Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Greek Animal Bridegroom: Mr. Semolina-Semolinus

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Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale by Anthony L. Manna (Author), Christodoula Mitakidou (Author), Giselle Potter (Illustrator) is a picture book version of a rare Beauty and the Beast type of tale. The tale, admittedly, on the surface, appears to be more of a gender switched Pygmalion, but upon closer inspection it grows in resemblance to ATU 425A, especially in the heroine's quest to retrieve her spouse when he is stolen away from her. For that reason, it is often classified as an ATU 425A tale for the husband is not a natural human either, qualifying him as an Animal Bridegroom in a loose sense.

This exact tale does not appear in my Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World, but another common variant from Greece can be found in that volume, "The Sugar Man." Variants with the groom made of sugar were more common in my research.

I will mention here that the Greek--along with some Italian-- variants of Animal Bridegroom tales are quite full of variety and surprises. The beast may be only a disembodied head, a pumpkin, or a cooked up concoction, to give a few examples. I should devote individual entries to those in January. For the rest of December, I am offering up picture book renditions of Animal Bridegroom tales so we can all look at pretty pictures together. There will be some other tales, too, but I have been rather focused on Beauty and the Beast of late.

And I'd like to add that this is a tale of girl power for those looking for that in their fairy tales. This tale is much happier than Pygmalion with a spunky heroine who knows what she wants and refuses to cower when she faces defeat. She is full of action and wit. I like her!

Book description:

Since she cannot find the perfect man to marry, feisty Princess Areti decides to create a man of her own, Mr. Semolina-Semolinus, out of sugar, almonds, and semolina wheat, but when he is kidnapped by an evil queen, Areti must brave a perilous journey to get him back.

A Note About This Story (from the book):

Tales that tell of inanimate objects brought to life appear in many countries. The theme of the person whose desire for love is so powerful that he or she can make even a doll or statue come alive is a favorite among the storytellers in the easter Mediterranean countries of Italy, Greece, and Turkey. In Greece alone, there are some forty versions. Most common are ones like Mr. Semolina-Semolinus, in which the person who longs for a companion uses sugar and other common cooking ingredients like semolina, a wheat extract, to make an ideal human being.

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