The Forbidden Room (Fairy Tales Behaving Badly Book 1)


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I began to think about this subject at a very early age. There was a childrens' rhyme that went: There was a little girl Who had a little curl Right in the middle of her forehead; When she was good, she was very, very good, And when she was bad, she was horrid! I took this to be a poem of personal significance -- I did after all have curls -- and it brought home to me the deeply Jungian possibilities of a Dr.

Hyde double life for women. My older brother used this verse to tease me, or so he thought. He did manage to make "very, very good" sound almost worse than "horrid," which remains an accurate analysis for the novelist. Create a flawless character and you create an insufferable one; which may be why I am interested in spots. Some of you may wonder whether the spotty-handedness in my title refers to age spots. Was my lecture perhaps going to centre on that once-forbidden but now red-hot topic, The Menopause, without which any collection of female-obilia would be incomplete?

I hasten to point out that my title is not age-related; it refers neither to age spots nor to youth spots. Instead it recalls that most famous of spots, the invisible but indelible one on the hand of wicked Lady Macbeth. Spot as in guilt, spot as in blood, spot as in "out, damned. But is it not, today -- well, somehow unfeminist -- to depict a woman behaving badly? Isn't bad behaviour supposed to be the monopoly of men?

Isn't that what we are expected -- in defiance of real life -- to somehow believe, now? When bad women get into literature, what are they doing there, and are they permissible, and what, if anything, do we need them for? We do need something like them; by which I mean, something disruptive to static order. When my daughter was five, she and her friend Heather announced that they were putting on a play. We were conscripted as the audience. We took our seats, expecting to see something of note. The play opened with two characters having breakfast.

This was promising -- an Ibsonian play perhaps, or something by G. Shakespeare is not big on breakfast openings, but other playwrights of talent have not disdained them. The two characters had more breakfast. Then they had more. They passed each other the jam, the cornflakes, the toast. Each asked if the other would like a cup of tea. What was going on? Was this Pinter, perhaps, or Ionesco, or maybe Andy Warhol?

The audience grew restless. And there you have it, the difference between literature -- at least literature as embodied in plays and novels -- and life. Something else has to happen. In life we may ask for nothing more than a kind of eternal breakfast -- it happens to be my favourite meal, and certainly it is the most hopeful one, since we don't yet know what atrocities the day may choose to visit upon us -- but if we are going to sit still for two or three hours in a theatre, or wade through two or three hundred pages of a book, we certainly expect something more than breakfast.

What kind of something? It can be an earthquake, a tempest, an attack by Martians, the discovery that your spouse is having an affair; or, if the author is hyperactive, all of these at once. Or it can be the revelation of the spottiness of a spotty woman. I'll get around to these disreputable folks shortly, but first let me go over some essentials which may be insulting to your intelligence, but which are comforting to mine, because they help me to focus on what I'm doing as a creator of fictions. If you think I'm flogging a few dead horses -- horses which have been put out of their pain long ago -- let me assure you that this is because the horses are not in fact dead, but are out there in the world, galloping around as vigorously as ever.

How do I know this? I read my mail. Also, I listen to the questions people ask me, both in interviews and after public readings. The kinds of questions I'm talking about have to do with how the characters in novels ought to behave. Unfortunately, there is a widespread tendency to judge such characters as if they were job applicants, or public servants, or prospective roommates, or somebody you're considering marrying.

For instance, I sometimes get a question -- almost always, these days, from women -- that goes something like, "Why don't you make the men stronger? It was not, after all, I who created Adam so subject to temptation that he sacrificed eternal life for an apple; which leads me to believe that God -- who is, among other things, an author -- is just as enamoured of character flaws and dire plots as we human writers are.

The characters in the average novel are not usually folks you would want to get involved with at a personal or business level. How then should we go about responding to such creations? Or, from my side of the page, which is blank when I begin -- how should I go about creating them? What is a novel, anyway?

Only a very foolish person would attempt to give a definitive answer to that, beyond stating the more or less obvious facts that it is a literary narrative of some length which purports, on the reverse of the title page, not to be true, but seeks nevertheless to convince its readers that it is.

It's typical of the cynicism of our age that, if you write a novel, everyone assumes it's about real people, thinly disguised; but if you write an autobiography everyone assumes you're lying your head off. Part of this is right, because every artist is, among other things, a con-artist.

We con-artists do tell the truth, in a way; but, as Emily Dickenson said, we tell it slant. By indirection we find direction out -- so here, for easy reference, is an elimination-dance list of what novels are not. But if the author's main design on us is to convert us to something -- - whether that something be Christianity, capitalism, a belief in marriage as the only answer to a maiden's prayer, or feminism, we are likely to sniff it out, and to rebel.

As Andre Gide once remarked, "It is with noble sentiments that bad literature gets written. Is Pride and Prejudice about how a sensible middle-class nineteenth-century woman can snare an appropriate man with a good income, which is the best she can hope for out of life, given the limitations of her situation? Their characters are not all models of good behaviour -- or, if they are, we probably won't read them.

But they are linked with notions of morality, because they are about human beings and human beings divide behaviour into good and bad. The characters judge each other, and the reader judges the characters. However, the success of a novel does not depend on a Not Guilty verdict from the reader. As Keats said, Shakespeare took as much delight in creating Iago -- that arch-villain -- as he did in creating the virtuous Imogen.

I would say probably more, and the proof of it is that I'd bet you're more likely to know which play Iago is in. It cannot do without a conception of form and a structure, true, but its roots are in the mud; its flowers, if any, come out of the rawness of its raw materials. Now, let's get back to the notion that in a novel, something else has to happen -- other than breakfast, that is. What will that "something else" be, and how does the novelist go about choosing it? Usually it's backwards to what you were taught in school, where you probably got the idea that the novelist had an overall scheme or idea and then went about colouring it in with characters and words, sort of like paint-by-numbers.

But in reality the process is much more like wrestling a greased pig in the dark. Literary critics start with a nice, clean, already-written text. They then address questions to this text, which they attempt to answer; "what does it mean" being both the most basic and the most difficult. Novelists, on the other hand, start with the blank page, to which they similarly address questions. But the questions are different. Instead of asking, first of all, "what does it mean," they work at the widget level; they ask, "Is this the right word? Novelists have to get some actual words down before they can fiddle with the theology.

Or, to put it another way: God started with chaos -- dark, without form and void -- and so does the novelist. Then God made one detail at a time. So does the novelist. On the seventh day, God took a break to consider what he'd done. But the critic starts on Day 7. The critic, looking at plot, asks, "What's happening here? Whereas the critic is liable to exclaim, in the mode of the policeman making the arrest, "Aha! You can't get away with that! In short, the novelist's concerns are more practical than those of the critic; more concerned with "how to," less concerned with metaphysics.

Any novelist -- whatever his or her theoretical interests -- has to contend with the following how-to questions: Is it, for instance, comic or tragic or melodramatic, or all? How shall I tell it? Who will be at the centre of it, and will this person be a admirable or b not? And -- more important than it may sound -- will it have a happy ending, or not?

No matter what you are writing -- what genre and in what style, whether cheap formula or high-minded experiment -- you will still have to answer -- in the course of your writing -- these essential questions. Any story you tell must have a conflict of some sort, and it must have suspense. Let's put a woman at the centre of the something-other-than-breakfast, and see what happens.

Now there is a whole new set of questions. Will the conflict be supplied by the natural world? Is our female protagonist lost in the jungle, caught in a hurricane, pursued by sharks? If so, the story will be an adventure story and her job is to run away, or else to combat the sharks, displaying courage and fortitude, or else cowardice and stupidity. If there is a man in the story as well, the plot will alter in other directions: Once upon a time, the first would have been more probable, that is, more believable to the reader; but times have changed and art is what you can get away with, and the other possibilities have now entered the picture.

Stories about space invasions are similar, in that the threat comes from outside and the goal for the character, whether achieved or not, is survival. War stories per se -- ditto, in that the main threat is external. Vampire and werewolf stories are more complicated, as are ghost stories; in these, the threat is from outside, true, but the threatening thing may also conceal a split-off part of the character's own psyche. Henry James' The Turn of the Screw and Bram Stoker's Dracula are in large part animated by such hidden agendas; and both revolve around notions of female sexuality.

Once all werewolves were male, and female vampires were usually mere sidekicks; but there are now female werewolves, and women are moving in on the star bloodsucking roles as well. Whether this is good or bad news I hesitate to say. Detective and espionage stories may combine many elements, but would not be what they are without a crime, a criminal, a tracking-down, and a revelation at the end; again, all sleuths were once male, but sleuthesses are now prominent, for which I hope they lay a votive ball of wool from time to time upon the tomb of the sainted Miss Marple.

We live in an age not only of gender cross-over but of genre crossover, so you can throw all of the above into the cauldron and stir. Then there are stories classed as "serious" literature, which centre not on external threats -- although some of these may exist -- but on relationships among the characters. To avoid the eternal breakfast, some of the characters must cause problems for some of the others. This is where the questions really get difficult.

As I've said, the novel has its roots in the mud, and part of the mud is history; and part of the history we've had recently is the history of the women's movement, and the women's movement has influenced how people read, and therefore what you can get away with, in art. Some of this influence has been beneficial. Whole areas of human life that were once considered non-literary or sub-literary -- such as the problematical nature of homemaking, the hidden depths of motherhood, and of daughterhood as well, the once-forbidden realms of incest and child abuse -- have been brought inside the circle that demarcates the writeable from the non-writeable.

Other things, such as the Cinderella happy ending -- the Prince Charming one -- have been called into question. As one lesbian writer remarked to me, the only happy ending she found believable any more was the one in which girl meets girl and ends up with girl; but that was fifteen years ago, and the bloom is off even that romantic rose. It is, however, imperfect; for she has to pass some hours of every day as a dove. One day, while she is undergoing this necessity, the hero opens the Forbidden Chamber, and finds within a dragon with three heads each hung on a hook.

Three glasses of the Water of Life give the dragon power to burst forth and carry off the heroine in her dove-form. The steed on which the hero pursues is his wife's brother, who also is enchanted. He is enabled to steal her still as a dove twice from the dragon; but the latter twice recovers her.

By his horse's advice he then procures, through the help of a raven, the Water of Growth and the Water of Life. But a better steed must be obtained to achieve the adventure; and this is no less than another brother of the heroine held captive by a monster named Yezibaba on the other side, not of a fiery river, but of the Red Sea. Here the heroine's brothers take the place of the Animal Brothers-in-law, and the Grateful Beasts appear to assist the hero in obtaining the second enchanted horse.

But that which gives the greatest interest to the foregoing tale is that it forms a link between the Marya Morevna type and another we may call The Teacher and his Scholar type. This relates to the adventures of a youth who falls under the power of a magician whom he learns to excel in cunning and ultimately to outwit, or whom he robs of a magical steed.

Two stories, not falling categorically under either of these alternatives, but apparently in process of development each to one of them, are given in Arnason's collection of Icelandic legends. In the one [72] a king's son, a prodigal, who has sold his kingdom for a horse laden with gold and silver, rides forth in search of adventures. With his treasure he pays the debt of a dead man—by that sacrifice gaining him rest—and then comes to the dwelling of seven giants during their absence.

Setting their house in order, he wins their protection, and is allowed to remain as their servant. The big giant gives him all the keys except one. By a trick he gets possession of this key, takes a mould of it in dough, and forges a duplicate, with which he opens the Forbidden Chamber. He there finds a princess hung up by the hair for refusing to marry the big giant, who had stolen her from her home.

In the end he gets as his wages the contents of the Forbidden Chamber, namely, the maiden, and with her leaves the giants, when they pursue the hero and heroine, overcome, and kill them. At the seaside the hero finds a ship sent by the heroine's father. They go aboard; but the captain, that he may obtain the heroine's hand as her deliverer, puts the hero into an oarless, rudderless boat, and cuts him adrift. The dead man whose debt the hero has paid conducts the boat to shore, and instructs him to take service as groom with the princess's father.

The heroine of course recognises and marries him, and the sea-captain is put to death. The other story [73] is also of a king's son who falls into a giant's power. The giant shews him all his stores, except what are in the kitchen.


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In the giant's absence he opens the kitchen and finds therein an enormous dog, who says to him, "Choose me, Hringr, king's son! By the dog's counsel he makes his way to a king's court, and asks for permission to spend the winter there. The jealousy of the king's minister sends him to perform a number of feats, including thefts like those of Jack, the Beanstalk hero; and the guerdon of these is the king's daughter. The dog, by whose aid he achieves these adventures, saves his life from the envious minister, and recovers his own pristine form as a prince who had been bewitched. In both these tales the marvellous animal, or the princess, is given by the giants to the hero as the reward of service, just as in Wenzig's Sclavonic story the monster-magician pays the hero with the dove-maiden.

More usually however he steals them, an incident of which we see either a germ or a recollection in the pursuit by the seven giants in the former of the two Icelandic tales. I find the type of one of the groups of stories we are now discussing in a Greek tradition given by Von Hahn, entitled The Teacher and his Scholar. The demon gives him an apple, of which the king eats one half and the queen the other.

The latter bears three sons. The king tries to foil the demon by building a tower of glass in which he keeps his children; but one day they escape, and the hero is pounced upon by the demon and carried down to his underground palace. This palace contains forty rooms, of which the ogre hands the hero the keys of thirty-nine. He also gives him a book to learn from. The hero gets possession of the fortieth key and opens the Forbidden Chamber. There he finds a fair maiden hanging by her hair, and takes her down. She instructs him to feign inability to learn his lesson when his master next gives him the book; and, lest the demon should find them out, she directs the hero to restore her to her uncomfortable situation and replace the key.

He follows her advice; and the demon, like any other master not under wholesome awe of a schoolboard, beats him for his stupidity. The heroine next counsels him to learn the whole book as fast as he can, always however feigning inability, and bids him when he has finished his task to come and fetch her. He complies, and in accordance with the directions in the book he takes certain magical articles, aikd, ungallantly changing the heroine into a mare, rides off on her. The ogre pursues, but is impeded by the stolen goods, which are thrown behind, one by one, by the hero, and the fugitives escape.

The hero brings the heroine back to human shape; and, having plighted troth, they part. He goes to lodge with an old woman, and makes money by transforming himself successively into various objects, which she sells, always retaining something pertaining to these objects, otherwise he will be unable to resume his proper form. Finally he changes into a pomegranate, which his father plucks, but the demon by a trick nearly succeeds in getting possession of it; it falls in pieces, and the seeds are scattered.

The demon as rapidly changes into a hen and chickens; whereupon the hero becomes a fox which kills the hen and chickens, but loses his eyes, for the hen has eaten two of the seeds. He returns to his own shape, and sets out to find the heroine, who is a king's daughter. Her father has built a hospital in gratitude for her deliverance. There the hero meets her, and she recognises him by a ring she had put on his finger when they plighted their troth.

She leads him to bathe in a certain brook and his sight is restored. This story calls to mind that of the Second Royal Mendicant in the Arabian Nights [75] in which a similar combat takes place between an 'Efreet and a king's daughter learned in magic for the restoration of the Mendicant to human form from that of an ape. The beginning of the tale as it stands is of course totally different from that of the foregoing, but there are not wanting indications that it has obtained its present literary shape by the grafting of the story of the Ape-man on some variant of The Teacher and his Scholar.

The 'Efreet and the King's Daughter are no strangers to one another; their greeting refers to some incident or chain of incidents outside the history of the Mendicant, and certainly not incompatible with the type we are now considering, though not included in any variant I am acquainted with. It is not impossible that further research among eastern folk-tales may recover the version which has been thus wrought up, or one near akin to it. Meantime, the variant bearing the strongest likeness to the typical story is that of Mohammed the Prudent given by Spitta Bey in his Contes Arabes Modernes. In due time the Moghrebbin fetches the boy to his underground palace, and gives him a book to read, of which he cannot decipher a single word.

The magician accords him thirty days to learn it by heart, threatening that in default he will cut off the hero's head. Failing to decipher the mystic volume the latter wanders on the last day but one of the allotted period into the garden, where he finds a maiden hung up by the hair. She tells him that she has been thus punished by the Moghrebbin for succeeding in learning the book. She reveals the secrets to him, warning him to feign ignorance.

Ultimately the hero and heroine flee on two horses, which they have obtained by reading the last three leaves of the volume. The hero's mother performs the part of the old woman in the former story; and his final transformation is into a poniard which stabs to death the magician while seeking in the form of a cock to devour all the seeds of a pomegranate—the hero's last previous shape. Here the Forbidden Chamber appears as a garden, and the prohibition to enter it is only to be inferred from the secrecy of the hero's visits and the fact that the contents enable him to outwit his master.

In other versions, however, a nearer approach is made to the Bluebeard type. A variant recorded by Von Hahn [77] makes the hero the youngest of three disobedient sons of a poor woman, who, gathering sticks in a wood, meets an ogre and complains of her undutiful children. The ogre offering to take one, she gives them up to him successively, to be brought up to a handicraft. The ogre's den contains a Forbidden Chamber full of murdered men; and the test of disobedience is an apple which is dropped and covered with blood.

The hero alone obeys the prohibition; but one day, performing the service so common in stories from the Mediterranean countries of ridding his master of vermin, he discovers a little keybound on the top of the ogre's head. It gives him access to the chamber where the princess is. She warns him to behave as if he were stupid; and he carries out her instructions until the ogre at last, losing patience, turns him out-of-doors.

Returning home he persuades his mother to sell him in the form of a horse. Pursued by the demon he changes into all sorts of animals and at last into a flower in a princess' hand. The ogre tries in every way to obtain the flower; but the princess tells him, "Though your heart burst in pieces, you shall not get the flower from me. The bursting in pieces of the ogre reminds us of the Troll in the northern tale; [78] and there may indeed be some connection of thought between that and the bursting and scattering of one of the combatants, which seems a necessary feature of the conflict between the master and his too clever scholar in the present type.

Though, if so, it is not easy to trace, and I must leave the task to more accomplished mythologists. An Italian variant, similar in its general course to the three stories given above, differs in its commencement. He is bold enough to make her an offer of marriage; but the only answer he can get from her is—"If thou do a miracle fairer than this I will marry thee. The wizard trusts him with the keys of twenty-four chambers, forbidding him to open two of them. In these chambers he finds a young prince and another daughter of the king.

The latter of course gives him the usual instructions how to behave towards the magician, from whom he at length escapes. The transformation and sale tricks follow, until the hero is captured by the wizard, from whom he can only escape by touching water. He accomplishes this by turning into a fish, and afterwards performs the required miracle by becoming a ring on the princess's finger.

His further changes are those into a grain of millet and into a fox that devours the magician while in the form of a hen seeking for the millet. There is a closely related group of variants differing chiefly in their conclusion from the tales of this type just analysed. In this group the ogre is finally defeated by the hero's flight, and the remainder of the story is occupied by a totally different series of adventures which hang to what I may term the trunk of the story by the transformation in the hero's personal appearance consequent on his disobedience.

A stranger is taken as the boy's godfather, who returns at the end of a year and a day to fetch his precocious godson to his castle. There the hero's business is to feed two horses and to starve and beat a certain mule. He is entrusted with a hundred keys opening as many rooms in the castle; but he is forbidden to enter the hundredth chamber. For a while he obeys; but after his godfather's second departure he is overcome with curiosity and ventures to use the hundredth key. In the room he finds dead bodies and magical books.

Going afterwards to attend to the animals the mule speaks to him, accusing him of disobedience, and advising him, now that he has gone so far, to bind up a certain bell, to plunge into a certain fountain, and to mount the mule herself and flee, taking with him some magical articles which she enumerates. The fountain turns his hair to gold. His godfather pursues the fugitives, but is impeded in the usual manner by the stolen talismans flung behind by the hero, who at length reaches the Holy Land, where his godfather who turns out to be the Devil cannot enter. Following the mule's directions he covers his shining hair and engages himself as under-gardener to the king, the mule in the meantime disappearing.

The gardener becomes jealous of him and falsely accuses him twice to the king. The hero calls in the aid of the mule by means of a magical wand she has given him, and with her help he foils the gardener, who is at length dismissed and the hero installed in his place. Secretly by night the hero wears at different times three glorious dresses given him by his faithful mule; but the youngest of the kings three daughters discovers him. On the princesses' choosing husbands she chooses the gardener, much to her father's displeasure; and the lovers are wedded and banished from the palace.

The hero, however, finds his opportunity when his father-in-law goes to war. Given contemptuously an old hack and a rusty sword, he mounts his mule, hurries after the army, and, thrice defeating the enemy, he single-handed compels peace. Upon certain terms which will enable him afterwards to prove his case he temporarily yields the spoils and glory to his brothers-in-law, the husbands of his wife's sisters, who insult him and wound him in the leg. On his recovery he holds a feast, where he discloses himself in all his proper splendour, claims and proves to be the real victor, and puts his brothers-in-law to open shame.

A Greek variant narrated by Von Hahn [81] approaches more closely in its opening to the true Teacher and his Scholar type. The hero and a colt are born in consequence of his father and mother having eaten an apple given them by an ogre and fed a mare with the rind. The monster has previously bargained for the issue, and he fetches the hero accordingly to his fastness. In this castle the rooms are forty-one in number; and the hero finds the key of the forty-first room and enters it while his master sleeps. Inside are two puddles: The ogre in his rage dips the boy entirely into the puddle, and he emerges all gilded.

The hero afterwards flies on his horse; and his former master, unable to overtake him, counsels him to shake the bones out of an old man whom he will meet, and dress himself in his skin. He follows this advice, and takes service with a king who is the father of three daughters. The youngest, of course, catches a glimpse of his real nature, and chooses him as her husband. He procures a remedy for the king, who is smitten with blindness; and afterwards in war defeats the enemy, with a conclusion similar in general terms to that of the previous story.

The mongrel inhabitants of Zanzibar [82] tell a story of a boy whose birth was the result of a bargain similar to that in the foregoing variant. The demon, whose medicine proves so powerful, takes one of the offspring; and on reaching home hands him all his keys, bidding him open whatever he liked. The hero enters the room containing the molten gold, and conceals his discoloured finger beneath a rag. He afterwards opens a series of six rooms and finds the bones of various animals, and, lastly, skulls of men. In the seventh chamber is a living horse, by whose advice he precipitates the demon into a cauldron of hot ghee.

The horse swallows the contents of the treasure-chamber, and the hero flees upon his back, while the demon is eaten by his own companions out of the cauldron. The remainder of the narrative is tame; though, of course, it ends with the hero's marriage to a sultan's daughter. The commencement of the last two variants is completely parallel with that of The Teacher and his Scholar, and recalls that of The King of the Fishes, [83] a Breton tale belonging to the Perseus group.

In tales of this type a large fish caught by a fisherman and given to his childless wife, or to a childless queen, results in the birth of three boys, three colts, and three puppies. The eldest boy growing up, sallies forth into the world, kills a dragon, and marries a princess. The next day he goes, in direct defiance of his bride's prohibition, to a magician's house, or to hunt in a certain wood, where he is captured and spellbound. The second son sets out to seek his brother, and is received by the princess as her husband,—so like is he to the first. He shares his brother's fate, from which they are both at last rescued by the greater cunning of the youngest.

Some of these stories hold out a hand of such apparent kinship to the Forbidden Chamber myth that it requires some care to avoid linking them together. But closer analysis shows their affinities to belong rather to a different class; and the mention of them here will serve to illustrate further the ease with which one folktale seems to glide off into another, just as in the physical world every genus of animals or plants fades through its several species and they, in their turn, through their individual members into the genera that on every side surround it.

The hero's miraculous birth is not, however, an inseparable feature of the type we are considering. In the Roumanian story of The Hermit's Foundling with the Golden Hair [84] the boy appears as a king's daughter's bastard brought up by a hermit; and in a Norse variant [85] he is simply a widow's son seeking employment. In the latter story there are four forbidden rooms, wherein the ogre foolishly stores up the magical articles which are to impede his pursuit of his disobedient servant and end in his death.

Beside these the hero finds a large black horse with a trough of burning embers at his head and a basket of hay at his tail, and compassionately reverses them. The horse then speaks, telling him to wash in one of the rooms in a kettle which boils without any fire under it, and to fetch from another room a suit of armour, sword, and saddle. The boy had already tried the virtue of the kettle by dipping in it his finger, which he had drawn out gilded, thereby causing the detection of his curiosity and its punishment by his master.

Bathing in it now he finds himself not only endowed with splendour, but also with strength to bear the armour. The Roumanian tale transforms the ogre into three fairies, whose service the hero enters after his foster-father the hermit's death. These fairies go away, leaving him the customary prohibition, which he of course disobeys, and discovers in the room an empty bath and a chest containing three bundles of clothes.

On a second absence the fairies charge him to sound a horn three times if he hear any noise in the Forbidden Chamber. But his magical horse, the hermit's posthumous gift, directs him instead to enter the room and plunge into the bath. This bath fills only once in a century; and the noise of its filling is the signal for which the hero was to wait.

The bath turns his hair to gold; he steals the clothes from the chest and rides off, with his masters in full pursuit, I need not follow his adventures farther, as they scarcely differ from the later incidents of the two stories already analysed. There is another story in which the fatal curiosity of Bluebeard's wife plays an important part. I mean that of The Third Royal Mendicant in The Arabian Nights [86] It is too well known to require any recapitulation of incidents; and the variants with which I am acquainted follow it so closely that they will not detain us long.

The story as a whole, in its motive and details, is of a very different character from that of most of the types we have previously considered: The horse discovered within the forbidden chamber may remind us of The Teacher and his Scholar, and Scabby John. But there, except for the Forbidden Chamber itself, the resemblance ceases.

The hero is ruled by fate from end to end of his story; and it is not simply curiosity which overcomes him and severs him from the life he had found so agreeable. This may be due to the Mohammedan colouring in which the tale appears in The Thousand and One Nights. The same predestination reappears, however, in a version given by Signor Nerucci, [87] as told at Montale, in Tuscany. I confess that all Signor Nerucci's tales display a fulness of detail, and an artistic polish which convey a certain suspicion to my mind.

But they are received as genuine in Italy, and the story referred to is, in particular, stamped with the acceptance of Signor Comparetti by his admission of it into his collection. Its identity I cannot call it similarity with the Arabian story is most striking; for, with the omission of the lodestone-rock, and a few unimportant variations, it follows the exact course of The Third Royal Mendicant. We may make what allowance we will for literary adornment by the collector; nothing short of absolute disbelief in the genuineness of his stories as folk-tales will get rid of this remarkable unity; and this short and easy method seems closed to us.

In any case its form, as well as its spirit, is so thoroughly oriental that it is impossible to believe it has been domesticated in Europe for a very long period. The fatalism of The Third Koyal Mendicant, though not so prominent in the Italian version, is still present; but in the nearest analogue to these two tales which I know it is emphatically repudiated and put down to the tempting of Satan,—and this though the story as it reaches us is in a distinctly Islamic guise.

He is engaged as servant to ten old men who live together, and who correspond to the old sheykh and ten young men of the better-known version. They die one by one; and, as the last one is dying, the hero's curiosity overcomes him and he conjures him to disclose the reason of their lamentations. The -dying man replies, forbidding him to open a certain locked door—a prohibition he, of course, disregards. A black eagle takes him up and conveys him to the Land of Women, where he weds the queen, who again charges him not to open a particular door.

After seven months he disobeys, and is borne back by the same black eagle to the spot where it had first seized him, whence he finds his way once more to the palace of his former masters. Here, it will be observed, the Forbidden Chamber is duplicated. The hero both reaches and quits the Houri Paradise by disobedience to the prohibition.

There can be little doubt that in the earlier form of this story there is but one forbidden door—namely, the one whereby the hero quits the Paradise, and that the other is a reflection of this. On the other hand, the absence of the harem is, probably, a note of antiquity. The story in this form approaches a very wide-spread tale, which is found even beyond the limits of the Aryan and Semitic races.

In the Hitopadesa [89] - a king's son goes to seek a maiden, who lies on a couch in the sea, under a tree. She catches sight of him and disappears; but he leaps into the sea, arrives at the golden city in which she dwells, and weds her. He disobeys, and the pictured figure resents his insolence with a kick so violent as to fling him back to his own country.

Another version is in still closer contact with the tales previously cited. The hero is conveyed by a gigantic bird to the Golden City, and there wedded by the queen, who gives him strict charge not to ascend to the middle terrace of the palace. Disregarding this charge, he is kicked by a steed with a jewelled saddle, which he essays to mount, into a lake, and, rising to the surface, he finds himself standing in the midst of a garden-pond in his native city.

Another group of variants goes somewhat further, and introduces that mysterious lapse of time which visitors to Fairyland experience. A loutish youth in an Esthonian tale [91] is beloved by a mermaid and taken to the subaqueous dwelling where she reigns as queen. He is forbidden to call her Mermaid. Every Thursday she disappears, passing the day in a locked chamber until the third cock-crow in the evening.

After living happily with her for some time, he is overcome with curiosity and jealousy, and peeps in through the window-curtains. The room has no floor; but where the floor should be is water, in which the mermaid is swimming—woman to the waist, and fish below. The following day she appears to him in mourning, and, reproaching him, bids him farewell.

With a thunder-clap he becomes unconscious, to find himself next lying on the beach where he had first met his love.

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Rising, he goes into the village to find that his parents have been dead for thirty years, and evenhi s brothers are no more. He has become an old man, and is dependent on charity. One day he ventures to tell his story. That night he disappears; and, after some time, the waves cast up his dead body on the shore. The mermaid of this story is, like the dove-maiden in the Sclavonic tale cited before, one of a well-known class, possessed of a double nature, and condemned to spend a portion of their time in the lower form, secluded from those whom they most love. The godmother, also, in the Mary's Child type, betrays in the same characteristic a trace of her mythological descent.

Of a different character is the heroine of a legend of the County Clare. But a broad flat stone in one part of the palace garden is pointed out to him on which he may not stand under penalty of the heaviest misfortune. One day he disobeys and finds himself in full view of his native land, which he had forgotten since he had been in the Country of Perpetual Youth. He sees it oppressed, and begs permission to return. The queen, finding all dissuasion vain, permits him to return for a single day, and gives him a jet-black steed.

From this steed he is not to dismount, nor is he on any account to let the bridle go. Forgetting so simple a direction he quits his seat to assist a peasant. The spell is thus broken: He becomes an old man, feeble and helpless, and the horse that should have borne him back to happiness disappears. This is the weird story of Olger the Dane, which in one form or another is so popular all over the west of Europe; but to follow it would lead me too far from my present subject.

Keeping within the limits I have prescribed for myself, I will just mention one other version of the tale last cited. It is an Algonquin legend, bearing a strange, I had almost said a suspicious, likeness to our Aryan myths. They pursued him, and on one of them coming up he caught and wedded her. Subsequently he procured in a similar way one of his wife's sisters, and wedded her also.

The two wives desert him.

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Lying down together at night, they wish for stars for husbands, and when they awake they find themselves in another world, each wedded to the star she had chosen, who appears in the form of a man. Their new husbands forbid them to lift a certain large flat stone; true to their instincts, they disobey, and find beneath a hole, through which they look down to the earth, and are seized with a desire to return to it. On their husbands' return they deny their disobedience; but, being found out, they obtain leave to return, and are wafted thither during the night.

These two women, who are described as water fairies, are doubtless equivalents of the Swan-Maidens of the eastern hemisphere. Except in the mode of capture, however, the true Swan-Maiden story has little in connection with this tale, which may yet serve to remind us that some of the Swan-Maiden variants belong to the Forbidden Chamber class. The best known of these is perhaps that of Hasan of El Basrah. They at length leave him for two months, giving him the keys of their rooms, but begging him not to open a certain door.

He disregards their injunction, and finds within among other things a pool of water, to which ten birds come, and, pulling off their feather dresses, descend to bathe in the pool as women. He falls in love with one of them, and on the return of the maidens who dwell there he confesses to one of them what he has done. She informs him who the supernatural women are, and instructs him to watch when they come again and seize the feather dress of the one whom he desires to wed, and he will then obtain power over her.

He thus gains her; but his marriage with her ends in her recovery of the feather dress and flight, an incident that starts him on a new series of adventures for the purpose of regaining her. We found a version of this new series in a story of the Marya Morevna type.

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In the present case, however, there is no further reference to the Forbidden Chamber, and we therefore need not pursue the tale further. This is not the only Arabian tale in which the Swan-Maiden is discovered by opening a forbidden door [95] ; but without stopping to examine others I will content myself with mentioning one of Von Hahn's Greek stories, where a similar event occurs. The hero, wandering on a mountain, finds a trapdoor, which by his great strength he succeeds in pulling up, and he descends into the cavern beneath for a whole day. Arrived at the bottom, he sees and enters a palace, and finds within an old man bound with chains.

Having released him, the old man gives him the keys of thirty-nine out of the forty rooms in the palace. After a while the hero asks for the key of the fortieth room, and in spite of the elder's warning he insists on having it. In accordance with the old man's instructions he enters the room and finds a lake, wherein three maidens come to bathe. He hides and waits until the two elder have bathed and the youngest strips herself and plunges. He then seizes her clothes, in which her strength lies, and forces her to follow him back into the palace.

The old man gives him a flying steed and a golden wand, and with these he sets out for home with the maiden, who of coarse ultimately obtains her clothes again. Then follow the remaining incidents of search and reconquest. By way of conclusion I will just gather up a few tales both within and beyond the great realm of Aryo-Semitic tradition, which seem to be related to the myth of the Forbidden Chamber.

And, first, let us see how it is brought into connection with some other of the more celebrated Aryan stories. The King of the Fishes has already been mentioned as the type of a group linking it to the classical Perseus. But it has even a nearer affinity to the still more beautiful tale of Cupid and Psyche.

According to a Roumanian story [97] an emperor who has three daughters goes to war, leaving them the keys of all the chambers in his house, but forbidding them to enter a certain chamber. They disobey, and find nothing in the room but a large book lying on a table. The two elder daughters open the book successively, and read that they are to marry emperor's sons. The third daughter, the heroine, refuses to enter for a time, but is at length persuaded.

She reads in the book that she is to be married to a swine, and she falls into despondency in consequence. On her father's return he charges his daughters with disobedience. The prophecies of the book are subsequently fulfilled. Here, the Forbidden Chamber is the keeper of the oracle consigning Psyche to the embraces of a monster. The evil influence of her sisters, however, ceases with the persuasion to disobey their father, and in the after-part of the narrative their counsels, which lead Psyche to so much mischief, are replaced by those of a witch.

But in a Milanese story given by Imbriani [98] it is her sisters who persuade the heroine to break her mysterious husband's taboo, and indeed provide her with the materials for striking the prohibited light. Acting in accordance with their exhortations she finds that the monster she has married is a fair youth at night, and round his neck is a cord to which a key is attached. She takes this key, and seeks the door which it fits. Having found the door she opens it. Inside are many ladies working, as they tell her in rhyme, for the king's son. For this disobedience she can live no longer with her husband, but he is in the sequel disenchanted and relieved of his monster-form in consequence of her devotion.

A more curious and pathetic form of the tale is found in Spain under the title of "The Black Hand. The giant takes her down into his underground palace, puts a ring on her finger, and hands her his keys, forbidding her to enter a certain chamber. Within is a well full of dead bodies, torn to pieces and covered with blood, into which the ring falls from her finger, and, though she recovers it, it cannot afterwards be cleansed. She is killed, and flung into the well; and the like fate happens to the next daughter, who is obtained on the usual pretext. But the third daughter escapes detection by removing the ring beforehand.

After visiting the chamber repeatedly she discovers a little door ajar within it. Entering this further room she finds lying on a magnificent bed a comely youth whose breast is a river; and in this river many washer-women are washing skeins of wool. She daily comes to gaze on his beauty, and one day she sees a skein elude one of the washerwomen and float away unnoticed on the stream. Frightened, she cries out. At the same moment the palace trembles, the river and the washer-women disappear. The youth awaking reveals himself as the giant who has been enchanted. He tells her that her prudence would have released him from the spell the very next day, and they would have been happy, but that her cry has undone him, and compelled him either to kill her or to return to his enchantment—to be released God knows when.

He refuses to slay her. He takes her to the well, joins the pieces of the dead bodies together, and, anointing them with some unguent, restores them to life. Taking them all to the surface of the earth, he disappears, and the heroine, often though she seeks, is never able to meet with the unselfish giant again. I have already referred to the legends of Ossian and Olger the Dane, which should perhaps have found their place more fitly here.

A Bohemian story [] relates that the hero, carried off to Hell, is condemned by Lucifer to punishment, whence he is only freed at the intercession of Lucifer's daughter, whom instead he is compelled to marry.

His new father-in-law gives the young couple a palace, but forbids the hero to touch a certain tree in the garden. The hero learns from his wife that on the top of that tree is a golden apple which one has only to throw behind him and wish, to be at once in any place he may desire. He accordingly plucks it, and thus escapes to his home. There seems to be an echo in this of the story in the Hitopadesa, but how strangely, grotesquely mingled with recollections of the Garden of Eden!

Can we, before quitting the Forbidden Chamber, find any clue to its origin? Can we trace the growth of the myth through any of its earlier stages? May we catch glimpses of its development from rudimentary forms? With very great diffidence I venture to suggest that there are a few tales scattered up and down the folk-lore of widely-severed countries that seem to exhibit the traces we are seeking.

When at last he gets the twelfth he takes her into the forest and sets himself down under a very high fir to twist a willow-rope, compelling her the while to relieve him of those "familiar beasts to man" doubtless only too well known to the peasants who tell the story. She feels a drop of blood fall from the tree upon her hand, and, looking up, she sees her eleven sisters hanging from the branches. She screams with horror, and the villain bids her say her prayers and prepare for death.

She screams thrice—to Jesus, to the Virgin, and to her brother, when a huntsman, who turns out to be her brother, comes up with countless dogs, seizes the robber, sets free his sister, and hands the robber over to the executioner. In this narrative it does not need much imagination to see a half-developed version of Bluebeard,—such an one as might be current among a people less used to houses than to the open forest. How or why the evolution should have stopped and the story should have been handed down to us in this form, I confess I do not know; but we have already seen that the Swabians possess other variants, and the evolutionary tendency is, among folk-tales as among other organic products, toward infinite diversity.

Let me go a step further and ask whether the Karen story of the man possessed with a Na or Evil spirit, [] is not the same tale in even a more primitive form. This man, when the younger of his two daughters follows him one day to the fields, is seized at the foot of a tree by an evil spirit, and under its bewitching power he devours her. He then returns home, and pretending that his younger daughter is unhappy alone he gets his wife to send the elder one to her.

On arriving at the tree he eats her also. On the same pretence he fetches his wife and leaves her beneath the tree, while he goes to seek an impaling stick. Meantime a lizard in the tree warns the woman that her husband will eat her, and points out to her her children's skulls in confirmation of his statement. When the husband returns he cannot find her; for the friendly lizard has drawn her up by his tail to the top of the tree; and for want of better food to satiate his morbid appetite he begins to eat himself.

When he has thus rendered himself helpless the lizard lets his wife down again and she escapes. A few months ago Mr. One of these would seem if we may safely judge by the outline to be an intermediate link between the two foregoing stories and the Dead Hand type. The Thrice-Accursed namely, Belzebub marries a princess who is too proud to accept any one else, and takes her to his mountain abode. There he shows her a woman hanging up, just as the miller's youngest daughter sees her sisters hanging.

This was her husband's former wife, to whom he had given a human heart to eat, and on her failing to eat it had killed her. He then goes to hunt, having, as Mr. Coote puts it, tried his new wife with a similar dainty, with the usual result. He subsequently marries her two sisters successively; but the youngest outwits him, and with the aid of strangers escapes from his mountain abode. The Breton story of Redbeard [] which betrays in its title that it is connected in the minds of the people with that of Bluebeard can scarcely be aught else than a similar link; for here, too, everything is present but the Forbidden Chamber.

The heroine marries a widower who has had seven wives, lives ten years in harmony with him, and has children. Suddenly and without cause he resolves to kill her. She sends a dog with a note in his ear to her brothers, and contrives to delay until a military troop rescue her and kill Redbeard. She afterwards marries one of her deliverers. Let us turn now for a moment to the Western World, and examine the Algonquin account of How one of the Partridge's wives became a Sheldrake Duck.

One day he sees a water fairy and tries to catch her, but fails. She is however compelled to return to him and become his wife. Her curiosity is aroused by the disappearance of food; and, watching at night, she sees her husband feeding the elf, and washing and combing him. The next day she finds the key of the box, and takes the elf out; but while she is combing him the evil spirit snatches him away from her. She finds her hands turned red from contact with the elf, and cannot wash the stain off.

Her husband returns without any game, sees the red stain on her hands, and thus discovers what has happened. But as she fell into the water she became a sheldrake duck. And to this day the marks of the red stain are to be seen on her feet and feathers. But what I want to call attention to is that this narrative, while preserving most of the essential features of the full-grown Aryan Bluebeard story, has yet two remarkable differences.

In Europe the husband keeps the corpses of his victims in a secret chamber to conceal his guilt. It is understood that once that chamber door is thrown open by one who is permitted to betray what is within the guilty being's life is not worth a day's purchase, for offended society will vindicate itself upon him either by lynch-law or the ordinary course of justice. It is thus necessary for him to keep the chamber door locked against all intruders.

The Algonquin tale replaces this gruesome mystery by the elf in the box. On the preservation of this elf the hunter's luck depends; and when he has been robbed of it through his wife's indiscretion his success in the chase is gone. He returns home for the explanation, and finds it in the guilty stains upon his wife's hands. Manifestly the elf is his fetish, and in the cage containing it we have a more primitive form of the Forbidden Chamber. The incident in this shape is specially characteristic of savage life. As with advancing civilisation the reasoning which has moulded it thus becomes obsolete we may expect that the incident itself will undergo a change into a form more appropriate to the higher stages of culture, or at least more easily understood.

This is consonant to all that we know of the tendency of tradition to modify itself in accordance with the environment of the people in whose mind it is embedded; and this is what has actually happened. Luck-worship is doubtless in many phases still familiar to the most civilised nations, but the downright fetishism of the Indian hunter has passed away and been forgotten.

Europe however is not so far removed from the barbarous feudalism which a living Bluebeard might conceivably adorn as to make a tyrannical husband who had murderous secrets from his wife and who avenged her curiosity in blood seem an absolute impossibility to peasants not yet wholly escaped from the oppression of a military aristocracy.

Hence the transformation of the caged elf to the corpse-chamber. This is the first difference I have referred to; and it involves the other, namely, the introduction of the express prohibition. Oddly enough a Sicilian tale presents us with a somewhat similar incident. At last a robber, who lives in a desert place alone and possesses a magical head, consults the head and by its aid guesses the riddle and obtains the prize. He takes her home and compels her to work hard. One day he goes away, charging the magical head to listen to what his wife says of him.

As soon as he is gone she exclaims on him and abuses him. The head reports this to the robber on his return, and he puts her to death, throwing her body into a chamber where were the corpses of many other maidens who had met their fate in the same way. Then he goes to the king and by means of the usual pretence obtains his second daughter, who comes to a similar end. He then fetches the third daughter. She professes great admiration for the robber's house, carefully abstains from asking for her sisters, but does the work required of her cheerfully, and in her husband's absence she prays and invokes blessings on him.

This is duly reported to him by the magical head on his return. He is pleased with her, and by way of reward shows her her dead sisters in the secret chamber. She bides her time, and during another absence she comes to his room, and, finding the magical head hanging in a basket, she flatters it and persuades it to come down, a course which the sheldrake duck had vainly attempted with the hunter's elf.

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The magical head follows the heroine into the kitchen, and there, like the sheldrake duck, she combs it. Suddenly she lifts it by the cue, and, flinging it into the oven, destroys it. The robber's life is bound up with the life of his talisman, and he dies too. Above the window where the basket hung she finds a jar of ointment, and, taking it, anoints the bodies in the chamber, thus bringing them all to life again, and they divide the robber's treasure.

In this variant the union of the ogre with the magical head is much closer than that of the hunter with his elf, for his actual life and not merely his luck depends upon it. We have already had occasion to notice examples of the myth now under consideration approaching that of Puchkin. In the idea embodied in stories belonging to the Punchkin group we recognise, as Mr. Clodd has already suggested in the Folk-Lore Journal , the relic of a more primitive belief; and it may very well be that this belief, at all events put in so striking a form, would appeal more strongly to the uncultured or the half cultured imagination, and so would survive longer the departure from the mental condition that gave birth to it, than the worship of a fetish.

If I am right in thinking this the Sicilian tale marks a stage of thought beyond that of the Algonquin, though we find the forbidden chamber still if I may use such a metaphor in an embryonic condition, but in a condition from which its advance to the fullblown life of the stories examined at the commencement of this paper is both easy and certain. The cluster of variants I have called that of the Dead Hand may probably disclose the next step in its evolution. We thus appear to see the story developing from the slaughter of his wife and children by a capricious or cannibal husband, to a marriage and murder for previously incurred vengeance, or for purposes of witchcraft, and thence to a murder by a husband for disobedience express or implied.

At this point the fatal curiosity comes upon the scene as one mode of accounting for the disobedience; and when once this element is introduced it proves a most potent influence, and the story branches off and blossoms in all directions. Folk-tales of India p. He also states that it admittedly represents a folk-song of Ulrich and Anne, where, however, there is no mention of the blue beard. In Grimm's first edition appeared a tale which he had collected, but being in doubt whether it also did not owe its origin to the French he afterwards omitted it.

It differed from Perrault's version only in two particulars. Sister Anne was not introduced; and the heroine laid the key in hay, in accordance with an old superstition that hay will take out bloodstains. I cite Grimm's notes from the 3rd edition in three vols. Worn out by this labour, she bethinks her of a magic gift bestowed on her by her aunt. She opens the vessel containing it and utters her wish to return home. A dove flies out and bids her write to her father. The dove carries the letter. She is rescued by a seventh son. The husband afterwards makes the attempt at revenge, discussed later on under the Dead Hand type.

In a variant the messenger is a swallow, and the monster is a dragon with a long tail, out of whose folds the heroine is delivered. This is analogous to the sleeping Devil of the text. Other stories of this type point to a connection with the Jason stories—for example, that of Petrosina cited above from the Archivio, where the heroine has to let down her hair for the monster to ascend by into his castle.

Mattia Di Martino, another Sicilian folk-lore student, to mean a dark or black-haired man—" uomo di pel bruno. These two appear to be the same story. See also Story No. An Athenian tale mentioned by Mr.

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