This article was first published on #FolkloreThurday.com as Bat Myths and Folktales from Around the World by zteve t evans on 31st October 2019
Bats feature in many myths, legends and folklore from diverse
cultures around the world, and are often associated with darkness, death
and the supernatural. Unquestionably, they are strange creatures,
appearing as half animal and half bird, like something from a nightmare
world. From this duality and strangeness evolved a reputation of
duplicity and threat, appearing as neither one thing nor the other. In
fact they are mammals of the scientific order Chiroptera,
meaning “hand wing” in ancient Greek, because their forelimbs have
become adapted to be wings. Do they really deserve this sinister
reputation, or do they play a more important role in the world than
feeding the dark human fascination for the spooky and the supernatural?
Presented here are different viewpoints from around the world,
followed by a short look at the real significance of bats to humankind.
Aesop’s Fables: The Bat and the Weasel
The duality of bats is mentioned in one of Aesop’s Fables, which tells how a bat fell to the ground and was pounced on by a weasel. The bat begged to be spared but the weasel insisted that he could not do that because he was an enemy of all birds. The bat said, “Well look at me. I am a mouse, not a bird!” The weasel looked at the bat and agreed it was a mouse and released it. A little later the same bat was caught by another weasel and begged for mercy. The weasel replied, “No, I never let mice go!” The bat said, “Well, look closely at me. I am a bird. See my wings.” The weasel replied, “Well, so you are!” and let the bat go.
In Greek mythology, Cassandra was a prophetess who could accurately foretell the future but was never believed. This talent had been a gift from the god Apollo but when she rejected his advances he cursed her so that her predictions were never believed. She was also known as Kassandra and occasionally Alexandra. Her parents were King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy and she had a twin brother named Helenus. Paris, whose abduction of Helen of Sparta helped spark the Trojan War was one of her brothers, as was the Trojan hero and war leader Hector. According to legend although very beautiful and intelligent she was regarded as being insane.
The Gift and the Curse
She served as a priestess of Apollo and took a vow of chastity swearing to remain a virgin for life. In some versions of her story Apollo seeking to win her love gave her the power of prophecy on the condition that she bestowed her favors upon him. However, after receiving the gift she went back on her word. With the gift of a divine power already given Apollo could not take it away so he added a curse to it. Although she would predict the future accurately her predictions would never be believed. In some later versions she receives her prophecies from a snake that whispered to her as she slept in the temple.
The Gift of Prophecy
The gift of prophecy should have brought her great esteem and reverence among her people but the curse of Apollo turned it into a terrible blight on her life. Although her predictions were always correct no one would believe her. She was forced to watch her predictions unfold unable to do anything to alleviate their consequences until it was too late. Her family and the Trojan people regarded her as a madwoman and a liar. She was locked up on the orders of her father and her wardress was ordered to report all of her prophecies to him.
Cassandra had a twin brother named Helenus whom she taught how to foretell the future. His prophecies were just as accurate as his sister’s but where her’s were disbelieved his were generally believed. She had predicted the death of her mother and had foreseen that the abduction of Helen by Paris would lead to the Trojan War warning him not to go to Sparta. When Paris returned with Helen, Cassandra attacked her tearing away Helen’s golden veil and tearing at her hair because she knew her arrival in Troy heralded the ultimate destruction of the city.
Cassandra had correctly prophesied the fall of Troy warning of the Trojan Horse concealing Greek soldiers. She also correctly foretold of the ten year journey and the return of Odysseus. She predicted how her cousin Aeaneas would escape the destruction of Troy and is descendants Romulus and Remus would found Rome.
After the Greeks had captured the city she was taken by Agamemnon as one of the spoils of war. Despite being consistently accurate with her predictions she continued to be disregarded and ignored to the cost of others and herself. She forewarned him of a plot by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover, Aegisthus, to both kill him and her but he ignored her and both were murdered.
The Love of Coroebus
Coroebus, the son of King Mygdon of Phrygia fought on the side of the Trojans because he was in love with Cassandra. During the Sack of Troy he persuaded some of the Trojan defenders such as Aeneas to disguise themselves by wearing the enemy armour. He tried to defend Cassandra from rape by Ajax the Lesser but was killed in her defence.
Another suitor mentioned in the Illiad, by Homer was Othryoneus from Cabesos. He took part in the war on the side of the Trojans solely with the purpose of marriage to Cassandra which her father, King Priam had agreed to. However, he was killed by Idomeneus in the Battle of Ships who cruelly mocked him as he lay dying.
Cassandra in Greek Drama
There are several versions of the story of Cassandra in Greek drama. Quintus Smyrnaeus in The Fall of Troy, tellshow Cassandra desperately tried to warn the Trojans of the danger presented by the Trojan Horse during a victory feast over the Greeks. The Trojans refused to believe her. In desperation she grabbed a burning torch and an axe and ran towards the wooden horse intent on destroying it and the Greeks hidden inside. The disbelieving Trojans stopped her sealing their own fate. The Greeks inside the wooden horse could see and hear what was happening but would have been helpless should the horse have been torched. They were greatly relieved she failed but alarmed she had so quickly and easily realized their plan.
Nevertheless, when the time was right the Greeks put their plan into action and caught the Trojans by surprise. As they took control of the city Cassandra sought sanctuary in the temple of Athena but was followed by Ajax the Lesser. Coroebus tried to defend her but was killed and although she embraced the feet of the statue of Athena begging her protection Ajax dragged her from it and raped her. According to some accounts despite the goddess Athena’s support for the Greeks she found this act by Ajax abhorrent and the cheeks of the statue flushed red in anger. Tears fell from her eyes which she averted so that she would not see the violation and made a sound that caused the floor to tremble and shake. The goddess was enraged and demanded the Greeks punish Ajax.
Despite Odysseus calling for him to be stoned to death the Greeks would not carry it out because Ajax clung to the feet of Athena. However Athena was furious at the Greeks for not bringing Ajax to justice and sought the help of Poseidon and Zeus. As the victorious Greeks sailed home from Troy Poseidon sent storms and strong winds which sank much of the fleet and Athena herself killed Ajax.
The Cursed Chest
According to some sources Cassandra had left a cursed chest in Troy intended for the first Greek who should open it. The chest contained an image of Dionysus which had been created by Hephaestus and given to the Trojans by Zeus. The chest was given to Eurypylus, a Greek war lord as part of his reward for helping fight the Trojans. When he opened it he saw the image and was instantly struck by madness
The Cassandra Syndrome
It was said that when she died her soul went into to the Elysian Fields the resting place of good and worthy souls. She also became a figure of epic tradition and tragedy. The Cassandra Syndrome is a term named after her because it applies to predictions of doom by some oracle or prophet that are disbelieved and rejected when made but later prove to be true. It is a form of psychological denial blocking out bad, unwelcome news or inevitable outcomes. This leaves the seer in the dilemma of knowing that something good or bad will happen but powerless to influence the outcome because no one will act upon their prediction to change or minimise the impact of the prediction.
Maid Marian, famous as the legendary girlfriend of Robin Hood, took on many roles and personas over the centuries, changing greatly with the times. Although she is absent from the earliest known ballads of Robin Hood she later appear in many plays, ballads and stories. Her character and role varied greatly, sometimes appearing as a noblewoman at other times as a commoner or shepherdess. From her early beginnings which can be found in folklore she evolves through literature from a simple medieval shepherdess and May Day Queen, to the girlfriend of the famous Robin Hood.
Folklore is dynamic and changes with the ages reflecting changes in attitude and circumstances by society. This can be seen in action with Maid Marian and how she became a folk heroine. Over time she becomes a deeper, more complex character and much more than just the love interest of the famous Robin Hood and more than just an important character in someone else’s adventure. It is in comparison to her and her character and traits that much of the morality of these stories comes out, making her an important ingredient to the overall plot, exposition and denouement of the story through the ages. The overall impression is of a strong, independent lady in a relatively equal relationship with Robin. Her qualities of loyalty and compassion mixed with boldness make her a popular figure in the Robin Hood canon of literature providing a strong folkloric tradition. There is also more than a hint of her dangerous side when she is found in a role of noble woman covertly undermining the patriarchal and ruling order by passing information on to Robin. The fact that she has male suitors in high society and chooses Robin rather than them underlines her independence of mind and action.
Marion and Robin in France
In the pastourelle songs of France, Marian became Marion and she and Robin are found together but not in the way that we are familiar with. In these songs Marion is a shepherdess who rejects the romantic attention of a knight to stay faithful to Robin who is a shepherd. From this, Marion and Robin appeared in Jeu de Robin et Marion, a French play by Adam de la Halle in the later part of the 13th century.
Later they became connected to spring festivals and traditions in both France and England to celebrate the passing of winter and welcome the new growth of spring. These were often outside events enjoyed by the community with lots of feasting, singing, dancing, games and all sorts of fun activities and entertainment.
Marian as the May Queen
Maid Marian also has associations with the rustic figures of the May Queen and Lady May the personifications of May Day, springtime and summer connecting her with renewal, new growth, fertility and abundance. With the figure of Robin Hood becoming increasingly popular appearing in plays, games and ballads especially during Whitsun, Robin and Marian eventually became integrated into new roles as the King and Queen of the May Day.
The Virgin Mary
It was not Marian in the early works that was Robin’s important female interest but the Virgin Mary. However, society changed and England became more protestant. With Marian’s strong associations to nature and fertility she complemented the forest environment and was a good partner for the outlaw of Sherwoos, eventually taking on the role of his lover. However social attitudes modified her behaviour making her become much more modest, ladylike and virtuous rather than the lusty, rustic figure of fertility, vitality and renewal.
As Marian became more integrated in the Robin Hood stories her character, social status and circumstance change and evolve considerable. She is not just a damsel in distress in need of rescue by some bold heroic male, she evolves into a much more complex character. Some of the tales portray her as a robust woman of action, her fighting expertise matching, or even surpassing male counterparts and even that of Robin in some stories.
At times when she is found within the stately and highly patriarchal confines of Norman society within Nottingham Castle she is the secret rebel passing on information to Robin in Sherwood Forest. She can move between the two worlds of Norman and outlaw society while remaining true to her own values and personal beliefs and her love for Robin.
Nineteenth Century Marion
In the nineteenth century Marion loses much of her power becoming a highborn, chaste and delicate noblewoman of high birth and very much an archetype of the Victorian lady. Her love story with Robin becomes central but she is now a supporting character to her lover rather than one in her own right. Perhaps to please Victorian audiences she and Robin are married by King Richard the Lionheart in St Mary’s Church in Edwinstowe making the story of Robin Hood and Maid Marion more romantic and sanitized.
From the early days to the present we can see how the changes in society and attitudes to women have evolved and expressed at different times through the ages. Her character and her role are reflections of those times and the attitudes that prevailed towards the male and female role models. We have seen her evolve from the rustic mysticism of the May Queen to the archetypical lady of high society with a secret lover, to a more competent, confident and assertive female whose history in many ways reflects the lot of women through the ages. Marian stands out as one of the strongest female characters in folklore and literature and there is ample potential for further interesting developments in the modern age. The potential for further development for her is also seen in modern times with the greater freeing of women from their traditional archetypes.
This article was first published on #FolkloreThursday.com on September 26, 2019, under the title British Legends: The Outlaws of Inglewood and the feminine Influence, by zteve t evans
Adam, Clym and Wyllyam
The story of William of Cloudesly is found in a 16th century ballad, Adam Bell, Clym of the Cloughe and Wyllyam of Cloudeslee, but may be older. It was included in the influential 19th century collection, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, as ballad 116, by Francis James Child. Although it is a male dominated, rip-roaring, all action story, three women play a significant part, emerging at points to influence events. Presented here is a short retelling followed by a brief discussion on the influence of the three females on the story.
Outlaws of Inglewood Forest
After falling foul of the authorities for poaching deer, William of
Cloudesly, Adam Bell and Clym of Clough ranged Inglewood Forest as
outlaws. William had a wife and three children and began to miss them
badly. They lived in Carlisle and he knew it would be dangerous to visit
them, but told his friends that he had to take the chance. They were
aghast, and tried to dissuade him, but he would not listen, and,
promising to be careful, set off for Carlisle.
William and Alice
As night fell, William made his way to the family home and tapped
quietly on the door. His wife, Alice, let him in, and William joyfully
embraced her and his children. It was a very happy family that evening —
but there was one in the home who was not family, yet terribly
interested to see William’s return. Before William was outlawed, purely
from the goodness of his heart, he had taken an old woman into his home,
giving her food and a bed for free. Seeing he was back, she crept out
and reported his presence to both the Magistrate and Sheriff of
Carlisle, who rewarded her with a scarlet dress.
The Sheriff enlisted a gang of men and besieged William’s home.
William, with stout support from Alice, defended the house, keeping the
attackers at bay. The Sheriff ordered the place to be set on fire,
forcing the man to lower his children through the upstairs windows to
safety using knotted sheets. Alice at first refused to go, wanting to
die at his side, until William pointed out the children would have no
one to take care of them, so she reluctantly agreed.
Once alone, William put up a fierce resistance, shooting many of the attackers with arrows. Eventually, the smoke and flames forced him to jump through the window into the crowd below, where he was overpowered. Taking no chances, the Sheriff ordered that all the city gates be locked to deter any possible escape, and instructed carpenters to build a gallows.