Sunday, June 08, 2008

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

Once upon a time, my father and mother bought the 'World's Best Fairy Tales' from the Reader's Digest magazine subscription. It was already old when I started to read it at the age of 7. It was beige in colour (not sky blue like the picture here) and had spots on the cover and dust from the silverfishes hiding in its spine. I read the book from cover to cover and looked at the beautiful watercolour illustrations for each story again and again.

One day my aunt asked me, "Which story is your favourite?"

I had thought long and hard about it and I decided that the story I liked best was 'East of the Sun and West of the Moon'.

I liked it because

a. The long title sounded sophisticated
b. The heroine in the picture was the prettiest of all
c. I empathised with the girl in the story who couldn't get what she wanted

My aunt asked me 'why' and so I told her.

A long, long time passed. I grew up, my parents and my aunt grew wrinkles and spots and the story from the book became another buried childhood memory. The book itself mysteriously disappears - either magicked itself away or thrown out by my mother and father or buried in the dust somewhere in the many piles of stuff in my house.

One day, another book came into my hands and told me "Read this fairy tale again: East of the Sun and West of the Moon!". Compelled to obey, I go on the internet and Google.

Lo! and behold! Knowledge and memory comes back to me like a trumpet blast. I like the story now because:

a. East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a Scandinavian fairy tale. It is Norwegian: collected by Peter Christensen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe. The Swedish version is called Prince Hat under the Ground. It is about the search for a lost husband - Aarne-Thompson type 425A - similar to the Beauty and the Beast
b.The heroine was the bravest of all - she looked beyond appearances and accepted a monster (a white bear) as her husband
d. I sympathised with the girl in the story

With that, so ends my fairy tale.

Snip, snap, snout, this tale's told out.

You can read the story in Surlalune Fairytales here