Monday, April 17, 2017

N339.5. Uxorious king is burned to death while taking an alcohol bath (WTF - Weird Things in Folktales)

Welcome to my A to Z Challenge blog series titled WTF - Weird Things in Folktales! Find the introduction post (explaining the theme) here. Find all other participating blogs in the comments of each day's post on the main blog! You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

N in the Motif Index stands for Chance and Fate. It includes wagers and gambling ("N2.5. - Whole kingdom as wager"), treasure troves, divine helpers... and what I personally like to call the Folktale Darwin Awards. Behold an example:

N339.5. Uxorious king is burned to death while taking an alcohol bath 

For those of you like me, who never heard the word before: Uxorious means "having or showing an excessive or submissive fondness for one's wife." Which is totally NOT what is happening in this story. 

Although it is marked as a folktale motif, this story comes from the Novellas of Matteo Bandello, a 16th century Italian writer. His stories, just like other books of novellas such as the Decameron, are based on older tale types, anecdotes, and other folk genres. In this case, a very popular medieval legend about the death of Charles II of Navarre.

Bandello paints a none-too-kind picture of King Charles. He claims that he was a "man of very ill fashions and very cruel" - sins including siding with the English against the French, rebelling against the dauphin Charles (later Charles V) and killing many Parisians, sacking and burning towns and slaughtering people, ruling Navarre in terror by massacring men and ravishing women, and beheading envoys who were pleading with him to lower taxes. So, not a nice person.

Of course there is a painting
Legend says that Charles was "very old and decrepit", but still lustful and "never without a concubine." Shortly before his death he lusted after a woman of twenty-two years, and after a hard day of beheading envoys, he wanted to sleep with her - but alas, he "felt himself wax very feeble." In order to get his strength back up, he had himself wrapped in sheets soaked in spirits of wine (alcohol), and stood in a room, surrounded by copper vessels filled with red-hot coals. On top of this brilliant idea, he ordered his servants to blow on the coals with bellows, to keep them burning. As one would expect, sparks flew from the fire, alighted on the king, and promptly burned him to a crisp in his alcohol-soaked cocoon.

Bandello labels this as "an express judgment from God."
I'm surprised we have not seen this on Game of Thrones yet.

(Read the story here.)

N2.3.5. Intestines wagered
N7. Trained rat upsets pieces in gambling game: trained (or transformed) cat chases it away
N56. Wager: woman to turn somersault in middle of public square
N119.1. Dog tries to catch its fate in its own tail
N125.2. Luck determined by whether a crooked-necked demigod is looking at one
N211.2. Unavailing attempt to get rid of slippers; they always return
N228. Leopard tied in bag in water floats to shore and finds a mate
N271.9. Tree follows murderer
N314. Persons fall asleep on rock, which magically shoots upward
N318.2. Princess accidentally elopes with wrong man
N334.3. Practical joker asks doctor to castrate him
N335.2.1. Sick queen lying under red satin carried off by bird who thinks it is red meat
N340.3. Woman wrongly condemned for drunkenness when seen to take one drink
N383.1. Man falls dead when he realizes that he has been riding over frozen sea
N542.2. Treasure to be found when three-legged cat shrieks over the burial place
N684. Naked soldier becomes general


  1. I stumbled upon your blog from A to Z. This is just the most original (and fun theme) I've seen yet. I'll be back to see what O brings to the game!

    The Novice

  2. Definitely serves him right! If that's how it happened.. But truth is often stranger than fiction. Like the general who fought the Romans and came home alive, only to be killed by a pot falling from a window above...

  3. Love the theme. Love folktales.. and will be back to read more..
    LadyInRead @ MyRandRSpace - Day 17 & the Letter N

  4. And also have to say, loved the word uxorious..learning new words is fun always

  5. Served the King well! Digging up the soil for his own grave was the most poetic justice to the lustful King.
    And yes, loved the word, Uxorious! Will definitely prescribe this word to my husband...hahaha!

  6. That guy had it coming. He was asking for trouble, and I am so glad that he got it.

    Namaste: Exotic Words with no English Equivalent

  7. Well, I would tend to agree with Bandello ;-)

    The Old Shelter - 1940s Film Noir

  8. Thank you for starting the post with the definition of the word 'uxorious'. It's brand new to me and I've added it to my list of 'new word learnt during this challenge.'
    And am imagining a matrimonial ad on the lines of..."seeking a man with uxorious tendencies."
    N is for Naada

  9. I love that there is a painting. Great story, one for the kiddos. "And that, children, is why you don't bathe in alcohol."

    A to Z 2017: Magical and Medicinal Herbs

  10. Brilliant minds are clearly not requirements for ruling are they? I, too, shall be watching for this crazy conflagration scene to find adaptation on Game of Thrones.

  11. Congrats to the 22 year old woman who was spared having to lay with this man!

    Emily | My Life In Ecuador | Nurturing Owl Parents

  12. How much did he drink before he came up with this brilliant idea?

  13. Serve the king right! he devised his own death. Compassion wasn't a pre-requisite for becoming a ruler, was it? neither was wisdom or common sense it seems!

    A bit sad how people in ancient times, and women especially, were at the complete mercy of the cruelest whims of tyrants.


  14. I know Viagra isn't without its issues but it has to be better than that approach!

  15. Can I just say, I love your titles for these posts? They do have a way of grabbing my attention. ha!
    Discarded Darlings - Jean Davis, Speculative Fiction Writer, A to Z: Editing Fiction

  16. Burning alive is a horrible fate, though he was kind of asking for disaster!

  17. wow, what an ingenious thing to do. bravo to the intelligence of that. wow. just wow.

  18. Lol! You're right, this would fit on Game Of Thrones really well hehe. Interesting story, but extra interesting word - Uxurious! I haven't heard that before but it's such a wonderful word to say.

    Here's my "N" post :)