Saturday, January 2, 2021

StorySpotting: Swimming for love (Bridgerton)

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?

Bridgerton, Season 1, Episode 7 (Oceans apart)

What happens?

Daphne has a conversation with her brother Colin, who is in love with the disgraced (pregnant) Miss Thompson. Daphne is trying to convince him to give up on his love and avoid scandal:
Daphne: You cannot visit her.
Colin: Leander swam Abydos to Sestos every single night in complete darkness just to see his love.
Daphne: Leander also lost his way and drowned. So the story goes. 

What's the story?

Roman coin from Abydos,
depicting the story
Daphne is right, the Greek tale of Hero and Leandros is not a happy one. Hero is the "virgin priestess" of Aphrodite, and she lives in Sestos, on the northern shore of the Hellespont (the Dardanelles strait). Her lover, Leandros, lives on the opposite shore in the city of Abydos. In order to meet in secret, he swims across the strait every night, guided by the light of a lantern in Hero's window on top of a tower. However, one night a storm blows out the candle, Leandros loses his way, and drowns. When Hero finds out about his fate, she throws herself from top of the tower.
Yup, this really is not a love story one should strive for.  

The story echoes in a tale from the Faroe Islands about a young man from Koltur who swam across in secret to the island of Hestur to visit his lover. One day, however, the girl's father found out, and when the lad showed up on the shore, he chased him back into the water with an ax. The suitor was never heard from again; according to the legend, he drowned on the way back. 

The Pakistani legend of Sohni and Mahinwal has a similarly tragic ending. Here, the girl swims across a river every night, using an upturned pot for buoyancy, to be with her lover. One time, however, the pot breaks, and a storms sweeps both her and her lover away. 

On a more upbeat note, we have the Maori legend of Hinemoa and Tutanekai. A high-born girl falls in love with a youth who is not noble enough to be her husband. He plays his flute every night, calling to her, but her family hides all the canoes to keep her from crossing the lake to her lover. Eventually she sets out swimming, with six hollow gourds to hold her up (clever girl). She follows the music, and managed to reach Tutanekai's island. They get married, and live happily. 

In another story, from the Tuamotu islands, we learn about a girl named Hina who sets out swimming to the island of Motu-tapu, to find the perfect prince she wants to marry. She tries to enlist the help of various sea creatures, but they are either not strong enough to carry her beyond the reef, or she pisses them off one way or another (in a shark's case, literally, as she pees on him), and they all leave her floating in the ocean. Eventually, she makes her way to the island, leaving a trail of much changed (and disgruntled) sea animals in her wake, and she marries her prince. 


If you have to cross large bodies of water for love, make sure you have something to keep you buoyant. Or better yet, hitch a ride.

1 comment:

  1. I love your advice to the lovers. Also - not just one pot for buoyancy as in the case of the Pakistani woman but six gourds.