Thursday, May 7, 2015

More Tale Types with Grateful Dead Motifs: The Grateful Dead Tales From Around the World

I missed completing my blog post about The Grateful Dead Tales From Around the World (SurLaLune Fairy Tale Series) yesterday, so I am doubling up and finishing the tale types posts so I can move on next week to specific tales. These are interesting tale types within themselves, and are not technically Grateful Dead tales in general, but when other tale types contain the Grateful Dead motif, they are usually one of the following.

From my introduction:

ATU 513 The Extraordinary Companions is not a Grateful Dead tale type but the motif occasionally appears within the tale. The best example can be found in the present collection in “The King of Ireland’s Son.” In the tale, a prince seeks a wife. In the course of his search, he pays for the burial of a dead man. As he continues his quest, he acquires several traveling companions, starting with the grateful dead man disguised. The companions act as the prince’s servants and eventually help him acquire the hand of a princess by performing tasks pertinent to their particular skill sets. Thanks to their help, the prince marries the princess and lives happily ever after.

ATU 550 Bird, Horse and Princess is not a Grateful Dead tale either, but some variants include the motif. The most common versions of the tale with Grateful Dead motifs tell of an ill king who can be cured by the singing of a golden bird. His three sons quest for the bird. The youngest son encounters a corpse during his quest and arranges for its burial. He then acquires a traveling companion, often an animal such as a fox, that helps him on his quest during which he acquires a princess, a horse, and the bird. The brothers steal these from him and pretend they acquired the items themselves. The companion saves the youngest son, sometimes reviving him with the Water of Life, and restores him to his rightful recognition as the king’s true savior and the princess’s true bridegroom. A fine example of this tale type can be found in this collection as “The Bird Grip.”

Closely related to ATU 550 is ATU 551 Water of Life. The tale, too, begins with a sick king requiring a fantastical remedy, usually the Water of Life, which his three sons set out on a quest to retrieve. The elder two sons are easily distracted from their task but the youngest is valiant and generous during his quest. He helps bury an indebted dead man along the way and acquires a traveling companion, usually an animal. He reaches a castle that can only be accessed for a limited time each day. He gains access and retrieves the Water of Life. He also sleeps with a princess and leaves a token of his identity with her. He heads home, but stops to rescue his brothers from execution. They in turn betray him and return home with the cure he acquired. The companion revives him but again he is betrayed at home when the king believes the slanders of the other two sons against him. The princess meanwhile awakes, gives birth to a son, and seeks the father of her child using the token he left behind. Through various tests, the youngest son is revealed to the true savior of his father as well as the princess’s mate. He becomes the ruler of her kingdom. An example of this tale in the present collection can be found in “Princess Marcassa and the Drédaine Bird.” [I translated this tale specifically for this collection.]

Finally, ATU 554 The Grateful Animals occasionally includes the Grateful Dead motif, too. A traveling man encounters several animals along his journey whom he helps or rescues. Sometimes one of the animals is more helpful than the others and is implied to be the spirit of a corpse the young man paid to be buried. The animals help the man to win the hand of a princess after accomplishing tasks in a trial set by a king. Sometimes the tale includes the two elder brothers who cheat and injure him similar to ATU 550 and ATU 551. Often the tale type is merged with ATU 550 when it contains the Grateful Dead motif. Examples of this merging can be found in this collection in “The Little Hunchback” and “The White Blackbird.”

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