Thursday, January 5, 2017

ATU 130: The Animals in Night Quarters (Bremen Town Musicians)

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season. I'm ready for some more posts about Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World if you are! I can't even remember what I've covered and what I haven't so far. This book is already archived in my brain to make way for the next books so that is always a challenge, too. So I thought I would start with a simple topic, The Bremen Town Musicians.

From the book's introduction:

ATU 130: The Bremen Town Musicians

Cats are often key players in ATU 130: The Animals in Night Quarters tales. The most famous version of this tale is “The Bremen Town Musicians” from the many editions of Kinder- und Hausmärchen by the Grimms.

Several animals that are nearing the end of their usefulness to their owners fear their looming demise, so they band together to find a new home and occupation in their “retirement” years. In the Grimms’ tale the animals are a donkey, dog, cat and rooster, but the cast of animals varies across countries and variants. Many versions that include a cat are offered in this collection.

The animals eventually discover a house that they acquire from a band of robbers after a humorous nighttime adventure that includes each of the animals doing what they do best, from clawing to kicking, etc. to roust and scare away the robbers. This is a fun tale that nevertheless has a strong message about the usefulness of the aged.

There are 13 ATU 130 tales in the collection, not all of which include cats, including:

Benibaire from Spain
The Bull, the Tup, the Cock, and the Steg from England
Jack and His Comrades from Ireland
The Story of the White Pet from Scotland
The Choristers of St. Gudule from Belgium (Flanders)
The Bremen Town Musicians from Germany
Martin’s Eve from Austria
The World’s Reward from South Africa
The Monkey and the Crab from Japan
The Battle of the Ape and the Crab from Japan
How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune: I from United States
How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune: II from United States
The Dog, the Cat, the Ass, and the Cock from United States

I collected more than these that didn't include cats, but only kept for the collection those with cats or those tales that were unusual enough to merit inclusion without or without cats.

One of my favorite tales in this set is "Martin's Eve" from Austria. One reason is only important to me, I admit. I have many methods for acquiring the tales in these collections. One is cross-referencing between sources since oftentimes scholars will reference similar tales. Another is to use existing scholarship and studies of tales in a tale type. Finally, the most time consuming and challenging is raw research. I manually or digitally searched about 1,000 folklore titles for cat stories for this collection. Martin's Eve was one of the finds that I stumbled upon, not one I found referenced anywhere, but an obvious ATU 130 when I found it. So it felt like gold to find it! I love those moments, rare as they are. And the title didn't make me think it would be anything useful, so it was a complete surprise. The cat is the lead animal in this one, so double bonus.

St. Martin's Day is no longer celebrated as regularly or enthusiastically but it was a fine feast day with an excuse for revelry in times past. Drunken revelry and other assorted foibles abounded, too, of course. This tale centers around that November feast day which gives it a specific and unusual time frame but one that fits the tale type well.

I admit this has never been a favorite tale type, but especially the tales about aging animals finding a final home as well as the message of the animals banding together, then surviving and thriving from their natural abilities pleases me no end. So hurrah for a deceptively simple tale!

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