Greenlandic Folktales: Little Kâgssagssuk

The Father of Eskimology

Knud Rasmussen (1879-1921) was a polar explorer and anthropologist who was the first European to cross the Northwest Passage by dog sled. He was born in lulissat, formerly Jakobshavn in Greenland.  His mother, Lovise was of Inuit-Danish descent and his father was a Danish missionary and vicar named Christian Rasmussen.  He was brought up in Greenland and spent his early years living among the Kalllitt, a group of the Greenlandic Inuit people learning the Kalaallisut language they spoke and learning how to live, hunt and use the dog sleds used to traverse the harsh Arctic terrain. He said,

“My playmates were native Greenlanders; from the earliest boyhood I played and worked with the hunters, so even the hardships of the most strenuous sledge-trips became pleasant routine for me.” (1)

He was called the “Father of Eskimology,” and collected data for the Fifth Thule Expedition, (1921–1924) which sought to investigate the origin of the Eskimo people and published in a ten volume work “The Fifth Thule Expedition 1921-1924,” containing ethnological, archaeological and biological data he had collected.  He also published accounts of his expeditions and exploits and a book of folk stories, “Eskimo Folk-Tales.” The story that follows is a rewrite from this book and was called, “Kâgssagssuk, The Homeless Boy Who Became A Strongman”.   Really, it is a story that could be found throughout the history of human society in any human culture  around the world and is still very relevant today.

Kâgssagssuk, The Homeless Boy Who Became A Strongman

They say there was once a day when the men and women had gone to a spiritual meeting held by a wizard and had left the children in one  house to keep them safe.  The children played lots of noisy games together and as might be expected made a great deal of noise. Outside, a homeless orphan boy called Kâgssagssuk walked by.  Hearing the noise the children were making he shouted out, “You are making so much noise the evil Fire Spirit will come for you!”

The children made fun of him and would not believe him and carried on with their noisy game.  They  were having such great fun and grew louder and louder and just as Kâgssagssuk had warned the an evil Fire Spirit appeared.  Kâgssagssuk ran into the house crying, “Quick, quick, lift me up, I need my gloves that are drying up there!”   So the children lifted him up to the great drying frame under the roof.  Then the evil spirit ran into the house with a live ribbon seal in his hand that had long sharp claws attached to it that he used as a whip .  Each time he whirled his whip he caught one of the children and dragged them towards him and as they drew near him they were frizzled up in his flames.  He did this until all the children were frizzled up and then he turned to leave.  As he was about to go he reached up and touched a skin that was hanging from the drying frame and then left the house.

When he sure it was gone Little Kâgssagssuk climbed down from the drying frame and ran to the wizard’s house where the spiritual meeting with the adults was taking place. Kâgssagssuk told them what had happened but they would not believe him and accused him of killing the children.  Kâgssagssuk said,

“It was not me it was the noise they were making that roused the Great Fire. If you don’t believe me you make a noise like the children made and see what happens!”   

The adults began cooking a big vat of blubber which they had positioned over the door of the building  on the outside.   As the blubber heated up all the oil came out and began boiling and bubbling creating a great noise,   Sure enough, this roused the the evil Fire Spirit who appeared outside.  The adults had ordered little Kâgssagssuk to stay out of the house so he hid himself in the outside shed.

Once again the evil Fire Spirit came wielding a living ribbon seal as a whip.  The adults heard it coming and quickly tipped the vat of boiling blubber over  the whip as it came through the door.  This caused the Fire Spirit to crackle and spark and with the whip extinguished and destroyed it went away.

Although little Kâgssagssuk had been proved right and had told the truth, from that time onwards the people were cruel to him.  Being an orphan little Kâgssagssuk had lived at the house of one of the great men of his community named Umerdlugtoq.  Now he was restricted from entering his house and  Kâgssagssuk was now only allowed enough time indoors to dry his boots.  When the time was up Umerdlugtoq would grab Kâgssagssuk by the nose and lifting him off the floor throw him through the door.

The only family little Kâgssagssuk had was two grandmothers and neither were very nice to him.  One would beat him if he tried to shelter in her passage  and although the other, who was the mother of his mother, was kinder and would dry his clothes for him she would do nothing else.

Sometimes the people would only give him the tough hide of a walrus to eat.This was out of malice because they knew how tough it was and how hard it was to eat and digest.  To help him chew the hide Kâgssagssuk kept a small sharp stone in his pocket which he placed between his teeth  to bite down on.  Sometimes he would be so hungry he would eat what the dog’s had left and refused.  He would sleep with the dogs and would climb on the roof of a building to feel the warm air rise through the smoke hole.  Whenever  Umerdlugtoq caught him he would grab him by the nose and pull him off the roof.  Things went on like this for a long time for little Kâgssagssukv all through the dark days of winter.  As spring began to show and the days grew longer and lighter little Kâgssagssuk  took to roaming out of the settlement into the countryside.

One day while he wandered in the country he came across a huge man who he realized was a giant.  The giant was cutting up his catch and Kâgssagssuk was feeling very hungry and cried out, “Hey, giant, let me have some meat please!”    

Although he shouted at the top of his voice the giant could not hear him. Kâgssagssuk kept shouting and eventually the giant heard his voice and not knowing who was talking but thinking it was one of the dead, dropped some meat, saying, “ There now, bring me good luck!” as he deliberatley dropped a small slice of meat on the ground as he said it.

Now, although little Kâgssagssuk was still young he had some helping spirits who looked after him and they turned the small slice of meat into a big slice.  Little Kâgssagssuk ate as much as he could and when he was full he was pleased to see there was still a lot left.  In fact there was so much that he struggled to drag it to a hiding place he had found to store it in so that he could eat it later.  Nevertheless, after a struggle he managed it and went back to the settlement.

Then few days later little Kâgssagssuk said to the mother of his mother, who was his kindest grandmother, “I have been given some meat and now I find I keep thinking about it and I am now going out to check it.”  With that he went to the place he had hidden it, but when he got there it had gone.   He was bitterly disappointed and began to cry.   While he was stood crying the giant came up and said, “Why is it you are weeping?”

Little Kâgssagssuk replied, “I am upset because a few days ago I hid some meat here and now it has gone.”

“I see,” said the giant, “but I found that meet and thought it had belonged to someone else so I took it.”  and because the giant had taken to little Kâgssagssuk and felt pity for him he said, “Come and play with me!”  This seemed good to little Kâgssagssuk and he went off with the giant.  As they went they came across a small boulder and the giant said, “ Let us push this boulder.” So they pushed the boulder until it twirled round and then little Kâgssagssuk tried to push it on his own but he just fell backwards.

Once more, once more!” cried the giant and, “Quick, now, once more!” and in this way the giant took little Kâgssagssuk from boulder to boulder each one bigger than the last. Llittle Kâgssagssuk found that eventually he stopped falling backwards and could push them so hard even the biggest  twirled in the air.

“Good!”said the giant, “Now you are as strong as me and are indeed, a very strong man.  Because it was all my fault you lost your meat I will now make three bears walk into your settlement”

Little Kâgssagssuk went back to his village and went to warm himself by a smoke hole on one of the roofs.  Umerdlugtoq saw him and grasped him by the nose and pulled him from the roof and threw him to the ground.  So little Kâgssagssuk went to lay with the dogs to keep warm, but the mother of his father took a stick to him and beat him and the dogs

That night when all the villagers had fallen asleep Kâgssagssuk went out to the kayaks which were all frozen fast in the water and lifted one free, breaking the ice.  Then Kâgssagssuk went and climbed upon the roof of a home to get the warm from its smoke hole and there he spent the night.

In the morning when the men went down to make their kayaks out fishing they were greatly surprised to find one had been hauled out of the ice in the night and they all gathered round to discuss this remarkable feat.  “Who is the strongman who pulled the kayak from the ice? asked one.”

“Indeed there must be a strongman among us,” said another.

“No one is that strong,” said yet another.

“Ha! Here is the mighty man!” said Umerdlugtoq mockingly pointing to Kâgssagssuk who had wandered down to the edge of the group.

Later on that day the people of the village began to call out excitedly that three bears – a mother and two cubs –  were approaching the village just as the giant had sad they would.  At this time Kâgssagssuk was drying his boots by a fire of his mother’s mother and mindful of what the giant had told him borrowed her boots and ran outside and across the snow covered ground to find the bears.  The snow had been packed hard where everyone had walked upon it and usually little Kâgssagssuk would leave no footprints when he walked upon it being small and light.  Now as he ran over the hard packed snow he left deep footprints such as would be made in newly fallen snow.   He soon found the bears and the villagers watched in surprise as he approached them.  “Hey, what has come over Kâgssagssuk, he is running towards the bears!”  cried one. “What has gotten into him? shouted another.

Umerdlugtoq was astounded to see him running to confront the bears and looked on in astonishment as Kâgssagssuk grabbed the mother bear in his bare hands and wrung her neck and threw her to the ground dead.  He then grabbed the two cubs, one in each hand and battered their heads together killing them instantly.   Then he threw the great mother bear over his shoulders and grasping a cub in each hand he casually walked back to the village to the mother of his mother’s house.   There he skinned the bears and cut them up and placed their flesh into a large pot ready to cook them for her and built a big fireplace to cook the meat on.

Umerdlugtoq had been shocked when he saw little Kâgssagssuk kill the bears and made haste to get away from him taking his wives with him.  His father’s mother who would beat him came by to threaten him and he threw her on the fire and she burned up leaving only her stomach.  His mother’s mother saw this and tried to run away but he held her and said to her, “You have nothing to fear, for you were kind to me and would always let me dry my boots and now I shall be kind to you!”

After the bear meat was cooked and he had eaten a meal of it he went looking for Umerdlugtoq who had climbed a high hill and pitched a tent by the side of a precipice and there he stayed with his wives.   Kâgssagssuk reached into the tent and grabbing Umerdlugtoq by the nose pulled him out.   He held him at arm’s length off the ground and shook him until his nostrils burst and Umerdlugtoq feared he would be killed.

Kâgssagssuk shook him again and said,  “Fear not, you did not kill me so I will not kill you!” and threw him on the ground.  Then went into the tent and shouted, “Hey I am in here with your wives.  Come and take a gòod look!”   Umerdlugtoq had often threatened and beaten little Kâgssagssuk if he had so much as glanced at one of his wives and now little Kâgssagssuk was taking his revenge.  When he was satisfied he had punished Umerdlugtoq enough he went back to the village to seek out others who had made his life a misery.  When he had taken vengeance on these he left the village and traveled south and lived with the southern people.

There are those who say that he would go out hunting with other men but because he had grown so strong he began to enjoy filling them with fear.  They say he turned bad and began catching children and squeezing them to death.  The men in the village harpooned him one day while he was out in his kayak to  put an end to his bullying and that was the end of the story of how Kâgssagssuk, the homeless boy who became a strongman.   Sadly, it was not the end of the story.

The Story Continues

Little Kâgssagssuk was a boy in this story but could easily have been a girl.  Such children, perhaps orphaned, abandoned or lost, still exist today in many places around the world living alone and on the fringes of society, or invisible to it.  Abuse and neglect breed abuse and neglect and shamefully the story continues.

© 18/10/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright October 18th, 2017 zteve t evans

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Philippine Folktales: The Legend of Harisaboqued of Mount Kanlaon

1024px-mount_canlaon

Mount Canlaon – By Studphil (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On the island of Negros in the Philippines is a massive volcano called Kanlaon, or Canlaon. It is still active and steam and smoke can sometimes be seen rising from its crater.  In fact it is the most active volcano in the Philippines and part of the Ring of Fire series of volcanoes around the rim of the Pacific Ocean.  It is a dominant feature of the landscape and associated with several legends and myths that have evolved around it over the centuries.

The Legend of Harisaboqued

The legend presented here is a retelling of a story that originated long before the arrival of the Spanish ships that brought the Christian religion to the people of the Philippines.  It tells that there was once an old man who lived on the top of Kanlaon whose name was Harisaboqued. He was believed to have great powers over the Earth and was known as the King of the Mountain.

The people who lived around the volcano knew and respected him and he brought them many benefits and helped them in many ways.   Whenever there was a task to be done he would strike the ground three times with his staff and a troupe of dwarf people would leap out of the ground to obey his commands.  Although these dwarfs obeyed his slightest whim the local people never felt threatened by them because old Harisaboqued was kindly and never ordered his dwarfs to do wrong or misbehave.   One of the main crops of the people was tobacco and they grew much of this on the slopes of Mount Kanlaon and it made them very prosperous and happy.  Tobacco is a product grown in many countries and although many people depend on it to make a living its use is known to damage the health of users and those exposed to it and is not recommended.

Although the tobacco grown around the mountain grew very well the tobacco on the slopes of the volcano grew better.  These tobacco plantations were said to have been cultivated almost to the top of the mountain producing bumper crops because of old Harisaboqued and his dwarfs.  All he asked of the people was to not encroach an invisible line around the top of the volcano. This area he wished to keep for the privacy of himself and his dwarfs.

It was at his command that his dwarfs cared for and attended to the tobacco plants and these grew much faster and were of far superior quality than any tobacco anywhere. Consequently it was much sought after and gave the people a good living from trading it.  All the people were very grateful to Harisaboqued and would readily have done anything for him.   All he ever asked of them was that they respect the  boundary be had set around the top of the mountain.

All the people respected his wishes and no tobacco was grown on the volcano beyond that line.   In those days, from afar the mountain was an amazing sight with the tobacco plantations of the people cladding the slopes right into the boundary around the peak drawn by Harisaboqued.

Harisaboqued Leaves the Mountain

In this way everything went well for the people.  They were given magnificent crops of the finest tobacco and it was the dwarfs of Harisaboqued that did all the work.  He and his dwarfs kept their privacy and everyone was happy.  There came a day when Harisaboqued called a great meeting of the people and told them that he was going away for a very long time.  He reminded them of the agreement not to encroach upon the boundary and warned them if they should for any reason break this agreement he would take away all of their tobacco from the mountain.  If he had to do that then no more would grow there until he had smoked all that he had taken.  Without a single word more he tapped the ground three times with his staff and the Earth opened up and he walked inside.  Then the Earth closed over again and he was gone.

Many, many years went by and still Harisaboqued did not return and people began to think that he would never come back.  With the exception of Harisaboqued’s private area at the top of the mountain the entire mountain was covered in tobacco plantations which continued to grow as productively as they had always done.  Some people saw the bare, empty ground beyond above the boundary and thought that surely that could be cultivated too but they feared to break their promise they had made to Harisaboqued.

Then one greedy man decided that he would take a chance and planted tobacco above the line.  He got a fine crop of tobacco and nothing bad happened.  Seeing this others followed his lead and soon tobacco grew over the entire mountain from top to bottom including Harisaboqued’s special place at the top.  The tobacco was good and the people became very prosperous trading it.  They were very happy and because nothing bad had happened they ignored the promise they had made and continued to plant more tobacco.

The Return of Harisaboqued

Then one day while they were celebrating a  bumper crop of tobacco the ground suddenly opened up and out sprang Harisaboqued into their midst.  This shocked the people and terrified they ran down the slopes to the foot of the mountain.  Looking back they saw a most fearful sight.   Every single one of their tobacco plants had vanished and the slopes of the volcano were barren and bare.   Then a terrifying thunderous explosion shook the mountain and its entire peak flew into the air and burst into fragments and smoke and flames issued from the great hole that was left.  In fear and terror the people fled and did not stop until they were a long way away from the terrible scene.

They knew that Harisaboqued had kept his promise.  After many years had passed and the fires and eruptions had settled down the people returned to build villages around the bottom of the volcano.  Even though the people remembered the good days when the tobacco was plentiful and they were prosperous no tobacco was grown upon the mountain.  Although they look with longing at the slopes where their tobacco plantations had once been smoke still occasionally floats from the mountain and sometimes it still erupts,  This reminds the  people that they must wait for Harisaboqued to finish smoking his tobacco.

© 04/10/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright October 4th, 2017 zteve t evans

Latin American Folklore: La Patasola

La Patasola - Public Domain

By Rafael Yockteng (http://leyenco.iespana.es/quindio.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

La Patasola

In Latin American folklore La Patasola, or one-foot,  is a predatory supernatural woman preying on those males who tend to live or work on the edge of civilization close to the wild such as hunters and forest workers.  La Patasola has only one foot or leg and appears to her victims as a beautiful woman often taking on the likeness of a victim’s loved one.  She will choose a victim and try and separate him from his companions and enticing him further and further into the jungle.  Once she has led him to a remote place she will change into a terrifying, one legged vampire-like creature that lusts after the blood and flesh of humans.   She will suck the blood from her victims until they are dry and then eat their raw flesh.

La Patasola haunts the remote mountains and dense untamed forests and other thickly wooded places with lush verdant vegetation.   She is seen as a guardian of the wild animals and the jungle and the enemy of those who kill animals or destroy the jungle environment that she lives in.

She mostly strikes at night tending to lurk on the fringe of semi-civilized places looking for male victims such as loggers, miners, hunters, shepherds and herders who tend to spend a lot of time around the edges of the wild places.  She will often disrupt their activities if they are interfering with her territory by blocking paths and shortcuts through the jungle and disrupt hunting dogs making them lose the scent trail.

La Patasola is found in different regions many South American countries and is known by different names with different attributes in different places.   A similar creature is found in the Colombian Pacific Coast region called La Tunda

A Shapeshifter

La Patasola is so named because she has only one leg which has an hoof for a foot.  Despite these apparent disadvantages she can move very swiftly around the jungle and wilderness.  She is said to only have one breast, a large hooked nose, bulbous eyes, thick lips and sharp teeth with elongated canines which she uses to puncture the skin of her victims and suck their blood.  Her head is a mass of long, wild, matted hair.  La Patasola is a shapeshifter who can change her body into different forms such as a loved one of an intended victim, or a huge black dog or cow.

It is said that when she is happy she will climb to the top of a tree or mountain and sing the following song,

I’m more than the siren ,

I live alone in the world

and no one can resist me

because I am the Patasola.

On the road, at home,

on the mountain and the river,

in the air and in the clouds

all that exists is mine.” (1)

The Origin of La Patasola

There are many different stories that tell how La Patasola originated.  In most cases she has been a woman of bad character displaying lecherous or lewd behaviour.  Some versions say she murdered her own son and was punished by being mutilated and banished to the jungle.  Another version says that she was evil and cruel to men and women.   She was punished by having her leg chopped off with an axe which was then burnt in front of her as she died,  Now she haunts the jungles, mountains and wild places on the edge of civilization.   Another account tells that she had an affair with her husband’s employer and when he found out he murdered her and his boss and although she died her soul now dwells in a one legged body.

Variations of La Patasola

There are similar entities to La Patasola found in many parts of Latin and South America. For example there is the Sayona in Venezuela, though they are more common in Columbia which tells of a vampiric female called La Tunda that is a shapeshifter with a wooden leg.  However what ever shape she assumes will also have a wooden leg which she carefully conceals from intended victims.

A Warning!

Gruesome entities such as La Patasola tend to serve as warning or morality tale in Latin American folklore.   Often, they reinforce the accepted roles of gender and sexual and moral behaviour in society especially for the lower classes.  It is believed that such legends and folktales help reinforce the family values especially the traditional nuclear families with a dominant male at their head.  Although La Patasola is used to warn against the sexual and moral behaviour in females it is the men who are her victims and also must moderate their behaviour.  Secret liaisons in the woods with females can bring a risk of horrific consequences.

© 16/08/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright August 16th, 2017 zteve t evans

Breton Folktales: The Grateful Dead and the Man of Honour

Breton folktales often have magical and supernatural elements interwoven with death and tragedy in the story line which creates a dark, sombre but compelling story.   Death is ever present in the world and there are many chilling tales of the evil or resentful dead but there are also some that tell of the grateful dead.  These are the dead who return from the afterlife to help a living person who helped them in some way after had they died. How can the living possibly help a person who is dead?   In answer to this question, presented here is a folktale from Brittany that is a retelling of a story collected by Lewis Spence (1) and tells how a living man was repaid for paying off the debts of a dead man as well as paying for his funeral to ensure he received a Christian burial.

The Man of Honour and the Grateful Dead

The story begins in a coastal town in Brittany with a maritime merchant who traded with many foreign ports so successfully that he built up a massive fortune.  This merchant had a son named Iouenn who also wanted to make his way in life in the same way his father had.   His father was delighted and set him up with a trading ship and filled it with all kinds of valuable merchandise from Brittany.  He gave his son plenty of good advice and Iouenn sailed off to foreign ports to trade and make his fortune and then return home with his profits.

The ship had a safe voyage and after many days sailing docked at a port where Iouenn intended to sell his goods.  He went ashore carrying letters of introduction from his father and very soon sold his merchandise at a good profit and found himself in possession of a large sum of money.  He decided to spend a few days in the port looking around and sightseeing and one day as he strolled through the narrow streets he came upon a pack of stray dog such as are often seen roaming the streets of many towns and cities unchained.  They appeared to be snarling and growling and biting and pulling on an object that was laid in the street.  Curious as to what they were doing he cautiously approached and was horrified to see they actually worrying at the corpse of a man.

This shocked Iouenn greatly and he went round making inquiries about the fate of the unfortunate person.  He was told that the man had died owing a great debt and as there was no money to pay for a good Christian funeral and burial the custom in those parts was that the corpse be thrown into the streets for the dogs and other beasts to scavenge.  Iouenn was shocked that such a terrible indignity could be inflicted upon the dead and after chasing the dogs away, out of the kindness of his heart he paid the debts and for a proper Christian burial.

The Black Ship

After this he resolved he would not stay in the port a day longer and bid his captain make the ship ready for voyage and sailed for home.   They had not sailed far when one of the sailors cried out the presence of a strange ship on the horizon heading their way and from it they hear a terrible wailing of many souls.  The ship was attired all in black and had a most sinister appearance prompting Iouenn to remark to his captain,

“This is a most curious vessel!  Why is all attired in black and why are those on board setting up such a wail.”

As the black ship approached Iouenn hailed it asking those on board what troubled them.

“Sir, we are charged with a most grim and unhappy task. There exists not far from this spot an island occupied by a gigantic serpent.  For seven years our people must have had to pay an annual tribute of a royal princess and her you find us in the process of transporting yet another poor victim to her doom!”

Iouenn was shocked and said,

“Where is the royal princess you speak of?”

And then a great wail went up from all aboard the black ship as the royal princess stepped on deck.  She was in a terrible way wringing her hands and sobbing uncontrollably.  Iouenn was struck by her beauty and his heart went out to her and he vowed he would never let her be sacrificed to the monstrous serpent.   He made discreet inquiries with the captain of the black ship and learned that if a sufficient bribe was offered then the captain would hand the princess over to him.   He gave over the last of the money he had made from his trading and the Princess was passed over to his ship and he sailed on home with her aboard.

He had a safe and uneventful voyage home and his father was delighted to welcome him home.  That delight turned to anger when Iouenn told him of how he had spent the money he had made from trading the merchandise his father had given him.  His father refused to believe that the lady who he had brought back with him was in any way a royal princess and told him he was fool spending money on a dead man’s debts and banished him from his home.

Iouenn Weds the Princess

Many angry and bitter words were exchanged between the two, but nevertheless, Iouenn left his family home and married the Princess.  She presented her husband with a fine gold chain and cross to wear around his neck as a wedding present and together they set up a small humble home and were very happy together.    As time passed the couple were blessed with a son and then Iouenn had a stroke of luck.  One of his uncles who was also a merchant trader doing business overseas asked him to take charge of cargo ship full of valuable merchandise he wanted to trade in the eastern lands.  Iouenn was glad for the opportunity to increase his family’s fortunes and readily accepted.   Soon the ship was ready and he embarked on the voyage in fair weather and high hopes taking with him a small portrait of his wife and their son which he kept on a shelf in his cabin.

Iouenn and the King

The winds were favourable and soon his ship reached the city of his wife’s birth and where her father still ruled and had grown very old.   As is the custom in many ports the harbourmaster came aboard to check the ship and its cargo.  While on board he noticed the portrait of Iouenn’s wife and recognized her immediately as the Princess of the city and daughter of its present ruler.   Completing his business on board he went straight to the King to tell him what he had seen.  On hearing this news the King went immediately to the harbour and boarded the ship demanding of Iouenn knowledge of his daughter. Iouenn not knowing who his daughter was could not tell him anything.   The king flew into a rage and ordered that he be flung in jail and the ship be burnt and the cargo seized and impounded

While languishing miserably in prison Iouenn made friends with the jailor and told him the story of how he had met his wife.  On hearing this, the jailor went to the King and told him the story. The King was overjoyed to hear his daughter still lived and after seeking a pledge from Iouenn to bring his daughter home he ordered that a new ship be commissioned and fitted out for the voyage back to Iouenn’s home port and that he would return again with his daughter.  As a precaution the King sent two of his ministers to accompany Iouenn should he decide to renege on the agreement.   The ship sailed in a fair wind making good progress across the sea and soon made Iouenn’s home port and docked.

The Evil Minister

Iouenn took the two ministers to see his wife and their son who were safe and well and explain to them what had happened.  Now the Princess was familiar with one of the ministers for he had loved her and sought her hand in marriage of old.  She knew the devious and evil nature of his character and fearing he plotted some act of treachery she asked her husband to remain at her side during the voyage.  However, Iouenn loved to be on the bridge with the captain watching and learning of the operation of the ship.

One starry evening he stopped to lean against the side of the vessel and gaze in wonder at the night sky.   Lost in thought he did not hear the stealthy approach of the evil minister who grasping his two legs quickly flung him overboard into the foamy sea. Deliberately waiting a few minutes the devious minister then let out a cry of

“Man over Board!”

The captain ordered the ship to sail back looking for Iouenn but the clouds now covered what starlight there was and nought could be seen in the black of the night and the victim was not found.   The Princess now convinced her husband had perished was distraught and stayed in her cabin wailing and grieving.  It so happened that despite the shock of finding himself submerged in the cold water Iouenn quickly gathered his wits and began swimming and luckily he was a strong and excellent swimmer.  Despite having no idea which way to go he kept calm and decided to strike out in one direction and hope for the best.

Having given up all hope of finding Iouenn the ship turned around and the captain set course for the port of the Princess’s father.  When the ship finally sailed into the harbour there was great joy and festivities at the return of the Princess.  Her father was so pleased to have her back he readily gave his consent for her marriage to the treacherous minister who he credited fully for her return.  However, the Princess was still devastated by the loss of her husband and kept finding excuses to keep putting the wedding off.  Deep inside her some vague  flicker of hope remained and she remembered her husband’s body had never been found.

Marooned

Indeed, her husband with little other choice had struck out swimming in one direction and just as his strength was failing had come across a single small bare island of rock which he scrambled upon.  The only shelter on this barren place was a small niche in the rock which he could squeeze into in times of bad weather which were frequent.  For the next three years marooned on the island he lived on shellfish and the  occasional fish the sea would throw into one of the rock pools, which he would gladly consume raw.

During those three years his beard and hair had grown long and matted and all of his clothes had rotted from his body leaving him naked, cold and wildly unkempt and he roamed round and round his tiny kingdom like some wild and strange mad man.   All that remained of his past life was the gold cross and chain he wore around his neck.

One lonely night as he sat in his rocky niche eating a meager supper of shellfish when he was startled to hear the eeriest sound he had ever heard in his life that cut through the silence like a knife.  Crouching low and peering out over the ocean he heard the terrible sound again and then his blood ran cold as he realized there were words in that unearthly wailing and it was calling his name.  Surely no human could have uttered such ghastly words but he found himself listening to the weird voice in horror.

The Corpse

‘Iouenn! Iouenn! Iouenn! Cold, cold, cold!”

wailed the voice again and again,

“So cold!”

before dying out in a horrible groan and starting up again.  This continued through the night to die out just before dawn.

The next night the same terrible voice was heard again and although he was no coward he dare not show himself or answer the voice.  The third night as the voice began its wailing he determined he would do something so stepping from his hideout he cried out,

 “Who is it that disturbs my peace? Show yourself!”

From out of the sea and across the rocky shore a hideously naked man came crawling wailing his ghastly cry,

“Cold, cold cold, so cold,”

the ghastly man wailed and fixed Iouenn with a glassy stare.

‘In God’s name who are you?”

cried Iouenn

The man let out a ghastly laugh,

“So you do not remember me, but I remember you too well, Iouenn.  I am the wretch you drove the dogs from and so kindly gave a Christian burial to.  You paid my debts and saved me and now I come to save you.  Do you wish to leave this rock?”

rasped the man as blood and poison oozed from wounds on his body.

“That I do as God is my witness!”

replied Iouenn.

“Then you need to know that against her will your wife is to marry the minister who threw you overboard.  If you are quick you can stop this and I will help if you promise to give to me a share of all that belongs to you and your wife.  This must be handed over within a year and a day.  If you accept now I will carry you to the King’s palace in time to stop the wedding.  Do you accept?”

Iouenn agreed immediately and the living corpse told him to climb upon his back, which he did.  Immediately it ran into the sea and began swimming at great speed with him on its back.  Very soon they reached the port where his wife’s father had his palace and the corpse set him on shore.  The corpse looked at him through glassy eyes and said,

“One year and one day!”

and plunged back into the sea and was gone.

Iouenn at the Gates

Such was the terrible state of neglect endured by Iouenn during his lonely stay on the island he was now in an unrecognisable state and looked barely human.  In the morning when the King’s gatekeeper opened the palace gate he was shocked to find something that resembled a wild animal crouching forlornly outside begging for help.

Calling the palace servants to see what he had found they threw him scraps and crusts of bread which he ate ravenously.  One of the ladies-in-waiting was passing by and seeing the strange wild looking thing that Iouenn had become she went to the Princess and told her of the wild man at the gates.   The Princess with her curiosity aroused went down to see for herself.  On seeing the wild thing before her she immediately saw the gold cross and chain around his neck and recognized it as the wedding present she had given Iouenn and knew him to be her husband.  Iouenn and his wife embraced with great joy and she led him into the palace and fed him and bathed and clothed him in fine clothes.

The Lost Key

This being the morning that the Princess was due to marry the evil minister great preparations had been made for the much awaited event.  The Princess went down to the assembled company to speak to them and asked them for advice.  She asked whether it would be better to look for an old key which had been lost which fitted a the lock to her treasure chest or instead make use of a new key which was available but did not fit.  Of course the treasure chest was her heart and the keys were her husband and the evil minister.

Unanimously they agreed that it was better to search for the key that fitted.  With that she introduced her husband who stepped forward now arrayed in fine clean clothes saying,

“Here is the key I lost and I have found!”

The evil minister trembled and turned pale as a sheet but the King, her father thumped the table in rage and cried,

“Build a fire for this vagabond and cast him upon it!”

The Princes and Iouenn were shocked and dismayed and all present stared in shock as they thought he meant Iouenn, but the King stood and pointed to the evil minister whose guilt had been revealed by the Princess.  As the company stood and applauded the King’s command his guards rushed to obey and the evil minister was led off the fire.

The Grateful Dead

So it was that Iouenn lived with the Princess in the palace in joy and happiness.  There was one event that spoiled this and that was the death of their young son.  However, their grief was quickly assuaged with the birth of a second baby boy and once again they were happy.   In his happiness Iouenn had completely forgotten about his time on the island and the debt he owed to the dead man who had saved him.   Then one grey November evening while he and his small family were sat happily around the fire together they were disturbed by three loud knocks struck upon the door.  Upon the third the door flew open and in strode the awful form of the living corpse that had saved Iouenn from the island.  It stood before Iouenn with dead glassy eyes and in a rasping voice said,

“Iouenn, do you remember our pact?  I have come for payment!”

Iouenn, although trembling and in shock remembered the pact he had made with the living corpse and asked his wife to bring him the keys to their treasure chest so that he may pay his dues.  As she handed the keys over the dead one sneered and waved her away in disgust.

“It is not your treasure I have come for, Iouenn it is this!”

he rasped pointing at the baby boy in his cradle  sleeping sweetly.

“Not my baby! You cannot have him!”

cried the Princess.

“Are you a man of honor, Iouenn?  A man of honor pays his debts.  Remember your promise on the island, remember your debt!”

“Yes, it is true I promised but remember how I saved you from the dogs!”

cried Iouenn.

“All I ask is what I am owed, and I am not asking for all the infant, just a share!”

“Have you no heart, wretched thing?  As honor with me is above all things I will grant your wish!”

and he undressed the infant and laid him naked and helpless upon the table as the dead thing directed.

“Now with your sword cut off the portion you believe is my due,”

rasped the corpse

“Wretch, it would have been better to have been left to perish alone on the island than endure this!”

He raised the sword to strike and was about to bring it down when the corpse raised its hand and stepped forward commanding him to stop.

“Stop, do the child no harm!  I can see clearly that you are a man of honour and have not forgotten your promise.  Neither have I forgotten you saved me from the dogs and paid for me to have a Christian burial.   Through you I now live in Paradise only because you paid for me my debts out of the goodness of your heart which allowed me to a proper burial.  Clearly you would honour your promise but in gratitude for the service you gave me I say that we are even and the debt is paid.  Now, I say goodbye until we meet again in heaven!” and with that the corpse walked out of the door and was gone.

From then on Iouenn and his wife and son lived very happily and when the old King died and because of the respect the people had for him as a man of honour he was made King.  So it was that Iouenn’s act of kindness which allowed the soul of a person he had not known to enter Heaven was repaid to him in his lifetime by the grateful dead themselves.

© 02/08/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Information

Copyright August 2th, 2017 zteve t evans

Petrification Myths: Malin Kundang of Sumatra, Indonesia

Petrifaction myths and legends appear in human cultures all around the world.  Very often they carry a warning or are the result of a punishment. In many cases they can be either inspired by a geological feature such as a rock formation or the name given to the feature is inspired by folklore.  Presented next is a retelling of a folktale from Sumatra, Indonesia that carries an important warning about how grown up children should respect their mother.

Malin Kundang

The story begins in a poor fishing village on the coast of Sumatra where a poor widow struggled to bring up her young son whom she had named Malin Kundang.  They existed on a meager living scraped from fishing.  Nevertheless the mother loved her son very much and worked hard to give him the best that she could.   Thanks to her hard work, love and dedication Malin grew into a healthy and clever boy who was always willing to help his mother to earn some money.  However, no matter how hard they worked they could not escape poverty.

One day Malin had an idea and went to his mother and. said,

“Mother, if I stay here I will never have a life.  I don’t want to spend all my life in poverty and I want to be a rich and successful man. What would you say if I told you I wanted to leave the village and sail away to find my fortune?”

Although his mother was devastated at the thought of her only son leaving her alone she swallowed her bitter tears and told him,

“My son, If that us your heart’s desire I cannot stop you.  Although it breaks my heart that you are leaving I will pray that you find happiness and your heart’s desire, but promise me that when you have found every thing that you dream of you will not forget me and come home again to your mother who will be waiting patiently for your return.”

Malin then told his mother he did indeed want to leave which broke her heart.  In the morning he went down to the harbor and found a ship that would take him on a one of the crew.  His mother came and bid him farewell and after embracing him for a long time said,

“Farewell my son, take good care.  I will pray for you, but I fear you will forget me!”

Then he told his mother,

“You take good care of yourself mother!  I promise I will keep in touch and will not forget you and return as soon as I can.”

Again his mother embraced him tightly not wanting to let go until finally he turned away and walked up the gangplank onto the ship.  She watched as the ship carrying her only son slid silently over the horizon into the rising sun and then returned to her home alone.

His Mother’s Vigil

Three months passed and although Malin’s mother prayed every night and every morning for her son she received not a single word or token from him.  The months turned to years and his mother still prayed day and night for her son’s safety and that he would find his heart’s desire.  Every morning and every evening she would go down to the harbor to see what new ships had come hoping that one would bring her son back to her and would stand in silent prayer looking out over the horizon..

Several years passed in this way and one morning as she stood looking out to sea she was surprised to see an unusually big ship sail out of the blue and dock in the harbor at the point where she held her lonely vigil.

Malin Returns

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By The original uploader was Geoethno at German Wikipedia (Original text: Amsterdam, Buffa) (Van de Velde: Gezigten uit Neerlands Indie) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When the ship was tied securely to the dock she saw a handsome, young man in rich clothing disembark from the ship with a beautiful young woman on his arm.  Both were dressed in the finest clothes and exuded an aura of wealth.  Behind them followed many servants and bodyguards and everyone could see that this fine young couple were wealthy and important people.  Malin’s mother looked in surprise and although her eyes had grown weak and weary from crying for her son she recognized him despite this and saw through the finery the young man wore.  She knew this was her son and knew she could not be wrong.  Excitedly she ran up to to him and threw her arms around his neck crying,

“Malin, Malin, my beloved son you gave come back to me!”

Shock and disappointment overcame her as the young man coldly stared straight ahead and showed no response whatsoever.

“I have prayed day and night for you and missed you so much and now my prayers are answered and you have returned to me!”

Rejection

In truth, Malin felt embarrassment at the sight of this poor old woman dressed in rags.  He thought of his own wealth and fine clothes, he thought of all his servants and bodyguards and he thought of the beautiful young woman on his arm. Although he knew she was his mother he felt ashamed and embarrassed at her poverty and his own humble origins and did not want to let on about his past life to his companion.

Roughly, he thrust his mother away and glared coldly at her saying,

“You are not my mother!  My mother would never wear such poor and ragged clothes.  I don’t know you, go way!”

Shocked and distressed his mother stepped back, sobbing and said,

“Malin, I am your mother stop teasing me!  I have waited so long to see you again you must know me!”

But Malin stared coldly and dispassionately ahead with his face fixed and his eyes cold. Turning to one of his bodyguards he said,

Guard, take this ragged old beggar woman out of my sight!  Give her some money to be rid of her!”

And the guard grasped the old lady by her arm and dragged her roughly away, all the time she was crying out,

“Malin!  Oh Malin my long lost son! Why do you treat me so cruelly?”

Mail ignored his mother’s pleas and ordered the ship to make ready to sail.  He and his beautiful lady returned to the ship which set sail and sailed stately out of the harbor.

Poor Malin’s mother was left distraught and sobbing upon the harbor as the ship sailing upon a calm and quiet sea and disappeared over the horizon.  Anguish and hurt coursed through her body which turned to anger and she fell upon her knees and prayed,

“Dear God, if that young man was not my son bless him with a safe journey and a safe return home.  If he was Malin, my son, I curse him that as soon as he sets foot on land that he may turn to stone.”

So it was that beyond the horizon the ship ran into a storm that whipped the calm and quiet sea into a frenzy.  As thunder rolled and lightning flashed and the rain lashed down the ship was taken by the wild waves and was shipwrecked.  Malin struggled against the giant waves but eventually made it to a beach called Air Manis, near Padang, West Sumatra.

Turned to Stone

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The Malin Kundang Stone – By Crisco 1492 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The God, who sees and hears all looked down.  As Malin stepped upon the land he felt his entire body begin to stiffen and he fell forward on to his knees as of one begging for mercy and then fell forward again in supplication to the Divine.  In that position his entire body turned into stone and can be seen to this day on a beach at Pantai Air Manis, Padang, and is called the Malin Kundang Stone.  It is said to exist as testament to the punishment that will be meted out to those who choose to reject their own mother.

© 26/07/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright July 26th, 2017 zteve t evans

Welsh Folklore: The Shepherd and the Bride from the Otherworld

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Painting by Adrian Ludwig Richter (1803 – 1884) –  Public Domain

Pentrefoelas Myths, Legends and Folklore

Myths, folktales and legends abound in the village of Pentrefoelas, Conwy, in North Wales and one such tale known as the Pentrefoelas Legend tells how a shepherd came across a girl in distress upon a hillside while he was tending his flocks.  The girl was like no other he had ever seen in his life and in his earnest attempt to comfort her he fell in love with her and she with him.  Although the girl was not from earth they married and had children and lived a happy life.  Sadly their happiness was shattered by a freak accident that broke a  promise the shepherd had made to his wife’s father.  This meant she had to return to the Otherworld where she came from and they were parted forever.  The story describes one of the few examples of the interbreeding of mortals with the inhabitants of the Otherworld and the descendants of the couple are still said to live among humans today.  The following is a rewrite of that tale.

The Pentrefoelas Legend

One misty morning, shepherd from Hafod-y-garreg was out in the pastures looking after the flock of sheep owned by his father .  It was not a particularly demanding task and his mind wandered as he looked around for something to engage his interest for a while.  His eye fell upon a peat-stack and as he looked he saw a girl sat besides it who appeared to be crying her eyes out.  Disturbed by the apparent distress of the girl he approached quietly and gently trying not to alarm her to see if there was something he could do to help.

Words of Love

As he drew nearer he was smitten by the beauty of the girl.  Never in his life had he seen a damsel so beautiful as she and to see her sobbing tugged at the strings of his heart.  Gently and quietly he began speaking words of love to her and she seemed to respond favorably stopping her tears.  Suddenly, an old man who was her father  appeared out of nowhere beckoning authoritatively to her to follow him. The girl unquestionably obliged and went off with him leaving the shepherd alone on the hillside with the sheep. The shepherd could not get the girl out of his mind and remained on the hillside until evening hoping she would return but she did not and eventually he went home as darkness fell.

The Girl from the Otherworld

The shepherd returned to the hillside every evening in the hope of seeing the girl again but she did not appear and he grew despondent, fearing he would never see her again.  He did not realize that in the Otherworld the girl was thinking about him.  She had been quite taken by his kindness and the words of love he had spoken had found a place in her heart and she now planned to return to earth to see the young man.  When the time was right she slipped away from her home her father and returned to the hillside on earth hoping to meet with the young man.  When she arrived on Earth she found the shepherd waiting on the hillside and made herself known to him.  He was overjoyed and poured out his feelings to her and she to him and the two began a loving relationship.

Meanwhile in the Otherworld her father had missed his daughter and was seeking her out but could not find her anywhere.  Remembering the incident when he had found her with the shepherd on the hillside he made his way to earth and appeared on the hillside next to the two lovers.  Although he was pleased to find his wayward daughter he was not happy that the two had fell in love and began demanding she return home to the Otherworld with him

The Marriage Contract

The shepherd told the girl’s father that he loved his daughter and wanted to marry her. He begged and pleaded so much that eventually the old man turned to his daughter and asked, “Is it really your wish to marry this mortal man from earth?”

His daughter told him that she did with all her heart.  The old man then replied, “Very well, I give my consent.  You shall be married but should he ever strike with iron then the marriage shall immediately cease and you must return to live in the Otherworld forever!”

Now, the shepherd was not a violent or argumentative man and could not believe he would ever find reason to strike the girl he loved.  The girl was so taken by the young man and his words of love she also could not believe such a thing could happen and readily agreed.  The two were married and her father gave them a large bag of gold as a wedding gift.

A Happy Marriage

They had a very happy marriage for several years and were blessed with children one after the other.   One day the couple decide they wanted to catch several ponies which at the time were living wild on the nearby hills.   Although both ran after them and tried several ways to trap them all attempts failed and the man grew frustrated.  In his frustration he threw the bridle way but as it flew passed his wife the iron bit struck her striking her shoulder.

The Broken Contract

They both froze and stood dumbstruck looking at each other with tears in their eyes.  They knew instantly that their marriage contract had been broken and her father appeared with a troop of the Fair Folk and led his daughter away.  As they faded from sight the devastated shepherd sadly turned away and went home to his children.  He never saw his beloved wife again, but much of the gold her father had given him still remained and he had his children whom he adored.  They  all bore a striking resemblance to their mother and became his only comfort through the long lonely years without her.  To this day the descendants of this couple can sometimes be seen here and there, recognizable by the faraway look in their eyes.

© 11/04/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright April 11th, 2017 zteve t evans

Northumberland Folktales: Dunstanburgh Castle and the Ghost of Sir Guy the Seeker

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Pixabay – Dunstanburgh Castle by – tpsdave – CC0 Public Domain

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle is now a ruined castle situated on a remote headland in Northumberland.  It is associated with many myths and legends and a spooky folktale concerning a good knight who becomes caught up in an endless search for a beautiful woman he once found asleep on a crystal plinth deep within the castle.

Although long ruined Dunstanburgh Castle is steeped in history and was once a garrison against the threat from Scotland and was fought over during the Wars of the Roses.  It was built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster early in the 1300s who was one of the richest men in England, very influential and for a few years after the Scottish defeated Edward at Bannockburn the effective ruler of England. He was one of the leaders of the barons in their opposition to King Edward II, who was also his first cousin and had served at his coronation.

Edward had a friend named Piers Gaveston who was a great favorite of his and this had caused resentment among some of the barons, including Thomas.  They had plotted together and had him executed which understandably angered the king. Thomas was involved in many other intrigues and Edward was out for revenge which he eventually got.  After leading a failed rebellion against Edward, Thomas was captured, tried and executed.

Secret Tunnels

Maybe because of its history,  remote location and the imposing look of its ruins a number of legends have grown up around the castle.  There is a long-standing local tradition that there is a network of tunnels running from the castle to some of the villages and hamlets nearby.   The tunnels were said to run to a number of cellars and barns where there were trap doors that let unknown men travel to and from the castle unseen.

The Legend of Sir Guy the Seeker

Perhaps the strangest legend about the castle is the story of Sir Guy the Seeker. A similar legend is found in other parts of Great Britain and M.G. Lewis in 1809 published a poem called Sir Guy, the Seeker, a poem based on the legend.  According to the legend, in the days when knights were virtuous and chivalrous there was a good knight named Sir Guy.  One evening he happened to be traveling nearby and as the sun was going down a storm began to brew in the darkening sky.  On hearing the rumble of thunder and as the rain began falling in torrents he looked around for shelter.  In the distance, he saw the jagged ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle black against the sky and decide to seek shelter there.

As he approached the ruins he realized they stood on a high cliff with their backs to the sea but could not see a path that led up to it.   With no way up and the rain lashing down he looked around for alternative shelter and found a cave.  He entered and took off his sodden cloak and jacket.  Inside it was dark and as his eyes grew accustomed he saw a softly glimmering light floating slowly towards him from down a passageway.  As the light came nearer it changed its appearance to form the terrifying figure of an ugly old warlock. “Follow if you dare ad you will find beauty beyond belief!,”  growled the warlock.

Although Sir Guy was alarmed at the apparition he was also intrigued and not without courage and followed the warlock along miles of dark damp passageways deep beneath the ground. There were many twists and turns and steps that went up and steps that ran down but at last, they came out in the very heart of Dunstanburgh Castle.  As he followed the warlock into the courtyard the night was dark and somber.  Looking around he saw an army of knights and cavalry asleep on the ground.

The Sleeper on the Crystal Plinth

Towards the center of the courtyard he saw a crystal plinth and reposed upon it seemingly fast asleep was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  All around the plinth the most horrific images of skulls, skeletons, snakes and monsters were depicted.   To the left of the maiden lying alongside her was an ancient calling horn.  On the other side lay a sword.   The warlock beckoned Sir Guy over to the plinth and said, “The fate of the sleeper is in your hands.  You must choose either the horn or the sword to awaken her.  Choose now!”

The Choice of Sir Guy

Sir Guy had no idea which to chose and paced up and down trying to make his mind up.  At last, he went to the plinth picked up the horn and gave it a mighty blow.  The sound echoed around the courtyard and the knights awoke from slumber.  Drawing their swords they rushed at Sir Guy who expected death instantly as they struck at him.  Instead, the blades passed straight through him without marking or cutting his flesh and then he awoke outside the cave soaked through with the warlock standing over him saying, “Shame on you Sir Guy for choosing the horn.  A warrior would have chosen the sword!”  And then turned and vanished into the cave.

The Ghost of Sir Guy

From that day forward the legend says that Sir Guy lived a cursed life.   He became obsessed with the beautiful woman sleeping on the crystal plinth.  To try and mollify the shame he felt he spent the rest of his life searching the dark tunnels below Dunstanburgh Castle for her.   He never found her and was said to have died still searching for her.   The ghost of Sir Guy is said to be still wandering the ruins of the forlorn castle forever seeking out the sleeper on the crystal plinth in the hope of finding and rescuing her.

© 20/03/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright March 20th, 2017 zteve t evans