Saturday, April 20, 2019

R is for Raspberries and Punishments (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Raspberries are one of my favorite fruit. I can't get enough of them. I eat them straight off the bush, but I also like them on cakes and pastries (and definitely in chocolate brownies and chocolate ice cream). My parents grow them in the garden, but I have to compete with our (self-inflicted) fruitarian dog to get to them first.

The story I found for today is from Ireland. It is about two men, Murroghoo-more and Murroghoo-beg, who are cousins; the stronger of the two, Murroghoo-more, treats the smaller one very badly, and keeps bossing him around. One day, he orders Murroghoo-beg to go and gather raspberries. Murroghoo-beg does, but then it starts to rain, and he hides in the bushes, gets hungry, and eats all the raspberries. When he gets home with an empty basket, Murroghoo-more beats him. The next day, the same thing happens - Murroghoo-beg can't resist, and eats the raspberries again. Same thing on the third day.

By this time, Murroghoo-more is so angry, that he puts out the eyes of Murroghoo-beg, and leaves him at the church at night to die. Luckily, magic cats are having a storytelling circle in the church at night, and Murroghoo-beg overhears them talking about a sick princess and a magic well. In the morning, he crawls to the well, gets water, heals the princess, and heals his own eyes. He becomes a rich man. As these stories usually go, Murroghoo-more hears about what happened, and demands to know how Murroghoo-beg did what he did. He decides to spend a night in the church too...

... except this time the cats pay more attention, find the eavesdropper, and tear him apart, leaving nothing but his bones.

(Read this story here, and another, similar story here.)

How do you imagine a cat storytelling circle? What kinds of stories cats would tell each other, I wonder... Would you be brave enough to eavesdrop?

Friday, April 19, 2019

Q is for Quince and Kings (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

There is a folktale motif that involves a magic tree and stolen fruit. It is very common in Hungarian stories; the fruit, usually pears or golden apples (although occasionally it's bacon) is stolen every night by some mysterious force, until the hero finds a way to protect it. Here is a version from Albania:

A king has a magic tree that bears only three quinces every year. The king desperately wants to enjoy the fruit, but every time it is stolen by a dragon. The king's three sons volunteer to stand guard, but the first two, in true folktale fashion, get scared and fail miserably. The third, a "scurf-head", manages to wound the dragon, which disappears through a hole in the ground.

From this point on, the tale follows along traditional lines. The scurf-head volunteers to descend into the underworld. He meets and rescues three princesses (three Earthly Beauties), plus a princess that has just been offered to the dragon as a sacrifice. He slays the dragon, and restores water to the underground kingdom. On his way back, his brothers pull up the three girls first, but decide to leave the scurf-head in the hole, and keep all three princesses to themselves. Following sage advice from the youngest girl (and with the help of a giant bird), however, the hero gets out of the underworld, goes home, and wins his place back in the kingdom. In the end, he turns into a dashing warrior, and marries the youngest princess.

At this point I think it is safe to assume that the king finally gets to eat his quinces in peace, too.

(You can read the tale here.)

Have you ever tried quince? Do you have a good recipe?My grandma grew them in the garden, and used to make a kind of hard jam out of them (we called it "quince cheese").

Thursday, April 18, 2019

P is for Perilous Persimmons (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Of course, there is an overabundance of fruits with P. Pears, pomegranates, peaches, papayas, plums, pineapples, prickly pears, pomelos...

Here is well known and much loved folktale from Korea.

A tiger sneaks into a village at night, hungry for some prey. As he sneaks around, he hears a baby crying loudly in a house. The mother tries everything to keep the baby quiet, but to no avail. Eventually, in her desperation she even says "here comes a tiger!", which makes the tiger really proud of himself - but the baby keeps crying. The mother, exasperated, decides to give the baby a treat, and says "here's a persimmon!" Content with the treat, the baby falls quiet.

Tiger, hearing this exchanges, grows scared. What on earth is a persimmon, that it could scare a child into silence, when the threat of a tiger could not? What in the world can be more terrifying than a tiger? What kind of a monster is a persimmon, and what is it doing in that house?! Thoroughly freaked out, the tiger runs away, and takes shelter in the barn where the dreaded persimmon can't get him.

In the meantime, there is someone else sneaking around the village: A thief. The thief gets into the barn, hoping to steal a cow, but it is so dark in there that he can only find his way around by touch. Groping around in the darkness, he grabs on to the tiger's back, and thinks it is a cow with a very lush coat. He gets on the back of the tiger (facing backwards) and holds on. The tiger, terrified that it is the persimmon that is on his back, bolts, and runs away crying "Help! A persimmon is after me! Don't eat me, Mr. Persimmon!" while the thief is crying "Don't eat me, Mr. Tiger!"

And that's the end of the story.

(Read the story here, here, here, or here. Read more about the symbolism of persimmons in Korea here.)

I don't know about you, but I'm kinda curious now: What would a persimmon monster look like?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

O is for Olives and Detectives (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Well, we just had oranges yesterday, so today I have to do olives. Luckily, olives play an important role in many cultures, and a such there are countless tales and legends that revolve around them. Today, I picked one of my favorites. Here is a story from the Thousand and One Nights (more specifically, from nights 639-643).

Ali Khwajah, the merchant lives in Baghdad in the time of the famous wise caliph Haroun Al-Rashid. One day he decides to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca. He sells all his goods, and since he doesn't want to carry all his wealth to Mecca, he puts a thousand gold coins into an olive jar, spreads some olives on top, and seals the jar. He then takes the jar to a merchant friend of his, and asks him to store the jar in his house while he is away. The merchant friend agrees, puts the sealed jar in his cellar, and forgets about it.

Ali Khwajah goes on the pilgrimage to Mecca. On the way, he meets other merchants, and decides to accompany them to faraway lands, and travel the world. He is away for seven long years.
In the meantime, towards the end of the seven years, the other merchant's wife starts craving olives. The merchant opens the sealed jar (despite his wife's protests), and finds that the olives have gone bad, but there is gold underneath them. He takes the gold, fills the jar with fresh olives, and seals it back up.

Soon after Ali Khwajah comes home, greets his friend, and takes back his jar. When he opens it, he finds it full of olives, and all thousand pieces of gold are gone. He returns to his friend to complain, but the merchant denies that he's ever opened the jar. The matter ends up at court before the judge, but since there are no witnesses about the gold, the case is dismissed. The desperate Ali Khwajah goes before Haroun Al-Rashid, asking for justice. The caliph promises to think it over.

That evening Haroun Al-Rashid goes walking in his city, and notices a handful of children playing. They are reenacting the (high-profile) case of Ali Khwajah. One child pretends to be the judge. He asks "Ali" to bring the jar of olives in for inspection. He tastes the olives and finds them fresh. He orders two olive merchants to tell him, from their expertise, how long olives keep in a jar. The merchants testify that no olives keep for more than three years. The child-judge thus concludes that the jar had been opened and refilled, and decides the trial in Ali's favor.

Haroun is so impressed with the child that he orders him to court for the next day. When the merchant and Ali Khwajah arrive, the caliph does exactly what the child has done, and since the olives are fresh, the truth of the matter comes out. Ali gets his money back, the boy also gets a thousand pieces of gold, the merchant is hanged for his crime, the judge is disciplined for being bad at his job. Justice prevails, thanks to the wisdom of a child.

(Read the story here.)

Do you think there would have been another solution for Ali to reveal the truth and get his money back?
(Also, I checked, and modern olives also have a 3-year expiration date...)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

N is for Naran White (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Okay, so I am cheating here a little, but this was too good to pass up.

In Catalonia, there is a folktale known as La Tarongeta. It is often translated as "Little Tangerine" and even "Little Grapefruit", but "taranja" in Catalan means "orange."
(Watch my hands: the English word originated from the Indian naram, the Persian narang and the Arabic naranj. In Spanish, orange is naranja, and in my native Hungarian, it is narancs. There is your N.)

Anyway, the story might look a bit familiar:

There was once a queen who wanted to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Every day, she asked her magic mirror, and every day her vanity was confirmed. One day, she purchased an orange from a traveling merchant. As she ate it, the orange peel fell on the snow in the garden. Seeing that, the queen wished for a daughter who would be white as snow and gold as the orange. In time, a beautiful baby girl was born, and named La Tarongeta - Little Orange.

From the moment Tarongeta was born, the mirror stopped flattering the queen. Enraged, she ordered two servants to take the girl into the woods, kill her, and bring her heart as proof. The servants, however, did not want to kill the princess, so they killed a goat instead, and told the girl to run. A talking dove led Tarongeta to a house deep in the woods. In the house lived thirteen giants.

Tarongeta spied on the giants, noting how they opened and closed their house with a magic spell. Eventually she sneaked inside, and spent three days hidden in the house, until they finally found her. Telling her story, she made the giants feel pity for her, so they kept her as a servant. In the meantime, the queen found out she was still alive, and talked to a witch, who went to the house in the woods, offering a ring to Tarongeta. The girl put the ring on, and fell into a deep sleep.

The thirteen giants put Tarongeta into a cave as a crypt. Some time later, a prince happened to find her, fell in love with her, and carried her home. One day, when she was alone, a servant woman tried to steal the pretty ring, and the moment she slipped it off the finger, Tarongeta woke up. She married the prince, they burned the queen publicly, and they lived happily ever after.

(Joan Amades: Les cent millors rondalles catalanes, 1974.)

I don't know about you, but I want to know what part of her was white and what was orange. I guess it would be her skin and her hair, respectively, but it would be funny the other way around...
Also, this is how you end a Snow White tale without non-consensual kissing. With grave robbery. Modern parents, you're welcome.

Monday, April 15, 2019

M is for Magic Mango (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Mangoes are relatively popular in folklore and legends. The Tamil story (part of a longer series of tales) I picked for today belongs to one of my favorite folktale types, ATU 567, The Magic Bird Heart. Except in this case, the magic bird heart is a mango.

The story begins with a king who wishes for a child for a long time. One day a hermit foretells that he will lose his kingdom for seven years, and in the first year of his exile his wife will give birth to twins. The prophecy is fulfilled: The exiled king and queen become servants, and they have twin sons a year later. When the boys grow up, they decide to set out and seek their fortune.

In a forest nearby, a hermit is patiently waiting under a mango tree. The magic tree only bears one fruit every hundred years; the one magic mango is ripening, ready to fall. The hermit decides to go and bathe, so that he can be clean to receive the holy fruit. While he is away, the mango drops, and the princes find it and share it. What they don't know (unless, in some versions, the hermit tells them) is that the mango has a special power: Whoever eats the peel will become a king, and whoever eats the seed will drop gemstones from his mouth every time he laughs.

Soon after, the king of a nearby kingdom dies. According to custom, his advisers give a flower garland to his favorite elephant, and set it free; whoever the elephant puts the garland on will be the next king. The elephant runs into the forest, puts the garland on one of the princes' head, then picks him up and carries him home. He is crowned immediately.

The other brother is left alone in the woods. After some wandering, he comes across a house where an old woman lives with her daughter, a dancing-girl. They invite the prince in, entertain him, and soon find out about the gemstones he laughs. They decide to get the magic mango seed, so they feed him a potion that makes him vomit and then faint. While he is passed out, they throw him out into the woods again, and the girl swallows the seed.

The prince eventually comes across another magic mango tree in the woods that bears four kinds of mangoes, and tastes them all. One turns him into an ape, another into a kite, the third into an old woman, and the fourth returns him to his original form. He collects some of all four kinds, and returns to the house of the women. Disguised as an old woman, he sells them some fruit, and lo and behold, the old woman turns into an ape, and the girl into a kite. The prince sets out, touring the towns and villages, showing off the magical animals. Eventually, he ends up in the royal city where his brother is king. The two brothers are reunited; they feed a potion to the girl, regain the magic mango seed, gather an army, and take back their father's kingdom. All is well if it ends well.

(You can read this story here or here. I also included a Mongolian version, The Gold-spitting Prince in my book, Tales of Superhuman Powers.)

Which part of the magic mango would you rather eat?
More importantly, would you be willing to eat it after someone else has thrown it up?...

Saturday, April 13, 2019

L is for Lychee and Death (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

This story is a Chinese variant of a folktale type that is well-known around the world. In Spanish-speaking countries it is often called Tía Miseria, Aunt Misery, and the tree in question is usually a pear tree or a fig tree.

The Chinese story tells about a poor old woman known to everyone as Pin Qiong, Poverty. Most people avoid her or look down on her as she picks her way through the garbage dump every day. One day, she comes across a lychee seed with a small green shoot sprouting from it. She takes the seed home and plants in outside her hut. Miraculously, by the next morning the seed grows into a giant lychee tree, laden with sweet fruit.

Poverty takes the fruit to market and sells it. She doesn't know that she has the best lychee in town, so she sells it cheap, but still makes enough money to start living a little better. The next morning, however, she finds the tree torn, and all the fruit gone. The next year, when the tree bears fruit again, the thieves take all the lychee even before the old woman can pick any of them at all. She complains to the authorities, but no one bothers to help her. The third year, she tries to pick the lychees early, but since they are not ripe yet, they are all sour and useless. She tries to stay up all night to catch the thieves, but she is too old to keep watch.

Eventually, an old beggar comes by. Poverty treats him well, giving him food and drink, and kindly inviting him in. The old man, in exchange, grants her a wish. Poverty wishes that the thieves could not take her lychee anymore. Her wish is granted: Next time the tree bears fruit, she finds half the village in the morning, all stuck to the branches of the tree. They had been stealing from her, and the magic keeps them from leaving. At first they yell and argue, and then they beg. Eventually, Poverty sets them free by clapping her hands. No one tries to steal her lychee anymore.

One day, Death knocks on the old woman's door. She agrees to go with him, but kindly offers that he can eat some lychee from the tree first. Death climbs the tree, eats the fruit, and gets stuck; he begs for a long time to be set free, but the old woman refuses. Eventually Death promises not to ever take her. This, says the story, is why Poverty never dies, and lives in the world to this very day.

(Read the story in this book.)

Honestly, I am all for the kind and clever old woman owning her lychee tree and avoiding death, even if she is an allegorical figure...
What do you think?

P.S.: I first heard about lychee nuts from Avatar: The Last Airbender. For the longest time, I thought they were a made up fruit...

Friday, April 12, 2019

K is for Kantek Figs and Kundong Koong (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

You know how hard it is to find folktales or legends about a fruit that starts with K?
Try it.

This legend comes from the Himalayan Lepcha people, and tells about the origin of Chyee or Chi (millet beer), a fermented beverage that is in high regard in their culture.

Picture from here
Story says that once upon a time the Lepcha were fighting a war against the devil Laso Mung Pano. In order to help them, the supreme Creator fashioned a hero with supernatural powers from pure snow. Arriving to the battlefield, this hero realized that the spirit of the Lepcha was broken, and they needed something to boost morale. He quickly consecrated a Lepcha priestess, Nyolik-Nyosong, and gave her some supernatural powers too, to help her people. However, even the priestess' powers failed to make the people fight better.

Eventually, Nyolik-Nyosong found out about a recipe for a power potion, Bhut, that could help the soldiers. She asked for a volunteer to travel to the Netherworld and bring the potion from Matlimanyoo, the evil sorceress. Cockroach volunteered, bravely ventured into the nether realms, tricked the sorceress, and got away with the potion.
On the way home, Cockroach stopped to rest a bit. While he was asleep, Black Cobra happened on him, and tasted some of the Bhut - he instantly became deadly venomous. Soon after, Honeybee passed by, and tasted a speck of the potion - and immediately grew a stinger. Some birds came next, and upon tasting the potion, they became carnivorous; then a kantek fig tree leaned down, and touching the potion, its fruits immediately turned sour. Finally after all these creatures, kundong koong, the plantain tree touched the potion as well, and its fruits grew sweet. The deadly poison was finally out, distributed between several beings; by the time Cockroach made it back to the priestess, the Bhut was safe for human consumption.

From the magic potion, Nyolik-Nyosong created Chi, a fermented drink that boosted the morale of the Lepcha soldiers, who managed to defeat the demon Laso Mung Pano. The evil sorceress Matlimanyoo, however, robbed of her secret recipe, cursed the new drink: It has healing properties in moderation, but it can be a poison if one drinks too much of it.
Ever since then, kantek fruit has been sour, and kundong koong fruit has been sweet.

(Read more about this legend, and Chi, here, here, here, or here.)

I am learning a lot from researching these fruit folktales so far. Are you?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

J is for Jujube Friendship (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Jujube is a date-like edible fruit that grows on a small tree or shrub. The story I found about it comes from the Hui people, an ethnic minority in northwestern China who are predominantly Muslim.

According to the story, back in the day when the Prophet Muhammad was persecuted by non-Muslims, he fled from a violent attacker into the desert. Eventually, tired of running and dodging attacks, he stopped and sat down on a pile of dirt to take a breath. Soon, the pagan chief caught up to him, but didn't recognize him, so he asked if he had seen a man fleeing. Muhammad pointed him towards the southeast.

While the chief was also taking a breath, Muhammad decided to eat something. Taking a piece of cotton from his clothing, he planted it in the dirt. In front of the chief's amazed eyes, a jujube plant sprouted from the ground immediately, blossomed, and produced two jujube fruits. Muhammad kindly gave one of them to his enemy. The pagan chief admitted that he was a man of great power, worthy of following. After they ate the dates, Muhammad revealed his identity, telling the chief to kill him if he wished. The chief, humbled by his power and kindness, swore to follow him, and converted to Islam with all his people.

Ever since then, claims the story from Ningxia, jujube dates have been precious to Muslims, and their kernels are used to make payer beads.

(You can read the story in this book.)

Have you ever tried jujube? Did you like it?
If you could grow one fruit tree out of the ground immediately, what would it be?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

I is for Indian Almonds and Idepeluochel Bats (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

It is not exactly easy to find a fruit that starts with I (I wonder why), but I managed to track one down: The Indian almond (Terminalia catappa), known by various names such as "sea almond" or "tropical almond" has edible fruit, and it figures into some stories of south and east Asia, as well as Oceania.

A legend from Babeldaob (the largest island of the Republic of Palau) says there once lived a giant bat in the Idepeluochel jungle. This monster had "unappeasable appetite" for sweetmeats - especially two kinds, one made from Indian almonds, and one made from grated coconut. As far as monsters go, this doesn't sound so bad, right?

Wrong. One day, the bat found out that there were plenty of almond and coconut sweets on the island of Angaur (another island of Palau, far to the south), in the bai, or meeting house. The bat flew over, and in its search for its favorite food, it thrashed its giant wings, destroyed buildings, collapsed the bai, and took off with the sweets.

The people of Angaur, of course, could not let this go. They rebuilt the bai, this time with spears sticking out of it, and then placed more almond and coconut sweets in it. Like clockwork, the giant bat appeared once again - but this time, it got impaled on the spears.

Image and story from this book

The best part of this story? We know it from a source none other than a bai itself. In Palau, legends and tales were illustrated on the beams of the meeting houses (like early examples of comic strips), and the giant bat appears on one of them. You can see it in the Airai Meeting House (Bai ra Irrai) on Babeldaob, which is on the US National Register of Historic Places.
I wrote about Palau legends and tales in my "Following folktales around the world" blog series here.

(By the way, the Palau Flying Fox is a near endangered species, you can read about conservation efforts here)

Have you ever been to Palau? Would you want to go?
Have you ever tried Indian almonds?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

H is for Huckleberry Picking (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Huckleberry is a term applied to several different kinds of berries in North America. Once you rule Mark twain out of the Google search, the stories that remain are mostly from Native American traditions - and they tend to describe the things that can happen when one goes picking huckleberries...

The Lytton girls who were stolen by giants

Two girls go out playing, wander too far from home, and are kidnapped by giants. The giants treat them well and feed them well, and the girls spend four years on the island of the giants. One day, the giants take them across to the mainland, to a place where huckleberries grow in abundance (because they know the girls love huckleberries very much). They leave the girls to pick berries, while they go off to hunt. The girls discover that they are not far from home and run away, hiding on trees and inside logs to avoid the giants.

The great serpent and the young wife

A young wife has three jealous sisters-in-law who want to get rid of her. They take her to an island in the middle of a lake to pick huckleberries, and while she is picking berries, they quietly slip away and leave her alone. Stranded on the island, the young wife has no way out - but at night, the animals of the island hold a council, and decide to help her. She is carried by a horned serpent across the water, pursued by the serpent's old enemy, Thunder, and just narrowly escapes from their confrontation.

The girl and the cannibal

A girl is lured away by a cannibal who promises to show her puppies. The cannibal's wife helps her stay alive and get away. She gives the girl things to throw over her shoulder when the cannibal is pursuing her, to slow him down: Three huckleberries (they turn into huckleberry bushes), three blackberries (they turn into a blackberry thicket), three pieces of cane (they turn into a canebrake), and mud (which make the trail boggy).

Have you ever picked berries in the wild? Did you have any adventures? Which ones are your favorite?

Monday, April 8, 2019

G is for the Grapefruit Guys (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

I only recently learned that grapefruit is not a naturally occurring citrus, but rather, an accidental hybrid of sweet orange and pomelo, originating from Barbados. Which is neat, because here is a grapefruit folktale from another Caribbean country, the Dominican Republic.

The story begins with a man and his only daughter, Siriaca, whom he sends to the Mountain of Three Grapefruits. On the way the girl encounters an old woman, who tells her the mountain is guarded by three lions; if their eyes are open, they are asleep, but if their eyes are closed, they are awake. Armed with this essential knowledge, Siriaca gets to the mountain, picks three grapefruits, and starts on her way home.

As she is walking along, she decides to burn one of the grapefruits, for whatever reason. The fruit burns, and a prince jumps out, greeting her. Siriaca is so stunned, she remains silent, and eventually the prince disappears. A little later she tries a second time, and a second prince pops out of the grapefruit, but when he tries to talk to her, she remains awkwardly quiet. The whole thing repeats the third time, and she gets home with no grapefruits and no princes. (Introvert problems, amirite?). However, before they all disappear (or, as I imagine it, awkwardly shuffle off), the princes tell her that if she ever needs help, she can call on them.

When Siriaca gets home, her mother asks her where she's been. She tells the whole story, and the mother gets so angry (I suppose for letting three princes go) that she beats her, and ties her to a pole under the burning sun. Siriaca eventually remembers to call to the princes ("Princes of the Three Flowers of Alexandria, come to me!"). One of the grapefruit princes does appear, and asks her what's wrong, but once again, the girl is dumbstruck. The prince rescues her anyway, and spirits her away to a place where he says he is about to have a wedding with someone else. They light a candle for the wedding, and as Siriaca sees the candle, she finally says "my heart is like that candle." With the awkward silence broken, the grapefruit prince marries her.

The beginning of this story is essentially a gender-bent version of The Love of Three Oranges (ATU 408). In this tale type, it is usually a guy who picks three fruits, and opens each up, but only manages to keep the last lady of the three. The folktale exists in many cultures, and the "fruit" can be apples, oranges, lemons, pomegranates, figs, or even - in Hungarian versions - eggs, reeds, or oak branches. 

(You can find this story in this book.)

What would you say if a prince popped out of your grapefruit at lunch?
What would a grapefruit prince even look like?...

Saturday, April 6, 2019

F is for the Fig Fiend (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Quick: How many figs can you eat in one sitting?

A folktale from Italy tells us about a princess who loves figs more than anything. So much, in fact, that her father announces that she will be given as a bride to the man who can provide her with more figs than she can eat. Suitors line up for the challenge, but no matter how many figs they bring, the princess devours them all in the blink of an eye.

Eventually, the three sons of a farmer decide to try their luck. The first two ignore the neighbor who asks them for a fig, and fail the challenge. The youngest, however, gives figs from his basket to the neighbor, who turns out to be a man with great magical knowledge. He receives a wand as a gift; every time the princess empties the basket of figs, he can use the want to magically refill it. Eventually she gives up, declaring: "Figs! Ugh! I never want to see another one!"

This, however, is not the end of the ordeal, because the king sets up extra challenges for the young man, trying to keep him from marrying his daughter. With the help of the magical neighbor, the young man succeeds at all of them, and wins the princess in the end.

There is no more mention of figs.

(Read the story, among many others, in this book)

In the summer, when figs are ripe, I tend to eat a whole lot of them straight from the tree.
Do you like figs? How many do you think would be too many to eat?

Friday, April 5, 2019

E is for Eggplants vs Ghosts (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

No, this is not the sequel to Plants vs Zombies, but it's close.
Also, yes, eggplant is technically a fruit.

Among many, many folktales collected from Japan's Niigata Prefecture, and compiled by Fanny Hagin Mayer, there is an especially fun story about mushroom ghosts.

Story goes that behind a certain village shrine, every midnight the sounds of music and singing could be heard. No one was brave enough to investigate, until one night a young man decided to pluck up the courage and see what's up. Walking behind the shrine at midnight, he came across a crowd of Little Folk singing and dancing merrily. He asked them who they were, and the little figures told him they were mushroom ghosts. The young man, thinking quickly, told them he was a human ghost. Having established ghost rapport, they started to chat, and the little folk asked the man what he was especially afraid of. "Gold coins," he told them, without missing a beat "And you?" Turns out, the mushroom ghosts were deadly afraid of salty eggplant juice.

As the party got wilder, the mushrooms started having fun by throwing gold coins at the young man, who pretended to be terrified, amusing the little folk to no end. In the morning, the young man collected the gold, went home, and made a bucket of salty eggplant juice. The following night he returned to the party, and threw juice at the ghosts with a ladle. In the morning, all that was left of them was a bunch of shriveled up mushrooms.

(You can also find the story in this book)

As fun as eggplant-allergic, money-throwing mushroom party ghosts are, I am a little sad about how this story ends. What do you think?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

D is for Daterella (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

I have mentioned before that I have a thing for little-known variants of well-known classic folktales. One of them is Cinderella. I never particularly liked Cinderella, even when I was a kid (and yes, I grew up on the unabridged, cut-the-toes-off, blood-in-the-shoes, eyes-pecked-out Grimm version, but that was not why I didn't like it... I just thought it was boring). It took me more than three decades to come across a version that I actually like.

And I like this one a lot.

Image source
The story of The Magical Little Date Tree was collected by Giuseppe Pitrè in 19th century Sicily, from a storyteller named Agatuzza Messia in Palermo. It features three sisters, daughters of a merchant: Rosa, Giovannina, and Ninetta. One day, when the father goes on a business trip, he locks the three girls in the house (for their safety, obviously) and asks them what they want as a souvenir. Ninetta, the youngest, asks for a date tree - and also curses her father, so that his ship won't sail until he remembers to acquire the tree.

While Dad is away, the girls get bored. When Rosa drops a thimble in the well in the courtyard, Ninetta volunteers to climb down and retrieve it. At the bottom of the well, however, she finds something endlessly more interesting: A door that opens to the gardens of the King of Portugal. Intrigued by the adventure, Ninetta returns to the garden day after day, stealing everything that catches her fancy, robbing the Portuguese king blind. Her sisters don't like her trips - "are you crazy or drunk?" - but it doesn't faze her the slightest.

Agatuzza Messia
Eventually, the prince discovers that a girl has been stealing from the garden. The king then announces a ball, three nights in a row, hoping the mysterious thief would attend - so that they can catch her. Meanwhile, the merchant comes home, and brings the magical little date tree for Ninetta. When invitations arrive to the ball, Ninetta refuses to go (even upon the threat that her father might be executed if they don't comply), and sends her family on their merry way, while she locks herself in her room with the tree.
Once alone, Ninetta sings to the tree, summoning the fairies (that have been hiding in the dates?). The date fairies bring clothes and jewelry, and dress her for the ball.
(They dress her for a date)

At the ball, the prince immediately recognizes Ninetta, but she responds in curt, mocking sentences to all his questions, and two nights in a row she gets away, tossing jewels and coins behind her to slow the palace guards down.
On the third night, the king has enough of the shenanigans, and corners Ninetta, asking why she is messing with his son. Ninetta demands that the king recognize her as her father's firstborn (to inherit, and have the right to marry first), pardon her father for whatever he might have done, and, once she gets that, she asks for the prince's hand in marriage.

Ta-da, happy end. No nonsense with shoes, ashes, and whatnot.

(Find the story in this book, or this one)

Anyone got a good recipe with dates?
What tree would you pick to dress you for a royal ball?

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

C is for Currant Girl (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Everyone knows the Frog Bride (okay, almost everyone). But have you heard about the Redcurrant Lizard Bride yet?

This folktale from the southern part of Hungary (Somogy county) begins with a widow who has a very peculiar daughter: She only ever eats currants (ribizke), and nothing else. For this, she is named Ribike. Once the currant bushes dry up in the garden, she becomes sick, dying from, apparently, currant withdrawal. Her mother, desperate to save her daughter, sneaks into the nearby convent to steal currants, but is caught by the abbess. The matron at first doesn't believe a girl can die from currant withdrawal, but when she sees Ribike with her own eyes, she has to agree the situation is dire. As a solution, she accepts the girl into the convent, where she can eat as much of her favorite fruit as she wants.

Viviparous lizard, Reptile of the Year
in Hungary, 2018.
Ribike, incidentally, is not cut out for nun life. One day, as she is gazing out a window, she is spotted by the three sons of the king, who promptly get into a fist fight with each other over who gets to court the beautiful girl. When the abbess finds out, she follows prime medieval moral logic: She punishes Ribike for "seducing" the princes. She turns the girl into a lizard, and exiles her to the end of the world.
(As nuns do)

In the meantime, the king sends out his three sons to complete three challenges, to decide who inherits the kingdom. First, they have to bring a length of linen so fine it can be pulled through a ring. The youngest prince wanders all the way to the end of the world, where he finds a bridge (to where?...), and on the bridge he encounters the golden lizard. They become friends, and the lizard (Ribike) talks her friends, the spiders living under the bridge, into making the fine cloth. The second time, the king wants a dog so small it can fit into a nutshell, but with a bark so loud it can be heard all over the kingdom. This time, Ribike descends into the Kingdom of the Dwarves, and gets such a pup from her friend the king (the tale explains that Ribike is friends with the spiders and the Dwarves because she visits them often and tells them stories about the world). Last but not least, each prince has to bring home a bride. This time, Ribike asks the prince to smash her against the bridge - and turns back into a beautiful girl. Obviously, the youngest prince wins the kingdom.

Fun fact: The currant fruit is known in Hungarian as "ribizli" or "ribizke." In some slang, however, "ribi" or "ribike" is short for "ribanc", which is a none-too-kind word for a promiscuous woman. Probably a coincidence, but it does fit the abbess' false accusations about the girl being "too seductive" (this is why when I tell the story, I call her Ribizli, to avoid confusion and snickering).

Do you like currants? My grandparents grow a lot of them in their garden.
If you had to live on one kind of fruit for the rest of your life, what would it be?