Monday, March 6, 2017

Fairy tales, Chilean style (Following folktales around the world 15. - Chile)

Today I continue new blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

For the next 12 weeks, we will be following folktales all around South America. 

Cuentos folklóricos chilenos
Primera antología
Yolando Pino Saavedra
Editorial Universitaria, 1973.
(For non-Spanish-speakers, tales from the same collection have been published in English in Folktales of Chile)

It's a small little volume. The 25 tales have been selected from a much larger, three-volume folktale collection by the same author. This "first anthology" contains Chilean versions of fairy tale (or, rather, magic tale) types that are well-known to European readers; the local flavor mostly comes from the small details, and the language itself. The book has a list of Chilean words at the end, and also a folktale type index. If you are interested in the less Westernized, indigenous tales, I recommend reading Saavedra's other book, Cuentos Mapuches de Chile.


My favorite was probably the Chilean take on the Twelve dancing princesses - titled The princess who went to play with a Moorish prince at the end of the world. It only had one princess, who shredded seven pairs of shoes every night on her journey. I especially liked that the tale was combined with The man in search of his luck - on her nighttime trip, the princess encountered various people who asked her questions, and she had to deliver the answers on the way back.
I also liked the take on the "hidden heart" in Body without a Soul. Here, the evil giant's soul was hidden in an egg; the egg was in a dove, the dove was in a fox, the fox was in a lion, and the lion was in a tiger that lived in a lagoon. Bonus on top of that was that the boy did not need helpful animals to get the egg - he himself turned into various creatures during the chase. Also, he rescued his own sister from the giant, and the siblings ended up ruling over the giant's wealth side by side.
Picture from here
It was fun to read the version of the Frog Princess titled The Monkey Princess. I especially loved the part where a wandering priest was asked to marry the prince to the monkey (before she turned back to human), and the priest thought to himself: "What a pity that a young man like that could not find anyone to marry but this animal!... But God knows what His plan is for them. Let them get married." Amen.
In the tale of The bull with the golden horns (a.k.a. Beauty and the Beast), the girl searching for her husband stopped in the houses of various winds (and their mothers) to ask for directions. I had to look up the names, because they were typical Chilean concepts. In most European folktales, you only visit The Wind - I liked the variety.
Another intriguing moment happened in the story of The three kidnapped princesses. Unlike other tales, where a prince finds oranges/apples/other fruit, and cuts them open to release the princesses inside, this one began with a king who wanted to keep his daughters safe so badly, he made an old woman turn them into oranges. Of course, the oranges were still stolen...


Technically, all twenty-five tales were versions of well-known types. I especially liked their take on Catskins, in which the girl fleeing from her evil father disguised herself by crawling inside a moving doll made of wood.
By the way, there are small deer in Chile
as well. They are called pudu.
And of course there is no folklore without a trickster. In this case, this role was filled by Deer (an unusual candidate), and several short stories were included within one longer chapter, detailing how Deer tricked Fox, Lion, and other animals. Many of the stories were familiar from other trickster traditions, such as Mouse Deer's from Indonesia. Even the notorious Tar Baby made an appearance - in this case, it was made of honey.

Where to next?


  1. Many international anthologies include Chilean tales & this makes it easy to see why. My only book just of Chilean tales is by Brenda Hughes, _Folk Tales from Chile_, originally published in 1962. Don't know if any of the tales you mention are in my other anthologies, but you don't tell any Hughes includes. Also 2 online sites, and don't tell your choices. Clearly Chile has a long rich folktale tradition. I think I need to consider Saavedra's book. Don't know if my Spanish is up to the challenge, so it's good to start with her smaller work.

    1. This one is a lot easier read than Cuentos Mapuches. That one was difficult for me too, and my Spanish is pretty good.

  2. Ordered my copy. Great that it includes folktale type index -- always a plus!, but I'll stick your summary inside the Table of Contents. (My previous comment had 2 online resources "automagically" omitted when it was published. They are worth seeking, too.)