Obscure Fairy Tale: Tatterhood
Breaking news: Amazon.com now lists my book under its new title INTO THE WILD! Yay!
And now back to your regularly scheduled blog: this week's episode of "Obscure Fairy Tales."
In obscure fairy tales, it isn't always the dashing and charming prince who is the hero. Sometimes it's the princess. And the princess isn't always delicate, lovely, and in designer gowns. Sometimes she's like Tatterhood.
Tatterhood (a Norwegian tale from Asbjornsen and Moe)
A childless queen consults a peasant woman on how to have a baby. The woman tells her that in the morning, she will find two flowers under her bed. She is to eat the fair flower but leave the ugly one. In the morning, the queen finds the flowers and (figuring two magic flowers means twice the magic) eats them both.
Anyone who knows fairy tales can hear the alarm bells: don't disobey the wise woman! But the Thing I Love #1 about this story is: the queen's right.
Nine months later, the queen gives birth to an ugly girl who holds a wooden spoon in one hand and rides a goat.
Thing I Love #2: yes, you read that right. The baby comes out of the womb with a wooden spoon in her hand and riding a goat, which means that the queen also gives birth to a spoon and a goat. Imagine what that must have looked like in the ultrasound.
The queen is shocked, but the baby tells her not to worry, the next one will be much prettier. And then the queen gives birth to a second baby, who is indeed much prettier.
Thing I Love #3: talking baby.
The twin sisters grow up as best friends, even though the firstborn (who they name Tatterhood) insists on wearing tattered clothes, never washing her hair, and always riding her goat. And they are very happy until one day, a pack of trolls attacks the castle.
Yeah, that would ruin my day too. In some versions, the trolls are witches or hobgoblins. Also a downer.
Tatterhood says, "Lock yourselves in the castle. I'll take care of it." And she rides her goat out into the courtyard and whacks all the trolls with her wooden spoon. Her sister, worried about her, sticks her head out the window to see if she's okay. One of the trolls yanks the beautiful princess's head off and replaces it with a calf's head. After Tatterhood finishes chasing away the trolls, she comes back inside to find her sister with a calf's head. She yells at her parents and nurses for not taking better care of her.
Things I Love #4, 5, and 6: Tatterhood kicks troll-butt; losing one's head isn't fatal; and Tatterhood tells off the grown-ups. I love imagining that conversation.
She requests a ship, which her parents give her, and she takes her sister on a voyage to where the trolls live. There, she whacks them all with her spoon again and steals back her sister's proper head. They sail on, having more adventures, for three years.
Thing I Love #7: the princesses get more adventures! Yay!
Eventually, they visit a kingdom with two princes. One falls instantly in love with the pretty princess and begs to marry her. But the pretty princess says, "No. Not unless my sister Tatterhood marries too."
Thing I Love #8: pretty princess shows spunk.
The second prince agrees to marry Tatterhood. He sulks about this for a while, and Tatterhood asks him why he doesn't talk. "What should I talk about?" he asks, still sulking. She tells him that he could ask why she rides an ugly goat. So he dutifully asks, and Tatterhood says, "Is this an ugly goat? Why, it's the grandest horse you've ever seen." Instantly, the goat turns into the finest horse that the prince has ever seen. She then tells him to ask her about the spoon, her tattered outfit, and her ugly face, and she transforms into a beautiful young woman in a fancy dress with a magic wand.
Thing I Hate: do they HAVE to make her pretty at the end? Couldn't she stay herself? (Yes, I hate that the Beast transforms into a human at the end of "Beauty and the Beast" too. He's such a cute beast, especially in the Disney version.) On the plus side, at least Tatterhood does the magical transformation herself, just like Jack My Hedgehog. But what if the poor goat doesn't want to change species? Was he even consulted about this? I think not.
And of course, they all live happily ever after.
Including, I hope, that former goat.