Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Tarot Tales: F is for Fortitude (Strength)

Welcome to the 2021 A to Z Blogging Challenge! My theme this year is Tarot Tales. I am making a selection of folktales, legends, and other traditional stories that correspond to tarot cards. Storytelling and tarot go well together. Do other stories come to mind? Let me know in the comments!

The card: Strength

Meanings: This card is not about brute force or physical strength. It is about endurance, fortitude, and perseverance; holding on, putting your foot down, and weathering the storm. It is about an inner power that you are in control of, a kind of confidence that says "I can do this." Courage, coping, and composure. 

Selection process: The original Strength card shows a young woman taming a lion, holding it firmly but gently. I wanted to find a tale about a girl or a woman taming a lion, to keep the symbolism of the card, but I also wanted the story to deal with perseverance and fortitude rather than physical strength or trickery.

The story: The lion's whiskers

Origin: Ethiopia

A woman marries a widower who has a young son, and becomes the child's stepmother. No matter how she tries to befriend her new stepson, he does not open up to her. The woman, desperate to find a way to connect with him, goes to a wise man and asks him for a magic potion to make the boy like her. The wise man tells her that the main ingredient for such a potion is the whisker of a ferocious lion that lives in the desert - and she has to acquire the whisker herself. 
The woman, determined to gain the love of her stepson, sets out into the desert to face the lion. She comes up with a plan: she brings food, and every day she tosses it to the lion, coming a little closer each time. Slowly, day by day, the lion grows used to her presence, until she gets so close that she can take a whisker. 
When she returns to the wise man, he reveals that there is no magic potion. Instead he tells her: "All you have to do for your stepson to like you is the same you did with the lion." It takes time, patience, and perseverance for the boy to accept his stepmother - but eventually, he does. 

Sources & notes: You can find the story in this book. There are also many variants that involve a wife and a husband instead of mother and child. You can read one, also from Ethiopia, here.

Runner-ups: I was also considering the tale of Diirawic from Sudan, where a young man wants to marry his sister, so she runs away into the wilderness with a bunch of other girls, and they tame and adopt a lion as their brother.

I think getting ahead day by day, little by little, is probably a good message for trying times like these. How are you all doing? What's the whisker you are reaching for? 


  1. This is great, I really liked that tale with lion's whisk. The flipside viewpoint here is how much time and effort we're ready to invest in some "magical" solution, instead of focusing on the real problem. This happens too often.

  2. Such an important trait to possess. I am enjoying the tales you are picking to go with the cards. Weekends In Maine

  3. I love the story, Zalka. Cultivating these qualities—patience and perseverance—is exactly what we need to do at this historical moment. Thank you! And it's good to meet again after a long while. J

  4. You are connecting the tales and cards so well

  5. What a wonderful story. Patience and perseverance are necessary even if the child is your own. It doesn't only serve for a step-child.

  6. This is the card of the times, I reckon.
    Loved the wisdom in the Ethiopian tale.

  7. A very wise man indeed. A perfect pairing of card and story.

    Here's my F!

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  9. Wonderful story, and good advice for so many situations -- although in one of my books a middle school boy tries to "tame" a bullying classmate this way... by offering him food from a distance, coming slowly closer and closer, speaking in a soft soothing voice... and the classmate concludes he must be some sort of insane monster trying to eat his brains. So you may have to tweak your technique slightly depending on whether it's a lion or a boy! lol
    Black and White: F for Faerie

  10. Fortitude is a great characteristic, and one we have all needed over the last year. Good choice.

  11. That's a really lovely tale, and I can definitely relate that to lots of areas of my own life - slowly but surely making progress.

  12. That was a clever story. We are often looking for magical solutions as the easy way out but fail to see what is really needed.

  13. That has to be the best story for perseverance ever!

  14. I've heard a lot of variations on that story. Sometimes the objective is milking a lion instead of getting its whiskers.

  15. I'm enjoying your posts. Tarot cards are a bit of a fascination for me. I have two decks created by artists that are gorgeous & an OLD book I got at a library sale on how to read them. Thanks for picking this topic this year!

  16. Love, love, love this one.
    And it's true in so many circumstances.

    The Old Shelter - The Great War