This month: fairy tales from ancient Egypt!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reading The Fairy Tale Friend

Bear Goddess, Bernese Historical Museum
Deae Artioni

The Lithuanian folktale The Fairy Tale Friend (see full text below) features a most unusual alliance between bear and wolf. In Northern European mythology the wolf is often an object of fear and hatred, personifying the qualities of stealth, evil and cunning. Its fierceness as a predator and wily disposition led to eradication campaigns and near extinction in Europe.

The bear, on the other hand, enjoyed higher status. The bear goddess Artio first appears as an object of veneration in the Rhineland-Palatine area of Germany and her name Artio can be traced back to pre-historic times and the Celtic language. (Latin: Ursus and Gallic: Arto). A symbol of strength and virtue, the bear was considered sacred in Eastern Europe and its appearance portended good fortune.

But wolves and bears never appear together in the real world and this would be quite an unnatural phenomena. The theme of an unusual alliance is perhaps at the heart of this fairy tale, told from the Lithuanian perspective. Russia and Lithuania have a complicated historical past and like the bear and wolf, a natural affinity between the two is difficult to imagine. In this tale, the Lithuanian takes the shape of the more noble bear and the Russian is the wily wolf. Striking out together into the bright summer sunlight, it is the union of their strengths and virtues that allows them to wander unencumbered the entire summer long, fulfilling a dream that perhaps many of us have and few will ever experience.
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