Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Robber Bridegroom

13 Oct 04 Robber Bridegroom

Robber Bridgroom

October is the month for dark tales as Halloween approaches. In the following weeks, witches shall appear and vampyres and werewolves roam through the night, each seeking to trap unwary souls.

Among the tales of Grimms, is the Robber Bridegroom. Similar to Beauty and the Beast, a young lady is promised in marriage to a stranger. Her father, a poor miller, hopes for the best as he recognizes the need for her to have a future home. Like Blue Beard and Red Riding Hood, the story has elements of cannibalism. Yet like Hansel and Gretel, it also has the motif of dropping peas and lentils along the way to the stranger's house in the wood. Unlike Hansel and Gretel, the birds do not swoop down to devour them, but they sprout to mark her escape home. Upon entering the house, she finds it deserted, but a little bird warns her of danger, just as a bird warns the prince that he is bearing away the wrong daughter in Cinderella. Although the father has good intentions in marrying his daughter off, the message is clear that even when circumstances seem to be practical, danger may be lurking in the shadows and it might be better to rely on one's instinct.

The daughter is compliant with her father's wishes, but at the same time circumspect. She does not much trust the stranger who lives in the woods. He seems to far removed from civilization and provides for herself an escape. With few resources, she is resources and wary of the world in which she lives.

The theme of women being trapped into dangerous situations by marriage or caught be abductors and robbers is frequent in fairytales. In Andersen's, Snow Queen, Gerda is captured by the robber band and held captive like the reindeer by the Robber Maiden.

Part 1 The Mirror
The Snow Queen" translated by Naomi Lewis,
Illustrated by Angela Barrett illustration copyright 1988

Part 5 The Little Robber-Girl

In other respects the story resembles the English Jack and the Beanstalk in that the old hag hides the girl behind a cask and protects her. Like Jack, the miller's daughter makes good her escape although she gains no treasure in the adventure. When the stranger appears for his wedding-day, the girl confronts him with a dream story, placing the burden of justice on his shoulders. Trapped by her cleverness, he is apprehended and rendered harmless.

The story may point to the protective instinct that most of us have, but fail to nuture. Prodded through life by the demands of others, we tend to follow the herd without listening to our own fears and objections. We rely on the experts about us who claim to know more about the world we live in. We are persuaded to trust appearances even when we sense that they are empty facades or danger lurks beneath the surface. We do not like to admit fear in apprehension of public humiliation. Instead, we bite our lips and continue as instructed, following the advice of those more experienced in the ways of the world. Had the miller's daughter presented the story to her father upon her escape, he probably would have laughed her down and upbraided her as being neurotic. When reality is framed as a dream, that it is accepted as real. Frequently novelists or writers comment on the duplicity of the world. So long as what they present as realistic or factual, it might not be accepted for being too depressing, melodramatic or tragic; but when packaged in a novel, well—that's different. It's credible.

So it is for small children seeking assistance from their parents or teachers after they have been abused by a trusted acquaintance of the family. It couldn't have happened. No one would ever accept that So-und-So molested the girls on the track team, or the doctor assaulted the patient, or the priest molested the children in the sacristy. Imagine the frustration of survivors escaping from mass graves and returning to their villages to warn the others, "They're packing us into cattle cars and making us dig mass graves out in the woods—" Or the frustration of embassy staff who repeatedly tried to warn foreign nations of the violence ongoing under the Nazi Regime. The brutality is beyond human comprehension. How can anyone believe that lampshades were being made out of human skin?

It is only when the miller's daughter relates her story as a dream in the company of others, she can confront the reality of the situation. Only then, does her father recognize her instinctive fear and distrust is valid. We tend to scoff at intuition, but oftentimes, there is very good reason to be afraid and circumspection is warranted. Provide for yourself an escape, if the path looks too removed from society and the company dangerous.

Art Passions: Segur
illustrations by Segur
you may link by html page but not by images
thank-you. You may also send the images as postcards

Jack Zipes
a listing of comparable titles of stories with same themes

How to interpret fairytales according to Jung

Once Upon A Couch
a bibliography for analysis of fairytales
This shelf in Hatter's Classics is stocked with books attempting to analyze fairy tales. Feel free to print out a copy of this for reference. Browse through the titles. Look for them at your local library or bookstore.

Bibliography of Eudora Welty's works
1942 Robber Bridegroom

Mississippi Quarterly: A Bibliography for Robber Bridgroom
related to Eudora Welty's Robber Bridegroom

Maggie Atwood Handmaid's Tale
a dystopian twist on similar theme


6 Feb 2003 Beauty and the Beast: Love Transforms

3 Feb 2003 Beauty and the Beast: Gerneral Background

20 February 2003 Beauty and the Beast : Social Expectation and Womens Roles B

20 Feb 2003 Beauty and the Beast: Social Expectations and Womens' Roles A

16 Dec 2002 Child Abuse and Cinderella: Social Blindness

23 Nov 03 Humperdinck's Children Hansel u Gretel Making Gingerbread B

23 Nov 03 Humperdinck's Children making Gingerbread A

27 Oct 04 Blue Beard


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