Thursday, January 30, 2020

The proud king (Feminist Folktales 5.)

Another Thursday, another post for Feminist Folktales! It's a series of traditional stories from around the world that display motifs that reflect feminist values. I am not changing any of the stories, merely researching and compiling them, and posting them here as food for thought. You can find the list of posts here.

CW: domestic abuse 
I promise I'll have some nice men in the stories starting next week!

Origin: Mahakoshal, India 

What's the story?

Image from this movie
Every night when he gets home a proud raja makes his wife hold up her nose ring, and throws a spear through it with such force that even the ground trembles on impact. He then asks her "Who is the most powerful raja in the world?", to which she always says "you." However, a female gardener observes all this, and worries for the queen, so in secret she gives her advice for the next time. The following evening, when the raja does his usual power move, the queen answers "You are the most powerful to me, but there are stars and stars and the earth is greater." The raja takes this as a claim that there is someone stronger than him, and immediately sets out to find them and kill them.
After eight days of traveling the raja ends up in the kingdom of the rakshasas, and finds their king plowing a field of black rock with a cobra-plow drawn by tigers. The raja is terrified by the monsters and runs all the way home to his wife, begging her to save him from the pursuing rakshasas. The queen gathers her maids, they quickly slaughter a goat, splatter everything with blood, wrap the king in a swaddling cloth, and pretend the queen just gave birth (they even put the goat's stomach on the bed for a placenta). When the rakshasa shows it is terrified to see the baby with a mustache, and the queen says "his father just went out to get a rakshasa for a sacrifice." The monster runs away, and the king's pride is broken because "his wife became his mother."

What makes it a feminist folktale?

First things first: The queen in the story proves her bravery and cleverness by saving her husband's life. This, however, is only a part of why this story if interesting to this "feminist folktales" series. Following the topic from last week, we one again have a tale that symbolically deals with the issue of domestic violence.
First off, on a positive note: The queen is helped by a bystander in breaking the endless cycle of abuse. In addition, this bystander is another woman (the female gardener) who does not only notice something is wrong, but also worries for the queen enough to offer actual help for changing the situation (even though she is terrified of the raja too). Female friendships in traditional tales are very rare, and in a story like this it is especially important that the abused wife gets help from another woman.
The representation of abuse in this tale is especially powerful. The spear thrown with excessive force through the nose-ring (a symbol of femininity and a personal, intimate possession of the queen) is very expressive in itself, and then comes the question: "Is there anyone more powerful?" The whole ritual exists for the raja to humiliate his wife every night, and reinforce his belief that there is no one greater than him. It is a power trip, making him feel great at the expense of his weaker, defenseless wife. Abuse is about power and control. The moment the thought of someone even greater appears, the raja loses his sense and sets out in a murderous rage to end them. When he encounters someone actually stronger than him - the rakshasa -, however, he is not prepared to face them. Quite the opposite. His entire ego is built on dominating others who are weaker, not being challenged by those who are strong. This raja is not a folktale hero who goes up against a monster when he sees one. He runs.
He runs back to the same place where he got his ego boosts from: literally to his wife's skirts, begging to be saved. The queen could simply throw her husband to the demons at this point, but instead she decides to prove that she can face her fears. With the help of other women (once again, community) she defends the king, with a solution that involves the feminine rites of giving birth. The raja's pride is broken. He is not only rescued by his wife, but she does so in the most humiliating way possible: by making him an actual baby to match his baby-sized masculinity; it turns him from warrior into a helpless, whining child. Abusers are never brave or powerful on the inside. In a home where the woman is either doormat or mom, there is no space for a happy marriage.

Things to consider

A question to consider: what constitutes a "happy ending" for this story? In traditional societies a woman could rarely ever just leave her husband, especially if she was a queen, but to modern audiences it might be strange to see her stay with him, instead of walking out the door and leaving the raja to stew in his own diapers. Plus, an abusive mentality can't really be cured by one humiliating act of defiance - quite the contrary, usually.
Suggestions and opinions welcome in the comments.


Verrier Elwin: Folk-tales of Mahakoshal (Oxford University Press, 1944.)


For a long time I imagined the king throwing the spear through the nose ring while his wife was still wearing it. The text is not clear, but it's pretty bad either way.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Magic and blood (Following folktales around the world 140. - Madagascar)

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 here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Rafara, ​a Víz Lánya
Madagaszkári népmesék
Jeanne de Longchamps
Európa, 1960.

This book is the Hungarian translation of the French language folktale collection of Jeanne de Longchamps (for folktales in English, try the book I read for the Seychelles). It contains seventeen folktales. The introduction describes the island and its traditions in eloquent, poetic language; Longchamps and her husband collected the stories from all over Madagascar over the course of the years they spent there. Each story is introduced by a small vignette about the place and people it was collected from. The book has an Afterword by folklorist Linda Dégh, describing the history, cultures, and storytelling customs of Madagascar. Each story comes with notes, tale types, and a glossary.


One of my favorite stories in the book was that of Beanriake, the sailor, who was born for the seas, deserted  white man's ship, and rescued two princesses from a monster on an abandoned island.
I was fascinated by the story of Ivorombé, the goose woman. Her daughter unexpectedly hatched from a bad egg, and she raised her in love until the girl ran away with a man. The angry mother skinned her and took her eyes in revenge, but when her daughter's painful tears flowed to her house, she regretted her actions, returned her skin and eyes, and helped her fulfill tasks to win happiness.
In the story of Ifara és Ikoto brother and sister ran away from the cruelty of their parents; half of her body was made of wood, and he had a belly so big he could only crawl. They went through many adventures, fought and made up, and defeated a monster, winning its treasures.
I was also touched by the story of Revere, the great dancer, who stole some oxen and was caught because he was compelled to dance whenever he heard music. He didn't even mind being executed for his crime, as long as he could dance to his heart's content before.


Ancali's child was the bird who sang even after its death; it sang from the kitchen, even from the hunter's stomach that killed it, until the parent birds showed up, cut the hunter's belly open, and rescued their child. The tale of Ibotiti wondered who is the strongest being in the world, but instead of circling back around like in other variants, in this one the story concluded that there is no one stronger than Andriamanitra, the Creator. I enjoyed the Magic Flight story of Bibiolo and the clever boys, in which instead of throwing magic items over their shoulder the boys asked various plants to help them block the way of the monster; after that they spilled food on the road, which the frugal monster was compelled to stop and gather.
I don't particularly like "golden haired twins" type folktales (where the queen gives birth to children and they are swapped for puppies, so her husband chases her away), but the story of King Ravohimena was a pretty great variant. Here she was not chased away, rather turned into a lemur by evil women. Her husband set out to find her, and with the help of forest creatures he finally managed to track the lemur down, and bring the criminals to justice.  
Andrianuranurana reminded me of Isis and Osiris: the hero was tricked into lying in a coffin and thus killed; his wife sought hi for a long time while he turned into a giant snake and devoured all who wronged him.
The tricksters in residence were a couple of good friends, Ikotofeci and Imahaka, who committed mischief as a very efficient team, working together. Eventually an old woman outwitted them, and burned them inside a house. The tar baby also made an appearance in the story of Icihitananco, a boy who turned into an animal. He was caught by a female figure covered in wax, but managed to get away by claiming he could only be killed by fire, and thus the flames melted the wax.

Where to next?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Year of the Rat: Favorite rat folktales

Today is the day of the lunar new year, and according to the Chinese zodiac we are entering the Year of the Rat. Rats get a bad reputation in Western cultures, even though they are smart and empathetic creatures. To celebrate the new year I have collected some of my favorite rat folktales:

The egg, the broom, and the sagai (Mauritius)

This is a classic "devil husband" tale. A girl marries a rich and suave stranger, who takes her home. One day she shares her coffee with a hungry little rat, and in exchange the rat warns her that her husband is a wolf in disguise who wants to devour her. The rat (who is a fairy woman) helps the wife escape with some magic items; once she is safely home she swears never to harm rats ever again.

The commoner's daughter who was given in marriage by three kings (Tanzania)

A girl is given to a prince as a wife, but he refuses to have anything to do with her because she's a commoner. He orders his servants to bury her alive. The girl is rescued by a group of rats, who dig her a tunnel back to her parents' house. Then they help her spy on the prince, and she makes a plan to pretend to be a princess three times over. Her husband never recognizes her, but he falls in love and marries her three times before she reveals what's going on.

Turtle, dove, and the rat (Vanuatu)

A dove drifts out to sea, and a turtle rescues her. When the turtle in turn is caught by people, the dove teams up with a rat to rescue their friend.

The god that turned into a rat (Fiji)

A god decides to visit the deity of a neighboring island. He turns into a rat and travels across the water inside a piece of bamboo. However, when he arrives he is so exhausted that he can't shapeshift back into his real form - so he has to live as a rat for a while until he can gather his power again.

The spider who won Nzambi's daughter (Congo)

In order to win the goddess Nzambi's daughter, Spider has to go up into the sky and steal fire from there. He gathers a team: Tortoise, Woodpecker, Rat, and Sandfly. They all ascend into the sky on spider silk, and meet Nzambi Mpungu, who gives them various tasks to fulfill in exchange for the fire. One of the tasks is that someone has to withstand a bonfire. Rat burrows into the ground under the pyre, and comes out unhurt.

Rat and Leopard's friendship (Gabon)

Leopard keeps killing the animals, so Rat befriends him, and every time Leopard thinks of killing someone he warns them in advance. Leopard eventually finds out, and pretends to be dead to lure Rat close to him. Rat, however, is a lot smarter, he discovers the trick, and manages to get away.
(Rat is the trickster in a lot of these tales.)

Leopard's hunting camp (Gabon)

Rat and Leopard go and set up hunting camps together. However, Leopard keeps cheating Rat out of the best bits of their catch, until Rat finds a way to trick him. Leopard then captures Rat with the use of the age-old tar baby trick, but Rat finds a way out, and on the way home from the jungle he even steals the remaining meat from Leopard.

Cat and rat bathe together (Grenada)

A short but powerful tale about how a kitten and a small rat play and bathe together until their parents tell them they are supposed to be enemies.

The rat and the man (Adi people)

Rat discovers that people build nice little huts for their dead, and wants to have a grave like that when he dies. He makes a deal with a man, promising to reveal secrets of food and wealth in exchange for a grave. However as the man grows rich he becomes mean. Rat decides to test him and pretends to be dead - instead of a grave, the man throws him away in the jungle. Rats lodge a complaint with the village chief, and because no justice is served, they swear to keep eating people's food and crops as revenge for all eternity.

The rat princess (Japan)

A very pretty rat princess wants to get married, and her parents are looking for the most powerful suitor in the world. By the end of the chain tale, they discover rats are the most powerful, and the princess happily marries another rat.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The ring that said "I'm here" (Feminist Folktales 4.)

Another Thursday, another post for Feminist Folktales! It's a series of traditional stories from around the world that display motifs that reflect feminist values. I am not changing any of the stories, merely researching and compiling them, and posting them here as food for thought. You can find the list of posts here.

Origin: Spain (Asturias)

The story

A girl goes to collect firewood, but gets lost in the forest. Looking for shelter after dark she ends up at the cottage of a one-eyed giant. The giant locks her in his house and orders her to cook dinner or she'll be cooked herself. He also orders her to bring the meal to his bed. The girl makes a plan; she waits for the giant to fall asleep, then blinds him with a fire poker, puts on a sheep skin, opens the sheep corral adjacent to the house, and when the blind giant is letting his sheep out one by one, she sneaks out.
However, when the giant realizes she's outside, he starts complimenting her with sweet words, and throws a golden ring to her as a gift. She is suspicious at first, but he convinces her to put on the ring. The moment she does, the ring starts yelling "I'm here!", and she can't take it off. Eventually, pursued by the raging giant, she cuts off her own finger, and tosses it into the river. The giant jumps after it and drowns.

What makes it a feminist folktale?

This story is an excellent example of how different the same tale type can be depending on how it is embellished. The basic story, I assume, is familiar to everyone: It's Odysseus and the Cyclops, or, according to the folktale type index, ATU 1137, The Blinded Ogre. It is a common tale type around the world, from Finland to Chile, from America to the Caucasus, but this is the only version I have read so far that has a female hero. And the moment the hero's gender is changed, the story gathers a fundamentally different meaning.
(I have to repeat here that I'm not a psychologist or a story therapist, I'm just musing about what this story means to me. Stories mean different things to different people, which is only natural.)

I could just state that this story falls into the "feminist" category because it has a brave, clever heroine who rescues herself from a monster. That is plenty in itself to make the story likable. But the more I thought about it, the more I started to notice things that resonate with some women's real life experiences.
See if you feel the same: A girl, lost and alone, seeks shelter from the dark. But then it turns out that the man giving her shelter is aggressive, abusive, and dangerous. He takes her freedom away first (only he knows the password for the door), then demands household labor and obedience from her, threatening to kill her if she doesn't comply. The girl eventually gathers her strength and courage, takes up arms, fights for her freedom, and manages to find her way out of the situation, and back into the light. However, when she seems to have gotten away, the giant changes tactics. He compliments her, uses sweet words, and even offers a gift in the form of a brilliant ring. She is suspicious at first, tries to get away, but his kind demeanor breaks her defenses, and she puts on the ring. The ring becomes a shackle, yelling loudly for the giant to find it - as long as she is wearing it, there is no escape from him. She only has one chance left: she cuts off her own finger to her away.
If you ask me, this tale is the story of getting out of an abusive relationship. The loss of freedom, the fear, the hard-earned escape are not the end of the story: then comes the sudden change, manipulation, feigned kindness, and the ring that binds the girl. The ring is an especially powerful image here: society ingrains in all of us the idea that id you want to "keep someone," "secure someone", or "don't want someone to leave," you have to put a ring on them, and fast. This is the favorite last resort of sinking relationships where people would do anything to keep a partner around.

Put a ring on it.

I see this story is a feminist tale because it is about a girl who successfully rescues herself from an abusive situation. But not without a cost. This is a hard and heroic deed on her part. She literally cuts the giant off - with a drastic and final move to severe the thing that bound them together. This is not a polite, diplomatic, gradual separation. It is a complete cutoff. Sometimes this is the only way to get rid of monsters.

Things to consider

I have to add to the metaphor above that the girl in the story is not in a romantic relationship with the giant, merely sheltering at his house. Similarly, in the real world abusive relationships don't only exist between romantic partners.
At the end of the tale the girl keeps the giant's sheep, and becomes wealthy. I feel like it's really important to highlight that she has her happy ending, and a full life. As a storyteller, I'd definitely elaborate this part.
It is also important to think about what makes her pick up the ring; it would be a serious mistake to blame it on her being "stupid" or "naive."


Constantino Cabal: Los cuentos tradicionales asturianos (Voluntad, Madrid, 1900.)
José María Guelbenzu: Cuentos populares españoles (Siruela, 2011.)


Before the Greek choir pipes up: I'm not saying marriage is a mistake in general. Only the marriages between people who hurt each other.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Pearls from India (Following folktales around the world 139. - Mauritius)

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 here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Folk ​tales of Mauritius
Pahlad Ramsurrun
Sterling Publishing, 1982.

The book contains nineteen folktales from the island of Mauritius. They are prefaced by a short introduction that makes some stunningly wrong statements, such as that black people didn't have their own folktales because their memory is bad (?!), and they only repeated stories from other colonizers (?!). On the other hand, the author praises Indian storytelling and storytellers. All nineteen stories are from the Bhojpuri tradition (Mauritius has always had a mixed population, since it did not have indigenous inhabitants before the Portuguese showed up). Despite the awful introduction, the tales themselves were enjoyable and interesting, and had lots of mixed African and European motifs.


I liked the legend adjacent to the Ramayana that explained the birth of the island. The evil sorcerer Mareech, who assisted in the abduction of Sita, was killed by Rama, but before his death he begged to be able to hear his name forever.His body turned into pearls, which Rama cast into the ocean, where they turned into islands. Later on when the first Indian settlers arrived to Mauritius (Mareech's island), they told legends of Rama, and thus his name is still heard there today.
The story of The guru and his apprentice was full of unexpected turns. The two protagonists ended up in a kingdom where a king did justice all wrong. A bunch of thieves wanted to rob an old woman, but the wall of her hut collapsed and killed one of them. They then complained to the king, asking for her to be punished, and the old woman blamed the builder of the house. The king ordered the builder executed, but since he was too skinny for the noose, they found a fatter person randomly instead to be hanged. Eventually the guru and the apprentice managed to trick the unjust king into killing himself instead.


There was a devil-husband story that reminded me of the Cajun tale of Marie Jolie, and was elaborated really well. A girl married a rich werewolf, who wanted to devour her, but a fairy in the shape of a rat helped her get away with an egg, a broom, and a sagai leaf. The latter, when thrown behind her, turned into plants that "shredded the wolves like sausages in a Chinese restaurant."
The story of the king's horns was the same as King Midas; here the sandalwood tree told the secret. Sabour's fan was a distant variant of the Italian Canary Prince; here the girl did not only save her injured lover, but also tested him to see if he would marry anyone else. I was reminded of Bantu stories by The miracle of the colophane tree - a king sent animals to ask a wise person how a dry lake could be refilled, but all of them forgot the answer on the way back. Eventually Tortoise made the trip successfully, and told the king all colophane trees had to be cut down for the lake to refill. The story was supposed to explain why these trees are rare on Mauritius.
The resident trickster is Hare, who played some very nasty tricks on other animals until he was tricked in return. He muddied the king's bathing pond in a story I have already read from Zimbabwe, until Tortoise caught him by covering her shell in tar. In a few stories Monkey was also a trickster, and usually was punished for it.

Where to next?

Saturday, January 18, 2020

StorySpotting: Fishing for genies (The Witcher)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

Where was the story spotted?

The Witcher, season 1, episode 5 (Bottled Appetites)

What happens?

Geralt goes fishing for a genie, because he can't sleep and wants three wishes. After casting a net into a pond many times and coming up empty, he finally pulls up a clay jar, stopped with a seal. The jar breaks, the genie goes free, and Geralt gets three wishes, which gets him into a world of trouble before the creature is finally away.

What's the story?

I'm not going to go into djinn lore here, because it is vast and elaborate (and awesome). Instead, let's just focus on the "fishing a djinn bottle out of a lake" part here. This is a well-known folktale type, ATU 331 - The Spirit in the Bottle.

The most popular version of the story comes from the 1001 Nights, right from the beginning, from nights 4-9, titled The Fisherman and the Jinni. It features a fisherman who casts his net out 4 times, and at the fourth try catches a copper jar stopped with Solomon's seal. He opens it, and out pops an ifrit. This one, however, is o-v-e-r granting wishes to humans; during the centuries he spent bottled up, he'd sworn to kill anyone who freed him, so he tells the fisherman to prepare to die. The fisherman tricks him back into the bottle with what is one of the oldest tricks in the book: he pretends to doubt that such a large creature can fit into such a small bottle. Once the genie is back in the bottle, the fisherman puts the seal back on. Eventually they come to a compromise, and a whole other new story begins when the genie is freed again, and the fisherman grows rich.

This story exists in many cultures with little variation; sometimes the spirit is freed, and sometimes it is thrown back in the water. There are some versions collected by the Grimms, and other ranging from Finland to Sri Lanka.

But how did the genie get into the bottle in the first place? Another favorite tale of mine from the 1001 Nights, The City of Brass, explains the phenomenon in a way that warms my little archaeologist heart. The story claims that when King Solomon ruled over the people and animals, God granted him power over the djinn. He used his power to imprison them in brass jars, pouring lead over the opening and closing it with his seal before he cast the bottles into the sea. Many years later, travelers ended up on the coasts of Africa where they saw fishermen pull brass jars out of the water in their nets, break them open, and release djinn who flew away yelling "repentance!" Apparently, it was a common occurrence. The whole legend of the expedition to find the City of Brass kicks off with the sultan sending people to find him some of these magic bottles.


Apparently these bottled djinn are a lot less eager to grant wishes as the one in The Witcher. For a moment in the beginning of the episode I thought they were going to stick to the story when Jaskier started dying, but then they did the wishes anyway.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Pablo and the Princess (Feminist Folktales 3.)

Another Thursday, another post for Feminist Folktales! It's a series of traditional stories from around the world that display motifs that reflect feminist values. I am not changing any of the stories, merely researching and compiling them, and posting them here as food for thought. You can find the list of posts here.

Origin: Philippines

The story

Three friends - Pedro, Juan, and Pablo - set out to seek their fortune. They decide to go their separate ways at the crossroads, and meet again in one year's time. Independently from each other, each of them meets an old man who gives them a magic item in exchange for sharing their food. Pedro receives a flying carpet, Juan an all-knowing book, and Pablo an ivory tube that can heal anyone if he blows into their nose with it.
When they meet again at the crossroads, the three friends discover from the book that the princess of a faraway land is dying. They fly there on the carpet, and Pablo heals her with the ivory tube. The king, however, is baffled: he doesn't know which man he should give his daughter to (he previously promised to give her hand in marriage to the one that saves her). He comes up with a new test: the three men have to shoot arrows at a banana flower, symbolizing the princess' heart. Pedro and Juan hit the flower right in the center, but Pablo refuses to compete: he doesn't want to cause harm to the princess, not even symbolically. With this caring attitude, he wins the contest, and the princess happily marries him.

What makes it a feminist folktale?

Bat pollinating a banana flower, from here
This tale has many solutions in many different cultures, ranging from definitely feminist ("let her make up her own mind") to kinda horrible (where the suitors give her as a wife to their father, because he is older). I like this version especially because the question is not decided by strength or dexterity, or even by "usefulness." Pablo wins the princess with his empathy. The king knows exactly what he is doing when he sets up a banana flower as a target. It is heart-shaped and dark red, very much reminiscent of an actual human heart. Pedro and Juan shoot at it without care or consideration, eager to prove that they are better than the other two. It is more important to them to prove their own worth than to think about the deeper meaning of the task.
Pablo is the only one who sees the symbolic message behind the practical, and he resists the competitive instinct to stop and consider the best course of action. He does not want to hurt the princess, not even symbolically. This is a lovely counterpoint to all the cases where people are blind to non-physical abuse. The two other suitors immediately shoot the "heart" of the woman they claim to be in love with, to prove a point about their manliness. Pablo takes the risk of losing by not participating at all, and puts the princess' comfort above his own need for approval. This is the kind of respectful, empathetic attitude that allows the other person the freedom to make her own choice, letting her know what her safety is more important than winning.

I also like the fact that this version of the story gives a separate, new task to the suitors instead of trying to decide which one of them was the most "useful" in saving the princess (a lot of variants declare the healer to be the winner by default). This is a good reminder that you can't win someone by doing useful things for them. Despite what writers of romantic movies might think, you can't win a woman by doing X number of favors for her until you collect enough points to exchange for a date. Just because you save someone from a bad situation, they are not obligated to marry you as a thank you. Pablo, by declining to participate in the contest, proves himself to be the most mature of the suitors - and also that he is capable of not only love, but also respect and caring, allowing the princess to draw her own conclusion.

Things to consider

In the original text it's the king that declares Pablo the winner, explaining why his choice was better. When I tell this story, it's usually the princess herself who does the same (balancing out the fact that she had been promised by her father).
Also, because I like men who read, I usually give Pablo the book instead of the ivory tube. It's not a bad option, since, according to some sources, originally the book was the healing item, and the tube used to be an all-seeing spyglass (see here). This has the added bonus of connecting reading with empathy, which is a proven phenomenon.


"Narrated by Dolores Zafra, a Tagalog from La Laguna. She heard the story from her father."

Dean S. Fansler: Filipino Popular Tales (American Folk-Lore Society, 1921.)


The tale belongs to the ATU 653B type (The most wonderful thing in the world). It is originally a dilemma tale - the audience is expected to discuss possible solutions, and come up with a satisfying ending.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Creole tales from the blue ocean (Following folktales around the world 138. - Seychelles)

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 here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Stars ​and Keys
Folktales and Creolization in the Indian Ocean
Lee Haring
Indiana University Press, 2007.

This book was written by the same person as the previous one, where I got the Comorean folktales, but this one was more of an academic folklore publication for adult audiences, and not really a story book. The introduction contained the same chronology of the history of Indian Ocean islands. Each story came with notes, comments, and cultural context (usually wedged into the text with a slightly different font, which was very distracting). Most tales were recorded in the early 20th century by various collectors; a lot of them were from Madagascar, including creation myths and pourquoi tales. They were eleven stories from the Seychelles included.

Since the previous book also had five stories from the Seychelles, and I already read them, I included those in this post as well.


I was not really captivated by any of the stories, but if I had to pick a highlight I'd choose Kader, which was a "man searching for his luck" type story. This time, our hero set out to ask the Sun why it rises and sets red. On the way he encountered battling rocks, logs, and an eel bridge, and he managed to make his way back across them as well. Then he was sent to fetch the Queen of the Sea for a king, but of course he ended up marrying her instead.


Ti Zan and the doctor was a classic Magician's Apprentice story; there was also a Blacksmith and the Devil type tale where the protagonist, who got stuck in the mortal realm after cheating death one too many times, was Poverty. 
The resident trickster is Brer Soungoula, who is described as "some kind of monkey", although he also tricks monkeys sometimes. In one story he ate all Tiger's children and then blamed Monkey for it; in another he tried to steal water from a communal well, and was caught by the usual tar baby trick. He made Elephant and Whale do a tug-o-war, and made Wolf believe the mountain was going to fall if he did not hold it up (using the movement of clouds to prove the illusion). He swam a race with Turtle, and won once because he hitched a ride on his back - but on the second run, Turtle decided to dive for some food, and poor trickster was drowned.

Where to next?

Saturday, January 11, 2020

StorySpotting: The grateful alien (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

(Image from Mark Hamill's Twitter which is a gift to the galaxy)

The Rise of Skywalker is out, and I'm not a happy camper. It's like someone chopped up a good Star Wars movie, and tossed bits and pieces of it into a blender with a whole bunch of really bad decisions, cop-outs and shredded metaphors.
But anyway, I fished out some folklore references.

Where was the story spotted?

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

What happens?

Our team of rebel scum lands on a desert planet, and gets promptly sucked into quicksand. Falling through the sand they end up in an underground tunnel system, which leads them straight into the Dune franchise. Here they encounter a sand worm that first tries to eat them, but Rey notices in time that it has been injured (by what?!), and Force-heals it. The snake is so grateful for the healing that it shows the team the way out of the tunnels.
(Apparently this scene had two uses: one, it linked the movies to The Mandalorian, where they introduced Force-healing a couple of weeks ago, and two, it set up the fact that Rey can do this, which became stupidly important in the movie later on.)

What's the story?

A hero healing an animal that does them a good turn in exchange is one of the oldest folktale motifs in the book. And by the book I mean Stith Thompson'd Motif-Index of Folk-Literature. This handy collection of folktale LEGO blocks lists all the moving parts of the narratives of old, sorted by letters (big themes like Magic of Death) and numbers. Grateful Animals range from B350 to B399, actually including way more than 49 motifs because of all the sub-categories. For example, if The Rise of Skywalker was a folktale (they wish), this scene would be categorized under B380 - Animal grateful for relief from pain. These stories can have various different kinds of injuries a person helps an animal with, ranging from thorn in the foot all the way to opening abscesses or acting as a tiger's midwife.

Probably the most famous tale of this type is that of Androkles and the Lion. First recorded in the 2nd century, it tells about a runaway slave who seeks shelter in a cave, and encounters a lion with a thorn in its foot. Androkles pulls the thorn out, and the lion becomes his friend, sharing his prey with the man for years. Eventually Androkles is captured again, and thrown into the arena - but the lion they sic on him turns out to be his old friend, who refuses to hurt the man. The emperor ends up pardoning them both.

In the Sri Lankan folktale of The Glass Princess, a young prince offers himself as a human sacrifice to a cobra guarding a pond. It turns out, however, that the serpent has an ulcer on its head, and agrees not to kill the prince as long as he heals it. After days of treatment, the prince sets out to find the legendary Glass Princess, who has the only real cure for the ulcer. They heal the cobra together, and receive treasure in exchange.

In the Oroqen folktale of Aoxingbe, a hero descends into an underground realm, seeking to rescue a girl and also his father. He kills a monster, but gets stuck in the underworld. Wandering he encounters a man stuck in the side of a mountain; the man is the son of a Black Dragon in human form, asking for help. The only way to free him from the rocks is to water pine trees on top of the mountain, making them crush the rocks with their roots over time. Aoxingbe carries 9999 buckets of water up 9999 steps without a break, and frees the dragon, who in exchange flies him out of the underworld.


Sometimes kindness can be more powerful than violence.
But also, Rey totally should have ridden the sand worm. Poe could have helped her smuggle some spice.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Amaradevi (Feminist Folktales 2.)

Another Thursday, another post for Feminist Folktales! It's a series of traditional stories from around the world that display motifs that reflect feminist values. I am not changing any of the stories, merely researching and compiling them, and posting them here as food for thought. You can find the list of posts here.

Origin: Cambodia and Sri Lanka

The story

Cambodian version: Princess Amaradevi is courted by four ministers, but she chooses her own husband, a wise and noble man named Mahoseth. The four ministers frame the husband, accusing him of conspiring to assassinate the king. Mahoseth flees into exile. The moment he is gone, the four ministers begin courting Amaradevi, who sees through their plots immediately. She invites them to visit her for four consecutive dates, then has hes servants build a clever trap. When the ministers arrive, they are left alone in a room with a lot of jewelry spilled on the table. The moment they steal a piece, a trap door opens up and they are dropped into a pit filled with sticky substances. Amaradevi reveals the plot to the king, and her husband's name is cleared.

Sri Lankan version: Noble pandit Maha Bosat travels in incognito as a tailor, and encounters a girl on the road. They take a liking to each other, so he gives her a signal, which she interprets well and responds with a signal of her own. They start talking, and Maha Bosat asks her a series of questions, which she answers in riddles. He understands her meaning, and they are mutually impressed by the other's intellect, so they get married. Four other pandits steal jewels from the king's treasury, and frame Maha Bosat for the theft, forcing him into exile. All four of them try to court Amaradevi, who in turn has each one of them caught and bound. She presents evidence to the king to clear her husband's name, and they live happily ever after.

What makes it a feminist folktale?

(Sharra Frank)
First off, Amaradevi lives in a happy and equal relationship of her own choosing. In the world of folktales, where princesses are often handed out as gifts or marry as a thanks for rescue, it is refreshing to meet a female protagonist who makes sure she chooses a man worthy of her. I especially like the beginning of the Sri Lankan version, which is basically a "Clever maiden and her suitors" type tale (ATU 876), ecept here the suitor understands her hidden meaning, and doesn't have to ask. They know they are meant for each other because they communicate well on multiple levels - words, signals, meanings.
Second, Amaradevi is hella smart. According to the Cambodian version she "had been educated not only in music, painting, and the fine art of poetry, but also in government, law, the sciences, and engineering." (Side note: the Kama Sutra lists mining and carpentry among the skills of a good wife. Mmmm, sexy.) She doesn't only see through the four ministers, but also designs the trap to catch them. This supposes a good deal of practical skill and knowledge, and also empathy in knowing what kind of men they are like, and how they can be trapped by their own weakness.
Third, it is important to mention Amaradevi's good relationship with the other female characters. In the Cambodian version she works together with her most loyal maid to trick the ministers, and they even spring the trap together. In the Sri Lankan version she finds out about the ministers' plot because she stops to chat with the servant girl they sent to her, asks her questions, gets to know her, and accidentally finds out. This story lacks all kinds of female jealousy and competition, which is very refreshing, because, frankly, female friendships are so rare in folklore they are almost nonexistent.

Real Cambodian Princess
Norodom Buppha Devi
Fourth, on the topic of jealousy and competition: this story has a very important message about the difference between healthy and toxic masculinity. The four ministers think that in order to get Amaradevi, all they need to do is get rid of her husband. Raise your hand if you are a woman, and you have used "I have a boyfriend" as a way of getting rid of a creep before, just to be told "but he is not here, is he?" (for higher level douchery: "and I have a girlfriend, so what?"). Here we have a smart, educated, confident princess, who chose her own husband, and the four idiots still think that if they get rid of him, she will just fall into their lap. This is textbook toxic masculinity: "there is clearly nothing wrong with me, so she would clearly be dating me if she wasn't with that guy" (or if there is no that guy, then it's clearly her fault for being a ****, and this is when things usually get violent). Unlike Mahoseth, the four ministers do not see Amaradevi as an independent, equal partner, but rather as an object that can be obtained once her "owner" is out of the way. They can't even imagine her making her own decision. This rhymes well with the fact that they can also not keep their hands off the unguarded jewelry. This is why Mahoseth ends up on the throne, and the ministers end up in the cesspit.

Things to consider

In the Sri Lankan version Maha Bosath puts Amaradevi through various tests - among them, he sends two men with a pile of money to try to seduce her, to "test her faithfulness." While it has its symbolic meaning in a traditional story (to make it explicit that Amaradevi is loyal in her relationship), testing one's faithfulness by tricks in real life is manipulative, and honestly I think the story works without it just fine.


The Cambodian version comes from the Gatiloke, a Buddhist teaching tale tradition written down in the 19th century. The Sri Lankan version is from the Ummagga Jataka, a 14th century Sinhalese collection of Jataka tales; Maha Bosat is one of the earlier avatars of the Buddha.

Kathleen Ragan: Fearless girls, wise women, and beloved sisters (W.W. Norton & Co., 2000.)
Muriel Paskin Carrison: Cambodian folk stories from the Gatiloke (Tuttle Publishing, 2011.)
Suzee Leong: Asian folk tales and legends (MPH Group Publishing, 2015.)
T. B. Yatawara: Ummagga Jataka (Luzac & Co. 1898.)


Amara means 'eternal' or 'immortal', and Devi means 'goddess.' Even in her name, Amaradevi is special.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Little islands, full of trickery (Following folktales around the world 137. - Comoros)

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 here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Indian ​Ocean Folktales
Lee Haring
National FolkLore Support Centre, 2002.

This book contains 27 folktales, out of which 5 are from the Comoros (the others were collected in Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion and the Seychelles). The introduction talks about the history and storytelling traditions of the islands (including a long chronological list). Each island is introduced in a short chapter, and the stories are prefaced with the names of the storyteller and the collector.
Since there were only five tales, I'll write about all five:

The animal diviner

This story had a beginning and an end, and they had nothing to do with each other. In the beginning a chameleon swore revenge against an elephant for stepping on his son's foot. In the end, the animal's diviner the frog foretold than Man was about to appear, and since Lion did not want to flee, he was defeated by humans with trickery. I think this story was missing a link somewhere.

Alimtru and the Buzzard
A young man's wife was stolen by the king, so he made another one from wood. When she was stolen too, the man assembled all the birds, and with buzzard's help tricked the king into taking off the amulets that made the wooden wife come alive. She turned back into a tree, and made the whole palace collapse in the process. Win.

Clever Bunwaswi
"Distant fire" type trickster tale. A king challenged a man to spend a night standing in ice cold water, but when he won the wager, the king did not want to pay, saying he was warmed by a fire in the distance. Bunwaswi the trickster taught the king a lesson by inviting him to a feast where food was being "cooked" on a distant fire...

The poor man's story
Trotroc, the trickster, wanted to win a king's daughter as his wife. The king kept sending him for various things to the king of the devils, but he always solved the mission somehow, and eventually won the princess.

The mysterious woman
A tutor wants to seduce a young girl, but she blinds him in self-defense. Her parents believe the tutor over her, so she runs away and starts a new life. She goes through various adventures, and uses magic spells to protect herself from all kinds of people who want to harm her. Eventually she becomes a prince in disguise, and uses her power to make the tutor and the other assailants confess their crimes.

Where to next?
To the Seychelles!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019 - The year in (good) TV shows

2019 was a pretty good year in terms of TV shows (at least in my subjective opinion). People have been writing articles about how over the course of this decade TV overtook big screen movies both in terms of quality and in prestige, and I tend to agree. I watched a lot of shows this year, as usual (while eating, while crocheting, and while sick - in case anyone wants to question how I "have time for all that junk") (and before anyone starts to make "I prefer to read"statements, I also read 133 books on the side). Anyway, I have a lot of favorites this year. In no particular order:

New Favorites

Doom Patrol - When DC gets an R rating and the writers get to go crazy, you get a really fun show with likable characters ant lots of enjoyable WTF moments. Long live Danny the Street.

Umbrella Academy - Seems like this year was the year of lovable, thoroughly messed up superheroes, portrayed by great actors and underscored by good music.

Euphoria - American remake of an Israeli show, but doesn't have much in common. Still, pretty good in its own right. Basically Skins for a new generation, with a similarly good cast.

The Mandalorian - Star Wars finally accepted that they have always been a western at heart, and embraced it. This, plus Baby Yoda, brought them back from the brink of the dark side, with Rise of Skywalker and all...

Unbelievable - This year's winner of the "hard to watch, but should be mandatory" category.

Chernobyl - Runner-up to the "hard to watch, but should be mandatory" category. Very well done, even though a lot of the fandom kinda missed the larger point about systemic failure, and blamed the whole thing on one guy.

His Dark Materials - I have not read the books yet, but the show is pretty entertaining. Ruth Wilson takes the cake, even though she is surrounded by similarly good actors.

Good Omens - Obviously.

Years and Years - Very scary, but also very well done, best of British TV style. I really hope it remains mostly fictional.

Gentleman Jack - A+ for representation, but even beyond that, a really fun and entertaining show with a lot of good music and clever humor.

Sex Education - Teenagers have all kinds of awkward sex and non-sex in this endearing show headlined by Asa Butterfield and Agent Scully.

The Politician - Ryan Murphy translates the American political system into high school student elections, and the parallel is excellently done.

Returning Favorites

Dragon Prince - We got two season this year, and this show just keeps getting better. It has the best of Avatar, D&D, Ghibli, and fantasy tropes in general. Plus very, very important messages for the younger generations.

Barry - This was on right after the last season of Game of Thrones every Sunday, and kept beating it with quality storytelling. Good humor, great actors, tight plot. And better action scenes.

Pose - Category is: spectacle, heartwarming, important. With a lineup of excellent actors.

The Good Fight - This show definitely goes the extra mile when it comes to making fun of the Trump regime, and also making good, serious points about political activism. Very entertaining. Full of nasty women.

True Detective - The show found its footing for season three, and is good again.

The Magicians - This one keeps getting wilder, and consistently better. Still does magic the right way, and follows through with consequences. I love the musical episodes. The season finale was well done.

American Gods - While people complain about this a lot, I think it's excellent. If you don't get the mythology references, go read some mythology.

The Good Place - I was not into this show at first, but by now I have fallen in love with it. And the latest season turned out great.

Harlots - Still spectacular, still fun, still has amazing costumes and a solid female cast.

Departing Favorites

Silicon Valley - It is a painful goodbye, but a well executed wrap-up for the best geeky show on TV (yes, screw Big Bang). I will miss them.

Veep - Whatever the writers came up with, it could not match reality in terms of surreal political situations, so they kinda just had fun with it.

Marvel's Runaways -  I am very sad to see this one go. I loved the comics and I loved the show.

What we shall not talk about

Game of Thrones - This is how you completely ruin a show that had all the conditions set to succeed. Shame. SHAME.

Stranger Things - I'm just mentioning this here before anyone asks why it's missing from the list. I liked it, it was fun, I'm just not as enthusiastic about it as the fans are.

A Discovery of Witches - I did not watch a lot of bad shows this year, because I had more than enough good ones to get to, so if something was crap, I just quit it. This one is a prime example of something I quit like 3 episodes in (at which point the heroine had already confessed her undying love to her brand new vampire boyfriend). The breaking moment was an internationally acclaimed expert of medieval iconography saying "it's some kind of an infant in an upside down vessel, what could it possibly mean?"

Saturday, January 4, 2020

StorySpotting: Hedgehog Knights (The Witcher)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

Where was the story spotted?

The Witcher, season 1, episode 4 (Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials)

What happens?

Pic from here
Geralt attends a royal banquet where the Queen of Cintra is selecting a husband for her daughter, Pavetta. Halfway through the celebrations a knight appears, claiming the princess. When they remove his helmet, he turns out to be a humanoid hedgehog. The story is as follows: he suffers from a curse from childhood. Once he saved the life of the princess' late father, the king, and claimed the Law of Surprise as his reward: he asked for whatever the king did not know he had at home, which turned out to be a newborn daughter (in folklore terms, we call this S240, Child Unwittingly Promised). The queen refuses to give up her daughter, and a fight ensues, but the princess sides with the cursed knight out of love, and they are eventually married on the spot. The moment they kiss, the hedgehog turns back into his human form.

What's the story?

This is yet another story easily recognizable to people who are into folktales. The tale type is ATU 441, Hans My Hedgehog, named after the most famous version of the tale from the Grimm collection.

In most version of the story, a childless couple wishes for a child ("even if it's like a hedgehog", or "whatever it may look like"), and end up with a hedgehog or porcupine. The strange little creature encounters a king lost in the woods, and promises to help him in exchange for whatever first greets him when he gets home. When the king returns, he is first greeted by his only daughter. This happens two or three times with different kings, and then the hedgehog sets out to claim his prizes. The first princesses refuse to marry him (and are sometimes brutally punished), but the last one happily agrees to marry him. Marriage breaks the enchantment, the hedgehog takes off his skin, and turns into a handsome knight.
(For added weirdness factor, Hans My Hedgehog rides a rooster and plays the bagpipes.)

Variants of the story tend to differ in details. For example, the Law of Surprise does not always come into play; sometimes the hedgehog flat-out asks for the king's daughter. In other cases, he accidentally kills his first two wives who were forced to marry him, but the third falls in love with him and survives.

In the Hungarian version, the hedgehog leads a rich merchant, a king, and a poor man out of the woods. The first two promise their daughters, but the poor man doesn't have anything to give. Soon after, the hedgehog show up at his doorstep, deciding that he's going to become the man's son.

You can read the Grimm version here, a bunch of other "Hog Bridegroom" folktales here, The Pig King here, or watch a cute Hungarian cartoon version here.


I have a soft spot for hedgehog knights riding roosters and playing bagpipes, but I am not very fond of punishing girls for forced marriages. If I told this story, my version would probably be closer to The Witcher than the originals.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Queen Anait (Feminist Folktales 1.)

Today I start a new blog series: Feminist Folktales! It will be a collection of traditional stories from around the world that display motifs that reflect feminist values. I am not changing any of the stories, merely researching and compiling them, and posting them here as food for thought. You will find the list of posts here.

I wanted to kick off this series with a story that has been part of my repertoire for a long time, and is one of the first tales that come to my mind when I hear "feminist folktale."
Here we go.

Queen Anait

Origin: Armenia

The story

Illustration from
The Weave of Words
A prince named Vachagan goes hunting with his most loyal servant and his favorite dog. At noon, parched and exhausted, they stop at a spring by a village, and the prince asks for water from a local girl. When she hands him her jar, another girl, Anait, grabs it and pours out the water six times in a row before she lets the prince have a drink. When questioned by the annoyed Vachagan, she tells him that drinking ice cold water would have hurt his overheated body. The prince takes a liking to the clever girl, and once he returns home he announces that he wants her for his wife.
However, when the messengers arrive with the royal proposal, Anait refuses, telling them she will only marry a man who has a real trade. Vachagan decides to learn brocade weaving. After one year of hard work, he sends his own brocade to Anait with a new proposal, and this time she happily accepts.
In time, Vachagan and Anait become king and queen. The king decides to go traveling in plain clothes to see how things are going in the realm, and leaves Anait behind as regent. However, he is kidnapped by evil priests, and they only let him live because he knows a trade. They lock him in a dungeon and force him to weave. Vachagan weaves a piece of gold brocade, with a secret message only the queen can read. When the bandits try to sell her the cloth, she reads the message, calls her men to arms, and leads the way to breaking her husband and all the prisoners out of the dungeon. When they are freed, Vachagan notes that she'd saved him a long time ago, on the day she insisted he should have a trade.

What makes it a feminist folktale?

Queen Anait is an amazing female folktale character. She is clever, wise, and brave (and also beautiful, but this is not highlighted in the tale, even at first sight the prince is more impressed by her intelligence). Next to having a great deal of common sense, we also find out she is quite the adept weaver herself, and is teaching all the people in the village how to read and write. She does it so well that they all consider her their master tutor, and cover the rocks, trees, and walls with writing. She builds a community based on education and shared labor. Even her father respects her independence, and allows her to make her own decisions about marriage.
All through the course of the tale, Anait stands up for herself and for her decisions. First off, she doesn't let the prince hurt himself by drinking, even if he things she is crazy or mean for doing it. It is more important to her to do the right thing than what she appears like while doing it. In today's world where women are still judged for how well the behave (see "polite feminists" vs "angry feminists"), Anait is an excellent role model for not caring how 'feminine' one appears while getting important things done. Secondly, she declines a royal marriage proposal because she wants to stick to her principle of choosing a partner who has a trade of his own, and does not rely on wealth and rank. This is a serious privilege check for the prince - Anait questions what he would do if he did not inherit the crown. Third, when it comes to saving her husband and her people, she is the first one to take up arms and ride to the rescue, and no one questions her leadership.
While Anait is wise and determined, she is in no was cold or hard. She loves her husband, cares for him and others, and when he disappears, she is seriously worried, plagued by nightmares and anxiety. She keeps the realm in hand, but she is just as human as anyone else, nervous when her loved ones are in danger.

This folktale would not be nearly this awesome, however, if Anait had a husband who was not worthy of her. But he is. It is a lovely moment in the story when Vachagan sends her his golden brocade, and she sends one of her carpets in return. This shows them as equal partners, who make equal, independent, mutual decisions about whom they choose to share their life with. Vachagan is also a likable male character: he likes smart women (yay), and when Anait turns his proposal down, and checks his privilege, he does not get angry or frustrated. Instead, he gets right to work and is willing to learn new things, putting in a whole year to become worthy of her. He does not seek loopholes or shortcuts. Later on, he always listens to Anait, taking her advice in important matters, and when he gets into trouble, she is the first one he reaches out to, as someone who can understand his secret message as his closest confidante. They have a relationship based on mutual respect, open communication, and appreciation. Vachagan doesn't only do things because "she told him to" or "to make her happy" (or, in real life examples, "to make her stop nagging") - instead, he takes the time and the effort to understand - and appreciate - the reasons behind her words. Big, BIG difference, people.

Things to consider

I read a lot of versions of this story, but most of them were for Soviet folktale collections, so I am not entirely sure the "evil, greedy priests" were not common bandits originally...


One of the first known retellings of this tale came from Ghazaros Aghayan 19. century Armenian writer.

Kathleen Ragan: Fearless girls, wise women, and beloved sisters (W.W. Norton & Co., 2000.)
Avril Pyman: The Golden Fleece: Tales from the Caucasus (Progress Publishers, 1971.)
Gerard Shelley: Folk tales of the peoples of the Soviet Union (Herbert Jenkins Ltd., 1945.)
Iakov Samsonovich Khatchatrianz: Armenian Folk Tales (Colonial House, 1946.)
David Kerdian: The golden bracelet (Holiday House, 1998.)
Robert D. San Souci: The weave words (Orchard Books, 1995.)
Lucretia Samson: Wise Anait and the woven words (Clean Slate Press, 2017.)
Irina Zheleznova: A mountain of gems: Fairy tales of the peoples of the Soviet land (Raduga Publishers, 1975.)
Susie Hoogasian Villa: 100 Armenian tales and their folkloristic relevance (Wayne State University Press, 1966.)
There is a recent animated movie based on this story, you can watch it on YouTube. Anait was also featured in the Rejected Princesses series, you can find the page here.


This story belongs to the tale type ATU 888A* (The basket-weaver). You can read an arab version here. There are also many other versions, among them Russian, Jewish, Irish, and Moroccan.
Before Christianity, Anahit was an Armenian goddess, the Golden Mother, sometimes compared to the Greek Artemis.