Sunday, June 18, 2023

Folktales about adoptive fathers (International Father's Day)

It's father's day, and I felt like making another post, so here it is. 

(Everybody calm down, this is a stock photo)

We are celebrating fathers - and father figures - all around the world today. I already posted about the importance of caring fathers in folklore a few years ago. Today I decided that I want to highlight stories about adoptive fathers - because adoption is a topic near and dear to my heart, and because it is often represented in a negative way in folklore.

So, let's hear it for great adoptive fathers, both in folklore and in the real world!

(Links in the titles, as usual.)

The Flying Horse of Earthdom (Scottish Traveller tale)

One of Duncan Williamson's tales. A king's son is born with a hump on his back, and the king orders the baby to be abandoned in the woods. He is adopted by an old hunchbacked man who takes him to a secret place called Earthdom, populated by people shunned by society. The boy is raised there, and since his adoptive father teachers him archery, his back straightens by the time he grows up. He returns to court to win a series of contests. When the king finds out the young man is his son, he wants to take him back - but the boy refuses him, and returns to Earthom to the kind people who raised him.

The Wild Man's Daughter (Greece)

A king's daughter sees a dream that foretells her father bowing before her. The king grows so angry that he orders her to be abandoned in the wilderness. She ends up in the house of a Wild Man, who adopts her and cares for her, and helps her grow in confidence and find a worthy husband. Even after his death, he leaves her some magic to ensure her happiness.

Heimer and Aslaug (Iceland)

This is a sequel to the epic story of Sigurd and Brynhildr. The tragic couple has a daughter, Aslaug. After the death of her parents she is saved and spirited away by Heimer, who becomes her foster-father. He hides the baby girl inside a harp and travels with her to faraway places, disguised as a wandering musician. Eventually he is killed, but he manages to save Aslaug's life.

N'oun Doaré (Brittany)

The hero of this story (whose name means "I don't know") is found as a small child by the Marquis of Coat-Squiriou. The kind marquis adopts him and raises him. When N'oun Doaré grows up, he goes through a series of adventures, supported by his parents. Eventually he even finds out about his own origins - however, when asked, he still names the marquis and his wife as his true parents.

Boris Son o' Three (Ukraine)

A boy is kidnapped by an eagle and lost in the woods. He is found by three brothers who decide to raise the baby together; they christen him Boris Son o' Three. When he grows up, the fathers gift him a magic foal, and he goes on to amazing adventures.

The Wild Cat of the Forest (Austria)

A charcoal burner encounters a large man in the forest and invites him to baptize his newborn child. The godfather names the boy Wild Cat. Growing up, the boy keeps getting into trouble and his parents abuse him, so one night he runs away and goes to live with his godfather. The wild man teaches him a useful trade and cares for him, until Wild Cat runs away again to other adventures.

There are more stories, but this is all I had time for today. I hope I managed to demonstrate that kind adoptive fathers do exist in folklore :) 

Happy father's day!