Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Almonds

I found out about the A to Z challenge a mere few hours before it started! Since it is such a fun project, with so many participants, and it feeds my grafomania that is not satisfied with currently working on a Master's thesis, of course I had to sign up for this!!!

My personal challenge within a challenge is to post story- and storytelling-related posts every day. Starting with A...
A could stand for so many things! But because trees are in bloom, and spring is all over the place, and because I have been telling this story a lot lately...

... well, for me, A is for ALMONDS!

Some of you might now this story as The Queen who longed for Snow. I have been telling it as a folktale, with a prince and a princess, for a long time before I decided to read more about where the tale came from. And what I found out was much, much more interesting!

First of all, we have a young Moorish sultan, Ibn Almundin, who rules over Al-Gharb, later known as Portugal - more than eight hundred years ago. Tales do not say much about him, except that he is always victorious in battle. One day, when prisoners are brought in front of him, one of them catches his eye: a young woman called Gilda with light hair and blue eyes, a girl from a snow-covered country in the North, far far away. The young sultan falls in love, frees her, and asks for her hand in marriage; she agrees. They live happily for a while; people adore their new queen; but as time goes on, Gilda seems to be fading away, longing for something that no one can name. The young sultan is frantic to find out what he can do to bring the smile back onto her face; finally, he asks a poet who has been captured in the same battle she was, to explain to him what makes the queen so sad. The poet explains that Queen Gilda longs for snow and winter; in the kingdom of Al-Gharb summer rules all year round, and it never snows. Ibn Almundin thinks about this for a while; then he orders his people to bring him almond trees on ships from far away, and plants them around the castle as far as the eye can see. The next spring, one day, the queen walks to her window, and she sees a white blanket covering the hills and the valleys; she smiles for the first time in months, and runs out of the castle, to discover that the white blanket is not snow but petals of the almond blossom. From that day on, Queen Gilda is happy again; and every year, when the almond trees are in bloom, the whole kingdom celebrates.

Such a beautiful story! Also, so full of symbols and images. The young Moorish sultan (when I tell this story, I describe him with almond-shaped eyes, long before I tell my audience that the trees are almond trees), the fair Norse girl, the trees in bloom... Ibn-Almundin's name that sounds like almonds, and the sweet taste of marzipane and turrón. I was amazed when I came to the USA that so few people know what marzipane is...
Also, almond trees are native to the Middle East and Asia; the Arabic conquest of the Iberian peninsula brought them to Spain and Portugal, just like many other things. Fascinating story, with a colorful historical background!

11 comments:

  1. My heart belongs to folk and fairy tales - new and old - and this sweet little tale was new to me! Loved it, thanks for sharing. :)

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  2. I'm delighted I stumbled into your blog on the Challenge list and am a new Follower. Portuguese almonds are in my pantry. Love those little goodies. And marzipan, well, that stuff's sinfully delicious. Your story was beautiful. Hub and I visited Portugal a couple of years ago for two weeks. Beautiful country.

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  3. I am glad you like it! My theme for this year's challenge is storytelling, so if you like folktales and legends, keep coming back for more! ;)

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  4. Found you through the A to Z Challenge. I love a good story...and almonds! Thanks for sharing.

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  5. The story you told is heart-warming and wonderful! What a great beginning for this year's A to Z challenge! Keep going!

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  6. Thank you so much for sharing this story! It is lovely.

    Alana @ writercize.blogspot.com
    Found you through A to Z!

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  7. I never knew that almond trees produced a "snowy" flower, but that sounds pretty awesome. A lot better than the weird cottony "snow" we get around here in Texas, which either flies up your nose or goes straight for your eyes to blind you! (I think they might be from cottonwood trees, but I'm not sure.)

    Looking forward to reading more of your tales during the A to Z Challenge!

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  8. Thank you Csenge! Such a sweet story...and one I can relate to.

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  9. Oh I loved this story! I'm thanking A.J. right about now for her brilliant idea of Throwback Thursday for a post on the A to Z this year! Lisa, co-host AtoZ 2015, @ http://www.lisabuiecollard.com

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  10. As I said, evocative title and the story lived up to it!

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  11. Such a sweet story - thanks for introducing it to me. I love almonds - I imagine not only were the snowy petals beautiful I bet the aroma was delightful as well.

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