Thursday, June 4, 2020

The three little eggs (Feminist Folktales 19.)

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: Eswatini (Swaziland)

The story

A woman is beaten and abused by her husband regularly until she decides to run away. She takes her two small children and escapes into the wilderness. By a river they find a nest with three little eggs in it, and they carry it safely with them. For the rest of the journey the little eggs whisper advice to the woman about which road to take, where to find shelter. She has to face and defeat various monsters, keeping her children safe in the wild. In the end she breaks a curse on a kingdom, she is elected their queen, finds true love (in a prince who had been transformed into an egg), and lives happily ever after.

What makes it a feminist story?

I loudly support any folktale where the abusive partner is not "saved" or "fixed" but rather escaped and left behind (there are not many of these). This story highlights the fact that the abusive, violent husband is bad for the wife, and the best solution for her is to leave him.
However, the story also clearly shows that such an escape is very hard and full of danger. Sometimes the travelers find shelter that turns out to be a den of monsters; sometimes they get lost in the woods and the only way through is forward. The mother cares for her children, feeds them, sings to them, helps them climb trees to be safe. She is not a "selfish woman" who "destroyed her family" (women fleeing abuse are often told by people that they should have "tried harder, for the sake of the children", which is, frankly, bullshit). We see a brave and caring mother who literally faces man-eating monsters to make the life of her children (and herself) better and safer.
It is also important to note that the mother needs help and encouragement on this road, which she gets from the eggs. This symbolism can be explained in many ways, as internal or external help. At the end of the story we find out that the eggs were princes under an enchantment. But whether the help comes from without or within, it is important to see that the brave hero needed encouragement, advice, help - as in real life survivors of abuse also need a lot of these things to escape a bad situation, especially with children. At the end of the story the hero becomes queen, a queen who has the power to help others. Getting help from others does not diminish her heroism. Quite the opposite.

Things to consider

This story can be triggering to some audiences (esp. survivors of abuse). The storyteller should consider carefully the context of the telling, and make sure there will be time and space to deal with the feelings that might surface.


E. J. Bourhill & J. B. Drake: Fairy tales from South Africa (MacMillan, 1908.)


I included this story in my upcoming book (in Hungarian), about "non-traditional" families.

1 comment:

  1. Such an uplifting story about the brave woman and 3 eggs ( symbolising both internal /external help). Your analysis and pointers are great!