Then there are exceptions we see reflected in folklore:
When one wakes in the morning, one does not usually think, "I better be careful or I may be eaten by my father today."
Yet, there was a little girl who had that fate. Sometimes the fate falls on a little boy.
The guilt rests upon the one who kills and prepares the child for the family meal. Rarely do the other family members know the meal's true source until later.
Folktales to Consider:
Applie and Orangie, from Scotland
When the mother dies, the father cares for the girls Applie and Orangie. Then, he remarries. The stepmother kills Applie and turns her into stew that the father eats unknowingly. Orangie takes the bones from the stew and buries them. The bones transform into a pigeon. The bird flies to a shopkeeper, a jeweler, and an ironmonger. The bird sings, "My mammy killed me. My daddy ate me." The people are enchanted and the bird gains a doll, a watch, and an ax respectively. Finally, the bird sings down the chimney and drops the doll for the sister. The second time the bird drops the watch for the father. The stepmother is anxious to receive her gift, and the bird drops the ax down the chimney.
The Juniper Tree, from Germany
A boy is killed and fed to the father when the stepmother desires the whole fortune to go to her daughter. The daughter knows about the evil deed, though she loves the boy and wraps the bones. The bones turn into a bird who perches in the juniper tree and sings, "My mother, she butchered me. My father, he ate me." A goldsmith, a cobbler, and a miller provide a gold chain, a pair of red shoes, and a millstone to hear the bird sing the dismal song. The family hears the bird, and the father goes outside by the tree to see. He is given the golden chain. The girl then goes to the tree and is given the red pair of shoes. The stepmother goes to the tree and is squashed by the millstone. The bird transforms back into the boy.
The Cannibal Wife, from Southern Polynesia
A mother is not allowed to be alone after giving birth. If left alone for the first year, she would turn into a witch and eat her children as well as everyone else in the village. A certain mother gives birth. Almost a year has gone by when there are plans for the babe's first birthday. The father needs more meat for the celebration, and he takes their son along for the hunt. Then, since the mother is left alone, she turns into a witch and eats everyone in the village. When the father and son return, she attempts to trick the father by having him walk in front of her to check on the fish so she could surprise attack and eat him and the boy. The father gives an excuse that he must relieve himself, runs into the woods, and makes noisy toys in the woods so she would think he was still relieving himself. He leaves the island, and to this day the woman waits for him.
***Also see Houmea, Uta's wife, from Maori culture.
Ways to Avoid Cannibalism--
Do not accidentally sprinkle salt on any family members.
Stay far enough away from the campfire so you do not roast your bottom.
Say several times aloud, "People do not taste like chicken."
Real Way to Avoid Cannibalism--Believe in Higher Being
People tend to avoid such an act when they acknowledge the existence of One who could bestow justice. No matter your religious views, the consequences of killing are undeniable and fiercely punishable.
There are many forms of abuse from physical to sexual to verbal. A few families have more than one abuse in the home.
Often folktales highlight one kind of abuse, though sometimes all three are found.
Folktales to Consider:
The Falcon's Daughter, from Egypt
A man eats a pomegranate that grants pregnancy. He bears and abandons a baby girl. A falcon raises the child. A Sultan's son falls in love with the girl, but she must be tricked down from the tree. An old woman pretends not to know how to slaughter a sheep so the girl comes down from the tree to help. The boy sweeps her up and marries her. One day the boy asks his mother to watch his wife while in the village Hejaz. When the girl asks for bread, the mother cuts off her arm, then foot, etc. until the girl is thrown out. She receives a wish to return to her normal self and have a fruit tree. Meanwhile, the mother pretends to be the wife and sleeps with her son and becomes pregnant. The mother has cravings for grapes. Two servants go to the girl's fruit tree and hear a strange song of what happened to the girl. The boy learns the truth. The mother is killed.
The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Andersen
The girl fears what her father will do to her when she returns home without any money from selling matches.
Noodlehead Stories, from around the world
In these tales, often the mother repeats a phrase like "Ain't got the sense you were born with" when her child performs a foolish act. The frequency seems to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that this would be the child's unavoidable fate. This could be considered a form of verbal abuse.
Way to Avoid Abuse--Support Positive Discipline
Sometimes family members resort to abuse for they feel compelled to stop misbehavior or certain actions. This does not mean that the victim is in the wrong, but only that the offender craves some level of power.
Abuse often leads to the seeking of revenge by the victim. At other times, there permeates the feelings of worthlessness. These mind-sets could be appeased by using respectful methods such as avoiding "I told you so" statements as well as encouraging people to explore mistakes through thoughtful questions. As a result, the people could reflect on their actions rather than listening to someone tell them what is wrong all the time.
Perhaps you have heard the phrase "babes in the woods". During times of war, some European parents would abandon their children in the woods because they could not take care of their temporal needs.
Folklore then reflected this reality.
Sometimes the abandonment occurred when parents lost faith in the ability for their child to survive. Though a child may live and then harbor ill will towards the one who abandoned them--or allowed them to be abandoned--a parent was blessed indeed if the child forgave them.
Folktales to Consider:
The Powerful Boy, from Seneca people
A baby is born no bigger than a palm. The father thinks it will die and abandons it. The father's five-year-old son finds the baby, feeds it, and they become friends. The father learns of the baby's strength and survival and is reunited. The father tells his sons not to go north, but they do. The powerful boy kills all the frogs since he thought they threatened his father. The father tells his two sons not to go north again because of Stone Coat, a giant. The boy goes alone, tricks Stone Coat, and kills him. The father tells the boy not to go southwest because it is gambling country. The boy wins the bet against the buffalo-size-head man and frees the people. The boy goes east, wins a game against two clans, and receives land. The father and two sons move there.
Hansel and Gretel, from Germany
The mother fears their poverty, and convinces the father to abandon their boy and girl in the woods. The children overhear, prepare, and return home. The children are abandoned a second time, and despite their attempts to find home, they find a gingerbread house. After escape from the witch who lived there, they return to their home. As the mother died in their absence, the father welcomes the children home, never to be abandoned again.
Forsaken Brother, from Ojibwa people
A sister and brother promise their dying father to always watch over and provide care for a sickly brother. The older brother leaves first, and the sister endures longer until the loneliness overcomes her soul. The sickly brother must fend for himself. He is befriended by wolves and transforms into one. When the sister learns of the change, she mourns to the end of her days.
Way to Avoid Abandonment--Practice Smart Finances
Nowadays, people have accrued major credit card debt and have spent more money than they earn at one time. Interest never sleeps, and the debt continues to grow.
Avoid credit card use whenever possible and attempt to have a zero balance. Review the family budget periodically and decide together on ways to save money. Build stronger bonds with each other by doing wholesome recreational activities that cost little money or are free.
Addictions often cause neglect of family members, and these addictions could include anything that keeps one away from fulfilling responsibilities. Though one usually thinks of drugs, alcohol, and pornography first, slothfulness or constant Internet usage could be as deadly to family relationships.
Folktales to Consider:
Misery, from Russia
A poor brother asks for food from his rich brother. The rich one invites the poor one and wife to a feast, yet the rich one gives no food to them. Although hungry and thirsty, the poor one sings as though fed and drunk like the other guests. Misery hears the song and invites the poor one to the pub and convinces the brother to sell a sheepskin to pay for the drinks. Then the brother drinks himself out of his sledge, cart, harrow, plow, hut, and even his wife's dress until nothing is left. Misery tells the brother to borrow a neighbor's cart and oxen for more money to continue drinking. Finally, Misery shows the brother where to dig for gold. The brother takes the gold, and then bumps Misery into the hole and buries him. The rich brother is jealous and releases Misery in hopes for revenge. Instead, Misery attaches to the rich brother. His wealth dwindles until destitute. He plays hide and go seek with Misery and tricks him to be stuck in a wheel spoke. He drowns Misery in the river.
Lazybones, from Hungary
A wealthy farmer has a lazy daughter who never has dates due to this fact. One night she attends a dance but no one dances with her because of her laziness. Then one man dances with her, despite being warned, and decides to call on her family. He proposes, the daughter accepts, and the parents give a huge chest full of clothes. Every day the girl wears the clothes and burns them when soiled since she is too lazy to wash. She runs out of clothes, the husband dresses her in straw, takes her to her parents and leaves her there. He remarries.
King Midas, from Greece
King Midas helps a satyr who mentors Dionysus, the god of the life force. After listening to the satyr's stories of the City of Atlantis and the streets paved with gold, King Midas desires such a life for his people. Dionysus grants a wish for the king's kindness, and the king asks that anything he touches would turn to gold. He accidentally turns his daughter into gold, and mourns over his golden touch. He asks to be free of the curse, but it is too late to save his daughter.
Way to Avoid Neglect--Rehabilitate from Addictions
Always surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart. Some addictions have support groups like Alcohol Anonymous. Before any help is sought from these groups, it is best to admit the wrong to your family and have them cheer you on during this process.
These same family members could help remove some of the temptations that caused you to be in this rut such as getting rid of any alcohol in the home, setting up filters to avoid pornography, and so on.
Adultery and betrayal often create headlines for our newspapers, magazines, and television channels. As we are all part of the human family, perhaps it seems inconceivable that we would cheat the ones we profess to love.
Sometimes a family member, usually a spouse, suspects another of such acts when, in fact, the person is innocent.
Folktales to Consider:
The Flight of Birds, from England
A husband is jealous of anyone looking at his wife. One day, a handsome stranger comes to their home to seek shelter from the storm. Throughout the night, the husband imagines that the man and his wife wish to sleep together. Then the husband believes rather than thinks these thoughts. He leads her with a rope outside to hang her. Every time he throws the rope around the limb, a flock of birds disrupt the toss and the rope falls to the ground. The husband tries a pine tree away from the birds. By now it is dawn. The birds appear. The husband repents. The couple walks home.
Zeus and Hera, from Greece
There is not one particular story to choose, as Zeus was constantly being unfaithful. Zeus sometimes resorted to trickery to avoid detection, though Hera usually found out shortly after or during the offense. Even when Zeus and Hera first met, he transformed into a cuckoo bird that needed warmth from the winter winds. Hera gave the bird warmth against her breast, and that was when Zeus transformed and raped the goddess. She married him to conceal the shame, especially as virginity was the most sacred to her as proof by the yearly baths she took in the spring Canathus that renewed this gift. After their marriage, Hera often punished any mortal or goddess for whom Zeus constantly slept with or raped. Though other gods sought Hera, she was always true to Zeus.
The Man Who Came Out Only at Night, from Italy
The youngest daughter of a poor fisherman agrees to marry the man who comes out only at night. She learns that he is a tortoise by day and a man by night. If she were faithful the whole time while he travels around the world, then he would be a man forever. Her husband gives a diamond ring and tells her that she could use its power to good ends. He leaves. She gets a job at a bakery and blesses it with customers by the ring's power. Three men fall in love with her and offer money to sleep with her. One-by-one, she invites the men and has them, through the ring's power, do tasks around the bakery all night so she can get rid of them in the morning. The three men report her to authorities, but she uses the ring's power to have authorities play leapfrog. Her husband returns and becomes a man forever.
Way to Avoid Infidelity--Extend Trust to Others and to Self
Believe that you could be a wonderful husband, wife, son, daughter, sibling, or whatever roles you undertake in your family. Then believe the same of the other family members.
When there are disagreements, be willing to discuss them without interrupting each other's thoughts. Sincere listening could build the trust to develop positive solutions.
Books to Find the Folktales Mentioned:
- American Indian Myths and Legends by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz
- British Folk Tales by Katharine Briggs
- D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d'Aulaires and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire
- Folktales Told Around the World by Richard M. Dorson
- Hawaiian Mythology by Martha Warren Beckwith
- Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino
- The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm translated by Lore Segal and Randall Jarrell
- Michael Hague's Favorite Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales edited by Henry Holt
- Noodlehead Stories by Martha Hamilton
- Russian Fairy Tales by Aleksandr Afanaslev
- Voices of the Wind by Margot Edmonds and Ella E. Clark
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