Sunday, October 01, 2006

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.

19 Comments:

At 1:58 AM, Anonymous Jacquelyn said...

That is a fantastic fairy tale. I vaguely remember reading it once before. Thank you for sharing it!

And I completely agree with your comment about the ending. What was wrong with the ugly princess being herself? Was she truly ugly to start with, or was she just not as beautiful as her sister so, therefore, simply appeared ugly whenever she was around her? Are people who are not extraordinarily beautiful really ugly?

Personally, I think everyone is beautiful in different ways, and I prefer heroines who have a normal beauty over extraordinary beauty.

By the way, I found your blog while doing a Google search for obscure fairy tales (for a vague story and/or comic idea). Since I cannot remember which book I read this tale in originally, I am going to bookmark this entry so I at least have some reference.

Thank you!
~Jacquelyn

 
At 6:53 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Thanks for visiting, Jacquelyn! Glad you liked the retelling. Have you read The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye? It's a lovely story where the princess stays unlovely and lives happily ever after.

- Sarah

 
At 5:11 PM, Blogger belgatherial said...

There is at least one retelling of Beauty and the Beast where the Beast stays himself (Robin McKinley's "Rose Daughter"). I just found your blog, and I *love* these commentaries. :)

 
At 5:26 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Belgatherial: Welcome! Glad you like the commentaries! I like that Beast-staying-a-Beast ending. I also like the other twist ending where the heroine turns into a beast, like in Shrek and Frog Prince Continued.

 
At 2:29 PM, Blogger DaviMack said...

I must say that I particularly like the fact that the trolls had a calf's head with them which could be switched, and that somehow the human head would have kept for three years.

 
At 11:57 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

DaviMack: I like that too. Makes me wonder what else the trolls packed (toothbrush, deodorant, calf's head...).

 
At 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! I've enjoyed your fairy-tale commentary very much. You might be interested in a different version of "Tatterhood", one where the prince who she marries isn't initially repulsed by her and where it's left unsaid whether she makes herself beautiful at the end: scandinavian.wisc.edu/mellor/taleballad/pdf_files/tatterhood.pdf
The prince is actually a likable character in this version!

 
At 12:13 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Anonymous: That's a lovely version. Thanks for sharing it!

 
At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Samantha said...

Maybe Tatterhood isn't actually ugly, but the shock from the goat and the spoon just threw everyone off...it would be a little weird to see your newborn riding a goat...

 
At 10:30 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Samantha: You're right -- that would be REALLY disconcerting.

 
At 6:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tatterhood is pretty amazing, especially with the comments!Another good book with an unlovely heroine is Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine, and the prince cares not at all.

 
At 4:51 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Anonymous: Glad you liked the comments! I haven't read Fairest yet, but I love Gail Carson Levine's other books.

 
At 8:11 AM, Anonymous -marri said...

The Beast in the Disney version of "Beauty and the Beast" was cute! The prince he turned into at the end had a big nose...

 
At 12:17 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Marri: Totally agree. He was such a disappointing human.

 
At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think someone should do a retelling of tatterhood one day or just flesh it out cause it sounds like a kickass fairytale

 
At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the most awesome retelling of my favorite fairy tale of all time.
And by the way, your interjections rock my socks.
Thanks for posting this, it totally made my day.

 
At 3:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think her transformation at the end of the story should be taken literally. How it sounds to me, is like a metaphor for the prince falling in love with her for who she is. By talking to her, and getting to know her, he learns to appreciate her for who she is. She transformes only in his eyes.

 
At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In one version of this tale. Tatterhood's sister marries a widowed King and the King forces his son to marry Tatterhood. The Prince is horrified when Tatterhood begins to transform for it seems to verify his fear that she must be a witch. When the transformation is complete he decides that being married to a witch may not be all bad. At the private wedding feast neither the King nor the Prince can keep their eyes off Tatterhood because they are amazed at her beauty. The sister looks at them in a confused way and says "She's always looked like that to me."

 
At 11:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found your blog one day after looking obscure fairy tales. Have not read any of your books and just finished reading all the fairy tales. I love them and want to read Into the wild soon.

P.S. I liked the beast as a beast too, though it would a little awkward if Bell and the Beast kissed.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home