chaz_tales (chaz_tales) wrote,
chaz_tales
chaz_tales

Fairy Tale of the Month: Jan. 2011 The Goose Girl



Severed Heads

 

            The casual reader of fairy tales may be struck by their imaginative nature: enchanted sleeping women, a child playing with a golden ball (think about that for a moment, it’s not going to bounce), someone wearing glass slippers, and, of course, talking beasts. In the Goose Girl, her horse, Falada is no generic talking animal, rather he is a severed head who talks to her.

 

            From where comes such a grotesque thought? Is the head there for shock value? Had some storyteller, in the forgotten past, gone a little too far with the imagination thing when it came to Falada?

 

            Have you heard of the Mari Lywd? That horse’s skull annually paraded around on a stick in Wales? This old (as in pagan) New Year’s tradition involved a group of men and boys meandering from house to house in mummer’s fashion, one of their number being the Mari Lywd.  Covered in a white shroud, he held the stick with the skull attached above his head, usually with the jaw bone spring operated to bite people. A “sergeant” accompanied the Mari Lywd, along with other Punch and Judy like characters, and at each house they would sing a song, then address the occupants of the home in rhyme, not unlike Falada when he spoke to the Goose Girl.

 

            Incidentally, the Mari Lywd and company, though begging for food and drink, were quick to insult those inside if the occupants did not bring forth the expected treats. In this scenario the occupants felt obliged to return the insults, also in rhyme. It was considered bad form for the Mari Lywd to break down the door, however…

 

            Have you come across, “The Three Heads of the Well”? This is a tale I know from Joseph Jacobs’, “English Fairy Tales”. In this, a young princess is pushed out into the wide world by an evil step-mother queen, then through acts of kindness, she is given a wand and instructions to approach a magical well. Up from the well’s depths floats three golden heads, whom she takes from the water and grooms. The salient point for me is that the heads talk to the princess in rhyme.

 

            Did you know that the ancient Celts had a propensity for heads? During battle they hung the heads of their enemies around their horse’s neck. Important heads would be preserved, sometimes decorated with gold.

 

            Forgive me as I get carried away with these tenuous links that I have been boldly making, and point your attention to the similarity between “The Three Heads of the Well” and “The Princess and the Frog”. One has a golden ball falling into a well, and the other has three golden heads bobbing to the surface. Not the same thing… but… sort of… similar?

 

            Returning to my severed heads theme, I will let you look into “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” and the legend of St. Denis yourself. Suffice it to say—more heads.

 

            Had some storyteller, in the forgotten past, gone a little too far with the imagination thing when it came to Falada? I say no. The talking heads were ready and waiting to speak to us. Why make this stuff up?

 

            Your thoughts?


Tags: fairy tales, goose girl, storytelling
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