Monday, October 28, 2013
ATU 433B King Lindorm and ATU 440 The Frog Prince, Too
One of the most fascinating to me of the Animal Bridegroom tale types is ATU 433B King Lindorm. The tale type has been combined from several earlier AT types (AT 433, 433A and 433C), pretty much all involving serpents, snakes, dragons, lindworms, etc. Wikipedia has an adequate article about Lindworms in general if you are unfamiliar with the term. D.L. Ashliman has several tales of this type listed on his Snake and Serpent Husbands in Folktales page.
And really, when we start thinking of all the possibilities of snake and reptile imagery, they are logical choices for Animal Bridegrooms. Many readers may find some romance in an enchanted bear, wolf, dog, goat, rabbit, etc. They resemble pets and can be less fear-inspiring. Well, maybe not so much the goat, but snakes are some of the most feared creatures on the planet. And then there is the phallic symbolism, too. Marriage to a serpent is not very appealing to an innocent maiden.
Since this tale type has been combined from several previous, it is a little more difficult to describe. It is tempting to just copy the description from the Uther text entirely! But I won't! Essentially the family of tales describe a young woman marrying a snake. After she marries him, she discovers that he is an enchanted prince. There are not many prohibitions put upon her--her primary goal is to survive her wedding night since in some versions previous brides have failed to do that much. Sometimes simply kissing him (a la Frog Prince which is another tale type) or sleeping beside him will break the spell, but usually the snakeskins must be destroyed in some way.
In my favorite versions, the new bride goes to the bridal chamber wearing several layers of clothes, but not from maidenly modesty, but from advice given by a wise benefactor. When her groom tells her to remove a layer of clothing, she demands he do the same, too. She is wearing enough clothing to manage to get him out of his last snakeskin. For some reason, this scene always plays out wonderfully in my head. I can just see her making her own defiant demands as she secretly trembles in fear and strips to her own skin. Sometimes she bathes him in milk once he is naked, or sleeps beside him, or something else, but the snakeskins are also destroyed, thus preventing him from returning to his snake form. Those heroines and plucky and brave and quite fun to read.
Often the prince is snake from a childless couple wishing for a child in any form as long as they have a child. A common fairy tale trope. The snake's intelligence and often magical powers are never in doubt, but he is terrifying to even his family who knows him best.
And, for once, there is not a Grimms version of this tale. The best known versions are usually Swedish and Danish, although one of the earliest is The Serpent from Basile's Pentamerone in Italy with some strong resemblance to Straparola's even earlier The Pig King, too. There are 19 versions of the tale in Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World.
And on that note, since I mentioned it already in this post, ATU 440: The Frog King or Iron Henry is also an Animal Bridegroom tale and it bears little resemblance to King Lindorm. I only included one tale from ATU 440 in Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World, however, but because the very first SurLaLune collection was The Frog Prince and Other Frog Tales From Around the World: Fairy Tales, Fables and Folklore about Frogs. Occasionally I will use the same tale in multiple collections, especially ones I have translated myself, but I didn't want to take a whole chunk of one book and put it in another one. I now have enough material to expand that original Frog Prince collection, but it will be a little while before a second edition is considered.