Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Goat and the Princess: Arabian Nights and Beauty and the Beast

Since I posted about a new book about Arabian Nights earlier today--see New Book: Scheherazade's Children: Global Encounters with the Arabian Nights--I thought I would offer another Beauty and the Beast post, this time for a tale with a complicated history, "The Goat and the Princess; or The Forty Goats and the Goat Riding a Goat."

The tale is an Egyptian ATU 425D: The Vanished Husband tale, a rarer Animal Bridegroom tale type; there are only three examples in my book. I translated the tale for Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World and I don't believe the tale has ever been published in English translation before. Well, sort of. From my introduction to the tale:

Originally collected and published in a French language collection of tales, Contes Populaires Inédits de la Vallée du Nil by S. E. Yacoub Artin Pacha, “Les Quarante Boucs et le Bouc Chevauchant sur le Bouc” was appropriated and embellished by J. C. Mardrus for his translation of Les Mille et Une Nuits (1899-1904). Mardrus’ version of The Arabian Nights was a commercial success and was translated into English by Powys Mathers in 1923. Scholars now dismiss Mardrus’ Arabian Nights as inaccurate and fanciful despite the consensus that the stories, while not Arabian Nights tales, are beautifully told.

Through this appropriation, the tale known as “The He Goat and the King’s Daughter” in Mathers’ translation, is commonly known as an Arabian Nights Beauty and the Beast story. The tale, while collected in Egypt, was not from any Arabian Nights manuscripts and is thus erroneously identified as such. The Mardrus/Mathers version changes some elements of the tale, the most significant and compelling is the participation of the princess’s mother, who takes the place of the vizier in the original, as a more active advisor. The religious tones are also embellished with many references to Allah that do not exist in the original.

The following is a new English translation of the original tale from Contes Populaires Inédits de la Vallée du Nil. For comparison, an English language version of the Mardrus/Mathers tale can be found in A Thousand and One Nights, Vol. 4, published by Routledge.

This is the second time I've translated a tale from Contes Populaires Inédits de la Vallée du Nil by S. E. Yacoub Artin Pacha for a SurLaLune volume. I also translated "The Magic Jar" for Cinderella Tales From Around the World for the same reasons--it's Egyptian but not an Arabian Nights story.

And Mardrus/Mathers pulled the same trick with "The Ninth Captain's Tale," but the source for that tale was Contes Arabes Modernes, Volume 1 by Guillaume Spitta-Bey. I translated the tale from Spitta-Bey and it appears as "The Story of the Prince in Love" in Sleeping Beauties: Sleeping Beauty and Snow White Tales From Around the World (Surlalune Fairy Tale). You can read my earlier post about Sleeping Beauty, The Ninth Captain's Tale, and The Arabian Nights.

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