Category Archives: Uncategorized

Covers!

This past December, I started experimenting with various graphic design platforms, just to see what I could do. One Saturday morning, I logged into Canva and had fun making covers for my prequel stories, “Coming Home,” “With Sword in Hand,” and Fealty. A couple weeks later, I realized I could probably make a cover for “What She Saw by Lantern Light,” as well.

Today, I quickly put together a cover for a collection of all my folktale translations to-date, and also adjusted my previously-made covers to include their series title, The Crown of Seasons.

I am not pretentious enough to claim to be a fantastic graphic designer right off the bat. I definitely know these look nowhere near professional standards. However, it feels so good to give these stories some art to represent them.

I hope you enjoy a glimpse at these covers, as well!

You can find the Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of the fiction stories on my Patreon. The folklore collection will be put together at a later date.


2020 in review

Tonight is the last night of 2020, and oh what a year it’s been. For me it’s the year that, back when I was fourteen, all my collaborative stories of the future were set.

I bet you didn’t expect me to say that, did you?

In real life, we have had a flu pandemic disrupt the world. We’ve watched toilet paper and food supplies disappear off shelves. There have been fires, hurricanes, and drought. We’ve had stay-at-home orders. Work places have shut down or pared down. Masks have become fashionable necessities. Virtual programming is de rigeur. In the USA, we’ve had protests, riots, and a major election.

Everyone we know has been affected, one way or another.

The 2020 I grew up with was completely different, yet in some ways eerily similar. It was a world of magic mixing with the mundane, of children being put in cages because they were Other, of giant sandworms, and abandoned diners, and learning to rely on each other.

In both versions of 2020, imagined worlds have been my refuge and my joy.

And strangely enough, I feel as if the 2020 we created as kids prepared me for the 2020 of today. The adventures, the hardships, the fear, the overcoming.

Normally, this is the part of the post where I’d list out my accomplishments, but although 2020 was a year of milestones for me, I feel like the greatest part of my journey has been internal, and I’m still in the making. Here’s to a wonderful 2021.


December 13th, Light in the Dark

I have an uncomfortable relationship with traditions. I grew up as a child in one country, but I grew up as an adult in a couple others. Coming “home” again to the culture of my birth left me feeling at-sea. I wanted to feel comfortable in my own new skin, but I was surrounded by people insistent on one way to celebrate; one way to live and be. And if I dared to live or think differently, it caused defensiveness, anger, threats, and even abuse from others who treated my differences as a negative reflection on themselves.

Yet for some reason, traditions won’t leave me alone. There’s just something bone-deep about them. I may have shed a desire to celebrate Independence Day or Thanksgiving, but every year I celebrate Armenia’s Old New Year on January 13th. I may not be of Asian-descent, and yet somehow I keep coming back to the Mid-Autumn Festival. I mark time by the solstices, and for years now I’ve made sure to have folkloric gifts to give my followers.

And every year, on December 13th, I turn to my albeit distant Swedish heritage and quietly celebrate the light in the darkness.


“The Wondrous Scarab,” an Alsatian folktale

Strangely enough, I’ve encountered many Alsatian folktales about scarab beetles. I say strange, because when I think of scarab beetles I immediately picture Ancient Egypt, but here we are instead in the liminal forests between France and Germany, encountering many forms of wondrous scarabs1. This particular folktale is pulled from the collection Révue des traditions populaires. 1901.


A foreign knight left the monastery of Murbach one day, garbed in the robes of pilgrimage. He passed through the valley and, in order to expiate his sins, went in search of other prayers.

He arrived on the hill where later the village of Bühl would be built, and weary from his journey on foot, reclined beneath a linden tree to rest. He fell asleep, and when he awoke near evening, he perceived an exquisite fragrance. The scent was emanating from an unknown species of scarab clinging to the stem of a flower. Examining it more closely, he discovered that the insect bore, beneath its closed fore-wings, the image of a black cross.

He saw it as a sign from heaven2 and swore an oath to construct a little chapel on this very spot. He kept his word and erected the church of Bühl3 surrounded by a cemetery, from where one can behold the whole valley and the plain up to the Rhine and the Black Forest.


1. One of the first Alsatian scarab folktales I encountered featured golden scarabs, or scarab beetles turning into living gold. Such a wondrous image was entirely folkloric, I thought, until I saw this tweet showing off the species chrysina resplendens found in Costa Rica.

2. I really enjoy tales where the pattern of religious–in this case Catholic–legends intersects with faerie and folkloric themes. For example, a righteous man encounters a sign then builds a church on that very location is a fairly common story behind many churches scattered throughout Europe. A traveler encountering a wondrous creature that asks him for something or that changes his perspective is just as common in faerie folklore. And so here we have the tale of “traveler encounters wondrous scarab” intersecting with “man searching for greater holiness finds what he seeks.” It’s like an early “cross-genre” tale.

3. According to wikipedia and Bühl’s own website, the medieval town’s earliest church was actually built starting in 1514. That century to me doesn’t invoke the image of a knight on pilgrimage and feels a couple hundred years too late. Is this an instance of a 19th Century tale mistaking the dates of a historic location? That has certainly happened before. Or is this seeming discrepancy due to Alsatians not knowing as much about the German town of Bühl as they thought? (Strasbourg and Bühl share a historic connection through a feud in the 14th Century).


 

If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my further translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.


“The Astronomical Clock of Strasbourg Cathedral”

I translated this particular version of the tale from Récits historiques et légendaires d’Alsace, collected by Robert Wolf. 1922.


For a long time the Strasbourg Cathedral clock remained unfinished. The master who had invented it had died without finding anyone capable of finishing his work.

At last a foreign master craftsman who promised he could finish the work arrived in Strasbourg. He completed the masterpiece, far surpassing all hope for it. One day, at noon, he presented the moving clock to the astonished gathering of people. The bells tolled and Death indicated the hours. The apostles passed before the Savior, bowing before him. The two lions that held the city’s coat of arms began to roar. It was a festive and joyful day for all the city.1

With the work completed, the young artist desired to take his leave, but the council of the city’s municipal officers did not consent. They feared the artist would create a similar masterpiece in another city, and they desired to be the only ones to possess such a marvel. Therefore, they had the artist’s eyes blotted out.

But soon the city was punished for this cruelty. The blind artist became weaker and sicker from day to day, and the clock itself no longer worked with precision. When the master died, it stopped entirely. (1) Later, another artist, Schwilgué, succeeded in restarting the clock in 1842.

~

(1) In truth, the clock built under the direction of Dasypodius, a strasbourgeois mathematician, and that of the brothers Isaac and Josias Habrecht of Schaffhouse, stopped working in 1789.2


1. If you would like to see the astronomical clock’s various parts and figures, this page has a great collection of photos of the current version of the clock

2. The famous astronomical clock of the Strasbourg Notre Dame Cathedral has been built several times throughout history. The first clock was built of wood in the 1350s. The second, started in 1547 by the mathematicians Chretien Herlin, Michel Heer, and Nicolas Briiker, was interrupted by the death of Herlin and not finished until 1574 by Dasypodius and the Habrecht brothers Isaac and Josias. While work on the clock was still in progress, Josias was called away by the officials of Cologne to build the clock of Kaiserswerth castle. He was also unable to return, due to the illness and subsequent blindness of his sister. Grandidier proposes that this is one of the keys to the creation of the legend surrounding the clock.

Once again the clock stopped working, this time in 1789 in the midst of the French Revolution, a time of great turmoil for the city. Although the young Schwilgué was but a boy of twelve at the time, he determined to be the one to bring the clock back to life. He grew up to make his dream come true, finishing a complete overhaul of the clock and its figures in 1842.

The Astronomical Clock of Strasbourg Cathedral was once counted as “one of the seven marvels of Germany.” Over the centuries, it has collected quite a number of legends, including the assertion that its creator was none other than Copernicus himself. Most of the legends surrounding it, however, deal with ablind mathematician. Either the mathematician becomes old and blind, thereby unable to express to others the true workings of the clock; the clock itself refuses to be touched by any other hand but its master’s; the city municipal council blinds him and the city is cursed by a clock that refuses to work for cruel masters; or else the blind mathematician takes revenge on those who destroyed his eyes by asking to visit his clock one last time, and, plunging his hand into its gears, withdraws a critical piece.


 

If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my future translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.


“The Enchanted Armies of Ochsenfeld,” an Alsatian folktale

(Originally posted February 2018)

I translated this particular version of the tale from Récits historiques et légendaires d’Alsace, collected by Robert Wolf. 1922.


Not far from Cernay lies a great, desolate plain called the Ochsenfeld1 cattlefield. There, come evening, a faint clatter of weapons can often be heard. It is here that the armies of the infamous sons of Louis the Debonair who betrayed their father on this land in 8332are enchanted and imprisoned in immense subterranean caverns. Travelers out too late must often submit, until they reach the lands of Cernay and of Thann, to the worrisome company of warriors outfitted in a heavy cuirass.

One day, as a countryman was passing by the field, a warrior suddenly emerged from the earth and announced the era when he and his comrades would be delivered from the spell pronounced against them. Then, just as suddenly, he disappeared. In the Middle Ages, the entire army was also sometimes seen passing through the air, especially during a full moon3.


1. German for “cattlefield” due to its purpose back in the Middle Ages, Ochsenfeld has persisted as the name of the plain between Thann and Mulhouse. It’s a place rich with history and old battles.

2. Here comes a brief history lesson. Once upon a time, an Emperor named Louis the Debonaire, or Louis the Pious, had three grown sons–Lothaire, Pepin, and Louis–and laws of inheritance already spelled out. Then he remarried and had a fourth son, Charles, and was so taken with him, he decided to give him an inheritance of his own, including Alemannia, of which Alsace was a part. Now, this Emperor’s eldest son, Lothaire, did not like the idea of inheriting less, and so he went to war against his father, persuading his brothers to join him.
The Field of Lies, also called the Field of Blood, was the legendary location (now disputed) where the Emperor’s own army and other allies, one by one, were persuaded to give him up to his sons and their armies. In other words, there was a lot of betrayal going on. Sons against their father, armies against their emperor, the pope against his ally, and so on and so forth.

3. I find this tale similar to tales of the Wild Hunt, in which an army of the ghostly dead rises to ride during thunderstorms or during the full moon, led by Odin or Wodan or another powerful figure.
This tale also reminds me of a less kind version of the tale of King Arthur and his sleeping armies, waiting to rise in a time of need as Britain’s “once and future king.”
Another version of this tale of the sleeping warriors at Ochsenfeld says that the warriors asleep beneath the plain did not belong to Lothaire and the other traitorous sons of the emperor but to Charles, the last-born and promised king of this region. In that version, warriors who die are said to join the sleeping army, waiting to rise again not from a curse of shame or guilt, but as an honor for those good men who die in battle. These are called the Ochsenfeldritter in German, and the knights of the Ochsenfeld, in French.


 

If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my future translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.


“The White Lady of Kœpfle Hill”

(Posted to the site February 2016)

Translated from the folktale “LA DAME BLANCHE DU KŒPFLE” collected by the Alsatian folklorist Auguste Stoeber, translated into French by René Stiébel and published in Revue des traditions populaires, volume 16 in 1901.

Between Didenheim and Zillisheim is a hill, belonging to this last town, called Kœpfle. A white lady is often seen there at noon carrying a set of keys. She seems to smile, and often she descends to the bank of the Ill near the Bisz watermill; there, she washes her face and her hair. Soon she returns, and one can hear her weeping until she disappears over the hill.

At night on this same hill, great blue wandering flames can sometimes be seen. The whole village believes the white lady guards a hidden treasure. People have sought it in vain. During the winter of 1849 a local left on this quest after saying Saint Christopher’s prayer1. He saw an apparition that he couldn’t describe. Then he returned home, sick with fear, and remained ill for a long time.


1. Saint Christopher is the patron saint of travelers. One of the traditional prayers is as follows:

Dear Saint Christopher,
protect me today
in all my travels
along the road’s way.
Give your warning sign
if danger is near
so that I may stop
while the path is clear.
Be at my window
and direct me through
when the vision blurs
From out of the blue.
Carry me safely
to my destined place,
like you carried Christ
in your close embrace.
Amen.
Sources: Prayer to Saint Christopher, Prayer to St. Christopher While Traveling


 

If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my further translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.


“The Faerie’s Gift of Tears”

(Originally posted 2015)

“La fée des larmes” (“The Faerie of Tears”) is an Alsatian folktale with French subtitles provided free-to-view by Espace ressources Sàmmle, an organization for the preservation of Alsatian culture. Their description of the tale is as follows, translated: The faerie of tears is a tale of the fantastic which takes place in the breathtaking vistas of Wormsa Valley and of Fischboedle lake on the slopes of Munster. This legend comes from the locals’ imagination and is told in Alsatian by Gérard Leser.

***

Once, in a time far distant–a long time ago, as the elderly say–a young peasant couple left Metzeral. They were seeking a Markairie, or a thatched cottage and mountain pasture where they could raise a herd, make cooked cheese, and build a new life for themselves. After a long search, they found the Markairie of Montabey not far from Hohneck.

Several months later, one Sunday a child was born, and they called her Gredala. And like all children born on Sunday, Gredala could see the world of spirits.

A week after her birth, she was baptized in the little chapel of Le Valtin-Mortz. Her parents rejoiced, all their friends were there, and, after the baptism, they all went to Hohneck together.

How surprised they were on their return to the Markairie! Three splendid ladies stood waiting, three beautiful women. They were the Faeries of Hohneck.

The first was the Faerie of beauty, of flowers, and of plants: the faerie Aligère. The second Faerie was she of the treasures of the earth, of rocks, of nature. She was the faerie Aurigère.

Beauty and riches are two considerable gifts.

The third Faerie wore a resplendent blue cloak. She was the faerie Turquoise, the Faerie of springs, of lakes, and of mountain streams that sometimes burble and laugh in the summer. She wanted to bestow the gift of tears on this little girl. But her parents did not accept it. They did not want their little girl to cry unceasingly. But the Faerie knew that since her parents had refused this gift, that later in her life Gredala would often be sad.

When she was grown, once a week Gredala would travel with her young donkey from Hohneck to Metzeral. At the market, she would buy what they needed back at the Markairie. One fine day, she heard a noise in the forest. A handsome man on a white horse emerged from the trees. He was entirely overcome by her beauty. He was the knight Gontram de Giersberg.

The knight fell body and soul in love with Gredala. And afterwards they had–as you can imagine–a grand and beautiful wedding, a wedding such as never before been had in the valley. People spoke of it often during the long winters that followed….

But a little later, just after the marriage, everything went wrong between them, nothing worked anymore. She simply did not know how to show her love to her husband. He left more and more often to go hunting or to pay a visit to other aristocrats, and she stayed behind, alone at the castle, melancholy and despairing. The fountain of her tears was trapped inside her heart. She did not know how to express her pain, how to show her love.

Gredala could not take it anymore.

She left the castle.

Her heart is full of pain; her heart is heavy.

And slowly she makes her way back to Wormsa Valley, a valley she is well acquainted with. Step by step, she directs herself towards Fischboedle lake. There, a storm is raging. The storm reflects everything inside her. Her whole heart is full of storms, but she does not know how to express it.

The storm becomes more and more powerful and violent. Wind, forest, and mountain are all allied in expressing her suffering. Her pace accelerates. Already she has reached the foot of the fir tree at Fischboedle. She feels the call of the watery deep. She stands at the edge of the lake. The water attracts her more and more. She would like so much to forget all her pain and suffering. The water’s depths hold only peace and silence.

She makes her decision, and already the water reaches her chest.

And suddenly she hears her name called twice. And from the depths of the water emerges the third of the Faeries.

The Faerie gives her a gift of tears, the gift that her parents had not accepted when she was a little child.

Quickly, Gredala returns to her husband’s castle at the other end of the valley.

The path she walks gleams softly. All the tears that she shed on the shore of Fischboedle have now become pearls, each more beautiful than the last. At last she has found peace in her heart and in her soul.

Returned to the castle, Gredala sat in her bedchamber. With great pleasure she made a necklace out of her tears, out of those pearls, those radiant pearls, a necklace of unrivaled beauty. When the necklace was finished, she fastened it around her neck. She glowed with beauty and with love, because this time her beauty came from the heart.

A little while later, her husband returned from his trip. How surprised he was to see how his wife had transformed! And Gredala told him everything, how the third Faerie had given her the gift of tears.

One thing is certain, beauty and riches are nothing without the illumination of the heart.


My goal with this translation was to stay as close to the conversational style he uses as possible, including leaving in extra conjunctions, breaking paragraphs in places that he pauses, and maintaining his dramatic use of present tense in the middle of the tale.

 


 

If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my further translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.


“The Nymph of Wangenbourg Castle”

(Originally posted January 2015)

Translated from “La Nymphe du château de Wangenbourg,” from the Castles of France website, legends section.

Once, a long time ago in Wangenbourg castle, there lived a quarrelsome lord of dubious morality. On his return trip from a military campaign with his comrades-in-arms, he spied a lovely young woman in a nearby field of wildflowers. With a bouquet of daisies in her arms, she shone with beauty.

The lord was seized with a desire to have her by any means. Our princess, in addition to being beautiful, had been blessed at her birth by a faerie and everything about her was breathtaking. Numerous suitors had tried to seduce her, but being too young for marriage, she rejected each one.

The lord of Wangenbourg, however, used everything at his disposal to conquer this magnificent creature, this beauty of nature. As a result, she was conquered and accepted his proposal. He promised to cherish only her and to no longer covet other hearts. They were happy, and despite the burdens of the life of a lord, he kept his promise.

But one day he fell back into caprice and sowed his wild oats among other damsels, and thus our recidivist took up the rhythm of his former life. Our princess sorrowed greatly and even despaired. She decided to cleanse herself from the stain of his dishonor at the Nideck Waterfall which she knew well. But Wangenbourg is a long journey from Nideck for a frail princess on foot. Along the way she injured herself several times on low-hanging branches, sharp rocks, and thorns. It seemed to her that the flames of hell had risen from the ground to burn her. The forest was so thick that the sun’s rays barely penetrated the gloom.

When she arrived, exhausted, drained by fatigue and grief, her limbs were so weary that she slipped on the stones at the top of the waterfall and fell into the void.

Her good faerie, having gotten wind of her misfortunes, had trailed her closely and arrived just in time to snatch her from plummeting to her death. The faerie wondered what to do with this unfortunate but sublime princess who was forever burdened by these vile men. Then a brilliant idea occurred to her, and she transformed the girl into a Nymph.

And ever since that day, inhabitants of the surrounding countryside tell the tale of a white shade who dances on the waterfall’s mist, warning travelers of approaching storms.


I found another version of this tale in the book Dragons, fantômes, et trésors cachés : légendes, traditions et contes d’Alsace by Guy Trendel, published in 1988. Trendel’s telling returns to a time when nobility lived at Nideck. The story begins in a familiar vein: the family longed for a child until finally they were blessed with a daughter. They chose her godmother with care: a faerie who then blessed her with beauty. But then, when she had grown into a beautiful young woman who lived to pick flowers and wander the woods, she was spied by knight who had taken up residence in the castle near Wangenbourg. One day, while hunting, he happened upon this beauty in the woods, and he snatched her up, kidnapping her and taking her back to lock her up with him in his castle. She tried to convince him to let her return to her family, but in vain.

Days passed and the knight used all his wits to win her heart, and finally he succeeded. The very night she lost her heart to him, her faerie godmother appeared to plead with her to escape, but the beauty would not listen.

Eventually, the knight grew bored of this game and tired of his captive. To be rid of her, he accused her of cheating on him with one of his comrades-in-arms. Finally, after pleading and begging him to believe her innocence, he declared that he was ready to forget everything if only she went and filled a jug full of water from the waterfall at Nideck.

Happy to have a chance to prove herself to him, the beauty set off on her three day journey. But when she leaned over the cascade to fill the jar, it became so heavy that it pulled her over the edge into the void. Thus the faerie found her before she could plummet to her death, but distraught by the idea of evil men taking advantage of her goddaughter, she transformed the maiden into an ondine who now remains to dance in the spray and foam of the falls.


 

If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my further translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.


“The Cursed Bridge of the Faeries Over the Vologne River (Vosges Mountains)”

(Originally posted December 2014)

Translated from “Maudit Pont des Fées enjambant la Vologne (Vosges),” an article that was originally published in Le Pays lorrain in 1908, then reprinted online in La France pittoresque in October 2013.

A Vosgian1 legend states that a well-formed hunter from Gérardmer, who had been promised a glorious destiny so long as he never allowed himself to be seduced by any woman, permitted himself one day on the banks of the Vologne to be lulled by the kiss of an ondine with river green eyes, coral lips, and an enchantress’ voice….

(La Vologne. Image copyrighted 2009 by Flauder. Used with photographer’s permission)

Once upon a time, at Gérardmer, in the picturesque region of the Vosges mountains, there lived a hunter so handsome, so captivating, and so well-formed that no woman nor girl could resist his charms. He hunted the wildest animals, despising the dangers, happy if some stag or boar fell to his shots. As soon as it was morning, once the chilly dawn appeared, he would set out, traversing brambles and brush wet with dew, always on his guard, never missing his beast.

And so on each day. He would return home to his thatch-roofed cottage (for he lived in a cottage and not a palace, being as poor as he was handsome) in the evening, hours after night had fallen, and his courage and his prowess were spoken of for roughly twenty-five leagues around. People would buy his game, which reaped a fat profit for him, but he had eight little brothers and eight little sisters for whom he spent all that he gained, wanting them to lack for nothing. Sometimes he even went without food, happy if those whom he loved had what they needed. He had promised his parents at the moment of their death to take care of the sixteen little monsters.

Killing a lot of fat game, he clothed himself with pelts, which only served to intensify his male beauty. As well, many girls would have been happy to have him for a husband, since, as we have mentioned previously, they were foolishly in love with him. But he did not even notice them, having neither the time nor the inclination, finding them all repulsive.

But there was another reason besides…. An old woman, who everyone said was a faerie, who attended his birth and was his godmother, had proclaimed that he would be handsome and brave and would attain the highest honors so long as he never let himself be seduced by any woman. He knew her words and kept himself on his guard.


(Le pont des fées. Image copyrighted 2009 by Flauder. Used with photographer’s permission) One day, when he had been pursuing a doe since dawn and had yet to obtain her by noon, he felt so overcome with fatigue that he fell asleep amid the ferns in the great trees’ shade on the bank of a mountain stream whose white and frothy water fell from cascade to cascade. There, in the dense forest, the air was sweet and refreshing. An old bridge, constructed entirely from stones centuries and centuries ago, it is said, by faeries’ deft hands, conjoined the neighboring mountains’ slopes. Eyes closed, the hunter appeared haunted by delicious dreams, and his beauty was resplendently striking.

He was sleeping, lulled by birds’ song and the patter of waves, when he felt, suddenly, a kiss pressed to his cheek. Before him appears2 the most astonishing vision he has ever seen: a woman, more beautiful than daylight, there and regarding him. Her eyes are river green, her cheeks incarnadine, and her lips coral. Her blonde hair falls to her feet, half-hiding an exquisite body where drops of iridescent water gleam. She smiles sweetly at the hunter.

Overwhelmed by so many charms, he believes he is still dreaming. Words stick in his throat, so preoccupied is he with admiring her!

But she approaches, encircles the young man’s neck in her alabaster arms, and, with a voice like heavenly music, says, “Oh, my handsome hunter, why do you not respond to my kiss? …Do I frighten you? I am she who protects you, and who, by her arts, watches over you from afar, at night while you rest, in daylight when you run through the woods. I am she whose spirit follows you wherever you might go, and who, without fail, protects you from all harm! Come….Come to me, oh my handsome hunter!”3

Aroused by her words, he feels the flames of his desire so keenly that he drops to his knees before her and cries, “Oh, no! You are so beautiful and so sweet. I am not afraid of you, you who unfailingly protects me, as you say, oh no, I am not afraid of you…!”

And he proclaims that he loves her more than himself, pulls her ardently against him, and covers her hands with kisses. Smiling, she looks up at him and replies, “Oh my handsome hunter, come with me! …Come to my crystal palace, where years pass more swiftly than days, where one lives happily in pleasures without number and joys without end, where the weather is always fair and one never has to work! Come to my crystal palace, oh my handsome hunter…!”

She kisses him, caresses him, holds him more tightly in her arms. Seduced, he does not resist her but little by little abandons himself. Together they roll, intertwined, on the moss, then on the path. She guides him to the stream’s edge…. Already they touch the green algae. She kisses him, and kisses him again, then, suddenly, feeling him under her power, her laughter rings out, and she casts him, tumbling down with her, into the deep4 water…!

The hunter had cried out5, but the stream had only let a strangled moan escape, which reverberated far across the mountain. Then everything became calm once more: the white water continued to fall from cascade to cascade, the birds to sing, and the pine trees to sway gently in the wind….

Never again did the hunter return to his cottage, where his eight little brothers and eight little sisters perished from hunger. But he is still spoken of in the surrounding countryside. A superstitious fear6 lingers in the place where he disappeared. Ever since, no one can pass it by without trembling, and in the long evenings of winter, in the cottages of the poor, when they gather to tell hearth tales by the light of the flickering fire, old women tell the story of the young hunter to shocked, little children.

And they are gripped by fear at this tale, because they are told that sometimes, at midnight, the ancient winds of the Vosges mountains echo with the frightening cries of the drowning hunter, or that still one can hear the divine melody of love songs issuing from beneath the waves, two voices mingled in golden harmony, one voice strong and male from he who is no more and the tender, enchantress’ voice from the ondine with river green eyes and coral lips….

For the edification of our soul
Each tale’s end requires a moral,
Just as in Donkeyskin or Puss-in-Boots Perrault
Himself has given us an example.
Thus, may it please you, Gentle Reader,
To derive this lesson from the tale:
That you must always obey your godmother
So over misfortune you may prevail.
Next, do not allow yourself to fall
For one who, with enchantment in her eyes,
Seeks with her charm to seduce and lull.
Ere long, you will wish you had been wise.
For if, in the rush of those first instants,
Your heart might sing sweet songs of delight,
You will soon, alas! count far more moments
Where it cries out with your agony and fright.
7


1. The Vologne river extends west of the Vosges Mountains, located in the Alsace-Lorraine region near the border of France and Germany.

2. Abruptly changes to French storytelling-present tense, to make everything more immediate. Up to this point it has been imperfect (these are the things he’s been accustomed to doing, setting the scene) and simple past, which is a past tense the French use just for telling stories.

3. If, as fae-kind, the ondine cannot lie but can only misuse the truth, then I can’t help but love the imagery of the ondine being his godmother’s foil and opposing force, watching over him and lying in wait until she had this chance to take him. Or…perhaps…what if the ondine has been his “godmother” all along, and only gave him the prophecy in order to keep him for herself? Either way, I like the contrast between the hunter’s two “guardian” faeries.

4. Deep? And yet by the images we see the water is shallow. I like to think there is something supernatural going on, where a woman can rise from shallow water and pull him down into mysterious depths.

5. Back to past tense.

6. I like the phrase “superstitious fear” rather than “superstitious belief” that is more commonly said in English.

7. Let’s just say that the original poem was not written by one of France’s top poets, so I do not feel entirely bad that not everything rhymes exactly, &c. In any case, I hope you enjoyed this month’s folktale!


 

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