Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lang's Fairy Tales: East of the Sun and West of the Moon

Here is the short version of East of the Sun and West of the Moon:

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A poor man had a beautiful daughter.  A white bear knocked at his door one night and said, "Give me you daughter, and I will make you rich." The man agreed, and the bear took her away to his castle. The bear's servants cared for her by day, and at night a man came to her bed, but she could not see him in the dark. 

Once when the bear let her visit her family, her mother gave her a candle. That night, she lit the candle and saw that the man in her bed was a handsome prince! The wax dripping on his shirt awoke him and he cried, "My troll stepmother bewitched me to be a bear by day and hidden by night for a year. Because of your curiosity, I must now go to her castle, east of the sun and west of the moon, and marry her ugly daughter!"

The prince then disappeared, so she set off to find him. Some old women gave her a golden apple, a golden carding-comb, and a golden spinning-wheel, and the North Wind carried her to the distant castle. She bribed the troll's daughter with the golden objects to visit her prince at night, but he was fast asleep each time. Learning of her visits from the troll's human prisoners, he contrived to stay awake. "I will demand that my bride-to-be wash the wax from my shirt," he said. The troll's daughter could not wash out the wax, nor could her mother. None of the trolls could! So the prince summoned his beloved and she washed the shirt. "I will marry you!" he exclaimed, and the enraged trolls burst into pieces. The prince and his bride rescued the humans, took all the treasure, and so lived happily ever after.

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You can read the long version of the fairy tale at Wikisource (the original story is appx. 4300 words long, with lots of detail about the heroine's visits to the three old women and also about the requests she makes to the different winds until the North Wind finally agrees to help her).  The story is from the famous collection of Norwegian fairy tales by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, and there is a detailed Wikipedia article about this particular story, which has many similarities to the classical fairy tale of Cupid and Psyche. My favorite part of this story is just like the scene in the story of Psyche, when she awakens her sleeping lover by accident and so learns the truth of her situation:
She got up and kindled a light, lit her candle, let her light shine on him, and saw him, and he was the handsomest prince that eyes had ever beheld, and she loved him so much that it seemed to her that she must die if she did not kiss him that very moment. So she did kiss him; but while she was doing it she let three drops of hot tallow fall upon his shirt, and he awoke. "What have you done now?" said he; "you have brought misery on both of us. If you had but held out for the space of one year I should have been free. I have a step-mother who has bewitched me so that I am a white bear by day and a man by night; but now all is at an end between you and me, and I must leave you, and go to her. She lives in a castle which lies east of the sun and west of the moon, and there too is a princess with a nose which is three ells long, and she now is the one whom I must marry."




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