Friday, February 13, 2009

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

artwork
Next Thursday evening the White Bear came to fetch her. She seated herself on his back with her bundle, and thus they departed. When they had gone a great part of the way, the White Bear said: "Are you afraid?"

"No, that I am not," said she.

"Keep tight hold of my fur, and then there is no danger," said he.
~ from "East of the Sun, West of the Moon"

"East of the Sun, West of the Moon" seems to be a favorite tale of many of the readers of this blog; it certainly is one of mine. It is a Scandinavian version of the myth of "Cupid and Psyche" from which many other tales flowed, including "Beauty and the Beast." According to SurLaLune:
The tale of Cupid and Psyche is considered by many scholars to be one of the first literary fairy tales. Written by Lucius Apuleius in the second century A.D.... the tale features many characters from Greek/Roman mythology, although earlier records of this tale are not known. Cupid and Psyche was translated into English in 1566 by William Adlington and was well-known throughout Europe. For example, John Milton refers to the story in his Comus, first performed in 1634 and published in 1637....The tale is a direct ancestor of the French Beauty and the Beast tale. However, it bears even closer resemblance to East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
Many such stories involve a prince who has been changed into an animal and whom only sacrificial love can restore to human form. It also has many resemblances to "Snow White and Rose Red," in that a bear shows up at the door of a humble cottage one night. The peasant family pities the bear, who is really a prince in disguise. In "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" the parents entrust their daughter to the bear and she goes off with him. Instead of coming to a predictably dreadful end, the girl finds wealth and love, which she comes close to losing forever through giving in to curiosity. I never understood why the girl should be blamed for wanting to see what the prince looks like. Fairy tales, however, are not always reasonable; this particular one is latent with symbolism, all of which is explained HERE.

Artist Kay Nielsen illustrated the story quite magnificently.

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6 comments:

Anastasia ※ アナスタシア said...

Amazing post! Thanks for sharing.

elena maria vidal said...

You are welcome, Anastasia! Thank YOU!

Ms. Lucy said...

That was so interesting, Elena!

Clare said...

I chuckled on the way home from the Vigil mass in the city last evening, for on every street corner there seemed to be a vendor selling cellophane-wrapped white bears embracing a glittering assortment of chocolates and red roses! I thought of the many heroines that night being wooed by a prospective husband with his polar-bear proxy in hand! I myself am no fan of the popular soft-toy obsession (associating it with gooey sentimentality) but now I have a charming mental picture that I can use to evoke a more charitable empathy for those who are so afflicted!

elena maria vidal said...

Oh, Clare. That's too funny. Now you have me chuckling.....

Rcoaxum1 said...

Great review!! By the way, have you seen the Rabbit Ears' version of "East of the Sun West of the Moon" narrated by Max Von Sydow before?