The recent flooding in the south of England has made us all the more aware of the power of nature. Dutch folk tales from the Middle Ages are strong on tales about flooded cities and the sea. Legends surround the sunken cities lost to epic floods in the Netherlands: From Saint Elisabeth’s Flood of 1421, comes the legend of Kinderdijk that a baby and a cat were found floating in a cradle after the city flooded, the cat keeping the cradle from tipping over. They were the only survivors of the flood. The town of Kinderdijk is named for the place where the cradle came ashore.
The Saeftinghe legend, says that once glorious city was flooded and ruined by sea waters due to the All Saints’ flood, that was flooded in 1584, due to a mermaid being captured and mistreated, and mentions the bell tower still rings.
This is much like the story The Mermaid of Westenschouwen (Westenschouwen) which also concerns the mistreated mermaid, followed by a curse and flood. In some flood legends, the church bells or clock bells of sunken cities still can be heard ringing underwater.
Sea folklore includes the legend of Sint Brandaen and later the legend of Lady of Stavoren about the ruined port city of Stavoren.
In these uncertain times we need more than ever the deep wisdom of fairy and folk tales.
I read yesterday that last year Polish Radio called for donations of fairy-tale books to be sent to a boy in a hospital, who had eaten a poisonous mushroom. He lay in a coma after a liver transplant. The government felt that if someone read fairy tales to him, he might gather the courage to live. “Fairy tales for Tomek should be relatively short and have a happy ending,” the press release read.
This extract confirmed to me what I already firmly believed: that the gift of a story is a gift of life itself.
This story is for andychih(one of my readers) who asked me if I have ever found similarities between Asian and European fairy tales. In response here is a Thai version of Cinderella.
“Kao is a young Thai girl who lives happily with her parents until her mother dies. Her father remarries a woman who also has a daughter. The stepmother and stepsister make Kao do all the housework. One day after Kao’s father has died while bathing in the pond a golden fish comes up to Kao and talks to her saying it is her mother. Kao spends more time bathing and comes back happy and her stepmother gets curious as to the cause.
She sends her own daughter to spy on Kao the next day. She sees Kao talking to the fish. Then the stepmother has the stepsister go down and trick the fish and capture it. They cook it and eat it. Kao is so upset. She buries the fishbones and waters where she buries them in hope her mother will come back. Soon an eggplant plant grows there. Kao talks to the plant on her way back from bathing in the pond each day.
Her stepmother is jealous of Kao’s happiness and sends her daughter to dig up the plant. They eat and burn the plant, but Kao finds some seeds. She takes the seeds away from the house near the road and plants them there. When she can she goes and waters them. They grow into two beautiful trees. Kao hears her mother’s voice when the wind blows through them. Many people rest under the trees.
One day a prince stops and rests there. He loves the noise of the wind blowing in them and orders his servants to dig them up and bring them back to his palace. The servants try and try and even use an elephant to try, but the trees will not be moved. The prince posts signs and asks the owner of the trees to come to his palace.
Kao sees the sign and goes. The prince asks her to give him the trees. She tells him she will give him an answer the next day. She goes and asks the trees/mother what to do. They decide to make the prince happy. The mother asks Kao to bring the prince to the trees and she does. Then they get married and live happily with the trees in the courtyard of their palace.”
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
― Albert Einstein
What tales would you like to hear? Let me know what you think. I love your responses.