Sunday, April 30, 2023

Z is for the Zygomatic bone (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

The zygomatic bone is your cheekbone; it's part of the skull. Since I have already done cheeks this month, I'm going to look at folktales about skulls.

Sosruquo and the giant's skull (Abkhaz legend)

One of my favorite tales among the Nart sagas of the Caucasus. The heroes encounter a huge skull, and decide to bring its owner back to life, to ask some questions just out of curiosity. They revive the giant, who tells them of his life long ago. (In other versions, they mistake the skull for a cave, and sleep in it first.) As an archaeologist, I'd love to have this power.

Ottilia and the skull (Tyrol)

A poor girl is chased away from home by her cruel stepmother, and seeks shelter in a castle in the woods. Turns out the castle is inhabited by a talking skull, who turns out to be quite friendly. Ottilia carries it in her apron and cooks food for the both of them. At night, a skeleton appears, threatening the girl, but she holds out without fleeing, and thus breaks the curse that had turned the castle's mistress into a skull. (You can read a friendlier retelling here.)

Céatach (Ireland)

A long hero story featuring an apprentice magician who saves a girl from a giant named Steel Skull. he giant is undefeatable, because when his head is cut off, it rejoins his body and he becomes stronger. Céatach, however, finds a way to cut off the head and kick it far away, finally defeating the giant.

The wicked mendicant (India)

A prince is promised to a sinister mendicant before he is born. When he turns twelve, the mendicant comes to claim him, and takes him into the woods to a shine of Kali, to sacrifice him. The boy, however, finds a pile of skulls by the shine (the previous victims) and the skulls tell him how to survive. After he kills the mendicant, the brings the other victims back to life.

The laughing skull (India)

A banker gives out loans to people, agreeing to get repaid in the next life. Some ruffians borrow money from him with no intention of paying, and spend it on sweets. However, on the way they encounter a human skull that tells them his story: he didn't believe in next-life payments either, and yet he still could not rest in peace before his debts. The ruffians reconsider the loan.

The talking skull (Nigeria)

A hunter encounters a skull in the wilderness, and wonders how it ended up there. The skull speaks: "Taking got me here!" The hunter runs to the king, claiming he's found a talking skull. The king doesn't believe it, so he follows the hunter into the bush. The skull, however, remains silent. The king, angered by the wasted trip, orders the hunter to be beheaded. Once his head is left alone with the skull, the skull speaks: "What brought you here?" "Talking got me here!"... This motif (K1162) is typically African, and also appears in African traditions across the Atlantic.

The girl who married a skull (Efik people, Nigeria)

A girl decides to only marry a perfect man. A skull from the spirit world borrows body parts from various spirits, and turns himself into a dream husband. However, when he takes his smitten wife back home, he returns the body parts too, and she realizes too late she's married a skull spirit. Luckily, an old woman helps her escape and go back home. She even gets her a spider hairdresser. (I really like this folktale type for some reason, it has many exciting variants.)

Whew! That's the last letter done! Thank you all so much for following along, see you all tomorrow for Reflections! :)

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Y is for Yoke (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

Alright fine, this letter was hard. Yoke is a term used in body building for the neck, trapezius muscles and deltoids together. So, I basically just went with neck. Sue me.

Edao plays hide and seek (Marshall Islands)

Edao is the resident trickster of Marshallese folklore, famous for dirty jokes and shapeshifting abilities. There is one story where he repeatedly tricks his brother Jemaluit by transforming into various things (such as into a tree which lets Jemaluit fall when he climbs it). Finally, he bends over and transforms himself into a palm tree, with his anus serving as a water hole in the tree. Jemaluit, feeling thirsty while walking in the woods, sticks his head in the water hole to drink... at which point Edao clamps down on his neck. He eventually lets go and they both laugh - but people's necks have been narrower than their head ever since. Just so you know.

The guru and his disciple (Mauritius)

A guru and his disciple visit a foreign country where the king is doing justice all wrong. He first wants to punish an old woman because her house accidentally falls on some thieves breaking in, and then changes his mind and wants to punish the builder of the house. However, the builder's neck is too thin for the hangman's noose, so the king orders his men to find someone whose neck fits the noose and hang them instead. They arrest the guru's disciple - but the two clever men manage to find a way to survive, and trick the cruel king into being hanged instead.

Rokurokubi (Japan)

Rokurokubi is the name of a female yokai who can stretch her neck to great length, allowing her head to wander around freely at night (sometimes without the woman realizing this while awake). Sometimes the head hunts animals, sometimes it licks the oil out of lanterns, and sometimes it just scares people.

Jacob and Esau (Bible)

The story of Jacob and Esau in the Book of Genesis is a story of sibling rivalry. After Jacob cheats Esau out of their father's blessing, the brothers part ways for several years before they meet again. Their reunion is described as a preparation for battle that turns amicable when Esau runs to Jacob to embrace and kiss him. However, Talmudic sources have a different explanation for the same moment: they claim that Esau tried to bite his brother in the neck and suck his blood. In a moment of miracle, Jacob's neck turned "hard as ivory" or marble, making Esau's teeth "melt like wax." Instead of weeping for joy, they wept in anger and pain. (I am sure there is vampire fan fiction about this somewhere.)

Friday, April 28, 2023

X is for the Xiphoid process (Body Folktales)

 This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

The xiphoid process is a small projection on the bottom of your sternum. It's not exactly a popular folktale topic, but I did rustle up some stories featuring breastbones in general.

The singing breastbone (Scotland)

A princess' lover is seduced by her younger sister, so she drowns the girl out of jealousy. A harper finds the body of the drowned princess, and he makes a harp out of her breastbone, strung with her golden hair. At a banquet at the royal court he plays the harp, and it sings the true story of the murder.

The Old Man of the Cliff (Iceland)

A king is sailing on his ship with his men when an old man calls to them from a cliff. The king asks how many men he has in his household, to which the stranger answers with a riddle. While the king is trying to work out the riddle, the old man's troll magic is pulling the ship dangerously close to the cliff. A sailor named Thorgeir sees this, and braces the ship's sailyard pole against the rocks and against his own chest. He pushes against the magic, snapping his breastbone and his ribs with the effort, but manages to heroically save the ship from the enchantment.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

W is for Wax (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

In case you ever wondered: yes, there are stories about ear wax.

Why mosquitoes buzz in people's ears (Gabon)

Ear and Mosquito go bathing together, and ear begins to treat his skin with oil (wax) after. Mosquito ask for oil and Ear promises to lend some, but never fulfills his promise. He just puts the rest of the oil back inside the ear and walks away. Ever since then, mosquitoes have been buzzing in people's ears, asking for the promised wax.

Why mosquitoes buzz (Garifuna people, Saint Vincent)

Wax and Mosquito are friends. Wax goes bankrupt, and borrows some money from Mosquito, but never pays it back. Eventually, trying to avoid his creditor, Wax hides in a human's ear, and has been hiding ever since. Mosquito, on his part, has been angrily buzzing, demanding payment.

Madhu and Kaitabha (India)

In Hindu mythology Madhu and Kaitabha are two beings born from the ear wax of the god Vishnu. One of them is soft and one of them is hard. They gain the power to only die with their own consent, from the goddess Mahadevi, and use it to challenge the gods to a fight. Eventually, Vishnu defeats them with deception.

Next time you hear a mosquito, I hope these stories will come to mind...

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

V is for Vertebrae (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

This one was more difficult than expected on a short amount of time, but I did rustle up one interesting story.

The vertebra (Iceland)

A farmer sees a ghost come into his backyard, and in fright he tosses away his pitchfork and runs. Later he returns, and finds a single vertebra pinned on the point of the pitchfork. He realizes that the ghost had been made by magic, using a single human bone - and hitting that one bone with an iron point (by lucky accident) dispelled the ghost.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

U is for Underarm (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

I was having a hard time with this letter, and none of the uvula stories were particularly exciting, so I ended up looking for armpit stories.

The sun and the children (/Xam, South Africa)

In this myth the Sun is an old man who hides light in his armpit. There is only light when he lifts his arm in his sleep, and even then only around his house. Two women send their children to lift him and (politely) throw him into the sky where he turns into the Sun and shares his light with all. (See a longer version here.)

The merchant's slandered daughter (Russia)

A king wants to marry a merchant's daughter, but a jealous general tells him she is immodest, and he has already slept with her multiple times. When the king asks for proof, the general pays a crafty old woman to find out what special mark the girl has. Turns out she has a single golden hair under one armpit. This almost ends the whole issue, except the clever girl finds a way to prove that the accusation was false.

Galngam and Hangsai (Vaiphei / Gangte, India)

In this series of tales the hero Galngam visits the land of Keichalpu, a lion shapeshifter and his people. When his brother Hangsai wants to follow in his footsteps, the villagers kill him and distribute his body parts among themselves. Galngam goes looking, and when they find out the victim was his brother, they put Hangsai's body back together. However, one of his armpits is missing, because an old woman already ate her share of the meat. Galngam fixes up the hole with a bat's wings. However, when Hangsai revives and finds out his armpit was fixed with a bat, he scratches at it, and the wound kills him again. (Read another version here.)

There were also some other legends about heroes being born from a mother's armpit, or only being vulnerable in their armpit. Go figure.

Monday, April 24, 2023

T is for Tongues (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

Meat of the tongue (Swahili)

A king's wife is sad and bored, and he doesn't know how to help her. He seeks advice from a poor man whose wife is happy. The poor man says the secret is "meat of the tongue." The king starts feeding tongue meat to his wife, and yet she doesn't improve, so he decides to exchange wives with the poor man. After a few weeks, the queen appears happy and healthy. It turns out, "meat of the tongue" was metaphor for having conversations, sharing stories, and communicating. (And no, that's not where my mind went at first either, but that just gives the story an extra kick when you tell it.)

The yam farm and the problem tongue (Ghana)

Anansi the Spider works on a yam field for mysterious people whose names he can't find out. Eventually manages to outwit them, and when they are called by their true name they die. Anansi, not content with winning the yam field, also eats the people, and his tongue swells up. So, being the trickster he is, he convinces everyone to take out their tongues when they go swimming in the sea - and he steals a new one for himself.

The mallet of wealth (Korea)

A boy spies on a group of goblins, and wins a mallet from them that can perform miracles and summon wealth. When a selfish boy tries to do the same, the goblins catch him, and stretch his tongue a hundred feet long. Shamed, the boy decides to make up for his selfishness by using his tongue as a bridge over the river for others. When he eventually falls into the water, the other boy shows up with his mallet, saves him, and fixes his tongue.

The origin on wasps (Dagomba, Togo)

A girl calls her mother a witch, and the old woman starts chasing her, trying to eat her. Various animals offer protection but they all bail at the sight of the witch. Eventually the wasp decides to help. He swallows the old woman head first, and tells his sons to tie his waist, so she can't go forward or backward through him. This is why wasps have a tiny waist - and this is why they have a stinger, which used to be the witch's sharp tongue.

The great debate (Jewish story)

This is another version of the "arguing body parts" tale type we started the challenge with back at A. Here, the tongue claims to be the most powerful. When the other body parts don't agree, tongue intentionally misspeaks and gets its owner into mortal danger... then immediately finds the words to get him out of it. Proving the tongue is indeed the most powerful.

Do you know other stories where speaking gets someone into trouble? Or where tongues play an important part? :)

Saturday, April 22, 2023

S is for Saliva (Body Folktales)

 This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

NOTE: I am sorry I have not been visiting back. I really miss seeing all your posts! I was traveling, my phone died, and then the Internet went down at home. I will catch up as soon as I can!

I could not find a single image that was not gross,
so here's a puppy.

CW: These stories will get gross.

Spitting and saliva have long featured into all kinds of customs and folklore. This book has a long list of them. I also blogged about a Japanese legend earlier about a samurai killing a giant centipede with arrows he'd spat on. Here are some other interesting tales I found:

In this 5th century legend a saint slays a dragon by spitting into its mouth. The trick works, says the notes, because there was a long-standing belief that human saliva is scalding to serpents. In another 13th century text, people trap and kill a dragon by fasting and then spitting a circle around it.
(This is a whole D&D adventure waiting to happen...)

Juan and the Princess (Philippines)

A poor boy is challenged by a king to find his hidden daughter. He succeeds, but the king still doesn't want to keep his promise and marry him to the princess. Juan receives help from some birds, who give him a pen-point but no ink, telling him to use his saliva. Whatever the king makes him write turns to gold, proving that the boy is special.

Kvasir (Norse mythology)

In Norse mythology there is a wise being named Kvasir, who was born from a bowl of spit. The Aesir and Vanir gods once had a fight, and decided to make peace by spitting into a bowl together (try this next time you have a family fight). Thus, Kvasir was born, blessed with all kinds of knowledge. Later, two Dwarves killed him, and from his blood they made the Mead of Poetry.

Chasing a monster that has been stealing apples from the garden, the hero of this story ends up in the depths of the underworld. There, he meets a woman who is making dough with her own saliva instead of water, for her six children. She tells the hero that there is no water in their realm because a monster is guarding the well. Of course the hero manages to defeat the monster, and bring water back.

Glaucus (Greece)

Glaucus, son of King Minos of Crete, dies, and the seer Polydius brings him back to life. Against his will, Minos forces the seer to teach Glaucus the art of divination. However, when Polydius is finally allowed to leave, he asks Glaucus to spit into his mouth, and the boy forgets everything he'd learned.

The fairy midwife (Guernsey)

This is a common tale type I have blogged about before, where a woman acts as midwife to the fairies, and accidentally gets something in her eye that allows her to see through enchantments later on. In a version from Guernsey, that something is the saliva of the newborn fairy baby.

Talking spit

This is a folktale motif, rather than an individual tale. There are many stories around the world where someone escapes captivity of witches / ogres / devils / abusive parents / etc., and spits on the floor on the way out. Later on, the spit answers in their name, delaying the discovery that they'd escaped. (D1611: Magic spittle impersonates fugitives)
In the tale of Dhon Cholecha from Nepal, a girl escapes from demons by leaving spittle behind and putting charcoal in it. The motif is especially common in Blancaflor tales from Spain and Latin America (see here, here and here).

Would you tell any of these stories to your audiences? 

Friday, April 21, 2023

R is for Ribs (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

Adam's rib (Mexico)

I could have linked the actual Bible story, but this one is way funnier. Adam wants a cook, and God tells him to knock on his ribs util a woman comes out. To which Adam says "I only wanted a cook..." The more you think about it, the more ways you can interpret this tale.

Cethern's wounds (Ireland)

This story is part of the Táin, one of Ireland's great epics. A warrior named Cethern is mortally wounded in battle. Fifteen healers are summoned, but all say he's going to die - at which point Cethern knocks them dead, showing he is displeased with the diagnosis. Finally a wise healer appears and examines his wounds in detail, offering two courses of action: long treatment and a long life, or quick treatment to make him strong enough to die in battle. Cethern chooses the second. The healer collects bone marrow for him, and replaces his missing ribs with the ribs of a chariot. Cethern returns to battle to fight until he falls.

Raven and the ghosts (Tahltan)

Raven tries to steal a fishing spear from a house which turns out to be a house of ghosts. When the ghosts keep him from escaping, he asks them to teach him how to make a spear. One ghost breaks off part of its lower rib, and shows Raven how to fashion the bone into a tool. Since then, the story claims, people and some animals have been missing half of their lower ribs.

The toad resurrection pill (Dongxiang)

A poor boy rescues and heals a wounded toad. In return, the toad gives him a pill that can resurrect anything. The boy resurrects a snake and a horse, and then finds a dead man. He replaces the man's broken ribs with willow branches, and brings him back to life (against the toad's warnings that humans will always betray you). The man turns out to be a bandit who takes the pill and tries to kill the boy. The resurrected animals help him survive and win a princess.

Share your thoughts in the comments :)

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Q is for Quadriceps (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

The quadriceps are the muscles in the front of your thigh. Therefore, I am collecting folktales about thighs today. The most famous story here would be the birth of Dionysos from Greek mythology, but I did find others that are intriguing.

Donnran, the Brown Searcher (Scotland)

In this Scottish legend Caoilte, the swiftest runner of the heroes of the Fianna, is badly wounded on his thigh in a fight. Healers claim they have to cut off his leg because of the infection, but he refuses. Instead the Fianna sends for Donnran, the great healer who lives in the woods as a hermit. Donnran treats the infected wound with live maggots and herbs and honey, until it is miraculously healed.

Thirty-six Colors (Missouri French tale)

A prince dresses up as a jester and sneaks out of the palace to go adventuring. He decides to work as a cowherd, and encounters three giants, befriending each. They later help him win a contest for a princess' hand. After winning, he keeps sneaking away; on the third try, the king throws his spear, which lodges itself in the prince's thigh. Later on, he is discovered and identified by the wound and the tip of the spear lodged in it.

The terrible child and the birds (Burkina Faso)

A woman is infertile, and asks a healer for help. The healer tells her to cook some porridge, and if it spills on her, don't wipe it off. A drop of porridge spills on her thigh, turns into a swelling a bursts. A child springs out of it, ready to go hunting. As he hunts with his friend, a hawk keeps stealing their food. Eventually, the child gets the hawk to swallow him - then, coming out through its anus, strikes it with a club. The hawk swallows him again and he comes out again, continuing the process until the hawk dies.

Sunabai Jai (India)

Seven brothers leave their cherished little sister in the care of their wives, while they go trading. The seven women treat the girl badly, giving her impossible tasks, hoping that she'd die. When her brothers eventually return, the girl meets them on the beach and tells them everything. One of them cuts open his thigh and sews the girl inside it, hiding her from the evil wives until it is time to reveal the truth. In the meantime, he feeds her by placing food on his thigh.

(People sewing things into their thigh is a common folktale motif; you can read another story here, and a collection of parallels here.)

Thigh pieces for giant birds

Once again, this is a folktale motif that shows up in a whole lot of different stories. It is most often found in ATU 301, a folktale type where a hero rescues three princesses from the Underworld, and then is left behind by his treacherous brothers. He is rescued from the deep by a giant bird that he has to keep feeding during the flight. When food runs out, the hero chops off a piece of his own thigh and feeds it to the bird so they don't fall. Once safely on the surface, the bird usually heals the hero's wound.
In one Hungarian version, the hero rides a griffin, and after the flight receives a feather from it that heals all wounds. In a Mansi version the hero - Son of a Bear - rides an eagle, and feeds it pieces of both of his thighs. In both versions, the bird notes that if it had known earlier that humans taste so good, it would have devoured the hero instead of helping.

Somehow, all these stories ended up being about thigh wounds... Go figure.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

P is for Pubic Hair (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

CW: Adult themes.

(Image from here.)

This is one topic that folktales get really fun about.

This legend explains the origin of body hair; I blogged about it before. When Adam and Eve wash themselves in water that gives them body hair, Eve gets stung by a bee between her legs, and swatting her hand at the little creature she accidentally creates centuries of business for bikini wax.

This story is a Hungarian variant of ATU 1175 - Straightening curly hair. A man hires the Devil as a servant, with the agreement that if he can't give him enough work the Devil will take over as master, and the man and his wife will become servants. Whatever the man orders, the Devil fulfills immediately, until he begins to get worried about the whole deal. He confides in his wife, who confidently takes over the next day: she hands the Devil one of her pubic hairs, and orders him to straighten it. The Devil spends hours trying to pull the hair straight, but it always springs back. He finally asks the woman if there's a lot of work left - at which point she lifts her skirt. Seeing all the hairs waiting to be straightened, the Devil gives up and flees.

White hair (Hungary)

One of the most popular erotic folktales of Hungary. A man swears to only marry a woman who has white hair between her legs. A clever maiden makes a little thong out of rabbit fur, and manages to catch herself a husband. However, the fur wears out eventually, and the truth comes to light. The husband complains to an older woman about the change. The old woman hands him a boiled egg and tells him to gently knock it against his forehead for a few hours. Obviously, this activity results in a dark bruise. The old woman points out he couldn't expect things to stay white down there either with so much... knocking.

Golden breasts, diamond navel, chain of gold (African-American tale)

A poor boy has three dancing pigs, which he exchanges with a princess for finding out what secret features she has on her body. Turns out she has golden breasts, a black diamond in her navel, and a golden chain around her thighs that matches her pubic hair. Later on the king announces he'll marry his daughter to whomever can divine what her secret features are. Obviously the boy wins.

The sun snarer (Menominee)

A young man's clothes are burned by the sun, so he goes home and asks his sister for a pubic hair. Using the hair he makes a noose and traps the sun with it; by the time a mouse manages to chew through the noose, the sun has learned its lesson.

Pasquino and the pig (Italy)

A priest wants to seduce the young mother of one of his students, but she rejects him. He then decides to put a love spell on her, and threatens her son into bringing him some of the woman's pubic hairs. The boy brings him some pig hairs instead. Thus, when the priest puts the spell into effect, a very amorous sow bursts into the church, chasing him upstairs and then out a window.

That's all for today, people :) Which story do you find the most entertaining?

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

O is for Optic Organs (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy! 

Yeah yeah, I'm cheating, but I used E for Elbows.

Eyes are also a very common theme in folktales; I have blogged about them in various contexts before (such as eye juggling, fairy eyes, and a cat-eyed princess). So once again, I went around cherry-picking stories that sounded new and fun.

The pelican bird (Hungary)

This story begins with a king whose eyes are doing different things: one is always crying, and one is always smiling. One smiles because he has a lovely daughter and one cries because he used to have a magic pelican bird that he lost. The princess announces that she'll only marry a man who can return the bird. Of course a hero presents himself and goes through many adventures for it. The motif of laughing and crying eyes is very common in Hungary; people often quote it when they talk about being sad and happy about different things at the same time.

Rabbit's eyes (Korea)

The king of the fishes falls ill, and he can only be cured by eating the eyes of a live rabbit. He sends a turtle to lure a rabbit into the sea. When the rabbit finds out why he's there, he bluffs, saying he's left his real eyes at home, and he's wearing glass substitutes. Thus, he tricks the turtle into bringing him back to shore.

The witches' eyes (Mexican-American tale)

A man is good friends with two elderly sisters whom everyone else believes to be witches. He doesn't listen to the rumors, and visits them almost every day. He notices that there are cats around the house at night, even though the women claim not to have any. One night he goes over to the house and finds no one at home - but he stumbles across two pairs of human eyes left out on a stool by the fire. He knocks over the stool, and the eyes burn. The next day when he comes to visit, the women are hostile towards him - and he notices they have cat eyes, sensitive to the light of day. He flees, and soon after the sisters move away from town.

Shirime (Japan)

This creature is a yokai, a supernatural being featured in Japanese anecdotes. It stops people walking at night, bends over, and flashes its anus at them - an anus that has one large eye staring out of it. That's it. That's the story.

The sandalwood merchant (Arabic tale)

A sandalwood merchant stumbles into a town where everyone is a cheat and a rogue (in some translations it's called Falsetown). He runs into various people who trick him, until he is brought to court by all the rascals demanding money from him. An old woman helps him out with advice. One rascal, who only has one eye, claims the merchant took his other eye, and demands an eye in return. The merchant, following the woman's advice, tells him he is willing to give up an eye - but the rascal should take out his own first, so they can measure both and make sure they match. (Read more about versions of this story here.)

The children with one eye (Canada)

This is an indigenous story from Canada, but sadly the source doesn't note which nation it belongs to. It's about two children who blind themselves by accident. An old woman gives them an eye they can share, but warns them to take good care of it. Brother and sister pass the eye back and forth, but eventually one day they get into an argument, the brother throws the eye at his sister, and it falls to the ground where a bird snatches it up. After that, the two blind children turn into a mole and a bat.

Sharing and ransoming eyes

This one might be familiar to you from the story of Perseus: three old women, the Graeae, share one eye between them that they pass around (the Disney movie Hercules combined them with the Fates). The motif number is F512.1.2. - Three women have one eye among them. Surprisingly, this motif shows up in a whole lot of folktales around Europe. 

La Maga is an Italian folktale version (from Tuscany) of the Perseus myth, complete with an evil sorceress, and a hero who steals an eye from two women to ransom it for a mirror that can help him kill her. In a German tale Rinroth a boy climbs a tree and from there spies three men who share one eye between them. As they are trying to see who's in the tree, he snatches the eye from them, and only returns it when they give him three valuable gifts (that he uses later on to kill three giants and rescue a princess). In the Norwegian tale Lillekort a boy encounters two one-eyed women separately, takes their eyes, and blackmails them into giving him magic objects (that he also uses to defeat three trolls). Another version of the same, titled Shortshanks, has the hero similarly steal eyes from two separate old women; what makes this tale more interesting is that the hero has a twin brother who is stronger than him, and only returns at the end of the story. The most fun one I found was yet another Norwegian version, The trolls in Hedale Wood, in which two brothers did not only outwit three trolls that shared one eye, but also managed to use that large eye to see in the dark.

(Read more about this motif in general here and here.)

Were any of these stories familiar to you? Are there other "eye" stories that come to mind?

Monday, April 17, 2023

N is for Noses (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy!

Noses are, once again, a pretty common theme in folktales. I have written about them during A to Z multiple times (e.g. here and here). Here are some fun stories to add to the list:

The Princess of Tomboso (Canada)

This is one of those folktales where a princess cheats a man out of various magical items. Eventually, exiled from her kingdom, he finds a tree of apples that make his nose grow long like an elephant's trunk - and another tree with fruit that has the opposite effect. He uses them to blackmail the princess into giving back his treasures. (Find more versions of this tale type here.)

Silver Nose (Italy)

Silver Nose is Bluebeard's Italian version, who also happens to be the Devil himself. If the girls who work for him don't obey his orders, he tosses them into hell. One clever girl, however, manages to rescue her sisters and herself from Silver Nose by trickery. (The mother warns her daughters in advance that the rich man with the silver nose seems suspect).

The magic pipe (Norway)

Three brothers set out to win a princess, and encounter a woman with a yard-long green nose that is stuck in the crack of a log. She begs them to free her, for her nose has been stuck for two hundred years, but only the youngest brother helps her. She rewards him with a magic pipe that he can use to win the princess.

The hyena, the dog, and Nose-of-Mud (Hausa people, Niger)

Nose-of-Mud, a man with a nose made of mud, goes out hunting with the help of Hyena. He makes Hyena rile up a bunch of antelopes by insulting their mother. The antelopes chase Hyena inside the nose of mud, where they die. After the successful hunt, Hyena decides to do the same and makes a mud nose for himself, inviting Dog along to repeat the trick. However, his mud nose breaks, and they both had to flee from the antelopes for their life.

What Spider knows (Ghana)

Anansi the Spider goes out hunting in times of famine, and encounters a strange little old man with a very long nose. He makes Anansi carry his nose around, and they go hunting together. When they want to kill an animal, the man makes Anansi point his nose at it, and the animal falls dead. When he returns home, Anansi makes a long clay nose for himself and tries to hunt with it - without success. The moral, claims the story, is not to be too ashamed to ask, to learn things properly.

Any more morals you can glean from these stories? Or any other nose stories you remember?

Saturday, April 15, 2023

M is for Mustaches (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy!

5000 rupees on a single hair (India)

A merchant in a foreign land needs to borrow 5000 rupees from a banker, but can't give any insurance. The banker asks for a single hair from his mustache. The merchant gives one, promising to return for it; the banker then asks for a better hair, saying the first one is crooked. The merchant, offended, refuses. The banker gives him the money. Later a different merchant hears this story and tries the same thing - but when the banker asks for a second hair, he nonchalantly gives one. The banker refuses payment. Moral of the story: you only win the respect of others if you respect yourself. (Or, in this case, your mustache.)

The adventure of the Narts (Ossetian legend)

The Nart heroes go adventuring, and Sirdon, resident trickster of the group goes along with them. They go through many adventures. Sirdon, in true trickster fashion, gets everyone into trouble, and then out of it. Eventually, tired of his games, the Nart heroes tie him to the top of a pine tree by his mustache - but even then, he manages to escape through trickery.

Narjkhyaw (Abkhaz legend)

This story is about a storm-hero of epic strength and weight, who sets out to marry the sister of the Nart heroes. Everyone is terrified of his might, so as he shows up at their feasting hall, the Narts decide to kill him with poison. They catch two venomous snakes and grind them into Narjkhyaw's wine. Suspicious, he makes other people drink from the poison first, and they die. Still, Narjkhyaw drinks too - filtering the drink through his mustache of steel. The wine becomes purified this way, and he later picks the snake bones out of his mustache. (The Ossetian Nart hero Khamis also has a mustache of steel.)

See also: the tale of the proud king who passes himself off as a baby with a mustache. I blogged about this story in my Feminist Folktales series.

Heroes with mustaches of steel. Yay or nay?

Friday, April 14, 2023

L is for Liver (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy!

Yeah, I could have done Legs or Limbs, but this one was more fun.

Pkharmat (Chechen legend)

Prometheus would have been an obvious choice for this topic, but instead I'm linking the Chechen version of the fire theft myth. The hero Pkharmat steals fire from the god of storms, with the help of the Mother of Narts in her bird form. After giving fire to humans, he returns voluntarily for his punishment, to be chained on the icy mountains. Every day a bird comes and asks him if he's regretted his actions but he says no; the bird then eats his liver, which grows back every day.

Why people have livers (Pengo people, India)

The creator makes the first boy and girl, but as they grow up they don't start to speak or walk. Eventually he asks his wife for advice. She suggests that he should cut her open as well as the children, and see what the difference is inside. The creator does so, and discovers that the children have no liver. He uses fig blossoms to make them livers. Ever since then, people can walk and talk, and fig trees have no flowers.

The liver of thunder (Miao people, China)

An old woman gives birth to seven brothers with magical abilities. When she gets sick, she claims the only thing that can cure her is eating the liver of thunder. The seven brothers manage to capture thunder, but while they wait to take its liver out, a robber accidentally frees it. Even since then, thunder doesn't harm robbers and thieves.

The liver of the wise and the liver of the foolish (Egypt)

A king is ill, and his vizier tells him that he needs to eat the liver of a foolish person and the liver of a wise person to get well. He immediately imprisons a judge ("wise") and a Bishari man ("foolish"). The Bishari man, however, proves him that his selection was wrong, saving his own life and the life of the judge (and throwing the vizier under the bus). From here, the story follows the Bishari man who marries the judge's daughter, and proves he is wiser than the judge himself.

Johnny and the liver (African-American story)

A classic horror folktale type in an American setting: a boy goes to buy liver but loses the money, so he cuts out the liver of a fresh corpse in the cemetery. At night, the corpse comes looking for its liver. In this version, the boy steals liver from another corpse and gives it to the first one - then lets them fight among themselves.

Were any of these stories familiar?

Question of the day: Are there any liver dishes that you enjoy? :)

Thursday, April 13, 2023

K is for Knees (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy!

(Learn more about painted knees here)

How Sosruquo was born (Abaza legend)

One of the most famous heroes of the Caucasian Nart sagas is Sosruquo (Soslan), who is born from a stone and burns so hot that the blacksmith god has to temper him. The smith grabs the red-hot baby with tongs around his knees and plunges him in water/milk repeatedly, making his whole body strong like steel. However, his knees where the tongs covered him remain vulnerable, much like Achilles' heel. (Warning, mention of attempted sexual assault in the linked text.)

The treacherous brothers (Greece)

Three princes set out to find a magic lamp that can save their kingdom. The youngest ends up saving three princesses from three different ogres. One ogre has his strength in his knees: he kills people by luring them to lay their head on his lap (promising to de-louse them), and then crushes their skull between his knees. The prince, despite his brothers' inevitable betrayal, is victorious in the end.

Lunja (Morocco)

Princess Lunja follows some birds into the wilderness and ends up being kidnapped by a ghoul woman. When her cousin comes to the rescue, she manages to escape, but the ghoul is in hot pursuit. Lunja manages to trick her into thinking she'd run even faster if she ate her own knees. She doesn't. (The young couple has other adventures after that, but all is well in the end.)

How human beings got kneecaps (Ekoi people, Nigeria)

A woman sees a very pretty white rock in the river, and repeatedly wishes to have it. Her wish is so strong that the rock jumps out of the water and sticks to her knee; after that, she can't get rid of it anymore. And ever since, humans have had kneecaps.

The betel-nuts (Itneg people, Philippines)

This is a long mythical story about a woman who marries the sun. I am including it for a smaller detail: whenever there is a gathering of people in the story, they send out betel-nuts to invite the guests. The nuts tell those who are invited that they have to come, otherwise they grow on their knees and make them unable to walk. Some heed the warning and some don't.

"My father is a fish and my mother is a man" (ATU 705)

This is a folktale type popular in Scandinavian countries and Arab traditions. It generally involves a couple that wishes for a child, but the man accidentally eats the miracle pregnancy food (fish) instead of his wife. A daughter is then born from his knee. She later becomes queen and goes through several adventures; in the end, she is recognized by her lost husband by the riddle of her birth.

What do you think of these stories?

If you got a painting for your knee, what would it be? :)

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

J is for Joints (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy!

(Image from here)

The adventures of the twins (Congo)

Twin brothers set out to find their father who had gotten lost on a trading voyage. They travel through a strange country where people can do whatever they want with their bodies. Some take out their bones before climbing a tree so they don't break in the event of a fall. Some turn their feet backwards at the ankle so they don't stub their toes. Some turn their knees backwards so they don't scrape them if they trip, or their arms so they can fall backwards without harm. At a marketplace, everyone is missing their jaw - it later turns out they made it a rule to avoid quarreling.

Sana (Zarma people, Niger)

A beautiful girl vows to only marry a man who has no joints in his body. A snake turns himself into a man with no joints, and proposes to her, spiriting her away from her family. By the time she realizes who her husband is, it is too late. After many troubles and adventures, her outcast brother rescues her.

How people got joints (Dogon people, Mali)

Dogon mythology is full of fascinating imagery and symbolism. Among them, there is a story about an ancestor who was a heavenly smith, who decided to come down to earth on a granary full of plants, animals, and people. He made the journey down the rainbow, defending the granary from the attacks of the Nummo spirits who had no joints in their limbs. Neither did the smith, but the impact of his landing broke his arms and legs, creating the joints that he then passed on to humans, making their limbs capable of working.

Ha! Managed to sneak another body part that starts with J into this post :) Did you see it?

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

I is for Incisors (Body Folktales)

 This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy!

The wonderful brocade (Zhuang people, China)

A beautiful story about a poor woman who weaves her dreams into a brocade. When the brocade is stolen, her youngest son sets out to find it. However, he needs a magic horse for the voyage, that only comes alive when he takes out his own two front teeth and puts them in its mouth. The boy makes the journey to Fairyland and back safely, and even gets his teeth back in the end.

King Peacock (Louisiana, USA)

A very interesting Snow White variant. A queen rejects every suitor because none of them are beautiful enough, and she is cursed by one to have a daughter more beautiful than herself. She tries to get a nurse to kill her, but the nurse gives the girl magic seeds instead, and helps her escape. She ends up in an ogre's house, but she is so pretty the ogre decides not to eat her. Still, fearing her mother's anger, she takes the seeds and falls into a death-like sleep. King Peacock finds her, and in his attempts to revive her finds the seeds between her front teeth.

The fanged king (Malaysia)

A cook accidentally serves a cruel king spinach tainted with blood - and once the king gets a taste of it, that's all he wants to eat. His incisor teeth grow long and pointy, and he demands to devour a person's blood every day. Eventually he is overthrown and exiled. In the wilderness, he marries a woman and has a child. Later on, the child becomes his successor. The exiled king eventually twists out his own fangs and throws them away, creating various landscape names.

The decoying of Kae (New Zealand)

This story is part of a larger one about Maui's sister Hina and her husband Tini-rau. Tini-rau has whale friends, among them Tutu-nui. When Hina and Tini-rau have a child, they invite a man named Kae to conduct his naming ceremony. After the ceremony Kae asks to borrow Tutu-nui for the voyage home - however, upon arrival he kills and eats the whale. A team of women sets out to track down and capture the murderer. Kae has two front teeth missing so he never smiles; the women resort to various tricks to make him laugh and pick him out of a crowd.

Dragon-child and Sun-child (Armenia)

A long and elaborate love story where a girl falls in love not once, but twice - first with a dragon-turned-prince, and then with a man cursed by the Sun. While saving the dragon prince she breaks a front tooth, and he replaces it with gold. Later on, after many adventures, he finds her again by that golden tooth.

Iváshko and the wise woman (Russia)

Iváshko is a boy who is lured into a trap by an evil witch. He manages to get away and climb a tree, but she starts gnawing it down. When her front teeth break, she has the smith make iron teeth for her again and again, gnawing on the tree. (The boy does get away in the end).

Quite a few different stories about love, happiness and adventure... Which one would make the best movie?

Monday, April 10, 2023

H is for Hands, Hair, Hips, Heels (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy!

(Yes, I am aware it's Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels, but it was low hanging fruit.)


There were some obvious choices here that I'm omitting, such as Beaumains from Arthurian legends, or the folktale type of the Handless Maiden (which I really hate, except for one Hungarian variant).

Invisible Grandfather (Italy)

A girl sets out to seek her fortune, and ends up in an enchanted castle. She encounters no one except a floating pair of hands that serve her food and make her bed. The hands turn out to belong to Invisible Grandfather, who helps the girl secure a king as a husband - but when she doesn't follow his instructions, he curses her to grow a beard. Unusually for folktales, the curse is lifted by an apology.

The most beautiful hands in the world (Philippines)

A girl is proud of her beautiful, soft hands but refuses to do any work to help others. She mocks another girl for having rough, dirty hands. And yet, when that other girl helps a poor woman, she is rewarded with riches - and told that her hands are the most beautiful.

The legend of St. Kilda (Scotland)

According to legend, people from both Uist and Harris coveted the island of St. Kilda. They decided to have a rowing race, and agreed that whoever lays a hand on the island first will be its owner. As they neared the shore, people from Harris were winning - but the leader of the boat from Uist, Colla MacLeod, chopped off his left hand in the last minute, throwing it to the shore, and thus won the race.


Hair is very common in folktales. Think Rapunzel, think the Devil's three golden hairs, think Lady Godiva, or The youth with the golden hair (ATU 314). From mythology, think Sif's golden hair, Sedna's tangled hair, Prince Zal's white hair, or the myth from Guam where women catch a monster fish with their hair. (If any more come to mind, sound off in the comments!)

I picked some lesser known, interesting examples:

The king's daughter who lost her hair (Akamba people, Kenya)

My favorite hair-themed story. A haughty princess goes bald from a curse, and sends people out to find a magic tree that grows hair. A young man travels far and finds the enchanted island where the tree grows; he brings back all kinds of hair for the princess.

The maiden with the red-gold hair (Hungary)

This is a "False bride" folktale where the false bride (forced into pretending by her mother) is treated surprisingly kindly. The story tells about a prince who is looking for a special maiden with red-gold hair, and an evil countess who disguises her own daughter to fit the description.

The raven-haired prince (Slovakia)

In a kingdom where everyone has red hair, a raven-haired prince is born. His parents try everything to change his hair color but nothing succeeds; eventually they send him abroad to try his luck. On his way home his servant blackmails him to swap places. After that, the prince goes through a series of dangerous quests, even dies and is revived, and eventually reclaims his rightful place. And his hair turns red.

The girl who became a bird (Hausa, Niger)

A very beautiful Cinderella variant where the prince falls in love with the girl when he sees her at the party in tattered clothes, and asks about her life. Later, her stepmother braids a charm into her hair and turns her into a bird; she is found and rescued by her brother and her husband.

The dragon prince (Spain)

A girl encounters an injured dragon in the woods, and helps him. Later she discovers he is an enchanted prince who can only be saved if someone creates a suit of golden hair for the giant who cursed him. The girl takes up service as a princess' handmaid, and begs her for her golden hair - but she has to promise her the prince's hand in exchange. Luckily, it turns out the golden-haired beauty is the dragon prince's sister, so our heroic girl gets to marry him in the end.


Father and Daughters (Morocco)

This is a "Basil Maiden" type folktale, about a clever girl who saves herself and her sisters from the intrigues of a prince. When he tries to put sleeping powder in their food, she manages to stay awake and kicks the guy out of the house so hard he breaks his hip. Later on, disguised as a doctor, she shows up at court to treat his injury (and get up to more shenanigans). At the end of the story the prince is sentenced to death for trying to harm her, but she commutes his sentence.

The lazy beauty and her aunts (Ireland)

A "Three Spinners" type tale, where a lazy girl is taken to a prince's castle with her mother's promise that she can work miracles in spinning and weaving. Three mysterious old women show up to help her - one with large feet, one with a large nose, and one with wide hips (Cailleach Croman Mór, Woman of the Big Hips). Each in turn tells the prince that their shape is due to the hard work they had done all their life. Alarmed, the prince forbids his bride from working ever again.


The most obvious example would be Achilles' heel, but I'm not going to repeat it. If you are curious about a lesser known myth about the same, you can find it in my book.

How mosquitoes came to be (Tlingit)

A giant keeps killing people and devouring their heart. A brave man pretends to be dead, and the giant takes him to his house. There, he discovers that the giant is unkillable because he keeps his own heart in his left heel. As he enters the house again, the hero plunges a knife in his heel, killing him. He then burns the body - and the ashes turn into the first mosquitoes.

How rice came to Earth (Indonesia)

A poor boy walks up to the heavens on the rainbow, following some fairies. There, he encounters rice for the first time, but he is forbidden from taking any of it. When he tries to steal some, he cuts his heel on the rainbow bridge while fleeing and gets caught. The second time, he hides some grains inside the healing wound on his heel, and smuggles them safely down to earth.

The soldier and the wizard (Russia)

The folktale version of a villain being brought down by his own monologuing. A soldier encounters a wizard at night in a cemetery and goes on a clandestine nighttime adventure with him. At one point the wizard takes blood from a young couple, and tells the soldier they can only be revived if someone cuts them on the heel and restores their blood. In the end, the soldier learns all the wizard's secrets, and kills him.

Did you have fun with the stories on this list? Do you have a favorite?

Saturday, April 8, 2023

G is for Genitalia (Body Folktales)

This year, my A to Z Challenge theme is Body Folktales. Enjoy!

CW: Adult themes incoming! Obviously.

You didn't really think I was going to do a theme like this without addressing the obvious, did you?

(Note: Some of these tales say 'vagina' instead of 'vulva'. It may be factually incorrect, but I didn't want to mess with the translations.)

Wandering genitalia (Saora people, India)
This story claims that in the old days genitalia could detach themselves and go wandering at night. One evening, the creator Kittung accidentally stepped on a vulva which made a squealing sound. Feeling sorry, he put the small creature into the river, where it turned into a turtle (the head is the clitoris). He then made non-detachable parts for people.

Clitoris legends (India)
This collection from India contains a whole collection of amazing stories about the clitoris. One creation myth claim that lightning was born from Earth Mother's clitoris, therefore it "flashes and sparkles as the clitoris does." Another story says a woman was fishing in a stream one day when a crab pinched her vulva; a deity told her to cut off the claw, and she will have as much pleasure from it as she had pain. A third story tells of a girl who was so busy working that she misplaced her clitoris; she borrowed one from a bird and never gave it back.
My favorite, however, is another tale that claims that body parts used to go wandering on their own. One day, the breasts picked a fight with the vulvas, and chased them all away into the mountains. Dismayed, men set out to bring the vulvas back, but they are skittish creatures and hard to find. By the time they got back, some old women died, and people were left with extra vulvas. They divided them up equally in smaller pieces - creating the clitoris.

The wandering vagina (Mehinaku people, Brazil)
Yet another story that claims that in days of old, genitalia could wander around. A woman named Tukwi had an "especially foolish" vagina that crawled around the floor at night, looking for something to eat. It got into the porridge and started slurping, awakening a man in the house who went to see what it was, and accidentally scorched it with a torch. The vagina fled back to Tukwi, who then warned everyone not to let their vaginas wander around.

Vagina dentata
If there is one folklore trope that a lot of people are (painfully) familiar with, it's this one: vaginas with teeth (F574.1.1). There are entire books written about the folklore and mythology of this trope, so I'm not going to get into it. But I'm going to highlight some favorites. 
One is a Khond legend from India about a woman who used to have shiny, fiery teeth in her vagina until her husband took them out with a cord. After a long life, when their children were grown, she found the teeth again, buried in the garden - and they turned into fireflies. Ever since, they have been allowed to take shelter in people's houses.
The other story is a Mongolian legend about the death of Genghis Khan. It claim that the great khan desired a gorgeous woman named Gürbeljin Ghoa (Lizard Beauty). He put her husband to death and forced her to marry him. On her wedding night, she hid blades in her vagina - and thus murdered Genghis Khan. (Source here.)
An origin story from the Makka people in Paraguay claims that in the beginning, no one could have sex with women because they had piranhas in their vaginas. A wise shaman organized a dance party where he made women dance so much that all the piranhas fell out. Or rather, almost all - the smallest one stayed in and still gnaw, which is why periods exist.

Penis and Testicles are best friends and they go fishing together. On the way back they meet Vagina who asks for some of their fish. Penis is happy to share, but Testicles are stingy. Later on, in the hot season, Vagina happily offers shelter from the sun to Penis, but not Testicles. The latter still try to get as close as possible. (A similar tale is told in Ghana about Penis and Testicles sharing ground nuts with Vagina, and getting shelter from the rain.)

Kwazerema and helpful Ant (Kapsiki people, Cameroon/Nigeria)
A man has two wives, but treats one of them very poorly, making her fetch water from the river every day. The woman meets a Red And who takes pity on her, and gives her medicine to put into her water jar. The husband has a habit of urinating in her jar - but this time, as he does, his penis gets stuck in it. Not only can no one break the jar, it also keeps singing a mocking song. Eventually he begs his wife to undo the curse, and decides to treat her better. She thanks Red Ant for the help.

In Hawaiian mythology, Kapo of the Flying Vagina is the sister of the volcano goddess Pele. In one legend, the pig-god Kamapua'a pursues Pele and tries to rape her, but Kapo comes to her rescue: she uses her detachable vagina to distract the pig, leading him away from the goddess. (This story is reflected in Hawaiian place names. Other source here.)

The vagina girls (Jicarilla Apache legend)
The hero Killer-of-Enemies goes through many adventures, battling monsters and shaping the world. On his journey he defeats a monster and meets his four daughters in a house full of vaginas. The four girls are themselves vaginas in human form, and they use their teeth to devour people. The hero feeds them medicine, taking the teeth away, and they lay down the ground rules of how vaginas shall work. He picks two from their collection and takes them home to two girls; people experiment with where to put them on the body until they settle on their current placing. The four girls go on to live good lives among the humans.

The three wishes (1001 Nights)
A man earns three wishes - and immediately uses the first one to wish for a larger penis. His penis grows to a gigantic size, at which point he panics and wishes for it to go away. It does, and now he has to use his third wish to get it back.

The four champions (Hausa tale)
Four friends acquire grain together: they break the corn on one's head, thresh it with one's penis, winnow it with one's mighty farts, and carry it home with one's scrotum. The question of the dilemma tale is: who was the most heroic of the four?

(14th century illustration)

I am somewhat worried about the comments section now. Also, my general search history and upcoming Facebook advertisements.
Have a nice Sunday break, everyone!