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?


  1. Amazing how you can find twenty six fruit-themed folktales! I don’t generally eat currants, except perhaps dried. I really couldn’t choose one fruit, and have a fruit salad for breakfast most mornings, though in winter it’s mostly seasonal fruit.
    The story sounds familiar, apart from the currants. I’m fairly sure I have come across some similar ones before.

  2. I eat an apple, a banana and a Clementine each day. But I supplement with other fruit. I am glad I don't have to choose.
    Smash her against the bridge, and he does. Wow.

  3. I'm enjoying your fruit folktales so far and I think this should be a Disney movie! Who knew a currant could be connected to promiscuity. Interesting fact.

  4. We used to have a fruit cage in the garden full of current bushes and my mum used to make jam. Poor girl being blamed for men's weaknesses - still too much of that about!
    Tasha's Thinkings - Ghost Stories

  5. What a great tale. I love orange flavoured chocolate! Does that count?

    My A-Z of Children's Stories

  6. Fantastic tale, once again, Zalka. Imagine touching a lizard, let alone smashing it. Yek!

    Cool Down, Cool Girl

  7. I love the old tales' logic: if there has to be a bridge, there is a bridge, and no one bothers wondering "why".
    This story sounded familiar because of the trope of traveling to the end of the world where a beautiful girl helps the prince/young man with his tasks. I wish I remembered which cultural circle came the story I read, but it's been a bit too long. Nevertheless, I enjoyed your post. :)

  8. Fabulous! Thank you for enticing me in and keeping me with Ribizli until she gets her prince.

  9. What a lovely tale. I enjoyed reading it very much! :) and I would very much like to live on banana to answer your last question.

    - Jui Positive Cookies

  10. I loved that story!

    I've probably had currant jam, but I don't think I've eaten it very often. If I only had to live on one fruit, I'd pick the pineapple. I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds it odd how the word for pineapple is some variation of ananas in just about every language but English.

  11. Very interesting tale. At first I was reminded of Rapunzel (how her mother had to have rampion to eat at all costs). Smash her against a bridge? Never heard that one before!
    I don't know that I've had currants, if so, it was as a child when we were camping.
    One fruit? Peach. But, only if nicely tree ripened! I've read you can live off just avocados.

  12. Great post, I too learn a lot ;)
    If I had to live with only one fruit it would be mango. I guess. Too hard to choose just one!

    Quilting Patchwork & Appliqué

  13. I'd never make it with one fruit. I like too many.
    Stephanie Finnell
    @randallbychance from
    Katy Trail Creations

  14. I love current jam and Ribena!
    Apparently the lizard could eat stuff other than currants, in which case the girl might have been better off staying a lizard.
    Black and White: C is for Cherufe

  15. Wonderful tale and I love that name - Ribizli - has to be in one of my stories...if that's okay with you. Or do I need the abbess's permission.

  16. Ah, medieval moral logic... where would folktales be without them? I enjoyed this tale :-)
    If I could only eat one fruit forever: apples. There are different varieties ;-)

    Ronel visiting from the A-Z Challenge with Music and Writing There's Only One C...