Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The She-Wolf

My BF and I both love wolves, so it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that one of my first posts is about a wolf. This story is an old Croatian tale, published in 1889 in Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources. The story will be in black, my commentary in purple. 

The She-Wolf

There was an enchanted mill, so that no one could stay there, because a she-wolf always haunted it.

 So...if a wolf (sorry, she-wolf) shows up somewhere, that makes it magical? Couldn't someone just try and shoo it out the door with a broom or something? Or call the huntsman?

 A soldier went once into the mill to sleep. He made a fire in the parlor, went up into the garret above, bored a hole with an auger in the floor, and peeped down into the parlor.

Because it's perfectly normal to put holes in the floor to peep through before you go to bed. Personally I can't sleep unless I take a jackhammer to the tile to peer down into the piping first.

Also, why is the soldier sleeping there? Was there no town nearby for him to find an inn or beg for shelter from? People don't build mills out in the middle of nowhere, there must have been a town somewhere relatively close by!
A she-wolf came in and looked about the mill to see whether she could find anything to eat. She found nothing, and then went to the fire, and said, "Skin down! Skin down! Skin down!" She raised herself upon her hind-legs, and her skin fell down. She took the skin, and hung it on a peg, and out of the wolf came a damsel. The damsel went to the fire, and fell asleep there. 

See, people, this is what society has done. No one is comfortable in their own skins anymore, not even to sleep! Even a young she-wolf feels the need to remove her own flesh just to feel comfortable enough to sleep now because of the harsh and unrealistic standards placed on them by those magazines and runway models.


He came down from the garret, took the skin, nailed it fast to the mill-wheel, then came into the mill, shouted over her, and said, "Good morning, damsel! How do you do?"

So...she, who is a wolf, didn't hear or smell the guy coming down from the garret or nailing her skin to the mill-wheel? She must be a very deep sleeper.

Also, I've got to ask of the soldier- WHY?! Why would you take someone's shed skin and nail it to something, much less a mill-wheel? What the heck, dude? I wouldn't even TOUCH the thing! You don't know where she's been!

She began to scream, "Skin on me! Skin on me! Skin on me!" But the skin could not come down, for it was fast nailed.
The pair married and had two children. 

Because there's nothing more romantic and endearing than having someone steal your skin and nail it to the wall. It's only logical that you'd totally want to jump the bones of the guy who would do that, even if you had never seen him before and didn't know his ass from Adam.

 Really, now.

As soon as the elder son got to know that his mother was a wolf, he said to her, "Mamma! Mamma! I have heard that you are a wolf." 

....and who did he hear this from? I'm pretty sure the soldier wouldn't want anyone to know that he got hitched to a she-wolf. That sort of thing usually doesn't fly with the relatives.

His mother replied, "What nonsense are you talking! How can you say that I am a wolf?" 

"Well, there was that time you slaughtered all our chickens with your teeth while running around on all fours, and the howling at the moon at ungodly hours, and your particular method of personal grooming-"

Though I gotta give the mom credit for at least trying here. Obviously he didn't hear about it from her.

The father of the two children went one day into the field to plow, and his son said, "Papa, let me, too, go with you." 

I'm all about plowing today!

His father said, "Come." 

Not going to say it, not going to say it, NOT GOING TO SAY IT....

When they had come to the field, the son asked his father, "Papa, is it true that our mother is a wolf?"

The father said, "It is." 

...Why would you tell your kid that? Would it be so hard to just say; "What? A wolf? Kid, does she look like a wolf to you?"
"But the things with the chicken and the-"
"She's just a free spirit."
"But what about the raw deer and how she cleans herse-"

The son inquired, "And where is her skin?" 

His father said, "There it is, on the mill-wheel." 

Wait, it's been there this whole time? Long enough for you two to get married and have two children and one of those children to get old enough to start asking questions like that? Good grief, either that thing's rotted to a state of gross, or it's got some pretty nice preservation spells on it. Either way if it hasn't been washed this whole time it's gotta reek.

No sooner had the son got home, than he said at once to his mother, "Mamma! Mamma! You are a wolf! I know where your skin is." 

And the prize for 'Weirdest thing to hear from your kid' goes to...

His mother asked him, "Where is my skin?" 

He said, "There, on the mill-wheel." 

"I was wondering why our bread tasted funny..."

His mother said to him, "Thank you, sonny, for rescuing me." Then she went away, and was never heard from again.

Parental abandonment for the win! Seriously, no tearful goodbye or explanation that she just can't stay or anything? She's just like, "Later, suckas! Dinner's in the fridge, you'd better make it last!"

Because wolves are totally known for ditching their kids.

This one's a typical animal bride tale-they usually have to do with something that allows the bride to transform, usually the skin which is shed, and a man taking that away from them and forcing them to marry them. There is almost always a child born, sometimes more than one, who discovers their mother's true nature and returns her skin to her, whether by getting it and physically handing it over or simply telling them where it is. The mother takes her true form again, and either gives a tearful farewell, takes their child who is half of whatever they are and thus belongs in their world, or simply runs off without a backwards glance. Sometimes the father is killed. Occasionally he's the one who grants the female her freedom again. Sometimes she even falls in love with them, or cares so much for her child/children that she destroys whatever it is that ties her to her original self, such as in the story "The Prince and the Tortoise" in which the tortoise burns her shell so that she might never be tempted to return to her old self. They follow the same basic formula, but depending on a few changes in the story can have very different morals. So, read into that, and the story itself, what you will.

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