Fairy tales for the Yuletide season!

Monday, May 3, 2010

From Gore to the Garden, French Fairy Tale of the Three Golden Apples




Fairy Tale for Spring Gardeners: The protagonist in this fairy tale shows that the best way to a splendid garden is to sit back and mumble magic spells. (This hasn't worked in my garden, so you might have to try some good ol’ elbow grease in yours.)

This fairy tale is rather long (I suggest printing it out, perhaps, instead of reading it online). I include it here because it forms a nice link between the grizzlier themes found in the preceding fairy tales (Knights Bluebeard, Goldbeard, and Redbeard ) and happier, livelier notions of chutzpah winning the day. It not only features supernatural hair, but talking animals and a lazy gardener, who of course is destined for great things. The story enumerates everything a gardener needs to be successful, including a wide-brimmed straw hat. The only essential ingredients missing from the narrative are thunder, lightening and rain (sounds which should be soothing to all gardeners according to fairy tale wisdom!) It also features tattooing, the only account I am aware of in a fairy tale! To read more about the somewhat gory mythology of fairy tale gardening, hit the link: Goldbeard Variations


The Three Golden Apples

After nine years of marriage, a poor couple had no less than nine children. They were full of despair because they did not know how they would feed them all. In their desperation they decided to get rid of the oldest son. He was already nine years old and could perhaps make his way in the world. They sent him away although he cried and cried. Soon the boy was lost in a foreign and inhospitable land. But look: there came a magnificent carriage, drawn by a white steed. Inside sat a lady clothed entirely in white (she was, of course, the devil incarnate).

The abandoned boy bravely stopped the coach and asked the lady to take him with her. She listened politely, let him climb into the carriage and drove back with him to her house. The boy received everything he desired there. He had his fill of food and drink. The mistress of the house gave him the keys to every room, which he now could visit as he wished. There was only one door, which he was forbidden to open. It was strictly prohibited to enter this room.

In the beginning, everything went well. But gradually curiosity needled the boy and he was soon possessed with a burning desire to enter the forbidden room and find out the secret that lay hidden there. For some time fear held him back, but the temptation of knowing what was forbidden became stronger each day. So he entered the forbidden room. But oh terror! The door slammed shut behind him and he was locked inside.

In this strange room he looked around and saw the dead bodies of people hanging in every corner. He was only a few moments in this chamber when the lady in white entered. She had already searched for him and entered the room in rage. She threatened the curious boy with the same fate that had befallen the others, whose earthly shells now hung in the room.
The child fell to its knees and begged for forgiveness. After hesitating for quite a while, the lady was moved to forgive him. But he had to promise again that he would never enter this room. For if he did, it would be over for him.

Some time passed. But the memory of the forbidden room would not leave the youth, who in the meantime had grown into a young man. One day he believed he had found a solution. He would enter and keep the door open by taking a splinter of wood and slipping it between the door and frame. In this way he would be able to leave the room. No sooner said than done. But in that moment, when he let go of the door, the splinter broke under the weight of it slamming shut and once again he was locked in. The curious youth now believed all to be lost. As he measured the interior of the room, he saw a light in the corner. He approached the luminescence and crept inside. Suddenly he found himself in a stall, in which a horse, mule and donkey stood. All three were wonderful animals. The youth ran his hand over each animal and said in amazement “What a beautiful horse, what a beautiful mule, what a beautiful donkey!”

The first of the animals entreated him not to repeat these words. Then the beast lowered his voice and whispered “What you see here are not the usual animals, but rather unfortunate men, who have been cursed and transformed into animals. You are in the house of the devil, but we can help you escape because we have certain tools at our disposal. Take three hairs from my mane and never release them from your hand. Always when you say “By the hairs of my horse Bayard” all of your wishes will be fulfilled and you will have unlimited power. Also put on this wide-brimmed straw hat and never take it off. Your hair must always be completely covered.” (His hair, which had been black before, was now golden). “And you must take with you three things: a splinter of wood, a pail and a brush.”

Equipped with these tools, he hastened away because the woman in white was certainly already after him

It was true. The runaway glimpsed the white lady behind him getting closer. He seized the tools that had been given him. He threw the wood splinter to the ground and called: “By the hairs of my horse Bayard I wish that a giant mountain would grow between me and the devil!”

In that moment his wish became reality and allowed him to gain time ahead of his pursuer. But after some time she was again hot on his heels. He now threw down the pail and called “By the hairs of my horse Bayard, I wish that an enormous ocean lay between me and the devil!” Immediately an ocean was there and he gained more time.

A third time the hellish lady in white approached, ready to grab the runaway. The youth threw down the brush and called “By the hairs of my horse Bayard I wish that an impenetrable forest would grow between me and the devil!”

This, too, happened. The devil fell far behind the runaway. But now he had nothing more to throw down. Luckily he had reached sacred ground, where the devil has no power.

After he roamed around some time, the youth presented himself to the king, who granted his request to become a gardener. But the king commanded him: “In three days time my oldest daughter shall marry. I would like my garden to be designed according to my plans for this celebration!”

The new gardener promised to do everything that was requested, but instead of going to work immediately, he went out strolling the entire first and second day. The king was astonished at such idle inactivity. On the second day he called the youth and said “Do you not know that my garden must be finished at the set hour? I don’t think you can waste any more time!”

“Fear not,” the gardener replied. “Everything will be completed according to your instructions at the appointed hour.” And to the amazement of the king, the sly gardener returned to his lazy ways.

On the morning of the third day the gardener still did not lift a finger. The king became annoyed, turned green and blue with rage and threatened to dismiss the carefree servant. But when the gardener once again solemnly promised that everything would be ready by the pre-arranged hour, the king calmed down and allowed the gardener to act according to how he saw fit. Finally there were only ten minutes left before the appointed time. The youth now turned to his magic charms and said “By the hairs of my horse Bayard, I wish that the king’s garden would look like he desires it to look!”

Immediately before the eyes of the amazed onlookers, the garden underwent a complete and quick transformation. The king no longer talked about dismissal. The oldest king’s daughter married the prince. Some time later the second daughter also married a man of noble birth. Now the old king searched for husband for his youngest daughter, a suitor who was just as well-bred. But the young maid bridled against her father’s wishes. In the meantime, she had fallen head-over-heels in love with the gardener. One strand of golden hair had fallen out from beneath the hat, which the gardener always wore. This single lock of hair ignited the passion of the princess.

When the king heard the news, he was very surprised. But he had to bend to the will of the obstinate young maid, who refused any other man but the gardener. The gardener became his son-in-law, but he seemed so simple and ungainly, as the other two grooms had been polished and proud. To each the king gave an apple and declared that the one who preserved his apple best and to the greatest benefit of all would be the king’s successor.

Some time thereafter the king was drawn into a war. He was already quite old, but sent the young princes out into the field. The first two mounted fine steeds. The gardener selected the weakest old mare in the stable, despite all the advice given him. They warned him that this animal was doomed to plodding along and in an emergency, he would not be able to escape an enemy pursuit. Still the gardener insisted on his choice and rode off without haste behind his two brothers-in-law, who soon vanished on the horizon ahead. The youth arrived some time later at the place of war. When the enemy was visible, he only said “By the three hairs of my horse Bayard, I wish defeat to the enemy!”

It happened as he wished it. Both princes returned home in haste to report the victory to the king, which they took complete credit for. The king believed them. How could he assume that the blockhead of a gardener, who couldn’t even sit properly on his horse, would even be capable of performing a famous deed?

Soon thereafter the king became ill. The doctor said the king would only recover if he ate the flesh of the largest and most hideous of all snakes. The three sons-in-law went out in pursuit. The first two, sat high and proud on their steeds. The third sat on the same old mare, which had carried him into battle. After many hours of searching in vain and a thousand detours, the two princes wanted to return. But they soon saw the catch the gardener had made. He spoke his magic words: “By the three hairs of my horse Bayard, the largest of all snakes should lie dead at my feet.” In that moment, his wish was fulfilled.

Both princes wanted nothing else but to appear before the king themselves as snake-slayer. The gardener had nothing against this, if they would give him their gold apples. They agreed to the trade. The gardener returned to the castle with empty arms and was greeted with disdain.

The king soon became ill again. This time he desired the flesh of the largest eagle. Once again the three sons-in-law went out together in pursuit. The same thing happened as the first two times. The gardener killed the bird and the two princes brought back the quarry. But in return for the prize, they had to allow three pin pricks to be imprinted in triangular shape on their bottoms, and this did indeed hurt.

Finally the day came when the king would decide who was the most virtuous of his sons-in-law and assume the crown. He called them and their wives to his palace so that they would bring their apples. The first two brought artificial apples, because they had lost the real ones. But the sly gardener placed three apples before the king, who immediately recognized the fruits by a special mark he had scratched into them in secret. The king wanted to know how these things had happened. The gardener explained everything quite precisely down to the last hair. The ruler now knew who had overcome the enemy in battle, who had killed the giant snake and who had killed the enormous eagle. The gardener supplied all the proofs while the princes stood there gaping. He even showed the king the three pin pricks decorating the bottoms of the princes as reward for the eagle.

Because he was now convinced of his virtue and courage, the king declared the gardener his successor. He now had to remove his straw hat and showed everyone his wonderful golden hair. The king was no longer amazed about the choice his youngest daughter had made.


Further reading:

Gardening fairy tales:

http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2008/06/grimms-saga-no-17-giantesss-plaything.html



http://www.fairytalechannel.com/2010/04/reading-fairy-tales-knight-bluebeard.html

Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com

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