“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.

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