Monday, January 8, 2018

The magic pisspot, and some squirrels (Following folktales around the world 53. - Sweden)

Today I continue the 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!

The Magic Pisspot
Swedish folk tales
Per Gustavsson, Richard Martin
Land of Legends, 2017.

I got a copy of this book from Richard Martin, who translated it from Per Gustavsson's Swedish collection. The book was published by the Museum of Legends. It contains twenty-three Swedish folktales, selected by Gustavsson from various older sources, and retold in a clear oral storytelling style, which carries over well into the English translation. Each story comes with notes, sources, and tale type numbers, which I was especially grateful for. Most tales belong to tale types that are very common all around Europe, with some local Swedish coloring in them. The authors did not shy away from the darker or more vulgar themes of the original stories either. The book has black-and-white and color illustrations which make it pretty as well as enjoyable.


The book was already worth reading just for its title story. The Magic Pisspot is a very rare tale type that I have only encountered once before (in Turkey), featuring a mischievous and independent pisspot that makes its owners rich through a series of tricks. It is a really fun story.
I also liked the two tales about the Ugly Frog and the Pretty Squirrel; the former a beautiful princess who wanted to get away from obnoxious suitors by turning into an ugly frog, and the latter an ugly prince who wanted to become the most beautiful creature in the world - and found himself turning into a squirrel. To be fair, squirrels are rather handsome.


There is a gorgeous variant of the Snow White tale included in this book, titled The little gold bird. We do not only get the evil (biological!) mother's backstory, but we also have seven princes cursed into chimera monsters, who return at the end of the long and elaborate story to save the princess they took in as their sister. I also liked the Swedish Hansel and Gretel, known here as The hut with the sausage roof (no gingerbread), and the tale of the Pleiades, which was a nice variant of Six Against the World. I especially liked in the latter that the five brothers rescuing the princess specifically learned their trades with professional princess-rescuing in mind.
The Giant and the Squirrel was a story that sounded familiar to me from the Appalachian folktale known as Soy Sallyratus (and also a very popular Hungarian folktale). Also common in European traditions is the story of how Husband and wife swapped work for a day, and the classic story of the Stone Soup, here known as Nail Soup.
As for tricksters, Fox showed up in the collections, being responsible in not one, but two tales for Why Bear has a short tail.

Where to next?


  1. That's an attention-grabbing title. :D Sounds like a good book--I'd like to get my hands on more Swedish folk tales. Also, squirrels *are* handsome creatures!

    1. I really love the title :D It gets the job done...

  2. I just heard a version of The magic Pisspot from my friend, Palestinian storyteller Sarah Abu-Sharar. She found it in Speak Bird, Speak Again, editor Ibrahim Muhawi. Itspretty earthy too!