Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Z is for Zarzamora and the Fire Bug (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

This story comes from the Pemon people of Venezuela. Zarzamora is often translated to English as blackberry, but in Venezuelan Spanish it can mean a variety of similar fruits, such as the Rubus floribundus (zarzamora andina), Rubus glaucus (zarzamora azul, Andean raspberry), Rubus ulmifolius (thornless/wild blackberry), Rubus bogotensis (black mulberry), or the Rubus caesius (zarzamora pajarera, European dewberry). The story itself didn't specify the species.

Once upon a time there was a cocuyo beetle (glowing click beetle) who set out to visit some relatives. He made the appropriate preparations, prayers and invocations for safe travel, and began his journey. One time along the way, night found him on a hill, where he found the house of a zarzamora. He asked for shelter for the night, and she invited him in. She was old, leafless and bent, with some very ugly features, but she was a great hostess. She offered food and drinks, hung a hammock for him, they had a nice conversation - and the zarzamora fell in love with the beetle. The cocuyo, however, wanted nothing from her; he told her she was old and ugly, and the next morning, he went on his way.

The beetle reached his destination, visited with his relatives for a while, and then set out on the journey home. On the way back, he happened to stop on the same hill where the zarzamora lived. Surprise! She was completely changed now: She stood straight, rejuvenated, with fresh leaves and beautiful flowers. The beetle instantly fell in love with her, but she kept ignoring him. Eventually he started begging for her to at least tell him how she became young again.

"Some people passed this way, and they set fire to me. It was the fire that rejuvenated me." - responded the zarzamora. The cocuyo immediately wanted to be rejuvenated too. So, despite the zarzamora's warnings, he flew straight to the place where people were camping, and threw himself into the fire. He was badly burnt, and turned black from the smoke forever. He returned home, ashamed of himself. His descendants have the same tendencies ever since: When they see fire, they try to fly into it, and when they see zarzamora in bloom, they can't stay away from the beautiful flowers.

(The story comes from this book.)

This was the last story for this year's A to Z. Thank you all for another fun Challenge! See you in May for the Reflections. And don't forget to eat fruit!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Y is for Yellow Mombin and Cannibals (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

The yellow mombin (Spondias mombin), also known as the jobo fruit, is native to the tropical areas of the Americas. Our story for today comes from the Cariña people of Venezuela.

Be warned, this one gets dark.

The story begins with a woman pregnant with twins from the Moon. Heavily pregnant, she sets out to the Moon's house to give birth. On the way, however, her unborn babies keep demanding various things, so she has to leave the path to pick flowers and fruit that they want. Eventually whey demand fruit from a tree. She climbs up, falls down, and becomes angry at the twins, who, in turn, become offended at their mother. Soon she reaches a fork in the road: One side leads to the Moon, the other to the land of man-eating monsters. She forgot which way to go, and the twins refuse to tell, so she takes the wrong turn.

The mother ends up in the house of an old woman, Ataluyma. The woman pretends to be friendly and gives her shelter for the night... but then she eats the mother, and keeps the twins as her own children. The boys grow up, become great hunters, and never learn that Ataluyma is not their grandmother. As they get older, however, they notice that she does strange things (for example, uses a toad to cook food). Eventually one day, out on the hunt, a large bird tells them the story of their mother. The twins make a plan to take revenge on Ataluyma.

The next day, they ask their "grandmother" to come out to the fields and call the crops. Suspecting nothing, she complies, climbing the platform in the middle of the fields, and summoning rice, corn, maize, melons, bananas, etc. As she is doing this, the twins set fire to the platform, and she burns to death. The fields magically bear crops the very next day.

The story goes on. A few years later one of the brothers encounters a mysterious woman while hunting. She is also a cannibal, and while the brothers are spying on her, she discovers them, and chases them through the woods. The twins climb a tree, but she summons strong winds to knock them into a lake. As they fall, one of the twins turns into a jobo fruit, and another into a frog with red marks. The woman puts them both in her basket; the fruit to eat at home, and the frog as a pet for her daughter. However, as she walks, the fruit rolls around in the empty basket on her back, and keeps bumping against her tailbone, so she eventually takes it out and eats it.

Caruto fruit
(Genipa americana)
From this point on, the story follows the one remaining brother. He convinces the cannibals to let him turn back into a human, and he will hunt for them. He even marries the daughter and they have a child. Eventually, however, hunting for meat becomes too hard, so he cuts up a ceiba tree, throws the pieces into a lake, and they all turn into piranhas. He also throws in a radish, which becomes a caiman. He then tricks the mother into going in the lake, and the piranhas eat her. When the daughter goes to search for her, the hunter escapes - but she eventually catches up, calling after him to stop and pick some caruto fruit for their child. When he climbs a tree, she cuts his leg, and leaves him for dead. She eventually turns into a prickly pear cactus (holding up her baby to the sky), and his skeleton is carried to the sky by a vulture.

(You can find the story in Spanish in this book.)

Were you familiar with any of these fruits before?
What kind of plant or animal would you turn into to escape a monster?

Saturday, April 27, 2019

X is for Xigua Lady (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Xigua is Chinese for watermelon (in case you were wondering why I didn't use watermelon for W). The story I have for today is fairy well known, considered one of the Four Great Folktales of China. It is generally known as Meng Jiang Nü, or, in English, Lady Meng Jiang.

The story begins with two neighbors, Meng and Jiang, who live very comfortable next to each other. One day, Meng plants a watermelon seed in his garden. The seed sprouts, the vines creep over the fence, and the plant bears a single watermelon in Jiang's backyard. The two friends have a bit of an argument over who should have the fruit - each one of them wants to give it to the other. Eventually they decide to share. However, when they cut the watermelon open, they find a baby girl inside. The two childless couples decide to raise the girl together, so she becomes a daughter of four parents - taking both family names, she is called Meng Jiang Nü.

The girl grows up and marries a man she loves, named Wang Chi-liang. They live happily for a while... until one day soldiers show up in the village, rounding up men and taking them away to serve as laborers on the building of the Great Wall. They are marched away without goodbyes or provisions. Lady Meng Jiang, worried that her husband would freeze in the winter, makes warm clothes and shoes for him, and sets out alone on the long journey to deliver them to her beloved.

The young woman travels for a long time, crosses mountains and rivers, and searches tirelessly until she finally arrives to the Great Wall. However, seeking Wang Chi-liang, she finds out that he is already dead. Like so many others who died from exhaustion during the work, he was buried inside the wall. The young wife wails and mourns so pitifully that the heavens take pity on her; with thunder and lightning, a portion of the wall collapses, revealing the bones of her husband so that she can bury them. She identified his bones by dripping her own blood on them, seeing if they would soak it in.

According to some versions of the legend, the cruel emperor sees the beautiful widow, and wishes to marry her. She agrees only on condition that they first bury her husband, and hold a ceremony in his honor on a high cliff above the river. When everything is ready, she curses the emperor, jumps into the river, and drowns herself.

(Read about this story here or here.)

Is there a canon of Great Folktales in your own culture? 
What stories would be included in it?

Friday, April 26, 2019

W is for the Wood Apple Princess (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

The fruit known in India as bilva, bel, or bél (Aegle marmelos) was unceremoniously renamed by English colonizers as "wood apple." It is a fruit of great importance in Hindu mythology and folklore, sacred to Shiva and Parvati among other deities (more information here). In a book titled Indian Fairy Tales, collected by Maive Stokes in the late 19th century, I found a story called The Bél-Princess. For our purposes she shall be incorrectly called the Wood Apple Princess.

Once upon a time there was a king with seven sons. The six older sons were married, but the youngest wasn't, and he had a bad relationship with his six sisters-in-law. One day, they started mocking him by saying he will only ever marry a Bél-Princess - so the prince, mostly out of spite, set out to find one.

Traveling for a long time, he encountered a fakir who was asleep for six months of a year, and awake for another six. When he woke, the prince told him what he was looking for, and the fakir directed him to the land of fairies and demons, giving him a handful of dust to make him invisible. In the middle of the fairy garden was a tree, and on that tree a single bél fruit, with a princess inside. The task was to knock the fruit off the tree, catch it before it hit the ground, and then ride away, pursued by fairies and demons, without looking back. The prince failed at the first try (he looked back) and turned to stone, but the fakir revived him, and gave him a second chance. The bél fruit was successfully acquired.

The fakir also told the prince not to open the fruit until he was home in his father's house - however, he once again failed to follow instructions, and opened the wood apple in the royal gardens. A beautiful and graceful princess appeared. The prince grew tired, admiring his new bride, and fell asleep. While he slept, an ugly woman came across the princess, tricked her into exchanging clothes and jewels, and pushed her into a well. When the prince woke, he found himself with an ugly and unkind bride, and no explanation.

From this point, the story progresses through a series of transformations. The princess in the well turned into a lotus flower, but the new fake queen tore it apart. From the remains of the lotus grew a bél tree and bore a single fruit, which the queen threw away. From the fruit came a baby girl, whom the gardener adopted and raised. The queen tried to have her killed, but the girl killed herself instead, her eyes turning into birds, her body into a palace, her heart into a water tank. Eventually, the prince found the palace and spent five nights in it; at last, he found a trap door, and in a hidden room, the princess herself. The truth came to light; the fake queen was killed, and the royal couple lived happily ever after.

Transformation tales like this always carry a lot of deep symbolism - and like all traditional stories, they say a different thing to everyone. 
What meanings do you see in this story?

Thursday, April 25, 2019

V is for Vanilla Love (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Vanilla is indigenous to Central America, more specifically, to the areas of Mexico originally inhabited by the Totonac people. Until modern times, they were the main producers of vanilla (more information in Spanish here).

I found two distinct Totonac legends about the origins of vanilla.

Xanath and Tzarahuin

Legend says there was once a princess named Xanath (Hidden Flower), who fell in love with a musician named Tzarahuin. However, the Fat God of Happiness also loved her, and demanded her hand in marriage from her father. The father, of course, favored the deity over a mere artist, but Xanath refused to consent. As punishment, she was transformed into a sweet-smelling white flower.
When Tzarahuin found out what happened to his beloved, he took his own life under the flowering plant. He turned into a gentle, stingless melipona bee (xunan kab). The bee still appears every year to pollinate the flowers, and help them produce the sweet-tasting fruit known as xanath - vanilla. Flower and bee go together so perfectly that for the longest time vanilla didn't even grow anywhere where the bees could not be found.

Take this one with a grain of salt - it has been making the rounds on the Internet, but I could not locate a primary source.

(Read about the story here, here, or here.)

Tzacopontziza and Zkatán-Oxga

In another legend, Tzakopontziza (Morning Star), the daughter of King Teniztli III, was consecrated to serve the goddess of the fertility of crops, Tonacayohua. As time passed, the young woman fell in love with a prince named Zkatán-Oxga (Young Deer). However, it was forbidden for her to take a lover, a sacrilege punishable by death; only virgins could serve the goddess. The young lovers ran away together into the forest, but didn't get far before they were confronted by a monster that surrounded them with flames, and ordered them to return home. Upon their return, the princess and the prince were executed by angry priests, their hearts cut out in the temple, and their bodies thrown into a canyon.

Some time later, out of the resting place of the two lovers grew a tree, and from the tree grew an orchid. The orchid had beautiful lowers and sweet-smelling fruit - the fruit we know as vanilla today. In Totonac tradition, it was sacred to the gods.

(Read about the story here and here.)

Both love stories end in tragedy and transformation. Which one speaks to you more? I personally really like the image of the flower and the stingless bee...

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

U is for Ugni Berries and Ulmo Trees (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

This one was not easy at all, but I managed to pull a few fun things out of Google Books! Get ready, I am going to hit you with some little known flora.

The fruit for today is the Ugni molinae, known in South American Spanish as uñi, murta, or murtilla, and in English as strawberry myrtle or Chilean guava. It belongs to the myrtle family. Ugni fruit was introduced to Europe in 1844, but has been a staple in indigenous Araucano and Mapuche cuisine for centuries. The fruit is used for making desserts and liquor (chicha), and it is famous for being a favorite delicacy of two important people: Queen Victoria of England, and the thrauco.

Picture from here
The thrauco (trauco or chauco) is a mysterious being of Chilean folklore and mythology. It is a small creature, usually between 50 and 85 cm tall. He wears clothes woven from quilineja (Luzuriaga radicans), and a cap or hat made from the same material. He always carries his stone axe (toki), and usually walks leaning on a twisted walking cane. He might be small, but he is certainly not weak: Using his stone axe, he can fell a three in three strokes, even if it is a gigantic ulmo (Eucryphia cordifolia). In fact, the sound of three axe chops is what usually signals to people that a thrauco is nearby.

The thrauco loves two things more than anything: Climbing trees, and eating ugni berries. As for climbing, he enjoys being high up in the branches of tique (Aextoxicon punctatum) trees. He surveys the landscape from up there, as he really loves looking at nature. He hates people, however. If he sees a human from his perch, his evil eyes might twist the person's mouth permanently.
As for the ugni berries: It is his main source of sustenance, and his favorite delicacy. People in rural Chile warn their children about going into the ugni bushes to pick berries. The thrauco scares children away from his favorite food - but even worse, if he encounters a maiden, he might get her pregnant (pregnancies out of wedlock are often blamed on the thrauco).

(You can read - in Spanish - more about the thrauco here, here, and here.)

Guardian of Nature? Story to scare the children? Mythical being to blame for pregnancies?
And why ugni berries, out of all the things that grow in the forest?...

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

T is for Tamarind Tree (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

Sampaloc Lake is the largest of seven lakes near San Pablo City in the Philippines. There is a legend about how the lake was born, and that legend just happens to be tied to a tamarind tree.

The legend tells of a greedy couple who lived nearby once upon a time, and owned a huge tamarind tree. On a hot day, an old woman stopped at their house, begging for some tamarind fruit from the tree; she was sick, and only the sour taste of the fruit could cure her. The couple, however, rudely told her that the fruit was not for sale, and they would definitely not give it away for free. The old woman kept begging, and even tried to pick a fruit, until the evil couple set the dogs on her.

Chased away from the tree without any fruit, the old woman cursed the owners. They laughed at her words... but soon after an avalanche was unleashed, and it buried them, house and all. The avalanche was followed by a deluge, and a new lake was formed where the house had once been.
Legend says that the huge tamarind tree still stands on the bottom of the lake, full of fruit. Legend also says that the lake claims a life every day, so people should not be swimming in it.

The lake is called Sampaloc Lake - sampaloc is the Tagalog word for tamarind.

(Read the legend here or here.)

Monday, April 22, 2019

S is for Starfruit and Greed (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

The first time I met someone from Vietnam, and asked her about folktales, she told me the story of the starfruit tree. I have encountered the story in many Vietnamese collections since then - but I have yet to actually eat a starfruit...

The story begins with two brothers and their parents who, when they die, leave all their wealth to their oldest, while the younger boy only inherits a single starfruit tree. The older brother lives in comfort and luxury, but is very greedy and mean, while the younger, as poor young people in folktales usually are, is kind and generous. He lives in a small shack under the starfruit tree.

One day a giant eagle lands on the tree, and asks the young man if he can have some fruit. He agrees, and the eagle eats his fill, then leaves. He comes back the next day, and the day after that, and the young man keeps offering as much fruit as he wishes. Eventually, however, the fruit is almost all gone, and the owner of the tree respectfully asks the eagle to leave enough to take to the market. The eagle, in response, asks the young man to hang a bag from the tree - and spits a bar of gold into it. The young man takes the gold to town, sells it, and buys everything he needs.

The older brother soon finds out about the luck of his sibling. He offers to trade everything he owns for the starfruit tree, in hopes of getting more gold from the eagle. The younger brother agrees to the trade, and moves into the mansion. The older brother sits around, waiting day after day, for the eagle to come back. Eventually it does, and asks for some fruit. The older brother tells the eagle that payment is needed for the fruit, and hangs a bag from the tree. But even so, he doesn't trust the bird, so he climbs the tree, and grabs the eagle's feet to make sure it doesn't escape before (literally) coughing up some gold. The bird takes flight, taking the man along, and when it arrives to the ocean, the older brother falls into the water, never to be seen again.

The young man, now owning the estate (and the starfruit tree) lives happily ever after.

(Read the story here or here.)

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?...