! Sometimes she is, but not always! I am BEGGING you to drop the sword, I promise the local blacksmith can make you a really nice one instead]
“You shall repent it within a short time,” said the damsel. “I would have the sword more for your sake than for mine. You will not believe that that sword will be your destruction, and that is a great pity.” With that the damsel departed in great sorrow. [Tbh I don’t feel that sorry for him, at this point he’s just digging his own grave]
Soon after, Balin sent for his horse and armor, deciding to depart from the court, and he took his leave of King Arthur. “I wish you would not depart so lightly from this fellowship,” said the king. “I suppose you are displeased that I have shown you such unkindness. Do not blame me, for I was misinformed against you, and I knew not that you were such an honorable knight. If you will stay in this court among my fellowship, I shall advance you in rank as you see fit.” [Okay I’m sorry but I love how everyone seems to assume that Balin didn’t actually murder the guy just because a magic sword said he was a good person probably]
“I thank your highness,” said Balin. “Your goodness and glory may no man praise half to the value, but at this time I must depart. I beseech you always of your good grace.”
“Truly,” said the king, “Your departure upsets me. I pray, fair knight, that you not tarry long, and you shall be welcome here to me and my barons. I shall amend all the wrongs that I have done against you.”
“I thank your great lordship,” said Balin, and made ready to depart.
After, many knights of the round table said that Balin did not complete this adventure through might, but through witchcraft. [The girls are gossipinggg]
I CAN TURN TEXT BLUE AGAIN. I have no idea why that wasn’t working for me before.
Hopefully this is at least slightly more comprehensible than middle English, I got this all together at like. After midnight I think? (I’ve done more of these chapters after midnight than I’d like to admit, which tbh probably explains a lot.) I feel like I could do with one more proofread for typos, but I’m very tired and I’d like to post this right now before I forget!
Lancelot is the only one who actually ended up in a lake and he didn’t even do anything wrong, smh*
*In case you didn’t know, Lancelot grew up in a lake with his cool enchantress adoptive mom, Nimue
So I miiiight do a series in which I recap Chretien de Troyes’ stories? Excepting Cliges, because that one is insane. But I don’t make any promises, either, because hello? ADHD and commitments? They do not mix. And also I am so sorry about that one post on Irish fairies that I said I would do a part two of and never got around to doing. I will do it one of these days! Just maybe…sometime later.
One day, King Arthur decides that he will go on a hunt for a certain white stag. Traditionally, the person who catches the stag gets to kiss the most beautiful woman in the court, so…mistletoe, but with extra steps? Gawain, being for once the only smart person in this story, tells Arthur that this is a TERRIBLE idea, actually, because everyone is a drama queen and why would you invite this on yourself. Do not get people started on who is the prettiest person or the best fighter. It never ends well. Being someone who gives actually good advice, Gawain is promptly ignored. This is what happens when you ignore the person giving good advice, people. They go insane and bring down a kingdom or something.
Guinevere falls behind during the hunting party, riding with an unnamed maiden and Erec, the titular hero of this story. Erec, in an uncharacteristically sweet moment, tells Guinevere that he only came along in order to keep her company. Just a warning, this is the one of the few moments in this story when he doesn’t act like a prick. Negative character development from here on out.
Guinevere and Erec happen upon a strange knight in the forest, riding with a maiden and a dwarf. Guinevere first asks her maiden to go up and bring them over, but the knight doesn’t respond very well to that, and the dwarf strikes the maiden’s arm with a whip. Not very polite people, this group. So Guinevere, rightfully furious, commands Erec to go over to them instead. Erec, however, gets the same treatment. At least they’re equal opportunity jerks and they don’t just go after women, I guess?
Erec is so upset that he decides to chase this knight down with no armor, reasoning that in the time it would take him to go get armor, the knight might have already gotten away, and he can borrow armor anyway! I’d kind of admire his tenacity if not for his actions later in the story. Guinevere is in full support of kicking this guy’s ass. Have I mentioned yet today that I love Guinevere? Because I love Guinevere and I just wanted to let you guys know.
The story briefly wraps up the subplot with the magical stag. The court, as Gawain predicted, gets very angry at the implication that their girlfriends are not the prettiest and people almost comes to blows with each other. Their girlfriends’ reactions are not mentioned, and I like to imagine their girlfriends in the corner asking them to stop. Fortunately, Guinevere saves the day by convincing Arthur to put off the problem until later, telling him to wait until Erec comes back.
Erec rides until he comes to a town. He cannot find lodging, but he finds out where the knight has been staying, and then he finally finds lodging with an impoverished nobleman. The nobleman’s wife and daughter come out from their workshop to meet him (Chretien writes ‘I do not know what work they were doing there,’ which…you’re the writer??). Erec notices that the daughter is beautiful–and I mean very beautiful, this goes on for like a paragraph–though she only wears an old, worn white dress. She has ‘a face fairer and brighter than a lily flower,’ eyes like stars (his words, not mine), and apparently is more beautiful than Iseult or something?? I don’t know, it goes on for longer, but I’ll spare you.
Anyway, she takes his horse to the stable and shows Erec upstairs, where Erec and the family have a meal. Erec asks the father why the daughter’s dress is so shabby, which seems a bit impolite to me, but what do I know. The father explains that he spent so much time at war that he lost his land. He says that the girl’s uncle, a count who lives in the area, was willing to help her, but he doesn’t want to accept. Presumably because he doesn’t want to be a burden on the guy I guess? The father still has hopes that he can marry his daughter off to a rich man, since she is so beautiful and wise. (Pardon me for being cynical, but I’m not sure it works this way in real life.) He also talks about how much he loves his daughter, which aww.
Erec asks why the inns were all full when he came into the town, and finds out that there’s going to be a beauty contest! No, really. Each knight has to present a beautiful lady, and the one with the most beautiful lady gets to take home a cute sparrowhawk! Erec also makes sure to ask who the knight he’d been following was, and the man answers that the knight’s girlfriend has won the beauty contest two years in a row, without anyone fighting with the knight over it. Erec then asks the man for a suit of armor, and what luck! The nobleman just so happens to have a brand new hauberk, greaves, and helmet, despite being poor! Erec then asks if he can take the daughter, Enide, to the beauty contest. He tells the man that he is Erec, son of King Lac, of King Arthur’s court. (Has he not told the guy his name yet? He’s spent all this time at the guy’s house and he’s only just now telling the guy his name?) The father agrees, and Enide is very happy about this, both because she likes Erec and because this means she will be a queen eventually. I am fully supportive of her liking him both for personal and mercenary reasons, by the way.
Also, Enide helps Erec get into his armor the next morning. I just wanted y’all to know that.
At the beauty contest, everyone pretty much agrees that Enide is the most beautiful, but Erec waits for the knight that he hates to go up to the perch first. The knight’s maiden is right about to take the sparrow-hawk when Erec stops her and asks Enide to take the sparrowhawk instead. The other knight, instead of settling this with words, decides to settle it with a duel instead. Murder really is everyone’s first resort in these stories, isn’t it?
The fight goes on for two pages, but I’ll summarize it with: Erec wins! Yay! After the fight, the knight, whose name is Yder (son of Nut), asks why Erec seems to hate him so much. Erec reminds him of that time that the dwarf with him attacked the queen’s maiden, and orders Yder to deliver himself to the queen and tell her that Erec will come back to court the next day along with a beautiful maiden. Yder does so, and the queen tells him that she will let him off easy since he surrendered himself to her, but she wants him to become a member of the court. This is the hiring process in Arthurian legend, I guess. Why can’t I get a job by showing up to my future workplace, being a dick to everyone in sight, and then getting beaten up by someone hot?? Why can’t I do that?? I want to get a job because Gawain kicked my ass once! I think I should be allowed to have that in these dark times!
Anyway, back to Erec, people are fangirling over him! The count, Enide’s uncle, offers to let him stay at his place since Erec is the son of a king, but Erec decides to continue staying with Enide and her father, instead. Sorry, but he is NOT leaving the hot girl.
When Erec gets to Enide’s home, he tells her father that he wishes to take Enide to King Arthur’s court and marry her after. He tells her father that he will give him two fine castles, called Roadan and Montreval, and that he will give the man and his wife gold, silver, vair and miniver (which I think are types of furs??), and expensive silk. Enide’s cousin, described as a ‘prudent, sensible, and worthy maiden,’ points out that Enide should probably be given a new gown before taking her to see the queen, but Erec replies that he wishes for Queen Guinevere to give her a fine silk gown. The damsel relents, so instead, she gives Enide her dapple-grey palfrey (which is another word for a small horse that a lady might ride).
The next day, Erec leaves for the court. Enide says goodbye to her parents, and there is a lot of crying. Luckily, Enide has a hot guy to comfort her! During the ride to Camelot, she and Erec cannot stop staring at each other and making out. I feel like an uncomfortable third party reading this.
Anyway, Erec and Enide finally come to the castle of Cardigan, where King Arthur is staying. Everyone is delighted to see them back, and King Arthur himself helps Enide down from her horse and, taking her hand, leads her inside. Erec explains a little bit of Enide’s family history to Queen Guinevere, and then asks her to give Enide a gown. Guinevere agrees, and gives Enide a dress and a green brocade mantle. The gown is lined with ermine, and gold and jewels are sewn in around the cuffs and the neckline. Two women braid Enide’s hair with golden thread, but her hair was even brighter than the thread or whatever, because she’s that perfect.
Wait, hold on, they also give her jewelry and stuff, but I just got distracted by something: Chretien de Troyes claims that Erec is a better knight than Lancelot?? LIES. EREC CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE TO–ahem. Anyway.
Erec and Enide go out into the hall, and Enide is seated next to the king. Guinevere tells the king that the matter of the white stag can finally be resolved, because no one could argue that there is any woman alive more beautiful than Enide. I mean, I think someone could actually still argue about that if they really liked arguing, which all of the Round Table does, but! For once, everyone decides to get along, and they all agree that Enide is the prettiest. King Arthur kisses her, and the matter of the white stag is resolved.
“Well, Erec seems like a pretty fine person?” you may be asking at this point. “Why do you keep dunking on him so much?” Well, that is a question that will be answered in part two, I think, because this post is starting to get a little long and I realize I probably need to split this up into two parts before this gets out of hand. This seems like a good stopping point!
Btw, if I forget to post part two, feel free to bully me in the comments lmao
I’m baaack! My depression did not defeat me! Anyway, I’m here to rant about this one quote that gets passed around a lot by this writer that I’ve never read, because I am very Normal, and I enjoy ranting about fairy tales. Sorry, G.K. Chesterton.
Every so often, I’ll see people talk about fairy tales, and occasionally the question will come up: Why DO kids like fairy tales even though they’re so violent? Isn’t that a little weird? What’s up with that? Eventually, someone inevitably pulls out the Chesterton quote:
“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
And I’m sorry, I’ve never read Chesterton before (I’ll get to him eventually! I will!), but I literally hate that quote so much. I know my reaction is probably unfair, but I remember what it was like reading those Brothers Grimm stories when I was eight! I don’t remember everything from my childhood, but I remember that, and I know it wasn’t like how Chesterton said!
I genuinely wonder if this might have to do with having two parents who were abused as children, and then growing up in an area that had violent white supremacists who were…distressingly normalized by certain people in my community (including the police), but that quote has never rang true for me at all. Fairy tales didn’t appeal to me because they showed me that good will win against evil in the end. No, the violence WAS the appeal.
Allow me to explain. I will admit to being a deeply edgy(tm) eight year old who thought I was SO hardcore for reading a story in which someone got their eyes pecked out by doves, but that wasn’t all of it. Do you remember being a young child? Everyone wants to protect you from knowing about all the Bad Things that are out there. You hear about Bad Things every day. Sometimes your own kith and kin are the ones doing and saying the things that are Bad. Some of the ‘good’ people around you are so invested in defending these awful people. “This man isn’t bad for stalking your sister!” they say. “He just likes her! This boy isn’t a white supremacist! He’s just a eighteen year old putting swastikas up in his window! Your grandfather isn’t bad for hitting your mother! He’s your grandfather, you guys should talk to him!”
(No, literally, my dad called the police on some guy who was stalking our place when I was little, only for the dispatcher to tell him that the guy must JUST LIKE MY SISTER. WHO WAS A TEENAGER. AND WHO DIDN’T KNOW THIS GUY FROM ADAM. Anyway, fuck the police system and all the abuses it perpetrates, but that’s a completely different post that I won’t write. So many other people have said it better, I think)
The fairy tales I read didn’t tell me that I could defeat evil things. But they told me that these evil things existed, and that was enough. Sometimes a witch decides to behead a girl, and then the girl tricks her into beheading her own daughter. Perhaps the daughter was innocent, perhaps she wasn’t. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes a stepmother decides to brutally kill her own daughter, only for her daughter to turn around and force her stepmother to dance to her death in hot iron shoes. Violence is a senseless, meaningless pursuit that everyone participates in anyway, because someone else was violent first, and that is the nature of humanity.
I loved these fairy tales because they didn’t pretend that violence made any sense. They didn’t pretend that everything would be wrapped up by the end, that good would always triumph over evil. The dragon can be defeated, to be sure, but sometimes only when the heroine becomes worse herself. There is no reason for the stepmother to try to poison her daughter, and there’s no reason for Snow White to force her mother to dance to her death in hot iron shoes, and there’s no reason for that woman down the street to beat her child, and there’s no reason for that other man down the street (the one no one in town wants to talk about, but who people will say is a great guy if the topic comes up) to be a white supremacist. There’s no sense to any of it, and none of it is neat or clean.
There were definitely fairy tales that were too violent for me and that I didn’t like, especially the ones that just had this sort of…legalistic morality, I guess (The Red Shoes, I am looking at you), but let me tell you, I absolutely adored the ones that went ‘hey! Isn’t this thing fucked up?’ Yeah, maybe life IS full of bad things that don’t make sense, but we all have to survive anyway! Maybe people are pointlessly cruel, and maybe you yourself will sometimes become pointlessly cruel in turn, and yet you still have to live and go on! Not everything in life makes sense, but we still have to live with ourselves (and hopefully get that magic castle along the way).
Obviously, the violence wasn’t the only appeal of fairy tales to me. I loved the monsters, I loved the motifs, and I loved the fact that they were just cool. Hey, there’s a group of sisters that goes down below each night to dance until they wear holes through their shoes! There’s a boy and a girl who raise a forest, a river, and a mountain range behind them as they escape from their evil mother! There’s a woman who asks the sun, moon, and wind for help to save her husband from a witch! But I definitely liked the violent aspect some of them had when I was a small child, and I think it’s really oversimplifying it to say that it’s appealing because the violence is defeated at the end. Violence is not always defeated. Sometimes it simply transmutes, becoming a thing that’s handed down from perpetrator to victim. But I would argue that that’s what makes them feel real.
Obviously, my experiences are not universal, so I’m really curious as to what you guys think. How did you react to fairy tales growing up? Did you guys also absolutely adore the version where Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to fit them into the glass slippers when you were tiny, or were you normal? Also, I hope I don’t sound disparaging to anyone who likes that Chesterton quote or anything. Of course it’s going to ring true for some, but it never rang true for me personally.
I come to you today with a beautiful West African folktale! This one is a tale from the Yoruba people. I found it from this book called African-American Folktales For Young Readers, in case you wanted to read more. I haven’t read it all yet, but I really liked this fairy tale!
A girl with beautiful brown eyes lived beside a river in Benin. Every boy who saw those eyes was sure to fall a little bit in love, and the old folk in her village often talked among themselves about who she would marry, and what beautiful children she would surely have.* But when she grew up, everyone had more on their mind than her marriage. A drought had struck the village, withering the plants and drying the river. The hot sun beat down upon the earth, and there was no water to be found except for small muddy pools where the river had been.
*(As a side note, it always annoys me when old people do that. WHAT IF SHE GROWS UP TO BE A LESBIAN, CHARLES.)
The girl made many trips back and forth from the river, carrying water that saved the lives of the villagers. She always seemed to find more water than everyone else, but it was only because she was so dutiful and resourceful. But the drought continued, and eventually, even she could find no water to bring home. She sat down in the dry riverbed and began to weep.
Her tear hit the ground, and out of her tear came a fish.
The fish had beautiful dark eyes. “Give me your jar, and I will fill it for you,” he told her.
She was frightened at first, of course, but the fish’s voice was gentle and kind, and she had no other choice. She lowered the jar in front of him. The fish put his mouth to the opening of the jar, and spewed clear, sparkling water into it. The girl could hardly believe her luck.
The people at her village wanted to know where she had gotten such clear water, but she didn’t tell them, because she did not think they would believe her. Which, yeah, can’t say I’d blame them. This story is a drug trip and I love it. It’s a very beautiful drug trip.
She came to the fish for water the next day, and the next, until a week had passed. The fish had a gentle voice, and beautiful, colorful scales that reflected the bright light of the sun. She grew to love the fish, for his kindness as well as his beauty. And so the girl became the bride of the fish.
Yeah, the real horror of reading fairy tales is finding out your ancestors were all furries. ALL of them. They all sat around the fire and told stories about some boy with a beautiful seal-wife, or a girl with a fish-husband. I do not know for the life of me why this is such a common fairy tale trope, but it is.
I, for one, am supportive of fish-husband!
The girl’s parents were as in the dark about how she was getting the water as anyone else. They sent her youngest brother to follow her down to the river in secret. As he watched her from his hiding place, the girl got the water from the fish as always, and bent down to give the fish a kiss. The brother slipped away and told his parents what he had seen. The parents were angry, because now there would be no wedding, and the village would consider her an outcast. Additionally, the village might ostracize her family, as well, because apparently fish aren’t considered to be respectable in-laws. Who knew.
Okay. Okay this is hilarious. You live in a rural area where everyone knows each other and whenever something big happens, people talk about it for a while, you know? Anyway, you’re just peaceably living your life when suddenly, out of nowhere, you get eternally labeled as ‘that guy who’s daughter married a fish.’ I don’t know how I’d show my face again.
Anyway, the parents decide to take matters into their own hands. Of course, since they’re parents in a fairy tale, they do this in the most traumatizing way possible. They stopped the daughter from going down to the river, and sent the brother instead. The brother took a knife and a jar, carrying the jar the same way that the women did. When the fish came up out of the mud, the brother stabbed him. He took the fish’s body back home and gave it to his father, and the father tossed the body at the daughter’s feet. To the dad’s credit, the story does say that he thought the fish was an evil spirit. But still! That was her husband! Put some thought into how she must feel!
Also, like…the fish was providing the village with water, so exactly how evil a spirit are we talking here
The daughter took the fish in her hands and carried it through the village and down to the riverside. And so she stood in the empty riverbed and wept. As the tears ran down her face, the riverbed began to fill, until the water was up to her waist and the currents tore through, sending her skirts billowing. But still she cried, until the water rose over her head, and she drowned in the river. But instead of sinking to the bottom, she was transformed into a water lily, and all the water lilies in the river are her descendants.
Anyway, the moral of this story is to not come between your daughter and her furry lifestyle
I’m kidding, I think it’s a beautiful story and I love how brave the heroine is. I guess you could interpret the ending as a suicide, but I think you can also interpret it as her sacrificing herself to save the same people who killed her husband, and that’s kind of how I prefer to interpret it? She just comes across as a loving, kind person who honestly deserves better. I really like her.
This post is mostly a joke, but is also inspired by the fact that I’ve heard people talk about being gay, trans, and other such things like they were invented in the 60’s or something?! Sometimes people speak of it like it’s a trend, and that is just weird. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to change anyone’s mind about queer rights, but at least learn your classical history. People talking like that says more about the state of their history classes than anything else.
(I say, like someone who paid attention in history class, which I did not. But at least I paid enough attention to know that everyone was REALLY FREAKING GAY IN ANCIENT GREECE.)
Anyway, this is not a comprehensive list of mythological and folkloric queers. Some characters are undeniably queer and others are queer because I say so. I also include various religious characters because I can! (Also, yes, I mostly included stories I like, so most of these characters get a high rating.)
You should definitely go watch this video as well! It’s much better than anything I could ever do.
Ah, yes, the OG queer. I was forced to read the Iliad at a young age, so I am very bitter and biased, but he kind of spends a…a lot of time whining? I mean, fighting for Agamemnon is a pretty stupid way to go, so I understand being deeply frustrated, but why is the breaking point for him getting his slave girl taken away??? WHY IS THAT, ACHILLES. So, yeah, values dissonance ruined the book for me at age 13 and Briseis deserved better! Also, why on earth would you risk your boyfriend’s life like that, Achilles?
I award Achilles 3/10 points.
Patroclus gets a 10/10 for being a faithful boyfriend, and according to Wikipedia, he apparently tried to help Briseis! What a wonderful boy.
A trans character from a Romanian folktale called ‘The Girl Who Pretended to be a Boy.’ Despite the name of the fairy tale, Fet-Fruners is decidedly not pretending to be a boy. He’s trans. He has a talking horse, he outwits the people who try to out him, he goes on several quests, and he gets the magical equivalent of gender reassignment surgery at the end!
This story is criminally underrated. Just take a look at this quote:
The sound of the flying hoofs aroused the nun, who understood instantly that the precious treasure was stolen, and her shrieks were so loud and piercing that all the rest came flying to see what was the matter. The hermit followed at their heels, but seeing it was impossible to overtake the thief, he fell on his knees and called his most deadly curse down on her head, praying that if the thief was a man, he might become a woman; and if she was a woman, that she might become a man. In either case he thought that the punishment would be severe.
But punishments are things about which people do not always agree, and when the princess suddenly felt she was really the man she had pretended to be, she was delighted, and if the hermit had only been within reach she would have thanked him from her heart.
When you try to curse someone but really you just give them free gender reassignment surgery 🙃
Anyway, 11/10 and this story deserves more retellings.
So, I only found out today, but apparently Inari is genderqueer! From Wikipedia: “Inari, the kami of agriculture and rice, is depicted as various genders, the most common representations being a young female food goddess, an old man carrying rice, and an androgynous bodhisattva.”
Anyway, 10/10 for this wonderful god! They’re associated with foxes, and I LOVE foxes.
St. Sergius and St. Bacchus
St. Sergius and St. Bacchus were described in an early Greek text as being lovers?! According to Wikipedia, at least. I only just now found that out. (I mean, the scholar who talked about that apparently also made a bunch of highly dubious claims as to the early Church’s stance on homosexuality, but if the Greek story really said that, then it said what it said. Tell me in the comments if you know more about this!)
Anyway, as a Christian, I’m legally obligated to give them 10/10 points!
Not gay but he has sexy paintings. We adopted him.
10/10 to the one true ally!
An Australian aboriginal snake god who appears as both male and female and is associated with rainbows and fertility! Ungud is from the Wunambal people. I love the concept of a rainbow snake god!
10/10. I don’t know much about the god, but!!! Rainbows! Snakes! Those are pretty much the two ultimate queer things!
I used to be pretty eh on him because I heard he hurt Cassandra, but I think that might have been a later myth. On the one hand, Cassandra. On the other hand, sunshine. Music. Bisexuality.
I don’t know, for some reason Apollo and I have just never clicked. I feel like I should like him? He’s really cool and all! But I just never really felt that much of a connection with him?
5/10 highly personal points! I know a lot of you out there really love him, though, and I respect that.
(As a side note, Hyacinth gets 10/10 sympathy points for being yet another mortal caught in a deadly love triangle between two gods. Apparently he got resurrected later?? That’s so nice. I always liked Hyacinth.)
I can’t give him anything less than a positive rating. I’m not stupid. I’m not going to get stricken with dolphins and madness.
8/10! Not based on his actions or anything, he’s a Greek god after all, but…I don’t know, I just find him kind of cool.
She’s one of the virgin goddesses, so…aro-ace queen. She’s always been my favorite goddess. She’s relatively unproblematic as far as Greek goddesses go, and I’ve always loved that she’s a goddess of war and strategy. I looked up to her so much when I was little.
He struck a pair of snakes and Hera turned him into a girl. Hera turned her back into a man seven years later. He’s also a blind prophet, and he made cameos in a couple Greek tragedies, including Oedipus Rex. I find Tiresias very cool, so 7/10.
Aztec god of art, dance, flowers, and song. Also a patron of homosexuals. I don’t know all that much about him, but 9/10 just because FLOWERS.
The first historical figure on this list! According to Wikipedia, he wasn’t a very good emperor, but he has this legend where his boyfriend, Dong Xian, fell asleep on his sleeve. Rather than wake Dong Xian up, the emperor told his servant to get him a pair of scissors and he cut off his own sleeve. And that’s beautiful. Also, before he died, he tried to pass the throne on to Dong Xian but no one else let him.
8/10! If you can’t be a good ruler, at least make sure to be a literally legendary boyfriend.
Fox spirits often disguise themselves as women, and stories about foxes tend to portray them as kind of gender-ambiguous, from everything I’ve read. I love fox spirits, they’re just…the best. I spent so much time finding stories about them when I was little. I’d definitely say fox spirits have strong enby vibes.
A trans Arthuriana character! Or at least, Arthurian-adjacent. Merlin shows up in the story. Silence is a character from a story written during the 13th century. I haven’t read the story yet, but from what I’ve heard, Silence is raised as a boy and lives his life as a knight. I think Silence mentions in the poem that he thinks of himself as a boy and feels much more like a boy than a girl? I’m sorry I can’t find the original article with the quotes I read, though. Merlin outs him because Merlin is all kinds of a mess, and poor Silence is forced to live as a girl from then on. Someone needs to retell this story and give it a happy ending.
15/10 to this poor man who deserved better! Even though I haven’t read the story yet…but I’ll get around to it I swear
Everyone’s favorite aro-ace knight! He is living his best life while surrounded by idiots. Considering how his two best friends Lancelot and Tristram ended up, I’d say that not falling in love is pretty much the best thing you can do in Arthuriana?
Dinadan is the comic relief of the story, he doesn’t like fighting, and he’s just overall great. Mordred, in one of the few crimes he committed that make me genuinely angry at him, killed Dinadan during the Grail quest. WHY, Mordred.
I love Dinadan! I stan! 20/10 points.
In Christian tradition, angels are neither male nor female. They’re also very cool. 10/10. (I don’t know how Jewish tradition views them? I assume it’s the same way, but I honestly have no idea. I tried to google it, but I didn’t find anything conclusive. Sorry!)
Also, obligatory quote from Galations 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The creator god in traditional Shona religion! According to Wikipedia, the god is both male and female (or alternatively, neither male nor female? Look, Wiki is not helping me right now). Anyway, reading their Wiki page, they sound very cool! 10/10.
He gives off very strong genderqueer vibes, I think. It’s good enough for me! I loved him so much as a kid. He was my role model! (Heh…whoops.) I love chaotic characters. He doesn’t always act in morally good ways, but he’s just such an entertaining person. 10/10!
You can’t tell me that Celtic fairies aren’t super queer, because you’d be wrong. 20/10 for nostalgia (fairies were literally my childhood).
Mizi Xia is a man who lived during the Zhou dynasty in China (if he even existed at all. We don’t really know). He forged a letter from his lover the duke so he could borrow the duke’s carriage in order to go see his ill mother. Instead of punishing him, the duke praised him for his filial piety. Later, Mizi Xia was eating a peach, and when he found it was especially sweet, he gave it to the duke to eat. But later, when Mizi Xia grew older and his beauty faded, the duke accused him of stealing the carriage and of insulting him by giving him a half-eaten peach. So, the story is a parable about trusting powerful, fickle people.
It’s a sad story, but I still like it. 9/10.
A bi icon!! He had a whole quest where he made out with the Green Knight, the story with him and Ragnelle was the best thing ever, and I’ve heard there are some stories where he and Lancelot have really homoerotic undertones? I love him so much. He’s the actual best. 100/10.
Thank God for Wikipedia, as always. I couldn’t find very many articles about queer fairy tales, but Wikipedia came through! Also, thanks to my younger self for obsessively reading fairy tales and finding some of the obscure stuff.
While researching for this post, I found twoarticles on false homophobic and transphobic beliefs that get spread around, so if you’re someone who has been exposed that sort of talk, they might be worth a read. If you’re looking for something to read for Pride month, Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation and Heaven Official’s Blessing are both really, really good! The author’s books do have adult content, although Heaven Official’s Blessing doesn’t have any smut. Both the books are so well-written and I love them so much!
If you know of any other queer folktales or religious stories, tell me in the comments! I always enjoy learning more.
Arielle made a blog tag! And it’s all about fairy tale OTPs, and there’s also a version for your writing! It’s beautiful!
Not all of the fairy tale couples I answer are ones I hardcore ship, although some of them certainly are. A few of the couples are ones I barely ship but I answered them anyway because they were the only ones I could think of for the category ^.^
(And yes, I know I’ve talked about this topic of ships before, but I hope you’ll be forbearing and allow me to talk about it again. :- D Some of them will probably be ones I’ve talked about many times before, and some of them are new ones.)
1. The first fairy tale OTP you shipped
Beauty and the Beast, of course! Say what you will about Stockholm Syndrome, but I love this story. It’s about loving someone for their personality, which can be kind of a rare message in fairy tales (people fall in love at first sight a LOT and I’m not complaining but it’s still nice to see the other kind of love every now and then).
The Beast is monstrous and inhuman. He truly is frightening at first. But Belle is very good at seeing past appearances. She spends time with him and gets to know him. He isn’t handsome, and he’s not even necessarily as intelligent as everyone else–at least not in the traditional way (I fully believe that there’s more than one way to be intelligent). But Belle falls in love with him anyway, because Belle can see that he is kind and good. Belle loves him for who he is. Belle is human enough to love a monster, and I love that element of the story.
2. The cliché fairy tale OTP that everyone ships but you still love
See above! Beauty and the Beast is probably one of the most popular fairy tales. 😉
3. Your favorite hate-to-love fairy tale OTP
Probably either Prunella or Ivan and the Princess Blue-Eyes. This will come as a shock to no one, of course. 😉 Prunella and Bensiabel are both very sweet characters, and Ivan and the Princess Blue-Eyes is just… a perfect fairy tale. You really have to read it for yourselves. The princess is very murderous. She’s one of my favorite characters of anything ever.
I also like Hades and Persephone so much–though it can probably be argued that it’s not exactly an enemies-to-lovers relationship, because did she actually fall in love with him? Ovid focuses more on Demeter’s thoughts and feelings rather than Persephone, from what I can remember. But I prefer to think that Persephone did love Hades, eventually. (I also prefer to think that Persephone knew exactly what she was doing when she ate that pomegranate, even though I’m not sure if that’s backed up by mythology at all.) Either way, though, Persephone is a deadly, powerful woman, and I love her a lot.
4. The fairy tale OTP with the craziest relationship
Can I answer Ivan and the Princess Blue-Eyes again? There are so many crazy relationships though! How am I supposed to choose!
Oh! And I almost forgot Tam Lin! Janet and Tam Lin are insane but they love each other, so it’s okay. (We only ship them from the version where everything is consensual though, of course. The Tam Lin from the other version can go die.)
Oh, and of course Scheherazade and her husband. That was…something else. Stop murdering people, hero!
Literally no one in Arthuriana has a normal relationship, so I would like to enter all Arthurian ships ever for this category. But more seriously, from everything I remember about Tristram and Iseult, they are…insane. TRISTRAM HAS NO CHILL, PEOPLE. I don’t hardcore ship Tristram and Iseult (I’ll gladly ship Iseult with…literally anyone else, actually. Brangienne. Guinevere. Palomides. Anyone), but they’re crazy enough where I feel obligated to put them here anyway.
5. The best-dressed fairy tale OTP
Probably from…Allerleirauh. I can not spell that. The heroine has a dress as golden as the sun, a dress as silver as the moon, and a dress as shining as the stars. I’d say you can’t get much more best-dressed than that!
I will give East of the Sun, West of the Moon an honorable mention though, just because I had a picture book of that fairy tale when I was young and the heroine’s clothes in that were SO BEAUTIFUL. I think the drawings were Persian-influenced, from what I remember.
(I’m not willing to die for Allerleirauh. I am willing to die for East of the Sun, West of the Moon.)
6. Star-crossed love: the forbidden love fairy tale OTP
I’ll go with the obvious one and answer Rapunzel! It’s not necessarily my favorite fairy tale, but I think it has the potential to be very cute, and I think it deserves more retellings 🙂 The themes in this fairy tale are very interesting as well, and I do like this fairy tale, even if it isn’t my favorite.
The hero and heroine certainly go through a lot for each other, and they definitely deserve their happy ending.
7. The funniest fairy tale OTP
I’m going to have to go with the couple from My Candlestick here. The heroine is hilarious, and I happen to love the pairing of ‘chaotic and slightly bad girl and a guy who barely talks (but both are equally losers).’* Just a weird thing I noticed about my ships.
*NOT AT ALL to be confused with a manic pixie dream girl/stuffed shirt. Those relationships are boring, imo. Or at the very least, most of them are.
Actually…I just realized that Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan (not from a fairy tale, from a TV show called The Untamed) have that exact same relationship, so apparently it doesn’t even have to be a girl and a guy.
8. The fairy tale OTP with the most growth in their relationship
See Scheherazade. The husband going from ‘serial killer’ to ‘not a serial killer’ was some pretty good character growth.
But more seriously, Ywain and Laudine! From what I remember, Ywain’s whole character arc is about learning to prioritize his wife over tournaments and being a knight and hanging out with his bros, and I think that’s a nice lesson. (I’ll admit I can’t really remember if the lesson is as emphasized in the actual story, or if it was more in a retelling I read when I was little. I’ll also admit that I just found out that I have switched between spelling the name ‘Yvain’ and ‘Ywain’ on this blog and I’m mildly embarrassed. But I’ll probably switch again.)
9. The sweetest, most adorable fairy tale OTP
Kate Crackernuts and her hero? ADORABLE. I loves them. They’re just…so sweet.
The couple from a Chinese fairy tale called The Red Pearls is so CUTE and I love them very much. Liu Hai is such a good husband.
This isn’t a fairy tale (the story is apparently from a very long Indian epic called the Mahabharata that I have not read yet even though I probably should eventually), but I read about Savitri and Satyavan, and Savitri saves her husband and outwits the god of Death and it’s just…They’re so cute! There’s a holiday centered around this story in some parts of India, apparently. This couple just seems…so pure. So unproblematic. Unlike other characters I’ve given love and attention to on this cursed site. So, yeah, it’s not a fairy tale–I think it’s a story from Hindu religion, from what I can tell–but it’s still a very cool story.
Also, can we talk about how cool Savitri’s name is
Also, may we have a very respectful, very artistic, very wonderful Disney movie that doesn’t ruin any part of this
OH, and we can’t forget Lancelot/Galehaut. Lancelot and Galehaut are just…💙💙💙 Galehaut is the lord of the Distant Isles, and he’s the son of a giantess and a knight named Brunor–and apparently, according to Wikipedia, Tristram killed his parents?! Tristram, you small disaster child. Anyway, Galehaut waged a war against Arthur until he realized that Arthur had a knight named Lancelot who just so happened to be extremely cute. Lancelot and Galehaut become best friends and possibly more than friends. 😉 From my understanding, there is much mutual pining between the two. OTP material. (Also, they–*sobs*–ACCORDING TO WIKIPEDIA THEY GET BURIED NEXT TO EACH OTHER)
This story is in the Vulgate Cycle, I think. Galehaut barely shows up in Le Morte D’Arthur, which is probably why we don’t have tons of angsty retellings. But we need some!
Again, we need our Disney movie but we aren’t going to get one for obvious reasons (Disney is a COWARD afraid of true love and also parts of Arthuriana are probably too weird for Disney to attempt anyway, so I doubt we’re likely to get an in-depth retelling outside of cute Sword and the Stone antics)
10. The OTP who snuck up on you, the one you didn’t expect to love
Robin Hood and Maid Marian. While I like Robin Hood, I’ve never gotten too deeply into the legends. But I read a story about Marian here and I love the idea of Marian fighting Robin Hood and falling in love with him. I think it’s based on an actual legend, from what I know? Which is very cool. I henceforth command that every Robin Hood retelling feature Robin Hood and Marian getting into a duel.
Anyway, I like couples who get into sword fights, so I’ll admit I lowkey ship it now. It’s not a ship I’ll die for, but I still like it!
11. The moodiest fairy tale OTP
The fairy tale definitely isn’t perfect, but I love Michael and Lina from a version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses collected by Andrew Lang. I honestly like this version more than the Grimm version, and I’d be very interested in reading a retelling of this one!
Anyway, it is very moody and dramatic. The princesses keep cursing young men to dance in their enchanted castle forevermore. Lina almost puts a curse on Michael. These two have no chill, and I like it.
12. The class-crossed fairy tale OTP
The Laird’s Lass and the Gobha’s Son, a Scottish fairy tale about a girl who falls in love with a blacksmith and then turns herself into a dog in order to force her stubborn father’s hand. This story is so WHOLESOME, and I love it.
13. The obscure fairy tale OTP who isn’t shipped by many people (or anyone)
I’ll probably have to go with one of my Arthurian ships for this one. Although it might be argued that most of the OTPs I’ve mentioned here are at least somewhat obscure?
I don’t think Lancelot/Gawain is very widely shipped, from what I know, but if you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you’ll know I kind of ship it. They’re both characters I like a lot.
14. Your very favorite fairy tale OTP you’ll love for the rest of your days
Heh. Probably Mordred/Guinevere. (I could have put this one for the obscure category, because the fics on AO3 are shamefully few, but I decided not to.) I genuinely love them a lot. I like the idea of Guinevere actively assisting in the fall of Camelot rather than just ending up with a lot of survivor’s guilt and blamed by scholars everywhere (not that I mind Guinevere in those versions, not at all, but PEOPLE NEED TO STOP BLAMING HER FOR THIS and also it’s kind of depressing). I think I’m also attracted to the idea of Mordred attempting the whole courtly love roleplay thing and failing miserably because mate you weren’t supposed to take over the kingdom that’s taking things a little too far. I also just love the inherent drama this ship entails–I love sexy dramatic ships where one or both halves of the couple are perpetually covered in artistic, aesthetic blood.
Also, this ship is actually canon in some versions of the legends, in case you didn’t know. The relationship was by all accounts consensual, she ends up surviving and going to a convent because to hell with these weirdos, she’s getting out, and then Mordred and Arthur, of course, end up killing each other in the pointless battle of the century. But then there’s also the other version where Guinevere goes, “no thank you, I am not, in fact, interested in bigamy. Now if you excuse me, I am off to the Tower of London. Goodbye.”
Anyways, this is a disaster ship on so many levels, but it’s my problematic fave, as they say.
*Chants* D i s n e y m o v i e no I’m kidding it’s probably darker than Disney is willing to go, unfortunately
There weren’t any instructions for tagging, so I won’t do it, but certainly feel free to grab the tag if you wish! Talk to me about fairy tale and Arthuriana related ships in the comments!
I was browsing Pinterest a while back, and I came across someone lamenting the lack of reverse-gender Beauty and the Beast type fairy tales. There actually are a few, and it made me remember one of my very favorite stories, The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle. Anyway, I kept planning on making a post about the story, but I never got around to it, as usual. But here I am! With a post. Let us begin.
Arthur and his knights have gone on a hunting trip in Inglewood Forest. They see a large hart, and Arthur separates from his knights to chase it, going off alone. Arthur finally manages to kill it, but right after, a knight he does not know comes up to him. The knight tells him that Arthur has wronged him for many years, for Arthur has given his land to Sir Gawain. He also threatens to kill Arthur, which is nice. What better way of resolving your legal disputes than to throw the kingdom into peril, am I right? Arthur asks for his name, and the knight replies that his name is Sir Gromer-Somer Joure.
I have to ask how that’s pronounced. Like. Does it rhyme. It sounds hard to say.
Anyway, Arthur suggests that they settle this like normal people, but since no one in Arthuriana is normal, Sir Gromer refuses, claiming that if he does, the king will only “defy me another time,” or some nonsense like that. Arthur points out that it would be dishonourable to kill him while he’s without armor, and the knight replies that he doesn’t want land or gold. (Why are you making an issue of this, then.) Instead, because everyone in these stories is an idiot besides Guinevere, the knight says that King Arthur has to meet him at this place in twelve-months time and tell him what it is that all women love best. If King Arthur can’t answer, he’ll kill him.
You know. Because every woman thinks the exact same way. It makes sense.
Also, I don’t believe this guy actually had his land stolen. Call me skeptical.
Later that evening, Gawain asks him what is wrong, because Arthur isn’t exactly hiding it well. Arthur says that he vowed to keep it a secret, but Gawain says he would never tell anyone, so Arthur confides the issue to him. Gawain suggests that they both ride out over the country, both going separate ways, and ask every man and woman for their answer to the riddle, and they would record the answers in a book. So basically, a survey! Not a bad idea.
They get many different answers; some say that what women want most is pretty clothes, some say that they want to be courted, some say that what women love most is to make out. By the time Gawain gets back to court, his book has been almost filled up. He and Arthur pool their answers, and Gawain is confident that the right answer is in there somewhere. Arthur is not so sure, however, and he decides to go back out into Inglewood Forest.
There, he meets a very ugly lady.
I can’t really beat the description from the translation of the ballad that I found, so: ” Her face was red and covered with snot, her mouth huge, and all her teeth yellow, hanging over her lips. Her bleary eyes were greater than a ball, and her cheeks were as broad as women’s hips. She had a hump on her back, her neck was long and thick, and her hair clotted into a heap. She was made like a barrel, with shoulders a yard wide and hanging breasts that were large enough to be a horse’s load. No tongue can tell of the foulness and ugliness of that lady. “
I told you. I couldn’t beat that description.
She sits on a fine horse adorned with gold, and she rides up to Arthur, telling him that she knows his secret and how to save him–only if she saves him, she gets to marry Sir Gawain.
Arthur points out that he can’t force Gawain to marry her, which goes a long way towards getting Arthur on my good side. But he says that he will tell Sir Gawain. “He will be loath to refuse my request,” says the king, “but I would regret causing Gawain to wed the foulest lady I have ever seen. I don’t know what to do.” She replies that even an owl may choose its mate, and that her name is Dame Ragnelle, “who has never yet beguiled man.”
Gawain, when he hears of it, says that he would wed her if she looked like Beelzebub, as long as it saved his king. Aww.
When Arthur goes to give Sir Gromer-Somer Joure his answer, Dame Ragnelle meets him along the way. “Sir, you will now know, without digression, what women of all degrees want most,” Dame Ragnelle responds. “Some men say we desire to be beautiful and that we want to consort with diverse strange men; also we love lust in bed and often wish to wed. Thus men misunderstand women. Another idea they have is that we want to be seen as young and fresh, not old, and that women can be won through flattery and clever ploys. In truth, you act foolishly. The one thing that we desire of men above all else is to have complete sovereignty, so that all is ours. We use our skill to gain mastery over the most fierce, victorious and manly of knights. So go on your way and tell this to the knight, who will be angry and curse the one who taught it to you, for his labour is lost. I assure you that your life is now safe, and remember your promise.”
So King Arthur goes to the knight and gives him the book to look through. I just caught that he is stalling for Gawain’s sake. Aww. Is this the most functional this family has ever been?
Anyway, the answers in the book do not satisfy Sir Gromer, and he makes ready to kill him. Arthur finally tells him that the answer is sovereignty. Sir Gromer literally says that he wants Ragnelle to die in a fire. And he also says that Ragnelle is his sister. I see that they’re functional. He laments that he’ll never have Arthur at such a point again, and Arthur assures him that he’ll make sure of that. Arthur turns his horse and leaves, and on his way back, he meets Dame Ragnelle at the same place she was before.
Ragnelle tells Arthur that she fulfilled her end of the bargain, and now it’s Arthur’s turn. He says he will and asks her to follow his advice, but she knows what he’s about to say and cuts him off.
“No, Sir King, I will not do so,” she says. “I will be married openly before I part from you, or you will be shamed! You ride ahead of me and I will follow you to your court. Remember how I have saved your life; therefore you should cause me no strife, which would be blameworthy.”
They go to Arthur’s court at Carlisle (a city, not to be confused with Carlisle, the vampire). Ragnelle insists on a large wedding. Guinevere asks her to have a private ceremony, for the sake of Sir Gawain, but Ragnelle tells her that she will be married publicly. And she is, in a red gown even more beautiful than the queen’s. At the feast after the wedding, she eats enough for six men, tearing apart the food with her three-inch long nails. I like the visual very much.
After the feast, Gawain and Ragnelle go to their bedchamber. She asks him to kiss her. “I will do more than kiss you, and before God!” Gawain says. When he turns to her, instead of a hag, he sees a beautiful woman.
Ragnelle explains that he has a choice; he can either choose that she look beautiful in the day and ugly at night, or beautiful at night and ugly during the day.* Gawain says he doesn’t know which would be better, and tells her that the choice is up to her, because Gawain is a wonderful person who understands that it really is Ragnelle’s choice, anyway.
*I had to proofread this sentence so many times. You didn’t ask to know this, but now you know.
It turns out that this is the right thing to do to break the curse, and now Ragnelle will be beautiful both day and night. She explains that her stepmother laid a curse on her, and Gawain broke it by giving her her sovereignty.
And they were very happy till morning. 😉
Arthur and Guinevere were grateful to Ragnelle after they found out about the curse. King Arthur forgave Ragnelle’s brother, even though Arthur and her brother still didn’t get along very well after that, and Ragnelle lived happily with Gawain for the rest of her life–although, unfortunately, her life wasn’t very long. She lived with him five years before dying of an illness, because this story is determined to rip out my heart.
Anyway, this is a wonderful story with an amazing message. Happy (late) Valentine’s day, and may you find a partner like Gawain or Ragnelle. Or, if you plan on being single (*high-fives you*), may you live it up like Dinadan did. Courtly love kills people and is overrated anyway.
Also, I have over fifty followers now! Thank you so much! I can’t believe over fifty people wanted to listen to me ramble about different things here. 🙂
Also, I found the story here, if you want to give it a read.
Fairy Tale Central has created a tag! It’s all about fairy tales, so of course I couldn’t be more excited to do it. The tag might as well have been tailor-made for me or something. I love it.
1. What’s an obscure fairy tale you love?
Noooo. There are too many obscure fairy tales I love for me to list them all here. But I love Kate Crackernuts, Tam Lin, Samba the Coward, Ivan and the Princess Blue-Eyes, The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, Tatterhood, and…
I like a lot of fairy tales.
2. If you got to choose Disney’s next animated princess movie, what fairy tale would you choose to be adapted?
I remember talking to Weez a long time ago about how I wanted a Disney movie retelling Gawain and the Green Knight, featuring a very confused Gringolet. (Gringolet, in case you don’t know, is the horse.) And I still stand by that. It would be 2D animation, of course. And I’d want it to be faithful to the original story. Which essentially means that this is a pipe dream.
I also would like Disney movies for some more Greek myths, like Eros and Psyche or Perseus and Andromeda. (I’m pretty sure Andromeda was also black*, so…you know. Maybe Disney could finally have more than one black princess? Just saying?)
(Tiana is the only black princess, right? I don’t want to falsely criticize even Disney.)
*Okay, so I looked it up and it sounds like Greek writers would sometimes give Andromeda different ethnicities, but she’s usually described as being from Aethiopia and is sometimes described as black. Go for it, Disney.
Also, it would be nice to have some more movies retelling Arabian Nights tales. I just…I want. I want so bad.
Or they could make a movie about Gareth and Lynet!! Featuring sisters, enchantresses, and dumb knights galore! I want the Disney movie!
I would also love Disney to retell any Indian fairy tale, I’m not picky. It’s about time you finally set a movie in India, Disney.
Then again, maybe I should ask for a company that has more artistic integrity than Disney to do these. Disney is very good for what they are, but they don’t seem to like breaking very much new ground or doing anything a little different. That might scare off consumers! We can’t have that.
3. What is the first fairy tale you remember hearing when you were a child?
I have a memory of my mom telling me the story of Beauty and the Beast. It’s one of my favorite fairy tales, and I wonder if that’s why–it really may have been the first one I heard.
4. If you were to embark on a fairy tale quest, what necessities would you pack in your bag?
Food, of course. Also a magic comb, a handkerchief, and whatever else I need to get the witch off my tail. And, since I’m presuming I can take whatever I want, I would like a helpful talking raven who can give me advice on how to handle each magical situation. I would make a very good traveling companion! I, unlike stupid heroes, would try my hardest to not ignore every piece of advice I am given.
I would also bring a tent. I wouldn’t want to sleep in the rain.
5. What’s your favorite fairy tale trope?
I have a lot I like ( 😮 no one saw this answer coming!). I like witches who singlehandedly cause apocalypses. I like sisters who stand up for each other, especially when the fairy tale trope would ordinarily have them hating each other (Tatterhood! Kate Crackernuts! Fairy tale girls don’t always hate their sisters just because their sister conforms to the beauty standard and they don’t!). But most of all, I love clever, resourceful heroines. I love powerful women, and I love women who are content to stay in the background. I love villainous women who reach out and take the things they want, and I love women who keep their morality even when everyone around them treats them horribly.
Just. I love the women in these stories. You can find so many awesome heroines if you look for them.
6. If you could be any fairy tale character archetype (the princess, the soldier, fairy godmother, talking animal, mischievous imp, wise old woman, evil stepmother/sister, etc.), who would you want to be and why?
I guess I’d like to be a witch like Baba Yaga. Extremely morally ambiguous granny who knows how to have fun and who has a really cool house. I’d like that. She’s awesome. And yes, I’m aware that she’s a character rather than an archetype, but whatever. I want to be her.
7. What animal/mythical creature would be your sidekick for fairy tale adventures?
Well, I mentioned a helpful talking raven up there, so we’ll go with that. If not, though, I’d like to take one of my kitties.
8. What is your favorite historical era, and what fairy tale would you love to see in that setting?
Ahh! There are so many. Let’s make a list.
Song Dynasty China. I tried setting a Beauty and the Beast story here, but unfortunately, I didn’t finish it. I wish I had.
Joseon dynasty Korea! Goryeo Korea! Any Korea! I would honestly be fine with any fairy tale set here. Snow White? Beauty and the Beast? Rapunzel? I’ll take it. (Unfortunately, I haven’t read as much Korean folklore. I want to get into it more. Anyone have any fairy tale recs?)
Safavid Persia. Or any Persia, actually. I would love to see some Arabian Nights retellings here, along with anything else. I really want some Arabian Nights retellings, though.
I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know much about Morocco’s history, but Morocco has a BLUE. CITY. It also just seems like a really nice place for a setting. It sounds like such a beautiful place! I would like a Puss in Boots retelling set here.
Medieval Europe (especially Ireland and Scotland, but also England or France or anywhere like that). Yes, I know what you’re thinking. This is already the most overused place for fantasy. But tell me this. How many people have presented medieval Europe in a compelling and/or accurate way? In my experience, not…not enough people. I kind of love dealing with older periods, both because of how different the cultures can be from the present day and also because it’s so interesting to me to have people accept magic as a rule of life. (Someone give me a Tam Lin retelling!)
18th and 19th century Britain (or France, or any other place in Europe, it doesn’t really matter). The clothes are so pretty! The social changes are so interesting to explore! You can discuss the early forms of feminism! (RESEARCH MANDATORY.) You can throw in your Jane Austen and your Pamela references! There’s just so much!
Merie just discussed a version of Snow White set in Russia, and now I would LOVE to see a retelling.
9. If you could change a fairy tale’s villain into a hero, who would you choose and why?
Ooh. I like this question. I’m not sure Baba Yaga technically counts, since she’s more of an antihero anyway, but I love her and would enjoy seeing her as a protagonist very much. I’m currently writing a story with Mordred as the protagonist, and I’m enjoying that very much. (I have not written in this story in a while. I am an impostor. A fake writer.)
Also Clytemnestra! I find her really sympathetic, and I totally get wanting to kill Agamemnon. Anyone would want to kill Agamemnon. No one else had the guts to do it.
I just know there’s going to be a villain from a myth or fairy tale that I remember as soon as I’m done with this.
10. Do you prefer fairy tales with happy endings or sad/tragic endings? why or why not?
I like both. The ending should be right for the story. A tragic ending that fits the story is the most satisfying thing in the world. A tragic ending tacked on ‘just because’ feels pointless (@ HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON). There are some stories that shouldn’t end happily. There are some stories that shouldn’t end tragically. So I guess you could say that I prefer satisfying endings.
I had so much fun with this tag! Absolutely feel free to join in if you want! There’s a linkup on Fairy Tale Central for this tag that runs until the end of February, if you want to add a post to it. I love talking about fairy tales so much. I’m sure you couldn’t tell.
So, I love The Snow Queen. I love it I love it. The only reason why I haven’t covered the fairy tale here on this blog yet is because the story is looong (seriously, I’m pretty sure it’s told in five parts), but it’s a wonderful fairy tale and you should read it if you haven’t already.
So, what’s this all about? Well, the blog Fairy Tale Central is recapping the fairy tale this month, and so Arielle has posted a Snow Queen-related prompt on her personal blog.
Isn’t the prompt wonderful? Of course I had to write something for it. I love the characters in The Snow Queen so much, from lonely, bitter Kay to bright and resourceful Gerda to the mysterious and enigmatic Snow Queen. (and the Snow Queen is not necessarily evil I will fight you on this. You may ask me more on this point, but be prepared for a fifty page essay if you do). (Kidding I can’t even write a fifty page story without collapsing. It’ll probably be like three sentences that barely explain my point.)
Anyway. I wrote a story and will proceed to unleash the monster I created onto the world, along with the pinterest board
I made Kay, the main character, non-binary, which is why I refer to them with the singular ‘they’. The character didn’t really come into my head with a specific gender, so then I decided that I might as well keep them that way? I also got to make Kay Orthodox Christian, since the setting is vaguely Russian-inspired! Orthodoxy, if you don’t know, is the denomination of Christianity that I belong to. This may be the very first time I’ve had an Orthodox character?
Btw, the story is kind of a metaphor for death and depression and suicidal ideation. It’s not a direct metaphor, obviously, but it’s still very much there, and while I don’t know if reading the story would trigger anyone, I feel like I should mention it just in case.
A million stars speckled the night sky. Kay sunk to the ground, their knees hitting the freezing stone of the palace courtyard. It was Nativity, and surely Grandmother must be praying in the small stone church at home, the oil lamps lit in front of the icons. Kay would never pray there anymore. Kay had left their home long ago to follow some elusive woman from the forest with hair white as snow and a crown made of bone, and they would never see the old church again.
Kay did not weep. They did not even feel anything particularly heartwrenching. They never had, since the Snow Queen had taken them away.
Kay’s umber brown hand clenched in their lap. They could barely remember the past. Those memories had faded, along with everything else, as soon as they kissed the cold lips of the Queen that one night long ago. But they had not forgotten everything. Kay did not know who, exactly, the clear brown eyes and sharp-lined face in their memory belonged to, but they remembered the sense of place and steadiness the person brought. They had not forgotten their grandmother’s soft voice singing the prayers, nor the smell of the candles in church. The ice could not quite take everything from them.
The words tumbled out of Kay’s mouth without them being quite aware what they were singing. “Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable…The Unapproachable One…” Kay’s voice faltered, and the rest of the tune slipped from their memory. They stared at the snow as the sheer overwhelming futility of it all overcame them.
“Kay,” a clear voice said. Kay nearly jumped out of their skin.
They stood and turned to see a woman in a tattered white robe and a crown made of bone and antler. A soft smile hung on her lips, but it did not reach her eyes. There was not a trace of humanity in her eyes, and though Kay had searched for it over the many years they had been here, they had never found anything in her eyes except the cold echoey expanses of a snow-capped mountain.
Her eyes were such a soft shade of green, though.
“You are frightened of me,” she said. “You did not used to be.”
Kay let out a breath, the mist trailing upwards to the sky. “Only a fool would not be frightened of you, my lady,” they said. “I was a fool when I first met you, and I am still a fool now.” Kay’s hand slipped into hers.
The queen took their hand with a satisfied smile and pulled Kay closer. “If you are a fool,” the Snow Queen asked, “then will you kiss me?”
Kay nearly jerked their hand out of her grip.
The queen’s eyes were horribly earnest. “I cannot and will not make you,” she said. She paused, waiting for an answer. “Well? Will you kiss me, or will you not?”
Kay might have agreed, when they first met her that night on their eighteenth birthday. “Your Majesty,” they said. “You said that kissing me would kill me.” They swallowed. “I happen to value my life right now.” That was a lie. They did not value anything much, anymore.
But something bitter and stubborn inside them would not agree to it. Kay had lost so much with the first kiss they had given her. They’d lost half of themself. Why should they lose the rest?
The queen breathed out. “It would not be truly dying,” she whispered. “You would simply become like me. Am I alive?”
Kay looked down. A dust of snow began to coat the courtyard. “You say you used to be human,” they said. They could never bring themself to believe it.
“I was once as you are,” she agreed. “Though no one ever had to convince me to make any rash decisions. I have always been very good at doing that by myself.” She laughed a little. “The people of my village were never kind to me, to say the least. So I went on a journey to meet the fabled queen in the north, and I kissed her on the agreement that I would never hurt again.” A twisted smile made its way across her face, and something almost like sorrow shone in her eyes. It was not quite sorrow. “She told me the truth. I do not hurt anymore. I am not quite sure it was worth it.”
The queen had never told them before why she had chosen this. Kay very easily could have done the same as she did at several points in their life, and that knowledge felt a little strange.
“What will happen to you?” Kay asked. “If I should take your place?” That was what stopped them, always. Sometimes Kay forgot themself. Sometimes the thought of kissing her ice-cold lips and losing everything was the most tempting prospect imaginable. But what would truly happen?
“Me?” A laugh tumbled from her lips. “You would think about me. I will pass on, into the wind and snow. But when have I truly been here?”
The resolution came back into Kay’s voice. “Then I will not. I will never kiss you.”
The laugh shook her slight frame, and her eyes shone with something like admiration. “You are truly a fool,” she said, her voice hoarse. “I have not loved anyone in a thousand years, but I half love you.”
“But I feel the same,” Kay whispered, as if they could ever have had the same experiences. “I will not let you go away from me.” So they did not quite feel the same.
The queen pulled them into a hug. “You are truly a delight, Kay,” she said. “But you cannot save the both of us from ourselves. We were not the sort of people destined to live.”
Kay had often found themself thinking the same. But it was not true. Who knew how they were both destined to die? “I will make you live,” they said. “As much as I am able.”
She sighed and leaned her head into their shoulder. “Kay,” she said. They thought she would say more. She did not. She just said their name.
Kay had been walking the cliff’s edge for a very long time, and they got closer and closer to falling over the edge each day. But they had not fallen yet. They would not. They made a conscious choice to keep living each day, even when living felt futile. They would not kiss the queen, they would not give themself over to the snow, and they would not let her die.
Kay was not sure if they would hold out forever. But right now, they felt a burning determination course through their bones, something that they had not felt for a very long time. They could almost feel…hopeful. Kay would not kiss her. Neither of them were destined to die that way.
I feel like the story wasn’t very good, but I’ll still post it. I honestly might do something more with this story, or else I’ll just let it rot in the vaults of my memory for eternity. We’ll see. 😉