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, Stories from Brittany
Posted: 04-Jun-2004, 10:25 AM
Wanderer and Vagabond
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: Wytheville, Virginia
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The Parson?s Pig (Porc?hel ar person)
Once upon a time there was a poor family. This family was very, very poor indeed: the father had a flock of children to feed and had no idea how to do it. One day he looked at his offspring said to himself ?Why not steal a pig from the rector??
He knew that the rector had a gloriously fat pig in his piggery, just ready to eat. The poor man took the pig without any great difficulty, killed it noiselessly (not a small feat), and cut it into small pieces.
The next day, the youngest boy was walking the family?s sole cow to the fields. He sang merrily as he walked:
Kig porc?hel ar person a zo mat
Leret hinoz gan me zat!
The meat of the parson?s pig was good
That my father stole last night
Unfortunately the pastor passed close by him on the same path, on his way to church. He was greatly surprised by the song, and called out, ?What are you singing, my lad??
But the boy refused to say.
?Sing again! Repeat what you just sang,? the pastor insisted.
?Oh, no.? replied the young boy, demurely, ?I can?t say it."
?Really, I would like you to sing it again, and loudly, too!" encouraged the parson.
"Monsieur le recteur, I only tell the truth."
?So be it then: since it?s the truth, you can come to Church on Sunday and tell everyone.?
"Oh, Monsieur le recteur, I can?t come to Church looking like this. All my clothes are so old ..."
"I?ll buy you a new outfit," the boy was promised. "Come and find me on Sunday, before mass."
And on that Sunday the parson gave the young lad a set of beautiful new clothes so that he could attend church. In the middle of mass, the man of the cloth announced to his assembled parishioners:
"Listen to this child. He is going to tell you the truth."
Then he said to the boy, ?This is the pulpit of truth. Stand here where I am now and tell everyone what you sang the other day on the road."
The young lad was not worried. He clambered into the pulpit and said very loudly:
"Ar person ha ma mamm zo mognonet
Ha me zat ac?nras Doué n?avin ket!
The parson and my mother are friends
And, thank God, my father doesn?t know a thing!
"It?s not true," the parson protested, furiously. "That isn?t what you said."
"Yes it is, " replied the boy, "It?s exactly what I said."
"No it?s not," said the rector, and gave him a quick kick up the behind.
"Monsieur le recteur," said the child, with dignity, "It?s all that I can say."
And the whole congregation laughed with the boy.
Notes: Massignon indicates that this is type 1792 in the Aarne-Thompson classification (the major index of folk tale types), existing in 8 French versions, but far more common in Germany. It differs from the norm by having a poor family instead of the sacristan, as the parson?s foil. She points out that irony and gentle mockery aimed at the clergy is a part of Breton folk culture, when the clergy are considered to be at fault.
UPPER BRITTANY - Haute Bretagne
There was once a prince who made a long voyage. On his travels, he encountered a fairy. The fairy fell in love with the prince and asked him to marry her. He refused. So she changed him into a beast, telling him, ?You will remain in this shape until a woman accepts your hand in marriage.?
The prince had a castle and he continued to live there, in a beast?s form, remaining mostly in his beautiful gardens. Inside the house he hospitably kept a table fully spread. If anyone entered the castle, they would find a dinner ready and waiting for them. Not many people, however, had this good fortune.
One day three young girls went for a walk near the castle. The youngest, tired of arguing with her sisters, ran away from them and found herself outside this beautiful abode. She entered and found dinner waiting for her. Not seeing anyone, and since night was falling and she was young and hungry, she ate, and stayed the night in the castle.
The next morning, she was walking in the gardens when she heard strange sounds emerging from a bush. She came closer and what did she see? A beast who tempted her thus? ?Stay here in the castle if you like, all your meals will be served for you, your housework done, and you will have no cares in the world.?
Given how nasty her sisters could be, and how beautiful the castle, the girl accepted. Every day she went to walk in the garden, and spoke the beast.
One day there was something new. She heard the cries and groans of a sick animal, near to death. She ran to him and cried, ?Oh, my poor little beast, if you don?t die, I would marry you.?
At these words, the prince recovered instantly and away fell the beast skin, showing that he was really a very handsome young man.
The young woman was very happy. They were engaged, but the prince did not stay with her for long.
?Now I have to find my old parents, ? he told her. ?I?ll be back soon. I am trusting you with my beast-skin. Store it with the greatest care in a wardrobe and watch over it. Be particularly careful that not one drop of water touches it.?
The prince then left. As for the young woman, she was visited by her two sisters who - seeing her happiness - became furiously jealous. As she told them her story, they resolved to destroy the beast?s skin. The oldest said to the middle one, ?Take a kettle of water and we will throw it on that loathly skin.?
As soon as they had done this, the prince returned, in great distress.
?What have you done? My skin is lost and I can no longer live here. As for you, my love, I cannot even take you with me. But you can live comfortably, just as before. Your sisters can remain here as doorstops, if you still want them for company.
But the young girl wanted absolutely to accompany her fiancé and resolved to follow him no matter what it took.
As the prince was leaving, he said to her ?I am going to leave you three things to remember me by: a golden spinning wheel, a golden distaff and a golden spindle. Whenever you do your spinning, you will still think of me.
The young girl began to cry. As he kissed her, she let three drops of blood drop from her finger onto his shirt, saying, ?No-one will be able to clean these three drops of blood from your shirt except me.?
Then they parted. The prince left in a coach with his old parents, with whom he was going to live. His father pressured him to take a wife, but the young man would not hear a word of it. Eventually, however, he was worn down.
During this time, the young girl followed her fiancé on foot, taking the golden spinning wheel, the distaff of gold and the golden spindle in memory of him. Eventually she reached the prince?s father?s farm all in tatters, and she was given the job of goose girl.
The prince?s marriage came too soon. The young girl knew all about it - she had easily recognised him, even if he had not known who she was - and she looked for a way of making herself known to him.
Guiding her geese, she found the laundry-women who were bleaching the linen to make it look white for the festivities.
?Nom de Diou!? one of the laundrywomen said, ?these spots won?t come out.?
?There is no way. They are permanent, ?agreed another.
The goose girl stopped in front of them.
?If you give that shirt to me, I may be able to clean it.?
One of the laundrywoman began to laugh, ?You guard geese, how can you know more about washing linen than we do??
But another spoke up, ?Bon Diou!? she exclaimed, ?look at it, that shirt. You can?t do as badly as we have with it.?
The problem was that the prince wanted to wear that shirt, and no other, the day of his marriage.
The goose girl took the shirt, rubbed it twice, and the stains disappeared. When the servants returned the linen to the prince, he was stunned to see that shirt without its stains.
?Who succeeded in getting rid of the spots?? he asked.
?The goose girl.?
?Oh,? he thought, ?it must be my princess, but I couldn?t recognise her in those rags.?
Unfortunately his marriage with another had already been agreed upon, and the wedding arrangements were finalised. However, the goose girl managed to get near to the young bride and let her see the pure gold spindle, the night of the wedding.
?Oh, what a beautiful spindle!? she said, ?No-one has ever given me a gift like that.?
?If you like, I will give it to you, on one condition: you let me stay with your husband all tonight.?
The young bride coveted the spindle so much that she agreed. But she had her own plans. She gave the prince a sleeping potion to drink, which kept him asleep all night long, and the goose girl couldn?t say a word to him. She kissed him, and hugged him, but he would not awaken.
The next evening, it was the same. At the sight of the golden distaff the young lady allowed the goose girl to enter her husband?s room. She, of course, had given him sleeping potion again, this time even stronger. He did not wake up until late the next morning.
However, the servants in the castle were not stupid. They went to the prince and asked him, ?Did you not have another wife, in the land where you used to live??
?No,? he answered, ?but I had a fiancée, who I was going to marry.?
?Prince, it has been two nights now that we have heard a woman groan in your room and call you her husband, and you have not stirred at all. Did you drink a glass of anything, just before you went to sleep??
?Yes, both nights,? the prince admitted.
?So do not drink tonight. At least when she comes, you can talk to her.?
The third night the goose girl showed her golden spinning wheel to the young wife. The greedy woman decided, in exchange for the spinning wheel to let her sleep one last time in the prince?s room.
The prince, however, had paid attention to the advice given by his servants. He had tipped out the contents of the glass next to his bed.
?Oh, God, it is the last night I can talk with him. And he may yet again sleep all night long,? murmured the young girl, trembling.
But the prince did not sleep, that night. He recognised her and they spoke together all night long.
The next day the young man said to his father, ?Father, I have something important to ask you.?
?What is it, my son??
Prepare a great feast where all the servants are assembled. I want to have my wife seated on one side of me, and on the other, the goose girl.?
His father agreed to this odd notion, and that day the goose girl was given a beautiful dress so that she could sit next to the prince. The prince, half way through the meal, spoke to the master of the house.
?Father,? he said.
?If you had lost the keys to your castle, would you have another set made??
?Of course,? his father replied.
?But if you found the old keys, and they were better than the new, which would you keep??
?The old ones, naturally,? his father answered.
?Well,? the prince said, ?it is the same with women. I had a fiancée in another land, and I have found her again. I want to live with her now.?
And the prince took the goose girl to live with him.
NOTE: This is obviously a version of the better-known French tale of Beauty and the Beast. Massignon assigns it Aarne-Thompson number 425. She also points out the strong links with the Psyche tale.
Both tales are translated from De Bouche à Oreilles: Le conte populaire français by Geneviève Massignon, Berger-Levrault 1983
If you are interested in seeing more French folktales translated and put on this site, please contact Gillian Polack. No responsibility is taken for accuracy of translations (the translator enjoys poetic licence and feels that interpretation is an essential part of the folk tradition). If you have any information about French folktales, Gillian Polack would be very happy to hear about it.
Slàn agus beannachd,
Allen R. Alderman
'S i Alba tìr mo chridhe. 'S i Gàidhlig cànan m' anama.
Scotland is the land of my heart. Gaelic is the language of my soul.
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