Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Princess and the Cat: A Tale from India



I have mentioned that there are few tales in which cats are true villains to be found in Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World. The following tale is a rare exception.

While that in itself makes the tale of particular interest, the fascination grows with the story's usage of elements that usually appear in ATU 510B: Peau d’Asne (Donkeyskin), one of the tales in the vast Cinderella Cycle of folktales. The tale deals with abuse and fear with elements that become quite modern--a stalker, the heroine escaping her stalker in disguise with name changing, for example--but has a happy ending.

I decided to share this story in full since it is so very interesting. It also represents the wide range of tales to be found in Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World.


The Princess and the Cat

India

THERE was once a King who had an only daughter, whom he loved exceedingly. One day she went into the bazar and saw a man selling a kitten, which she bought and took home. She was very fond of it, and took such care of it that it became an enormous cat.

When the time came for the Princess to be married the cat was very angry and jealous. He asked her if it was true that she was going to be married. She said nothing, and hung down her head for shame. When the procession arrived the cat again asked her if she was going away. Again she made no answer. When the bridegroom’s people came the cat jumped upon them and began to scratch and tear them until they were obliged to run away to save their lives.

When the King heard this he was astonished; but what could they do because the cat threatened to kill them all. The Princess was so afraid of him that she was obliged to be kind to him.

One day the cat said to her: “I am going out hunting.”

While he was away the Princess took the chance of escaping and went off to the house of a Chamar. She got the Chamar to make her a covering of skin so that the cat should not know her, and when her skin-coat was ready she put it on and started on her travels. On her way she met the cat, and when she saw him coming she sprinkled some barley on the ground and began to pick it up.

The cat asked her who she was, and she answered: “I am Chamni (the skin-woman), and I live by picking up the grains that fall on the ground.”

The cat went back to the palace and searched everywhere for her, but he could not find her.

At last the Princess reached the land of the Prince, her husband, and came begging at the palace door. Her mother-in-law saw her, and taking pity on her, gave her service in the kitchen. But as her skin-coat gave a foul smell no one would let her sit near them, and she had to remain apart.

One day the man who grazed the elephants fell sick and there was no one to tend them; so Chamni was sent out with them. When she was alone in the jungle she used to take off her coat of skin, and she made a swing in which she used to lie and sing while the Fairies from Indrasan came and sang, and sported with her. This so pleased the elephants that they stood round her and listened to the music.

As they would not graze they became so lean that the Prince could not understand the reason, and one day the Prince went himself to inspect them, and when he saw Chamni in her real form he was fascinated with her beauty. When she came back he sent for her, and when he had made her take off her coat of skin and heard her story, he accepted her as his wife. She told him about the cat, but he said: “Do not fear. When he comes I will kill him.”

Meanwhile the cat had traced out the Princess, and taking the form of bangle-seller (Churiharin) arrived at the palace. She stood outside crying: “Bangles to sell. Who wants bangles?”

The Princess called her in and was having a set of bangles fitted on, when the bangle-seller suddenly sprang upon the Prince, and would have torn him to pieces had not the servants come to his aid. The cat escaped, but some days later as the Prince and Princess were in their room, he made a hole in the roof and was just about to spring upon them when the Princess, who was awake, saw him and called to her husband. He seized his sword and cut off the cat’s head; after which they lived in the utmost happiness.

NOTES

A folktale told by Mazhar Husen, of Mitzapur.

Source: Husen, Mazhar. “The Princess and the Cat.” North Indian Notes and Queries. Oct. 1893, p. 121-122.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Bargain Ebook: Deerskin by Robin McKinley for $1.99 TODAY ONLY





Deerskin by Robin McKinley is on sale in ebook format for $1.99 for TODAY ONLY. It was last on sale in March 2015 and usually retails for about $6.

Using what I've said about the book in the past:

Do I recommend this book? I remember first buying it upon its original release into hardcover with hard earned cash when being a poor student meant hardcover books were an absolute luxury. Have I ever regretted the purchase? No. Does the book still rest on the McKinley shelf in my library? Yes. Is the reason Donkeyskin is annotated on SurLaLune primarily in thanks to this book? Absolutely yes.

It's a tough book subject matter wise but it is lovely and now I also own it in ebook format, too, to access wherever I may be in the world. I think it handles a very difficult topic without glamorizing or exploiting it or being too graphic or explicit. Much more is implied than shown. But please read the description, be aware of the subject matter, and be aware of any personal trigger warnings, especially for victims of abuse. It is not a children's book either. These days it would be new adult but mature young adults will be fine with it. There is so much more out there that is much more graphic than this in the 22 years since it was published.

Book description:

The story of Princess Lissar, who flees her father’s wrath and is granted an unexpected new life

Princess Lissla Lissar is the only child of the king and his queen, who was the most beautiful woman in seven kingdoms. Everyone loved the splendid king and his matchless queen so much that no one had any attention to spare for the princess, who grew up in seclusion, listening to the tales her nursemaid told about her magnificent parents.

But the queen takes ill of a mysterious wasting disease and on her deathbed extracts a strange promise from her husband: “I want you to promise me . . . you will only marry someone as beautiful as I was.”

The king is crazy with grief at her loss, and slow to regain both his wits and his strength. But on Lissar’s seventeenth birthday, two years after the queen’s death, there is a grand ball, and everyone present looks at the princess in astonishment and whispers to their neighbors, How like her mother she is!

On the day after the ball, the king announces that he is to marry again—and that his bride is the princess Lissla Lissar, his own daughter.

Lissar, physically broken, half mad, and terrified, flees her father’s lust with her one loyal friend, her sighthound, Ash. It is the beginning of winter as they journey into the mountains—and on the night when it begins to snow, they find a tiny, deserted cabin with the makings of a fire ready-laid in the hearth.

Thus begins Lissar’s long, profound, and demanding journey away from treachery and pain and horror, to trust and love and healing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Many Tale Types in Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World



So while I have a lot of fun looking for multiple versions of stories in an ATU tale type when researching my books, for Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World my favorite section by far was "More Cat Tales" where I collected many, many other cat tales that I found. There are 94 tales in that section--more than one book all in itself--so I enjoyed the searching obviously!

From my introduction:

The “More Cat Tales” section may be the most fascinating thanks to its wide breadth of content. One goal of this section was to include representative tales from other tale types known to have cats in them as well as dozens more tales that were not classified. Hence we see cats with a diverse representation.

Folktales with cats tend to use well-known cat traits to drive or at least embellish the stories. So we have cats that are intelligent, cunning, independent, loyal, helpful, and sometimes even menacing. They are rarely victims and often come out victors in any conflicts.

One of the rare examples of a victimized cat can be found in ATU 1370: The Lazy Wife Is Reformed. It is a disturbing but not uncommon tale, although I chose to share only one example of it in this collection as “The Lazy Cat” from Hungary. A housecat is held responsible for a lazy wife’s poor housework. The husband beats the innocent cat (and his wife while she is holding the cat) as a means of teaching the wife a lesson. The wife is ultimately “reformed” into a better housekeeper. The tale, while considered humorous in times past, will be offensive to many modern readers with its violence against women and animals as well as its overall moral.

I'll discuss more of the other represented tale types in coming days, but wanted to share the table from the book's end matter that shows many of the tale types I identified.

Most of the tales in the "More Cat Tales" section were NOT identified by tale type, but the best known cat tale types and some other familiar types I did identify and provide in the list. You can click on the images below to see them larger.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Bargain Ebook: Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan



There are a lot of wonderful books on sale in ebook format right now. Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan is on sale for $1.99, the first time it has been priced this low. It is a Maiden in the Tower retelling, which makes most people think of Rapunzel, but I also include Maid Maleen in that group. The book description feels like a mix of both tales with Jordan's own twists and turns of course from that inspiration.

Book description:

Destiny and darkness collide in this romantic, sweeping new fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan.

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok's lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna's survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn't stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bargain Ebook: Whittington by Alan Armstrong for $1.99




The ebook edition of Whittington by Alan Armstrong is on sale for $1.99 which seems very fitting right now at SurLaLune. This is a novel-length retelling of Dick Whittington's Cat is a Newberry Honor title, too. There are many award winning children's books on sale in ebook format right now, too.

Book description:

The power of reading is beautifully captured in this 2006 Newbery Honor-winning book.
Bernie keeps a barn full of animals the rest of the world has no use for–two retired trotters, a rooster, some banty hens, and a Muscovy duck with clipped wings who calls herself The Lady. When the cat called Whittington shows up one day, it is to the Lady that he makes an appeal to secure a place in the barn. The Lady’s a little hesitant at first, but when the cat claims to be a master ratter, that clinches it.
Bernie’ s orphaned grandkids, Abby and Ben, come to the barn every day to help feed the animals. Abby shares her worry that Ben can’t really read yet and that he refuses to go to Special Ed. Whittington and the Lady decide that Abby should give Ben reading lessons in the barn. It is a balm for Ben when, having toughed out the daily lesson, Whittington comes to tell, in tantalizing installments, the story handed down to him from his nameless forebearer, Dick Whittington’s cat–the legend of the lad born into poverty in rural England during the Black Death, who runs away to London to seek his fortune. This is an unforgettable tale about how learning to read saves one little boy. It is about the healing, transcendent power of storytelling and how, if you have loved ones surrounding you and good stories to tell, to listen to, and to read, you have just about everything of value in this world.

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!