Saturday, April 13, 2024

L is for Lap Pillow (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.

THE TROPE

"Lap pillow" is the term used for a moment where one person lays down, resting their head on the other person's lap. It usually means a soft, intimate moment of care and proximity. Often used as a "ship tease", a scene foretelling the future romantic entanglement of the two people.

THE FOLKLORE

Okay, I picked this one because it is actually a lot more prominent in folklore than popular romance. The reason being - according to folklorists - that in traditional tales it is a metaphor for actual sex. Often described as "de-lousing" or "looking into one's head", it is a symbol of intimacy that could not always be outright stated in stories. It is also often used as a ploy to lull a monster to sleep, but I am skipping those for the purposes of this post. (Hungarian article on this motif here.)

THE STORIES

The enchanted forest (Slovakian folktale)

This one is a version of the very common tale type ATU 303 (The Twins). It has two identical heroes who separate when they go out to seek their fortune. They are accompanied by wild animals they have tamed - a bear, a lion, and a wolf each. One hero kills a dragon and saves a princess, but after the fight he falls asleep with his head on the princess' lap after they exchange rings. While he sleeps, an evil man kills him and threatens the princess to pretend he was the hero who killed the dragon. The real hero is revived by his faithful animals, unmasks the pretender, and wins the princess. Later on, he wanders into an enchanted forest and is turned to stone by a witch. Luckily, his twin shows up and breaks the enchantment. (I like the Slovakian version because the animals have their own personalities, and are revealed to be cursed princes at the end.)

There is also a Newfoundland version where the hero is Jack, and he falls asleep on the princess' lap even as the dragon is approaching.

The golden-haired gardener (Hungarian folktale)

This is a long and elaborate version of the tale type ATU 314 (Goldener). The hero has golden hair and unearthly beauty, but he hides it and disguises himself as a poor gardener in the king's palace. However, the king's youngest daughter notices his golden hair peeking out, and starts visiting him in secret. They fall in love. One day she spies him combing his hair, and she approaches, taking the comb from his hand. He lays his head on her lap and she combs him - after which they confess their love and decide to be married. It is a surprisingly delicate and lovely scene.

The fisherman's son (Hungarian folktale)

A fisherman's son is unwittingly promised to a river demon at birth, but manages to escape. He encounters an enchanted princess and saves her, after which they get married. When the husband is summoned by a kind, she warns him not to brag about her - which he obviously does, summoning her to show her off at court. She leaves him for his indiscretion, but before she goes, he asks to lay his head on her lap one last time. When he falls asleep, she leaves - and he has to go on a long and epic journey to win her back.

This scene is very similar to that in the Norwegian tale of the Soria Moria Castle.

Do you have favorite romance stories that feature this trope?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!

Friday, April 12, 2024

K is for Kidnapping (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.

THE TROPE

As far as romance tropes go, this is definitely a problematic one, and yet it is common. It deals with someone (usually a woman) falling in love with their kidnapper. Depending on how the story unfolds, it can be romantic, or downright creepy.

THE FOLKLORE

Women falling for their kidnappers is actually not an unusual occurrence in folklore. There are multiple folktale types that usually end this way. Sometimes it is less outright kidnapping and more "fulfilling the task and winning the woman to be gifted to someone else", but the woman still usually has no say in it.

THE STORIES

The fox (Scottish Traveller folktale)

This story features a prince named Brian who falls in love with a servant girl, and his father sends him on a series of errands. He befriends a clever (and magical) fox, who helps him every time he messes up. One of his tasks is to kidnap the well-guarded Sun Goddess to be handed over to a bunch of giants. However, they take a liking to each other, so the fox helps them both get away and get married in the end (servant girl forgotten). 

The same tale type is better known in the Russian version of Tsarevits Ivan, the Firebird and the Grey Wolf. Here, the princess is frightened when kidnapped, but soon takes a liking to the hero.

Brave Rózsa (Hungarian Roma folktale)

A princess puts on men's clothes and sets out on a quest to regain her father's long-lost magic sword. She makes a deal with the knight that keeps the sword that she will deliver him the Fairy Queen in exchange. However, as she fulfills extra quests to win her, the queen falls in love with her, and eventually finds a way to marry the young kidnapper instead. (Also, due to a spell, the princess turns into a prince. In certain versions it is stated from the get-go that the hero prefers men's clothes.)

The son of the hunter (Greek folktale)

The son of a hunter is set impossible tasks by a king and his scheming vizier. One of them deals with bringing him a princess for a wife. The hero befriends a bunch of people with magic powers on the way, and wins the princess. By the time she is delivered to the king, she knows she wants to marry the young hero instead, so she turns king and vizier into a cat and a mouse.

Do you have favorite romance stories that feature this trope?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!

Thursday, April 11, 2024

J is for Jilted Grooms (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.

THE TROPE

Also known as "Runaway Bride", this is a trope where a woman bails out of her wedding the last minute, to go be with the person she always wanted to be with. Ideally, this is a romantic revelation of true feelings. Not great for the groom, though. It also happens the other way around, occasionally, although it seems to be less common (or romanticized). Maybe it's the dramatically flowing dress that makes a difference.

THE FOLKLORE

In folklore, women do run away from their wedding sometimes. So do grooms, usually when their original bride makes an appearance again. I blogged about runaway brides in folklore before in my StorySpotting series, so I'm not reiterating all of it here. Also, Diarmuid and Gráinne are an obvious choice, but I'll deal with those two later.

THE STORIES

The dream lovers

This story was recorded by Athenaeus, allegedly from sources in Media and Scythia. A princess and a prince see each other in their dreams and fall in love. However, the princess' father wants to choose a husband for her from his own household, not a foreigner. He announces the day of the wedding, and she is supposed to choose her husband by handing them a bowl of wine. However, she manages to get a message to her dream-lover in secret, and he makes an epic journey to arrive in time. While everyone is waiting for her to mix the wine, she slips away from the wedding, and runs away with her lover.

The legend of the Rosstrappe (Legend from the Harz Mountains)

The beautiful princess Brünhilda is promised to a giant by her father. She comes up with a plan of escape: she secretly learns to ride one of the giant's terrible horses, and escapes on horseback the night before the wedding, riding to reach the castle of the prince she loves. The giant pursues her, but when she jumps the horse across a wide valley, the giant can't follow her, and he crashes to his death.

How the princess found her husband (Kashmiri folktale)

A princess flees her wedding to be with the princes she actually likes, but in te darkness of night they are separated, and she accidentally elopes with a robber. When she finds out she takes a horse and rides to freedom. Then she comes across a goldsmith who also tries to marry her, so she flees a second wedding (with the gold). She dresses as a man, becomes a king, and eventually manages to reunite with her beloved.

Do you have favorite romance stories that feature this trope?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

I is for Interrupted Intimacy (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.

THE TROPE

Interrupted intimacy is a trope where a couple is about to get intimate (whether making out or having full on sex) but their activities are interrupted by someone walking in, or some unexpected event. It is often used to draw out tension between two characters even when they have already admitted their attraction.

THE FOLKLORE

I thought this was a fun one to look into, because it is usually played in folklore as a joke, or as just punishment for adultery. 

THE STORIES

The unfortunate lovers (Persian tale)

This story is from Nizami's Seven Wise Princesses, a collection of tales embedded in a frame story. A young man spies a group of pretty maidens having a party in a garden he owns. He falls in love with one of them, but whenever they spend time together, and get close to kissing, something unexpected happens: the balcony collapses, a cat falls on them from a tree, foxes run over them, sudden noises startle them, etc. Eventually they realize that these signs mean they should marry before they get down to kissing.

The devil guards wife's chastity

This one, hilariously, is an entire folktale type (ATU 1352). A man, going on a journey, commends his wife's chastity to the devil. Obviously, she has many lovers lined up to visit - but to everyone's surprise, the devil takes his job seriously, and keeps interrupting the secret meetings to scare the suitors away. In the end, he gives up, saying the job is too exhausting.

The Emperor's Dream (Welsh legend)

The Roman Emperor has a dream where he travels far away north, and encounters a beautiful princess. In his dream she is happy to greet him, but when they almost kiss, the dream suddenly ends. He wakes up, and immediately sends messengers to find her. She turns out to be a real person, and as soon as she is found, the Emperor marries her.

Do you have favorite romance stories that feature this trope?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

H is for Hidden Identity (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.

THE TROPE

This trope deals with one or both parties hiding something about themselves. Often it can be the fact that someone is actually rich / famous / royal, but other secrets can also come to light, adding tension and revelation to the plot.

THE FOLKLORE

This one is very, very common in folklore. Think gods disguising themselves to court mortals. Think princes and princesses in disguise. There is a lot of material out there - so I got to cherry pick some stories I think work best as romances.

THE STORIES

Box With Wings (Greek folktale)

This is a Tracian version of a very common folktale type, ATU 510B (All-kinds-of-fur). In it, a girl flees from an unwanted marriage (usually from her father, but in this case, an old suitor), and disugises herself in some hideous form. I like this Greek version because she literally locks herself into a wooden box with her head poking out, grows wings, and takes service at the palace under the name Box With Wings. However, she goes to church on Sundays dressed in beautiful dresses and leaves the box behind, so the prince falls in love with her. When he tries to pursue her after mass (á la Cinderella), she throws sand in his face and steals his ring. Later, she uses the ring to prove she was the mysterious lady. I love this reverse take on the Cinderella / All-kinds-of-fur trope.

Sing Sing Yangdonma (Folktale from Bhutan)

A girl is forced to marry a monster (after it finds out her secret name). Once in the monster's household, she manages to free not only herself, but also the hundreds of captives the monster has been preparing to eat. One of the captives is an old woman on her deathbed; she gives her skin to the girl. The girl disguises herself as an old woman, and manages to get away from the monster for good. Later on, she uses the skin to test three princes, to see which one of them is actually kind and caring towards the old and the weak, and that is how she finds herself a good husband.

The beautiful Englishwoman (Italian folktale)

Not a full disguise but an amusing story anyway: A woman paints a picture of a perfect man and insists that she will only marry that man. Eventually one guy shows up and he looks just like the picture - minus one green tooth. She is ready to show him the door, but he points out she is not perfect either - and they fall in love. Sadly, the story has a tragic ending, because her father doesn't approve of the marriage.

Queen of the Tinkers (Irish folktale)

Another folktale type that revolves around disguise is ATU 900 (King Thrushbeard). In it, a princess refuses to marry a rich suitor, so her father forces her to marry a beggar instead. The beggar, of course, turns out to be the jilted suitor. I don't like most variants of this tale, because the husband is often curel and humiliating towards the wife to "teach her a lesson". However, this Irish version is pretty fun. The princess refuses to marry a prince she has never seen and doesn't love. Instead, she marries "the king of the Tinkers" of her own free choice, and they fall in love. In the end, of course, he turns out to be the prince - but only after she has a chance to changer her mind, and she refuses.

Do you have favorite romance stories that feature this trope?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!

Monday, April 8, 2024

G is for Gentle Giants (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.

THE TROPE

Gentle giants are "strong and silent" type romantic heroes, who, despite their physical size and strength, turn out to be kind and loving. Think "big softie" for romance.

THE FOLKLORE

I decided to look into tales where giants fall in love (and not in a creepy, kidnapping-princesses way), or particularly strong and big characters prove to be kind and loving. I also didn't want the stories to end bady, this is a romance challenge, after all. (You can read about less idealistic giant-princess relationships here.)

THE STORIES

Holy Austin Rock (English folktale)

A strange girl with magic powers marries a young giant, knowing that human men would not trust her or be able to protect her. Her husband dotes on her and builds her a pretty house. However, another giant comes along and tries to kidnap her. Out of jealousy, the husband throws a rock at them, but the woman is quicker, and smites the kidnapper with lightning (apparently she has weather control powers). She survives, and reunites with her husband.

Kempy Kay (Scottish ballad)

This ballad exists in several versions, and is supposed to be a comedic spoof of romantic ballads. It is about a giant, unkept man who is wooing an equally giant and unkept woman. They do get together very happily at the end of the ballad, though, so I see nothing wrong with this romance...

Vilfrídr Fairer-than-Vala (Icelandic folktale)

This one strays a little into Twilight territory, to be honest. It's a long and elaborate Snow White variant, where the girl, after marrying a king, goes through more ordeals, loses three children, and is exiled into the wilderness. She ends up living with  a kind giant, who not only saves her from her parents' (!) schemes, but also rescues her kidnapped children. In the end, she is reunited with her husband and kids. The giant asks her to leave her daughter behind. When she daughter grows up, she falls in love with the giant, and her love breaks his curse, turning him into a prince.

Three lessons to be learned (Danish folktale)

A man's three daughters marry three giants. Eventually he sets out to visit each of them to see how they are doing. He finds them living comfortably and happily. Each giant husband performs a wonderful feat, that the father, after he returns home, tries to duplicate. To near-disastrous results. But the girls are apparently very happy.

Do you have favorite romance stories that feature this trope?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!

Saturday, April 6, 2024

F is for Friends to Lovers (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.


THE TROPE

Following up on yesterday's trope, here is another all-time favorite: long time friendship turning into love. Also a slow burn, very often, given that the participants either don't recognize their love, or they are too afraid to ruin their friendship.

THE FOLKLORE

This one is less common in folktales, but by no means nonexistent. And I have to admit, I love finding stories where there is a relationship between a couple before they are married - it goes against the common stereotype that in folktales, wives are just handed out as prizes.

THE STORIES

The wooing of Pumei (Oroqen folktale)

I have mentioned this one before, but I'm gonna do it again, because it's awesome. A young hunter tries to impress a girl by showing off his archery skills, but she challenges him instead to go on a quest and woo the most beautiful maiden in the world. She accompanies him "as his sister", and they fight demons and defeat dragons together. Obviously at the end it turns out she is the maiden herself - and by that time, they have already fallen in love.

Is it a girl? Is it a boy? (Greek folktale)

Two kings are neighbors, and one has nine daughters and the other nine sons. The king with the sons mocks his friend, claiming girls are useless, and his sons could bring him the Water of Life. The youngest princess, hearing this, dresses as a man, and sets out to fecth the Water of Life, competing with one of the princes. She meets a cursed prince named Sir Northwind, who guards the Water of Life, and befriends him. Northwind suspects that she is a girl, and devises various tests, but she passes all of them. He eventually gives her the Water of Life and she leaves, leaving a note behind to let him know the truth. He finds a way to reach out to her and call her back, and eventually they marry, her love breaking the curse.

Lame and One-hand (Hungarian Roma folktale)

Two princes are crippled by a witch, and they have to live as beggars in the woods. A kind-hearted princess befriends them and comes to take care of them. Eventually, when the witch tries to hurt her, the princes defend her, and manage to break their own curse in the process. After that, one of them marries the girl.


Snow Bella (Cajun folktale)

This one is a Cajun Snow White variant, where the Dwarves the princess moves in with have an adopted brother. They care for the girl and defend her from the wicked witch's assassination attempts; they even hunt the queen down after the poison apple incident. In the end, Snow Bella marries the youngest brother, because they had fallen in love during her time in the Dwarves' house.

Do you have favorite romance stories that feature this trope?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!