Obscure Fairy Tale: Molly Whuppie
If you've ever picked up a fairy tale collection with the word "complete" in the title, you'll know that there are a LOT of obscure fairy tales out there. And when I was researching my novel INTO THE WILD, I read a LOT of obscure fairy tales. Some of them were absolutely fabulous; some of them were absolutely bizarre. So when I started this blog, I decided I wanted to include a recurring segment where I tell you about some of the tales that I found. You know, kind of give them a day in the sun.
Today's wonderfully warped Obscure Fairy Tale is "Molly Whuppie." I first learned about this tale from a fabulous collection called FEARLESS GIRLS, WISE WOMEN, & BELOVED SISTERS, edited by Kathleen Ragan. If you like tales with strong heroines, be sure to check it out. Anyway, without further ado, I give you:
Molly Whuppie (an English tale)
OK, I know I haven't even said "once upon a time" yet, but we already have the First Thing I Love About This Story: the name. Molly Whuppie. Doesn't she just sound like that girl you knew in high school who looked totally demure in front of teachers but had this wild glint in her eye, the one you always wanted to hang out with on the weekend even though you seemed to get in trouble every time?
Once upon a time, a man and a woman have too many children so they take their three youngest and leave them in the woods.
First Thing I Hate About This Story: lousy family planning. I guess if the kids had had a nice home life, then there wouldn't be a fairy tale about them. But still... not kosher.
The three girls wander and wander until they find a house. When they knock, a woman answers and says she can't help them because her husband's a giant and will kill them if he finds them. The girls beg, and the women relents.
Naturally, the giant finds them and utters the traditional "fee, fi, fo, fum." At which point, the woman tells her husband, "Ye won't touch 'em, man."
Thing I Love #2: the giant's wife. She stands up to her cannibalistic husband, and she has a fabulous accent.
The giant invites them to stay the night and to sleep in the same bed as his three daughters. The youngest girl (whose name is Molly Whuppie) notices that before they all went to bed, the giant put straw ropes around her and her sisters' necks and gold chains around his daughters' necks.
In most versions of the story, Molly is described as "very clever" for noticing the straw ropes. How unobservant would you have to be not to notice a giant putting a straw rope around your neck? Seriously, was this a common thing? You visit a house, someone puts a rope around your neck, and off you go to la-la land. Apparently, Molly's sisters took it in stride, which makes them Thing I Love #3: super-laid-back siblings.
Once everyone falls asleep, Molly switches the straw ropes for the gold chains. During the night, the giant sneaks into the room, feels for the necks with straw, and then beats to death the three girls (his own daughters) with the gold chains. When the giant goes back to bed, Molly wakes her sisters, and they flee.
Did I mention that the siblings were super laid-back? How could they sleep through that? Also, here is Thing I Hate #2: the giant's wife, who did nothing wrong, loses her three daughters. Not fair.
The sisters run until they reach a king's house. Molly tells the king her story, and the king says, "Great job, but if you outwit the giant a second time by stealing the sword that hangs on the back of his bed, I'll give your eldest sister to my eldest son in marriage." So Molly goes back to the giant's house, sneaks in, waits for the giant to fall asleep, and steals the sword. He wakes and chases her. They run until they reach the "Bridge of One Hair," which she can cross and he can't. She yells to him, "Twice yet, carle, I'll come to Spain."
Thing I Love #4: "twice yet, carle, I'll come to Spain." What the heck does that mean? No idea. But I love it. Think I'll start saying that. Next time a car cuts me off, I'm shaking my fist at the driver and shouting, "Twice yet, carle, I'll come to Spain." And the driver will yell back, "Who's Carl?"
Next, the king tells her, "Great job, but if you outwit the giant again and steal the purse under the giant's pillow, your second sister will marry my second son." So Molly sneaks in, waits for the giant to fall asleep, and steals the purse. He wakes and chases her. They run to the bridge and she yells, "Once yet, carle, I'll come to Spain."
Forgot to mention Thing I Love #5: Bridge of One Hair. What sort of engineer makes a bridge of one hair? And how is she able to cross it? And why doesn't the giant petition the town to have a sturdier bridge built? It can't be good for trade.
Finally, the king says that Molly can marry his youngest son if she steals the giant's ring from his finger. So she sneaks in again... but this time, the giant wakes before she runs. He says, "Now I have you, mwah-ha-ha-ha! If you were me and I were you, what would you do to punish me?" To which Molly says, "I would put you in a sack with a cat, a dog, a needle, a thread, and a shears, and then I'd find the thickest stick I could and beat you to death."
Is it just me or does Molly have a few psychological issues?
The giant put Molly in a sack with all the items she mentioned and wanders off to find a nice stick. Molly says, "Oh, if ye saw what I see." And the giant's wife begs to be taken up into the sack so that she can see what Molly sees. Molly uses the shears to cut a hole in the sack, helps the giant's wife into the sack, and then sews the sack back up with the needle and thread. Molly then hides and waits.
Serious psychological issues. If she has shears and can escape, why not just escape? Why torture the giant's wife? Think I Hate #3: Molly Whuppie is NOT a nice girl.
The giant returns and begins to beat the sack. The giant's wife cries out, "It's me, man!" But the giant can't hear her over the cat and the dog.
Molly then runs, and the giant chases her to the Bridge of One Hair. Molly escapes and shouts, "Never more, carle, will I come again to Spain." And then she marries the king's youngest son and never sees the giant again. And they all live happily ever after.
Except the giant's wife, who hopefully will be filing for divorce sometime soon...
For more Obscure Fairy Tales, check out:
The Wishing-Table, the Gold-Donkey, and the Cudgel-in-a-Sack
Jack My Hedgehog