Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for Pregnant and capable

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! My theme this year is Representation and Diversity in Traditional Stories. I am looking for rare and interesting motifs in folktales, fairy tales, and legends that add variety to the well-known canon.

I ran into a storyteller a while ago who claimed that pregnancy is such a sacred mystery that traditional stories don't even talk about it. Because I am by nature a contrarian, I could not restrain my instinct of "Actually..." and I started collecting stories about women who are pregnant, and in addition to that, very much capable. Here are some of my favorites!






Rapunzel
One of the Internet's favorite bits of fairy tale trivia: Rapunzel does not get rescued from the tower by the prince. She gets visited by the prince, and then gets kicked out by the witch when she becomes pregnant. With twins. And then she goes to live in the woods, and that's where the prince finds her again.
Pregnancy actually figures twice into this tale - in many versions Rapunzel is taken by the witch in the first place because her mother had cravings for parsley, and sneaked into the witch's garden. Go figure. (This part actually symbolically features into Disney's Tangled)
(For the uncut, uncensored first edition of Grimm tales, including pregnant Rapunzel, read Jack Zipes' new translation)

Macha
The Irish legend of the Curse of Macha features a mysterious woman that marries a mortal man, and warns him never to brag about her. When he does so anyway (claiming she runs faster than anyone), the King orders Macha, who is nine months pregnant, to run a race with his horses. Macha does not only win the race (and gives birth to twins right after), but she also curses the men of Ulster who did not protect her, to have labor pains for three days whenever their land is in danger.
(Read the story here)

Malei
In this Zhuang (Chinese minority) legend, a pregnant woman named Malei sets out to save the world by bringing back the sun that had disappeared. She takes on the quest saying that if she can't fulfill it, her child will.
(I wrote about this story in detail here)

Tamlin
This Scottish ballad is most well known as a love story - but not many people realize that Janet, the girl that saves Tamlin from the spell of the Fairy Queen is pregnant while doing so.
(Read about the ballad here)

Psyche
In the love story of Eros and Psyche, Psyche is given tasks to fulfill by her jealous mother-in-law, Aphrodite. Since she is already carrying Eros' child, she fulfills the tasks while pregnant, before she is reunited with her husband and they can live happily ever after.
(Read the story here)

What other stories should I add to the list? Do you have a favorite portrayal of pregnancy?

23 comments:

  1. Psyche I knew about. I had no idea about Rapunzel. I wish I could come up with another pregnant girl in a tale, but obviously I'm not savvy enough. I mean Rapunzel?

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  2. Interesting to know about Rapunzel being pregnant side of story..

    Almost all the stories you mentioned here have strong pregnant woman characters.. Motherhood makes a woman stronger in all aspect..

    http://serendipityofdreams.blogspot.in/2016/04/patterns-in-vision.html

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  3. I never knew that about Rapunzel - I didn't know the others either, but I thought I knew the story of Rapunzel and clearly I didn't :)
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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  4. Pregnant Rapunzel? First time I heard about it :)

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  5. It's good to be contrary. My middle name is Merry, so I heard the Mary, Mary quite contrary as a child. It's good to question all things. :)

    I never heard that Rapunzel story line. Probably got white washed for the kiddos at school.
    The Really Real Housewives

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  6. Wanted to leave this wonderful resource on Tam Lin: http://tam-lin.org/

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  7. I never heard that story about Rapunzel however I did know about Psyche. I love that pregnant goddess you have at the top of the page. I have several of those statues. They are so lovely.

    @Kathleen01930
    Meet My Imaginary Friends
    #AtoZchallenge

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  8. Men with labor pains? What an enjoyable concept.

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  9. I must have read a sanitized version of Cupid and Psyche, because I never realized she was pregnant in it.

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  10. I'd heard about Rapunzel getting pregnant by the prince, and unknowingly giving away her condition when she told the witch her clothes were getting tighter.

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    1. Yes, that's what happens in the earliest Grimm version. She asks her witch-mother why her dress is tight in the waist...

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  11. Nice collection of tales you've come up with, but still it is really curious there are so few overall. Now you've given me another fun topic to keep my eyes peeled for.

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  12. Csenge (emerging from the dark briefly here) - this A-Z collection of highlighting under-represented folk in tales is SO WONDERFUL and super-overdue to see somewhere, so thank you! It would be truly awesome to have as a collection in a book, complete with illustrations etc to help them become better known. (I wish I were up to helping this become reality but health issues are knocking the wind out of my sails at present.) Your blog is one of my favorite places to visit for the soul-feeding treasure trove of stories - you do more good than you can possibly know - thank you!

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    1. Aww, thank you! Hearing this means a lot to me :) Especially from you :)

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  13. I think I read somewhere that the phrase 'let down your hair' was a metafore for 'give it up', meaning her virginity.

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    1. Hair has a lot to do with sexuality in many cultures around the world

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  14. Rapunzel is such a complex fairytale character many people forget about.

    The Birthday Girl At The Joyous Living

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  15. I did know about Rapunzel but not the others. Pregnant heroines, what a wonderful thing.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVztLH6fgB4

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  16. I'm loving this year's A-Z!
    And you brought to mind not a folktale, but a local religious belief in some parts of Argentina: la Difunta Correa. In the 19th century she followed her husband when he went to fight with the army. She was either pregnant or with a newborn (in the version in which she was pregnant, she gives birth while tracking the troop or regiment). In both versions she runs out of water and dies on the way, but a few days later some people find her body, dead but still breastfeeding her baby. She became a popular 'saint', with many people visiting the place where she was found and asking for miracles, favours or divine intervention through her.
    There are sanctuaries in many places in Argentina (the most important in San Juan, where she was found). All of them full of water bottles or glasses.

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  17. I already knew Macha's story and I really like it. I mean, cursing a man to have labour pain. that's just priceless ;-)

    @JazzFeathers
    The Old Shelter - Jazz Age Jazz

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  18. I already knew Macha's story and I really like it. I mean, cursing a man to have labour pain. that's just priceless ;-)

    @JazzFeathers
    The Old Shelter - Jazz Age Jazz

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  19. This is a great topic - I've never thought about stories from the perspective of being pregnant.

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  20. This is a great topic - I've never thought about stories from the perspective of being pregnant.

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