Alison from The Cheap Reader has created a fun project for fans of Fairy Tales, appropriately called Project: Fairy Tale. Basically, a blogger can choose a fairytale (only one fairytale per blogger), and read the original story. Then the blogger will read at least three retellings of that fairytale. All of the posts will be up in February. So much fun, right? Be sure to check out Alison’s master post!
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
So, a poor farmer had a ton of kids, but his youngest is a beautiful, sweet young woman. One day a white bear knocks on his door and says that if the farmer gives the white bear his youngest daughter, that farmer will become rich. Being a “nice” father, he asks his youngest daughter, who naturally refuses. The farmer tells the white bear to come back in a week, and the farmer will talk to his daughter. And Daddy talks Daughter into going with the bear (I know right!?). So the youngest daughter rides on the white bear’s back for a long, long time to a castle in an icy land. Along the way, the white bear asks if the youngest daughter is afraid, and she says no.
Anyway, now that the youngest daughter is at the white bear’s castle, things are going okay. Except, every night a man climbs into bed with the youngest daughter, but she can never see him since it’s so dark. The youngest daughter misses her family, so the bear lets her go home for a little visit.
The youngest daughter is home, and she is happy. But Mama gets Daughter alone, and when Mama learns that a man has been sleeping in bed with Daughter, Mama says that she must see who it is, because it could be a troll.
You can guess what happens, next. Daughter goes back with the white bear, but one night she lights the candle her mother gave her. She sees that the man is, in fact, not a troll, but a handsome prince. As she gazes at the man, some tallow from the candle lands on the man’s nightshirt, and he wakes up. He is all “what have you done? All you had to do was not see me in my human form for a year, and then it would break the spell. Now I have to marry a troll princess who lives East of the Sun, West of the Moon!” He disappears, and the youngest daughter is left alone, weeping.
Here’s the good part. She decides to rescue him! She walks a lot, and meets some old women who give her a golden apple, a golden carding-comb, and a gold spinning wheel. Then the youngest daughter rides the East Wind, West Wind, South Wind, and, finally the North Wind which brings her to the castle that is East of the sun and West of the moon.
When the troll princess sees the youngest daughter with the golden apple, the princess asks to buy it. The youngest daughter says it isn’t for sale, unless she can see the prince. The princess agrees, but gives the prince a sleeping potion before the youngest daughter can see him. So he sleeps through the night and the youngest daughter can’t talk to him. The same thing happens the next day when the princess wants the carding-comb. But the next day, the prince is told by some “Christian folk” that a girl has been weeping and calling his name at night, and so he throws out his drink with the sleeping potion.
The prince and the youngest daughter come up with a plan. The prince will declare he will only marry the woman who can clean his shirt with the tallow from the candle that the girl dripped on him. And everyone knows trolls can’t clean anything. So the wedding day comes, and of course the troll princess can’t clean the shirt, but the youngest daughter can. Then they get married, rescue the Christian folk, and live happily every after. Ta-Da!
My Thoughts on East of the Sun and West of the Moon
I have always loved fairytales. Even when I was a little girl, when I went to the library with my mother, I would only look at the fairytale section of the library. In fact, I didn’t even like Dr. Seuss because there were no princesses in his books. Of course, now that I am an adult, I love Dr. Seuss. But fairytales have a special place in my heart.
If you’ve ever been the library looking for folk & fairy tales you might notice that they are located in the non-fiction section of the library. This is because these tales have been passed down through the oral tradition for hundreds and hundreds of years (a few exceptions – Hans Christian Anderson). These stories tell a lot about a particular culture. What is important to that culture, how things are done in that culture, etc.
However, because these stories were passed down through the oral tradition, when people actually got to writing down the stories (think, the Brothers Grimm), the basic stories are actually very bare bones, with not a lot of detail. I imagine that each storyteller embellished the story he was telling based on the audience’s reactions.
So, when I read folk & fairy tales today, their is usually very little character development. There are some exceptions, of course, but, for the most part it’s pretty bare bones.
As the characters of the story are always the most important to me, I have to keep in mind why there is little development in the folktales, and appreciate them for what they are. But while there is limited character development in these folktales, this fact lends itself very well to retellings!!!! Authors can create characters with almost any kind of personality. Yay!!!
East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a Norwegian fairytale. I am not familiar with most of the Norwegian folktales, and I really like that I wasn’t very knowledgeable about this tale. Growing up with Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the like, it is nice to come across a tale that I don’t really know much about.
Even though I wasn’t familiar with this story, there are some similarities to other European fairytales. But what I think is a bit different from other folktales is that the young woman sort of rescues the prince. I that like 🙂
Granted, she rescues him by being able to clean his shirt (womanly duties and all), but still. She isn’t being rescued by the prince. I’m also quite fascinated by this whole idea of trolls. They really aren’t mentioned much, but I believe they are a common element in Norwegian tales. I could be so wrong on this, though.
I also like the similarities to Beauty and the Beast. B&B is probably my favorite fairytale, and I like to imagine that, like in B&B, the girl falls in love with the bear before she sees he is a handsome prince. Although, the bear was definitely liking that the girl is pretty. But, what are you gonna do?
I did like the fairytale, but mostly I am excited to read the retellings. I think there is a lot here to expand into a full novel. I’m super excited to see how trolls play into the story, as well as how the youngest daughter felt living with the bear.
Fairytales are in the public domain (copyright free). Read the original tale here from Project Gutenberg.
Also, the images relating to the fairytale are from Project Gutenberg.