Breton Fairy Tales: The Secret of the Resurrection of La Rose

The Magic Rose

Breton fairy tales are often a mixture of Roman Catholic, Celtic and other pagan elements that blend together providing  mystery and romance with more than a hint of danger and darkness. The story presented here is a retelling of a Breton folktale called The Magic Rose from Legends and Romance of Brittany by Lewis Spence (1) and tells the rather sombre tale of the transition through life of its protagonist, La Rose.  In many ways it appears to be a traditional fairy tale and like many fairy tales it is not quite what it seems for there is a hidden secret.

La Rose

The story begins in Brittany where an aging married couple had two sons.  The older son had a more adventurous and outgoing personality and went off to Paris to find his fortune.   The younger son, whose name was La Rose, had a more cautious and shy personality and remained at home,  preferring to live with his parents much to their discontent. His mother and father were beginning to feel their age and began to worry about their son.  They wanted him to take a wife to ease the burden on them.

To begin with he would not listen to their appeals but eventually he gave in and found a young woman he loved greatly and they married.  To begin with all was well but after few months sadly his wife fell sick and died. La Rose was heartbroken and every evening he would visit the cemetery and weep beside her grave into the night.

The Spectre and the Magic Rose

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Image by PublicDomainPicturesPixabay – CC0 Creative Commons

One evening while he knelt at his wife’s grave he became aware of a tall dark spectral figure standing before him as he wept.  Looking up in shock at the ghastly figure which pointed at him and said in a rasping voice, “Tell me!  Why do you weep?”

“I weep for my dead wife!” answered La Rose.

“Would you have her alive again?” asked the spectre.

“Indeed, I would!  I would do anything to have her back again!”

“Then listen now!” said the spectre, “Come back to this place tomorrow at the same time. Bring a pick-axe and some clothes for your wife and you may see your heart’s desire.”  With that the dark spectre dissolved into the night.

The next evening at the same time La Rose went to his wife’s grave at the cemetery with a pick-axe and clothes, just as the spectre had said and knelt and wept over her grave.  As he wept he became aware of the dark spectre looking down at him. “Strike the grave with the pick-axe and you will see the earth peal aside to reveal the body of your wife wrapped in her shroud,”  said the spectre.

He then handed La Rose a small silver casket saying, “This contains a rose.  When your wife is free of earth pass this under her nose three times.  She will then awaken as if from a long and deep slumber.”

La Rose watched in awe as the spectre dissolved into the night.  Quickly he struck the pick-axe into his wife’s grave and immediately the earth peeled back and revealed her lying in her shroud.  Following the spectre’s instructions he took the rose from the silver casket and passed it under her nose three times. Just as the spectre had told him and to his astonishment and absolute joy, his wife sighed, sat up and said, “Why I seem to have had such a long deep sleep!”

La Rose gave his wife the clothes he had brought and she quickly dressed and they returned home.  His parents were overjoyed to see their daughter-in-law whole and well again.

The Passing of his Parents

His father was not a well man and he had reached a great age and sadly he fell ill and passed away.  His mother was heart broken. She too was of a great age and the grief of her husband’s passing was too much for her and she too expired.  La Rose wrote to his brother informing him of the sad news and requesting him to return home to receive his share of the family inheritance.  Unfortunately his brother wrote back saying he could not return to Brittany but would give no reason. Reluctantly, La Rose decided to travel to Paris to sort out the family affairs with his brother.

Broken promises

His wife did not want him to go and he was reluctant to leave but feeling he had no choice he told her he must go and promised that he would write to her everyday.  When he arrived he found his brother to be seriously ill and in need of intensive nursing which he delivered himself day and night. Because of the seriousness and intensity of this he forgot to write to his wife as he had promised and she had no news whatsoever of events in Paris and his brother’s health.

Days passed and weeks turned into months and still La Rose forgot to write to his wife. All this time she remained in Brittany worrying and fretting. She had no idea what could be wrong and she dreaded that some courier should appear on her doorstep with bad news.  Every day she took to sitting by her window weeping while looking out hoping to either see him coming down the road, or the dreaded sight of a courier.

The False Captain

It so happened that a regiment of soldiers were posted to the town and the captain was lodged in the inn directly over the road from the home of La Rose and his wife.  The captain was a handsome young man whose curiosity was aroused by the sight of a woman weeping through the window. He was saddened and intrigued by the sight of such a beautiful woman in such grief and set about to learn more about her.  The more he learned and the more he saw her weeping in the window the more he desired her.

Learning about her husband’s absence in Paris he wrote a letter falsely informing her that her husband had died and had it delivered by courier to her.  On reading it she was grief stricken. In this vulnerable state the captain wasted no time in insinuating himself into her affections. After an appropriate period of mourning he proposed marriage to her and she accepted.  The wedding went ahead and they became man and wife. Shortly after the regiment was sent to another town and she accompanied her new husband there.

La Rose Returns

Shortly, after her marriage, the brother of La Rose recovered from his life threatening illness.  Now being free of the burden of providing his nursing care La Rose remembered his wife and his promise to her.  At last, able to complete his family business with his brother he rushed back to Brittany eager to see his wife again.  Can you imagine the shock he had when he discovered the door of his home locked and barred and the house empty? He went to see his neighbours who told him about how his wife had grieved for him.  They told him of how a courier had arrived with a letter informing her of his death and her subsequent marriage to the captain. La Rose was devastated and spent many days moping and weeping for his wife. Eventually he pulled himself together and resolved to go after her and so enlisted in the same regiment as the false captain in the hope it would place him near to her.

The Regiment

He was a talented scribe and soon the quality and finesse of his handwriting brought him to the attention of one of the lieutenants who made him his secretary.  Although he had hoped to catch a glimpse of his wife he was yet to do so to his disappointment. Then one day the captain who had married his wife visited the lieutenant on regiment business.   He noticed the quality of the handwriting of La Rose who was working at his desk and asked if he could borrow him for a few days to help him with paperwork and correspondence.

A False Accusation

It so happened that while assisting the false captain he saw his wife but she did not recognise him at all.  La Rose of course knew her and now he knew who her new husband was. Nevertheless, he refused to let it show and kept his identity from them.  The captain was delighted with the service La Rose had given and as a reward invited him to dine with him and his wife one evening.

The false captain had a servant who was dishonest and had stolen a silver dish.  Fearing the theft was about to be discovered he secreted the dish into one of La Rose’s pockets.  When the silver dish was missed the servant then accused La Rose who was searched and the stolen item found.   Although La Rose protested his innocence he was court marshaled and sentenced to be shot and taken to prison to await his execution.

Père La Chique

As you will understand La Rose was feeling miserable and despondent at the way of the world.  An old veteran of the regiment named Père La Chique would bring him his meals and seemed friendly and kindly towards him.  This cheered and encouraged La Rose greatly and he made friends with him. One day, knowing his execution would be soon he said to La Chique,  “Père, my friend I have two thousand francs that I am sure you could use to the good.  If you will promise to do something for me when I am gone you can have them!”

Père was a man who liked his liquor and was always short of money so he readily agreed.  La Rose reached into his pocket and pulled out the little silver casket that the spectre had given him so long ago.  Handing it to Père he said, “After I have been shot and they have buried me bring a pick-axe and strike it in the ground over my grave.  The earth will peel back and you will see me lying there in my burial shroud, dead. Pass the rose under my nose three times and I will wake as if I have been in a very deep slumber.  Make sure you bring me some clothes to wear.”

Père agreed and took the money and the rose.  Soon after La Rose was taken out and shot. Père now with a pocketful of money set about his favorite pastime in style.  He went from one inn to another drinking and merrymaking with his friends. Now and then he remembered his promise to La Rose but only for a short time.  However, after a few more drinks he either forgot again, or thought to himself that La Rose was surely better off dead than suffering the grief and weariness of the world and carried on with his drinking.

Of course with so much money in his pocket many of his old friends appeared and he found himself surrounded by new ones whom he spent his money on.  When all of the money was gone they all disappeared and left him to reflect on his behaviour. Feeling ashamed he again remembered his promise to La Rose.

Resurrection

Finding himself a pick-axe and some clothes for his dead friend he went to the cemetery to carry out his promise.  Striking the earth with the pickaxe the earth peeled back, just as he had been told. When he looked in the grave and saw his dead friend wrapped in his shroud his nerve failed him and he ran off.  After a stiff drink he summoned the courage to return. Taking the rose from the silver casket he passed it under the nose of La Rose three times. La Rose sat up and yawned as if he had been in a deep slumber just like he said he would.  Hastily, he took the casket and the rose back and dressed himself and the two of them left the cemetery.

After his resurrection, without money and no roof over his head, La Rose was obliged to look for ways to earn a living.  He took many menial, low-paid jobs to make ends meet and one day while wandering the streets looking for work he heard the beating of a drum.  He followed it to the town square where the Town Crier stood on the steps of the town hall about to make an announcement.

The Crier told the crowd that had gathered that the King was looking for men to act as guards for three nights  at the local chapel and was prepared to pay handsomely for suitable recruits. Naturally, this piqued the attention of La Rose thinking it sounded too good to be true.  Indeed it was for the Crier went on to explain that the King’s daughter had been transformed into some kind of terrible monster and was imprisoned there.

Nevertheless, La Rose was desperate and decided he would apply, which he did and was accepted.  The captain of the guard then warned him that all those who had guarded the chapel between eleven o’clock in the evening and midnight had never been seen again and no trace of them had ever been found.  Naturally, La Rose was dismayed and thought about quitting the post but decided he would give it a try anyway as life to him at this time seemed not worth living.

The First Night

The guard duties were duly allotted to the new recruits and it fell to La Rose that he take the third turn at guarding the chapel.  The first guard went on duty on the first night and was never found in the morning. On the second night it was the same with the second guard.  The third night came and La Rose fearfully took up his post in the sentry box at the chapel. As time wore on he could feel fear creeping up on him and again he thought of running.  He was about to do so when terrible voice called him by his name. He froze to the spot as the voice cried, “La Rose! La Rose! Where in the world are you now, La Rose?”

“Who is it that is calling my name?” answered La Rose trembling .

“Listen to me carefully and you will come to no harm!  Very soon the most terrible beast will leap out of the chapel and it will look to kill you.  At the stroke of eleven place your musket against the sentry box and climb on top of the box and the beast will not harm you.”

When he heard the chapel clock strike eleven he placed his musket against the sentry box and climbed on top.  Just as he had done so he heard a terrible howling and the most fearsome beast leapt out of the chapel with flames issuing from its mouth and nostrils, crying, “Sentry, sentry, sentry, where are you, sentry? I will devour you when I find you!”  

As it cried out it seized the musket in its teeth and tore it into a thousand pieces and then vanished.  La Rose looked down from the top of the sentry box terrified. When the beast had gone he climbed down to look at the crumbled remains of his musket.

He was the only sentinel who had ever survived one night guarding the chapel.  When the news was given to the king he was delighted and full of hope. He knew that to break the spell that held his daughter the same sentry must survive three consecutive nights at the chapel between the eleven and twelve o’clock at night.

The Second Night

The next night La Rose took up his station at the chapel equipped with a new musket.  Time passed and again he heard the same voice he had heard the night before. This time it told him to place his musket against the door of the chapel and hide behind the sentry box.  La Rose did exactly as he was told. At the stroke of eleven the beast leapt screaming from the chapel and grabbed his musket and bit it into thousands of pieces and then quickly returned to the chapel leaving him unharmed.

The Third Night

The third night came and once again La Rose heard the voice.  This time it told him that when the beast issued from the chapel he should run to the back of the building.  There he would see a leaden tomb which he should hide behind. Behind the tomb he would find a small bottle.   When the beast came for him he was to throw the contents of this over the head of the beast.

When the clock struck eleven he heard the dreadful scream of the beast as it burst through the chapel door.  Standing to one side La Rose waited until it was clear of the doorway then darted behind it through the door and ran to the back of the chapel.  Just as the voice had advised him he found a leaden tomb which he hid behind and behind the tomb he found a small bottle and pulled out its stopper.

The beast quickly turned and gave chase and was about to leap over the tomb when La Rose stood up to face it and threw the contents of the bottle over its head.  The beast howled horribly and thrashed and writhed on the floor. The chapel shook but eventually everything calmed down and stood before him was the most beautiful princess.

The King’s Daughter

La Rose then took the princess to the Old King who was delighted to have his daughter back.  He was so grateful that he begged him to marry his daughter which La Rose was also pleased to agree to.  So La Rose married the Old King’s daughter and a little while later the Old King decided he would retire and abdicated making his son-in-law the new King.

The New King

It came to pass that one day as the new king it was his duty to inspect the regiments of his army.  As he inspected the regiment that he had served in he found it was the false captain standing at the head of the lines of  soldiers who were all stood to attention in his honour. As he inspected the lines of soldiers he told the Colonel that he thought someone was missing. The Colonel admitted that there was indeed one man missing but told him that the missing man was an old veteran who really was not much use for anything.  It was thought he lowered the tone of the regiment so he had been left behind to clean the barracks. La Rose told the Colonel that he would like to see him and Père La Chique was brought before him trembling. He then ordered the false captain to step forward and ripped the epaulettes from his shoulders and placed them on the shoulders of Père La Chique making him the new captain.

Then he ordered that a great fire was to be set around two stakes.  Then he ordered the false Captain and his wife who he deemed had so easily forgotten him to be tied to the stakes and they were burned alive together. Perhaps this may seem a rather harsh treatment for his first wife who La Rose had once loved, resurrected and then forgot about and indeed, maybe it was, but it is not what it seems.  Nevertheless, La Rose as the King and together with his Queen, lived a long and happy life thereafter.

The Secret

You see the thing about the world of  fairy tales is that there maybe magic and there may be love but the world inside the tale grotesquely mirrors the world outside which also has magic and love.  It also has pain and grief and injustice and somehow we all have to deal with what the world gives us, face our demons and rise again, which is also mirrored in the folktale, but that is not the secret. You see, only the reader can find that and it is a powerful secret to know once it is understood.

© 23/10/2018 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright October 23rd, 2018 zteve t evans

(1)  CHAPTER VI: BRETON FOLK-TALES – The Magic Rose – Legends and Romances of Brittany – by Lewis Spence – [1917]

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Brazilian Folktales: Domingo’s Cat

 

Magical Animal Helpers and Tricksters

Humans have always had a long and beneficial association with animals and animal helpers appear in many fairy tales from around the world.  Sometimes they are tricksters as in this story and sometimes they are teachers or guides that take the hero through difficult situations and very often they are magical.  Presented below is a retelling of a Brazilian fairy tale from Tales of Giants from Brazil, by Elsie Spicer Eells, illustrated by Helen M. Barton, called Domingo’s Cat and has much in common with Charles Perrault’s “The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots, from the 17th century.”

The Story of Domingo’s Cat

The story begins with a man named Domingo who fell upon hard times and had to sell everything he owned just to buy enough food to keep from starving.   After all his possessions had finally been sold he had nothing left in the world except his cat which he loved dearly.  He vowed that come what may he would never sell his cat and that he would rather starve before he let any harm come to it. As it sat upon his lap he told it,  “Have no fear my only friend, I will never let you go or let harm come to you, I will die of starvation first.”

The cat rubbed its head against him and replied, “My good master Domingo, while you have me I will never let you starve.  I am going to go out into the wide world and find both our fortunes. You must put your trust in me.”

Treasure for the King

With that Domingo’s cat jumped down from his master’s lap and ran off into the jungle.  Presently, he stopped and began digging a hole in the ground with his fore paws. He dug furiously throwing up the earth all around and mixed in with the earth were many silver pieces. He gathered some of these up and took them home and gave them to Domingo to buy food.  Then he went back to the jungle collecting the remaining silver pieces and took them to the king.

The next day the cat went out into the jungle and began digging more holes  and this time mixed in with the dirt were pieces of gold. He gathered these up and took them to the king who again was very pleaded with it.   The following day the cat went out into the jungle and again began digging a hole but this time the earth was mixed with many shiny diamonds which he took along to the king.  Again, the king was surprised and very happy with the cat and asked him where he was getting all these riches from.

“It is not me, it is Domingo my master,”  replied the cat.

The Wedding

The king was very impressed and thought that Domingo must be very rich.  Indeed, he thought he must probably be richest man in all his kingdom and therefore just the man to marry his beautiful daughter whom he had been looking for a suitable husband for. Therefore, he suggested to the cat that his master may like to marry her. The cat took the news back to Domingo who agreed he would like to marry the king’s daughter but pointed out that he did not have any clothes anywhere near fine enough to wear to a wedding let alone as the bridegroom to the king’s daughter.

“Don’t worry about that or anything else,”  the cat told him, ” I will take care of everything and make all the necessary arrangements.  Just leave it all to me.” 

The Wedding Suit

The cat ran back to the king and said,  “Your Majesty, I have bad news.  A terrible fire broke out in the tailor’s shop where my master, Domingo was having his wedding suit made and the tailor and his assistants were all burnt to death.  Now everything in the shop is nothing but ashes including Domingo’s wedding suit. I wonder if perhaps you could find him something suitable for such a grand wedding from your own wardrobe.”

The king readily agreed and himself chose the finest clothes and sent them with a servant to Domingo.   After Domingo had put the clothes on he looked very smart and perfectly dressed for such an important wedding but he realized there was a problem.

“I look very fine but I have no splendid palace to take my wife home to after we are married,”  he told his cat.

“Leave it to me,” said his cat, “I will see to it at once.”   and ran off into the jungle until he came to a huge and magnificent castle where a great giant lived.  He banged on the door until the giant came and answered it and then said, “Great giant, will you lend your castle to my master Domingo, please, just for a while?”

The giant snorted and shouted angrily “What me lend my castle to that pauper Domingo? Certainly not!  Go away!”

“I will not go away and I will have your castle,” said the cat and in the blinking of an eye changed the giant into a mouse and pounced upon it and ate it.

The Giant’s Castle

The giant’s  castle was indeed very wonderful and had a beautiful and stately palace. There were rooms marvelously decorated with wonderful words of art and adorned with gold, silver, diamonds, emeralds and rubies and much, much more.  Outside the palace, inside the castle walls, was a beautiful garden filled with wonderful flowers and singing birds and it was indeed a most fitting place for Domingo to bring his new bride home to.

After the wedding a stately carriage took Domingo and his wife to the caste and when they arrived they saw his cat sitting in the window watching for them, but that was the last they ever saw of him because he disappeared into the jungle to look for another kind, penniless master to make rich.  Maybe one day he may find you and then – well, who knows?

© 22/8/2018 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright August 22nd, 2018 zteve t evans

Indonesian Folktales: Princess Kembang Melati and the Golden Butterfly

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By epSos .de [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The following story is a retelling of The Golden Butterfly from Indonesian Legends and Folk Tales by Adele de Leeuw.

Princess Kembang Melati

There was once a beautiful young princess named Kembang Melati. She lived in a palace situated along the banks of a great river. On the other side of the river in a palace that was all of the colors of the rainbow lived Rajah Bajir who was the Monarch of the Rains. At his will, Rajah Bajir could cause the land to flood and his tears were the streams that fed the great river.

When he looked out from his palace of rainbow colors over the river he would often see on the far bank Princess Kembang Melati weaving her wedding robe. As she worked away on the other side of the river he could sometimes catch the sound of her sweet voice singing a song of love and he was enchanted. He hoped that the princess would look up from her work for a second and see him on the other side and perhaps smile at him. She never did.

Still, the Monarch of the Rains continued admiring her from the other side of the river. The more he gazed across at her, the bigger and sadder his eyes grew and he wept. As he wept the tears swelled the streams that ran into to the great river causing its waters to rise. His sighs ran through the trees and branches around his rainbow-colored palace and carried across the river.

On the other side, Princess Kembang Melati heard his sighing and thought it was just the wind. She saw the river grow higher and higher and thought it was rain from the mountain. She did not know it was Rajah Bajir, the Monarch of the rains who was weeping and sighing for the love of her.

A Golden Butterfly

For many sad and lonely days, Rajah Bajir yearned and pined for the love of Kembang Melati. At last, he transformed himself into a golden butterfly and fluttered across the river. He flitted back and forth across her window until Princess Kembang Melati finally noticed him. When at last she looked up and saw him she went to the window to get a closer look at the beautiful golden butterfly that had come to visit her. She watched in delight as it fluttered before her and held out her hand. Gently and softly it settled in her a palm and to her delight kissed her fingertips. Then it quickly fluttered out of the window and was gone.

golden butterfly 2

by William Chapman Hewitson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

The princess put the butterfly from her mind and a couple of days later as she was weaving her wedding dress the golden butterfly fluttered in through the window. It fluttered around the room and then settled gently on her right cheek and whispered softly into her ear, “Princess Kembang Melati be quick and weave your wedding dress, for you bridegroom will soon appear.” However, she only heard the word “bridegroom” and she asked, “Where is my bridegroom?” But the butterfly had flown off through the window.

Nasiman the Cruel

Princess Kembang Melati had an old nurse named Sarinah who had looked after her since she was born. Sarinah had a son named Nasiman who was selfish and wicked. He had been listening outside the window and heard the princess ask the butterfly where her bridegroom was. Quickly he ran his mother and said, “Mother, as I passed by the window of Princess Kembang Melati I heard her ask a question. She said, ‘Where is my bridegroom?’ Mother, I want you to go and tell her I am her bridegroom. Please go now.”

“But my son, you are not of noble birth and can never marry Princess Kembang Melati,”

replied his mother.   Although Nasiman was her son and she loved him she was frightened of him because she knew how cruel and wicked he could be. Therefore, she went to the princess and told her that her bridegroom had now arrived and had come to claim her for his bride. At that moment the golden butterfly flew in through the window and settled behind the ear of the princess and whispered, “Your true bridegroom has not yet arrived and this one is false. His name is Nasiman and he is the son of Sarinah, your nurse. Do not marry him! Wait instead for your true bridegroom to comes!” and with that the butterfly fluttered out of the window.

Princess Kembang Melati looked at her nurse and said, “No Sarinah, I will wait until my true bridegroom comes to claim me.”  This terrified Sarinah who greatly feared what her son would do if he did not get his way, “Forgive me, Princess Kembang Melati please, please marry him now or I know we will both be killed!”

Princess Kembang Melati looked at her frightened nurse in shock. She did not want her nurse to die and she did not want to die herself. Then she said, “You must go to the bridegroom who is here now and tell him that I must have seven days to contemplate marriage to him. He must wait on the river bank and I will send my answer to him there before the seven days are up. Go now and tell him!”

Sarinah went and told Nasiman what Princess Kembang Melati has told her. He was silent for a few minutes thinking, then decided it was a good idea. So that he could be ready and wait for the answer he had seven days of food and drink prepared for him and taken to a spot on the river bank where he would await the decision of the princess.

The White Crow

It so happened that on the very same day as Nasiman settled down to wait on the river bank the Monarch of the Rains wrote Princess Kembang Melati a letter and filled a small chest full of gold and jewelry. Then he called his white crow to him who was his fastest and best messenger. The Monarch of the Rains bound the chest to the crow’s back and placed the letter in her claws and ordered her to take both directly to Princess Kembang Melati without delay. The white crow promised she would fly directly to the princess with the letter and the chest and off she went at full speed flying high and flying fast.

As she flew she looked down and saw Nasiman sat on the bank eating a fish. The white crow loved fish to eat fish and she circled around him crying, “My, but that fish looks so good. Please, may I have some?”  Nasiman glared up in the sky at her flying around him and said angrily, “Who are you dare to ask me that? Where are you from and where are you going with that letter in your claws? What have got in that chest on your back?”

“It so happens I am the messenger of none other than the great Monarch of the Rains. He has ordered me to take this letter and chest to none other than Princess Kembang Melati and I must place them in her hands myself,” said the white crow importantly.  On hearing this Nasiman quickly formulated a devious plan. “Well, in that case, I expect you are hungry. Come an sit here with me. Take off your chest and put down the letter and eat some of this delicious fish.” he told the white crow.

Fish was her favorite meal and the white crow placed the letter and the chest on the river bank and began busily pecking up the fish. While the bird was so occupied Nasiman quickly opened the box and took the gold and jewelry out. He replaced them with great big spiders and vicious looking scorpions and quickly closed the lid. Then with the bird still busily eating the fish he took the letter to his mother saying, “Quick mother, although I cannot read I am sure this letter contains beautiful words and loving thoughts to Princess Kembang Melati. Change them so that they are horrible words and hateful thoughts. While you are doing that I will hide this gold and jewelry.”

Nasiman the Liar

Through fear, his mother did as he had told her. When she had finished he took the letter and chest back to where the white crow was still busily pecking up the fish. She was enjoying the fish so much she had not noticed his absence at all. The white crow finished off the fish and then went for a drink at a nearby spring.

“Why ever did you not take the letter and the chest directly to Princess Kembang Melati as you had been instructed to by the Monarch of the Rains?” murmured the spring softly. However, the white crow did not hear and neither did she hear the breeze that whispered, “White crow, white crow, now something terrible is going to happen all because of your greed!” But the white crow did not hear the warning and something terrible did happen.

The white crow took off across the river and swooped down through Princess Kembang Melati’s window. She dropped the letter in her hand and then perched on the window sill to let her take off the chest from her back. When Princess Kembang Melati saw the white crow bearing the chest and the letter she believed they had been sent by her bridegroom and that he must near. Naturally, she was very excited and decided to read the letter first, but she was in for a shock. The letter said, “Princess Kembang Melati you are so ugly and your skin is foul and wrinkled and your hair is all dirty and matted. What is in the chest is horrid and nasty and so are you!” Opening the little chest she saw the spiders and scorpions and threw out of the window into the river in a rage.

After a moment of disbelief the princess became very, very angry. She tore up the letter then fell to pacing up and down and weeping while wondering what she had done to deserve such cruel treatment. The white crow looked on in amazement. She could not believe her master had written such an awful letter and put the spiders and scorpions in the chest as she knew he loved the princess greatly.

Nasiman was pleased and laughed to himself. It was just what he had hoped for and was now sure she would agree to marry him. However, Princess Kembang Melati after her shock and disappointment now had no desire to marry anyone and was deeply hurt by the letter. She spent all her time weeping and pacing up and down her chamber, wringing her hands. Her ladies tried to comfort her but she was beyond help and ordered them to take away her weaving stool and wedding drèss declaring that she would never work on it again.

Illustrations_of_new_species_of_exotic_butterflies_Nymphalis_I,_Charaxes_zoolina

by William Chapman Hewitson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

As the sad day drew to a close and evening began falling the golden butterfly flitted in through the window and settled next to the princess’s ear and whispered, “Beautiful Princess Kembang Melati, why do you not wear the jewelry and gems that your bridegroom has given to you?”  But the princess flapped her hand angrily at the butterfly, but Rajah Bajir thought she was playing and whispered, “Dear Princess Kembang Melati, would you like to meet your bridegroom in the morning? He will take you to see his rainbow-colored palace where the sun rays are transformed into a thousand beautiful colors. There you will see cloth so finely woven it is like moonbeams. Princess Kembang Melati finish weaving your wedding dress for your bridegroom comes tomorrow!” This infuriated the princess even more and she ordered her servants to chase out the butterfly and not let it return.

When the Monarch of the Rains heard her orders he became so angry that he caused the land to flood in the night. Everything that was not drowned in water along with the current. The palace of Princess Kembang Melati also floated along with the princess, Sarinah her nurse, Nasiman and all her servants trapped inside.

Along the swollen river the palace began to drift and was taken near to the bank on the other side where Rajah Bajir, the Monarch of the Rains stood glumly watching the flood. Although he saw the palace of the princess come floating along he turned his head away as if he had not noticed it. The princess was looking out of her window in horror as the flood carried her and the palace along with its flow. When she saw Rajah Bajir she cried out to him appealing for help but he just looked the other way, making out he could not hear her.

Then Sarinah, feeling guilty because she was sure this was all something to do with the letter, cried out, “Oh Rajah Bajir, great Monarch of the rains, it is all my fault. I am the one to blame. I changed your beautiful words into ugly words. It was Nasiman, my son, who took the gems and jewelry from the chest and replaced them with spiders and scorpions. It was Nasiman who gave your white crow the fish so that he could make the change while the white crow was busy eating!”

Hearing this, Rajah Bajir, the Monarch of the rains understood it all. He ran from his rainbow-colored palace down to the river and pulled the princess and all those in the palace safely onto dry. Then he led them to his own palace, but he would not allow Sarinah and Nasiman to enter. Instead, he turned them away and roared, “May the waters cover you, may the waters drown you!” And the waters rose swiftly and engulfed the nurse and her son. Then he called the white crow before him and turned her plumage black and took away her power of speech. Thereafter, all she could say was “Kaw … kaw … kaw!” which meant gold. She spent the rest of her life searching for the gold and jewels which Nasiman had taken from the chest and hidden.

With punishment meted out to the wrongdoers, Rajah Bajir commanded the floods to stop and recede. Soon all the world was above water and dry and then he turned to Princess Kembang Melati and explained to her who he was. He told her her he had watched her for many days and had fallen in love with her and he had transformed himself into a golden butterfly to bring her his messages.

Hearing this, the realisation came upon Princess Kembang Melati and she pitied him and understood that he was her true bridegroom by the tender and loving way he spoke to her. She finished weaving her wedding dress and the two were married and lived happily in the rainbow-colored palace until the end of their days. It is a most curious thing but nevertheless true to say that no human has ever found the rainbow covered palace, or visited Princess Kembang Melati and the Rajah Bajir, the Monarch of the Rains.

© 29/11/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright November 29th, 2017 zteve t evans

The Strange Fate of King Herla

King Herla

King Herla was a legendary King of the ancient Britons who along with his men became caught in a strange spell.   After attending  the marriage of the Dwarf King in the Otherword, Herla and his host of men became trapped in an endless cycle.  They became doomed to wandering the world on horseback never being able to set foot on the ground.   Along the way they attracting the souls of the newly dead into their company who joined them in riding the earth in wild, meaningless circles and were often called The Wild Hunt in England by those who witnessed them.

This unearthly and unwelcome situation arose through an agreement he made with a king from the dwarf realm.  According to the legend the Dwarf King visited King Herla and together they made a binding promise with each other that they would  attend each others wedding.

The Dwarf King

The story begins with King Herla and his retinue traveling through an ancient forest. Feeling tired he decided he needed a rest so he bid his men to leave him in peace while he lay down underneath the trees to sleep.  As he began to doze he heard a sound of rustling coming towards him through the undergrowth.  Drawing his sword he readied himself for what should appear.  To his surprise he was greeted by a small human figure riding on the back of a large goat.

Compared to the humans the dwarf was smaller and squatter and probably about half as tall.  The dwarf had a huge head and a bright face with a long red beard down to his chest. His skin was light yellowish brown and his shoulders, arms and chest were very hairy.  His legs were also hairy and he had cloven hooves instead of feet and he rode upon a huge mountain goat.

Riding up to him the Dwarf King told Herla his people had chosen him to be a guest at his wedding because he was the only king at the time who they regarded as having the wisdom and goodness to attend such  an important occasion.  The Dwarf King told him,

I, the king of many kings and chiefs and of a people numerous beyond all count, come willingly, sent from them to thee, and though I am to thee unknown, yet I glory in the fame which hath raised thee high above other kings, since thou art the best and the nearest to me in place and blood, and art moreover worthy of having me grace with high honour thy wedding as a guest, when the King of the French giveth his daughter to thee—an arrangement concluded without thy knowledge, and Jo, his messengers come this very day. Let there be an abiding compact between us, that I shall attend thy wedding, and thou mine a year later to the day.’ (1)

Dismounting he bowed and held before Herla a bronze horn of exquisite workmanship and asked him to drink from it to seal the compact.  Herla was unsure about accepting this strange and unworldly binding agreement.  Nevertheless, taking the horn he drank from it and handed it back to the Dwarf King who drank the rest, sealing the contract between them. He then rode off into the undergrowth on his goat without another word.  Herla rejoined his men and returned to his court thinking no more of the peculiar affair other than it had probably been a dream when he was half asleep.

The wedding of King Herla

Nevertheless, arriving back home and to the King’s amazement ambassadors from France arrived accepting the terms of his marriage to the daughter of the King of France.  As the wedding was about to begin the Dwarf King entered with many of his subjects and servants.  There were so many more chairs and tables were needed to accommodate them all.

From tents pitched by the Dwarf King’s followers fine wines were served from pitchers exquisitely decorated and studded with precious gemstones and poured into goblets of silver and gold and crystal.  They had brought the most wonderful food with them and they laid a banquet the like that has never been seen before and their minstrels entertained the guests.   Even though they worked like beavers they were so pleasant and courteous that that King Herla and the Britons were made to feel wonderfully honored.  At the end of the banquet the Dwarf King stood and bowed before King Herla and his wife and said,

‘0 best of kings, the Lord is my witness that, according to our compact, I am present at thy wedding. But if anything that thou cravest besides what thou seest here can be asked of me, I shall willingly supply it; but if not, thou must not put off thy requital of this high honour when I shall ask for it.’ (2)

Abruptly the Dwarf King turned on his heel and left the wedding reception taking his retinue and servants with him.  the tents were packed quickly away and all signs of them vanished in a trice.

The wedding of the Dwarf King

King Herla heard or saw nothing of the Dwarf King until one year from his wedding day when once again he appeared riding on his goat with a retinue behind him. Standing before Herla he reminded him of their agreement and asked him if he was willing to fulfill it.  Herla agreed and along with a retinue of knights followed the Dwarf King along strange paths through the forest until at last they came to a towering cliff.  There Herla and his men followed the Dwarf King into a small cave and along a passage that opened into a huge and marvelous cavern that was lit my many hundreds of lights.

There were many thousands of dwarves gathered there awaiting their arrival for the wedding of the Dwarf King.  The Dwarf King was married and King Herla and his knights bore witness to it and celebrated with the dwarves and the contract between the two was fulfilled.

The warning

Before he left the Dwarf King gave Herla and his men many presents of hawks, dogs and horses such as were used in the hunt.  As they were about to leave the underground world to enter the world above ground he presented the king with a small bloodhound which he told him should be carried before him on the saddle of his horse.  He then issued a stern warning telling him that the world he had known had changed and it was not safe for him and his men to leave and begged them to stay.

King Herla, not understanding why the Dwarf King spoke in this way politely refused saying he wanted to return to his wife and kingdom.  Shaking his head the Dwarf King then gave him another warning.  He told him that no rider’s foot should touch the ground before the bloodhound he had just given Herla jumped to the ground on its own accord from its seat on the saddle. If this was not followed death would strike as soon as the foot of a rider touched the ground.  With this warning the Dwarf King turned abruptly and left them.

Returning to the outside world

Herla and his men rode into the sunlight and they deemed they had been in the cavern for no more than three days.  On the way back Herla came across an old shepherd tending his flock and stopped to ask him what news he had of the queen.  The shepherd looked at him in confusion and said,

‘My lord, I scarce understand thy language, since I am a Saxon and thou a Briton. But I have never heard of the name of that queen, save that men tell of one so called, a queen of the very ancient Britons, and wife of King Herla, who is reported in legends to have disappeared with a pigmy into this cliff and to have been seen nevermore on earth. The Saxons, having driven out the natives, have possessed this kingdom for full two hundred years.’ (3)

Herla and his men had only thought they had spent no more than three days in the cavern and they were greatly surprised to learn this.   Some of them, forgot the warning of the Dwarf King and dismounted, but as soon as their feet touched the ground their bodies disintegrated into dust.  Remembering the Dwarf King’s warning, Herla immediately forbade his men to dismount until the bloodhound that sat before him should leap to the ground on its own cause.

Herla’s fate

Now there are those that say the dog has never taken that leap to earth and that Herla and his men are fated to ride their horses across the world without rest, or stopping for all eternity.  However, others say their strange ride was was seen by many over many centuries until the first year of the Coronation of King Henry II.  Then it was seen around noon by the River Wye near Hereford.  According to some accounts an army was raised to challenge them to battle but the host took to the air and vanished into the clouds and has not been seen since.  Others say the Wild Hunt still at times can be seen before some disaster such as war, or famine occurs and is seen as a portent of doom.  Yet still, other accounts say that the bloodhound jumped to the ground breaking the spell upon the king and his men and they are now at rest.

The Otherworld

Now some also say this story is a warning for those that visit the Otherworld that time there passes slower and the outside world changes faster and can never be the same on the return. They also say it is a warning of the danger of dealing with the people of the the Otherworld for they can be capricious and deceptive in their dealings with humans who have never really understood them.  They doubt why the Dwarf King would want such a strange compact with King Herla anyway.

Now, what do you think?

© 20/01/2016  zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright January 20th, 2016 zteve t evans