Fairer wide release!

Once upon a time, there lived a princess so beautiful her people named her Fairer-than-the-Fairies. Of course, with a name like that, Fairer was destined for trouble.

When the wicked queen of the fairies hears of Fairer’s reputation, she swears to avenge her subjects’ pride. She captures the princess and condemns her to complete an impossible task by daybreak on pain of death.

But while Fairer is held prisoner, she meets a fellow captive—another mortal princess—and the rebellious fairy prince. Together, they must complete the wicked queen’s tasks and rescue the good queen of the fairies or all is lost.

Read two translations of this lesser-known 1698 French fairy tale, with commentary, and discover a tale featuring the power of friendship and love in its many forms. Come for the princesses and princes, queens and fairies. Enjoy the poetry, ancient history, and mythology. Stay for the friendship, and, perhaps, fall in love.

***

Amazon

iBooks

Kobo

Smashwords

***

Buy Direct:

Payhip

***

Request at your local library:

Overdrive

***

Add to Goodreads or write a review!

A Sunken City of Ys

(I found a book about Death legends in Brittany, and I couldn’t resist. Then I encountered a chapter all about a sunken city I had never heard of…and I just had to explore it. Come with me on this trip to the sunken City of Is.)

One night, some sailors from Douarnenez were moored in the bay, fishing. When they had finished, they went to haul up the anchor, but all their unified efforts could not bring it up. The anchor had gotten stuck. To free it, one of the sailors, a strong diver, let himself slip down the length of the chain. 

When he returned to the surface, he said to his companions, “Guess what our anchor was stuck on!”

“Well, obviously, some rock.”

“No. The framework of a window.”

The fishermen thought he had gone crazy.

“Yes,” he continued, “and it was a church window!  It was all lit up. The light shining from it illuminated the deep sea for a long ways. I looked through the stained glass window and saw a crowd gathered in the church.  A lot of men and women with rich clothes.  A priest was standing at the altar.  I heard him asking a choir boy a question, in the middle of holding mass. 

“That’s not possible!” cried the sailors.

“I swear it on my soul!”

It was agreed they would go tell the rector. And that is what they did.

The rector said to the sailor who had dived down: “What you saw was the cathedral of Is.  If you had gone up to the priest in order to listen to his mass, the entire city of Is would have risen again from the waves and France would have a new capital.”

(Told by Prosper Pierre, Douarnenez, 1887).

~

(One of the pleasures and hazards of folklore is how tied to a sense of Place they are, and how they figure people that may or may not have really lived. For a full exploration of this folktale’s setting and characters, see my notes.)

The City of Is extended from Douarnenez to Port-Blanc.  The Seven-Isles are some of its ruins.  The city’s most beautiful church was located where today stand the reefs of the Triagoz.  That is why they are still called the Trew-gêr.

In the rocks of Saint-Gildas, when the nights are clear and beautiful, one can hear a siren sing.  She is the siren Ahès, the daughter of King Grallon*.

Sometimes, too, bells chime far out at sea.  You will never hear a more melodious chiming than the ringing of the bells of Is.

~

( I told myself that translating two folktales about Is/Ys would be enough, but then I tripped and committed another.)

A woman from Plumeur-Bodou, having descended to the shore to fetch water from the sea in order to cook her meal, suddenly saw an immense portico surge out of the water before her. 

She stepped within the colonnade and found herself in a splendid city.  The streets were lined with lit shops.  In the shop windows, fine fabrics were displayed.  Her eyes went wide, taking it all in, and she walked along, mouth agape in admiration, amidst all these riches.

The merchants were standing on the thresholds of their doors. 

As she passed by them, they cried: “Buy something from us! Buy something from us!”

She was stunned, distraught.

At last, she ended up responding to one of them: “How do you want me to buy something from you? I haven’t a penny in my pocket.”

“Well then! That’s a great pity,” said the merchant. “By purchasing even a ha’penny’s worth of merchandise, you would have saved us all.”

Barely had he spoken than the city disappeared.

The woman found herself alone on the shore.  She was so shocked by this occurrence that she fainted. Some customs officials making their rounds transported her home.  Two weeks later, she died.

(Recounted by Lise Bellec.  –Port-Blanc.)

Fairer released!

Once upon a time, there was a princess so beautiful that her people named her Fairer-than-the-Fairies.  Of course, with a name like that, Fairer was destined for trouble.

When the wicked queen of  the fairies hears of Fairer’s reputation, the wicked queen swears to avenge her fairies’ pride. She captures the princess and condemns her to complete an impossible task by daybreak on pain of death.

But while Fairer is held prisoner, she meets a fellow captive—another mortal  princess—and the rebellious fairy prince. Together, they must complete  the wicked queen’s tasks and rescue the good queen of the fairies or all is lost.

Read two translations of this lesser-known 1698 French fairy tale, with commentary, and discover a tale featuring the power of friendship and love in its many forms. Come for the princesses and princes, queens and fairies. Enjoy the poetry, ancient history, and mythology. Stay for the friendship, and, perhaps, fall in love.

~

Fairer is now released on Amazon/Kindle Unlimited:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2oTanw8
Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08114LL9T/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08114LL9T/
Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B08114LL9T/
Brazil: https://www.amazon.com.br/dp/B08114LL9T/

Universal link to all Amazon stores worldwide: Fairer.

With more retailers to come!

And it looks like the algorithm gods have provided us with a page for Fairer on Goodreads.

“The Wondrous Scarab,” an Alsatian folktale

Strangely enough, I’ve encountered many Alsatian folktales about scarab beetles. I say strange, because when I think of scarab beetles I immediately picture Ancient Egypt, but here we are instead in the liminal forests between France and Germany, encountering many forms of wondrous scarabs1. This particular folktale is pulled from the collection Révue des traditions populaires. 1901.


A foreign knight left the monastery of Murbach one day, garbed in the robes of pilgrimage. He passed through the valley and, in order to expiate his sins, went in search of other prayers.

He arrived on the hill where later the village of Bühl would be built, and weary from his journey on foot, reclined beneath a linden tree to rest. He fell asleep, and when he awoke near evening, he perceived an exquisite fragrance. The scent was emanating from an unknown species of scarab clinging to the stem of a flower. Examining it more closely, he discovered that the insect bore, beneath its closed fore-wings, the image of a black cross.

He saw it as a sign from heaven2 and swore an oath to construct a little chapel on this very spot. He kept his word and erected the church of Bühl3 surrounded by a cemetery, from where one can behold the whole valley and the plain up to the Rhine and the Black Forest.


1. One of the first Alsatian scarab folktales I encountered featured golden scarabs, or scarab beetles turning into living gold. Such a wondrous image was entirely folkloric, I thought, until I saw this tweet showing off the species chrysina resplendens found in Costa Rica.

2. I really enjoy tales where the pattern of religious–in this case Catholic–legends intersects with faerie and folkloric themes. For example, a righteous man encounters a sign then builds a church on that very location is a fairly common story behind many churches scattered throughout Europe. A traveler encountering a wondrous creature that asks him for something or that changes his perspective is just as common in faerie folklore. And so here we have the tale of “traveler encounters wondrous scarab” intersecting with “man searching for greater holiness finds what he seeks.” It’s like an early “cross-genre” tale.

3. According to wikipedia and Bühl’s own website, the medieval town’s earliest church was actually built starting in 1514. That century to me doesn’t invoke the image of a knight on pilgrimage and feels a couple hundred years too late. Is this an instance of a 19th Century tale mistaking the dates of a historic location? That has certainly happened before. Or is this seeming discrepancy due to Alsatians not knowing as much about the German town of Bühl as they thought? (Strasbourg and Bühl share a historic connection through a feud in the 14th Century).


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.

“The Astronomical Clock of Strasbourg Cathedral”

I translated this particular version of the tale from Récits historiques et légendaires d’Alsace, collected by Robert Wolf. 1922.


For a long time the Strasbourg Cathedral clock remained unfinished. The master who had invented it had died without finding anyone capable of finishing his work.

At last a foreign master craftsman who promised he could finish the work arrived in Strasbourg. He completed the masterpiece, far surpassing all hope for it. One day, at noon, he presented the moving clock to the astonished gathering of people. The bells tolled and Death indicated the hours. The apostles passed before the Savior, bowing before him. The two lions that held the city’s coat of arms began to roar. It was a festive and joyful day for all the city.1

With the work completed, the young artist desired to take his leave, but the council of the city’s municipal officers did not consent. They feared the artist would create a similar masterpiece in another city, and they desired to be the only ones to possess such a marvel. Therefore, they had the artist’s eyes blotted out.

But soon the city was punished for this cruelty. The blind artist became weaker and sicker from day to day, and the clock itself no longer worked with precision. When the master died, it stopped entirely. (1) Later, another artist, Schwilgué, succeeded in restarting the clock in 1842.

~

(1) In truth, the clock built under the direction of Dasypodius, a strasbourgeois mathematician, and that of the brothers Isaac and Josias Habrecht of Schaffhouse, stopped working in 1789.2


1. If you would like to see the astronomical clock’s various parts and figures, this page has a great collection of photos of the current version of the clock. ↩

2. The famous astronomical clock of the Strasbourg Notre Dame Cathedral has been built several times throughout history. The first clock was built of wood in the 1350s. The second, started in 1547 by the mathematicians Chretien Herlin, Michel Heer, and Nicolas Briiker, was interrupted by the death of Herlin and not finished until 1574 by Dasypodius and the Habrecht brothers Isaac and Josias. While work on the clock was still in progress, Josias was called away by the officials of Cologne to build the clock of Kaiserswerth castle. He was also unable to return, due to the illness and subsequent blindness of his sister. Grandidier proposes that this is one of the keys to the creation of the legend surrounding the clock.

Once again the clock stopped working, this time in 1789 in the midst of the French Revolution, a time of great turmoil for the city. Although the young Schwilgué was but a boy of twelve at the time, he determined to be the one to bring the clock back to life. He grew up to make his dream come true, finishing a complete overhaul of the clock and its figures in 1842.

The Astronomical Clock of Strasbourg Cathedral was once counted as “one of the seven marvels of Germany.” Over the centuries, it has collected quite a number of legends, including the assertion that its creator was none other than Copernicus himself. Most of the legends surrounding it, however, deal with ablind mathematician. Either the mathematician becomes old and blind, thereby unable to express to others the true workings of the clock; the clock itself refuses to be touched by any other hand but its master’s; the city municipal council blinds him and the city is cursed by a clock that refuses to work for cruel masters; or else the blind mathematician takes revenge on those who destroyed his eyes by asking to visit his clock one last time, and, plunging his hand into its gears, withdraws a critical piece.↩


If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my future translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.

“The Enchanted Armies of Ochsenfeld,” an Alsatian folktale

(Originally posted February 2018)

I translated this particular version of the tale from Récits historiques et légendaires d’Alsace, collected by Robert Wolf. 1922.


Not far from Cernay lies a great, desolate plain called the Ochsenfeld1 cattlefield. There, come evening, a faint clatter of weapons can often be heard. It is here that the armies of the infamous sons of Louis the Debonair who betrayed their father on this land in 8332are enchanted and imprisoned in immense subterranean caverns. Travelers out too late must often submit, until they reach the lands of Cernay and of Thann, to the worrisome company of warriors outfitted in a heavy cuirass.

One day, as a countryman was passing by the field, a warrior suddenly emerged from the earth and announced the era when he and his comrades would be delivered from the spell pronounced against them. Then, just as suddenly, he disappeared. In the Middle Ages, the entire army was also sometimes seen passing through the air, especially during a full moon3.


1. German for “cattlefield” due to its purpose back in the Middle Ages, Ochsenfeld has persisted as the name of the plain between Thann and Mulhouse. It’s a place rich with history and old battles.↩

2. Here comes a brief history lesson. Once upon a time, an Emperor named Louis the Debonaire, or Louis the Pious, had three grown sons–Lothaire, Pepin, and Louis–and laws of inheritance already spelled out. Then he remarried and had a fourth son, Charles, and was so taken with him, he decided to give him an inheritance of his own, including Alemannia, of which Alsace was a part. Now, this Emperor’s eldest son, Lothaire, did not like the idea of inheriting less, and so he went to war against his father, persuading his brothers to join him.
The Field of Lies, also called the Field of Blood, was the legendary location (now disputed) where the Emperor’s own army and other allies, one by one, were persuaded to give him up to his sons and their armies. In other words, there was a lot of betrayal going on. Sons against their father, armies against their emperor, the pope against his ally, and so on and so forth.↩

3. I find this tale similar to tales of the Wild Hunt, in which an army of the ghostly dead rises to ride during thunderstorms or during the full moon, led by Odin or Wodan or another powerful figure.
This tale also reminds me of a less kind version of the tale of King Arthur and his sleeping armies, waiting to rise in a time of need as Britain’s “once and future king.”
Another version of this tale of the sleeping warriors at Ochsenfeld says that the warriors asleep beneath the plain did not belong to Lothaire and the other traitorous sons of the emperor but to Charles, the last-born and promised king of this region. In that version, warriors who die are said to join the sleeping army, waiting to rise again not from a curse of shame or guilt, but as an honor for those good men who die in battle. These are called the Ochsenfeldritter in German, and the knights of the Ochsenfeld, in French.↩


If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my future translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.

“Tales of Christmas Horror from Illzach, France”

‘Twas the Wednesday before Christmas….

(Originally posted to Patreon as a Christmas special for my patrons, 2018)

From Illzach: The Beast of the Wednesday Before Christmas (oral tradition, recorded in the Revue des traditions populaires, 1901)

This phantom animal is the size of a year-old calf; its eyes glow like lightning and are as big as window panes. The creature arrives the Wednesday before Christmas to call out to its chosen victims by their names.  Anyone who answers the monster’s call falls under its power and is immediately overcome. Its victims are usually the children born in this generation; at night it compels them to make a great racket so their parents no longer love them. These children are then in constant liaison with infernal spirits, and it is a sorrow for no one when–as is very often the case–they die prematurely.

This monster, as well as the vampire specter and the phantom donkey of Illzach, are local ghosts.  It is especially at the approach of the Advent and Christmas that their power comes into its own.

The Donkey of the Village (oral tradition,  recorded in the Revue des traditions populaires, 1901 )

One night an inhabitant of Illzach was passing by the church with his young son.  Suddenly the child, whom he held by the hand, became anxious and turned his head away from the shadow cast by a neighboring house.  “What’s wrong with you?” demanded the father. “Keep walking!”

The child began to shriek, “Father, don’t you see the tall man on the village donkey’s back? He’s coming closer–he’s grabbing my hand!”

“Foolishness!” said the father. “I don’t see anything; let’s go, it’s late.”

He pulled his son to the side, but the child became still more anxious, and clutching his father’s leg, exclaimed, “Both of you let me go! Let go of my arm!”  The father, although he did not see what was distressing his son, began to tremble.  He took his son in his arms and ran home where the child remained bedridden for several days with a high fever.


If you’ve enjoyed this series of folklore translations and would like to support my future translation endeavors, please feel free to support my work on Patreon.

Obscure French Folklore in Out-of-Print Collections (Review)

(Originally published in May 2016)

Well, this post is going to be a bit different, since I’ll essentially be presenting and reviewing two out-of-print French books, but stick with me.

Two Christmases ago I received several collections of Alsatian/Lorraine and Breton/Gallo folklore to feed my obsession.  Among them were Alsatian-centric Dragons, fantômes, et trésors cachés : légendes, traditions et contes d’Alsace,  with text by Guy Trendel and illustrations by Thierry Christmann (1988) and Contes populaires et légendes d’Alsace.  Translating to: Dragons, ghosts, and hidden treasures: legends, traditions, and folktales of Alsace, and Folktales and legends of Alsace.

I’d gone into the request for more books of folklore hoping that, since folktales belong to the people, that the folklorists would be presenting their tales as-told-by the people, maybe with some light editing for readability.  I know of collections that are essentially dictations of oral recordings, with names and ages stated of the individuals telling the tales.  Adolphe Orain, for example, is a 19th century Breton-Gallo folklorist who did just that.

However, while researching a few of the tales in Contes populaires, I looked into the resources quoted in the bibliography, tracked down and compared the present telling to the original recording and discovered that it had been significantly pared down and adapted.  I was then presented with the conundrum–does the folktale still count as belonging to the people in the past, does it still count as being “public domain” and open to translation, if the tale has been adapted and altered so much? If the folklorist has added so much of their own touch?  What is the nature of folklore, as it’s being passed down?

If you’ve been following my folktale and fairy tale translations on little translator, you know I’ve been sticking to–or trying my best to stick to–tales that are freely available.  But I didn’t realize when I started how many grey areas there would be to try and avoid.

Last year I translated the tale “Le chasseur vert” or “The Green Hunter” from the collection Contes populaires and offered it to my Patreon supporters while I was in the midst of trying to figure all this out.  Since I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be better to stick to only translating folklore from their original publications in the 19th century and earlier and, unfortunately, avoid any modern folklore collections, I’m going to make a change.

There is something I can do with these more modern-day folktale collections, however, and that is to show you how awesome they are, present you with their bibliographies in case any of you encountering this post also wish to read original French folklore or do similar research as me, aaaaand give you a token translation as part of this review.  I won’t make a habit of it, but I do still want to do all this cultural heritage justice.  It’s really hard to do research across borders, and I want to make it easier.

So, without further ado, “The Green Hunter” from page 182.

20160505_091750

“The Green Hunter”

The Green Hunter hunts men.

A poor woman from Saint-Amarin valley went on pilgrimage to Thierenbach. Once arrived at the foot of the Freundstein castle ruins, she considered for a moment the vulture nests perched atop the rocks and, at the thought of every lord past, present, and future, she began to murmur inwardly against God who would not give her even enough to buy a new pair of shoes.

All at once, she saw a small pile of écu blanc coins shining at her feet. As she bent to collect the treasure she cast a furtive glance around her; consequently, she perceived at some distance away a hunter clothed in green who was watching her beneath furrowed brows. Seized with fright, she left the coins behind and continued on her way through the forest, quickening her pace and regretting the loss of such a great fortune. On the other side of the castle ruins, she met a man walking alone, though he had a certain air of charm and grace and a smile on his lips. This affable gentleman condescended to address her and inquired after the reason for her sadness, sympathized with her, approved her complaints, took part in her grousing, and even encouraged her: together they broke the valley’s silence with their ranting.

Suddenly, the stranger’s eyes gleamed darkly. A terrible smile split open his mouth, revealing pointed teeth. It was the Green Hunter.

He took a cord from his pocket, strangled the old woman, and hung her from a branch.

One of the great things about taking a survey of folklore collections’ table of contents is that you can start to see a pattern.

For example, there are many familiar themes:  Catholic saints and miracles are as important as tales of ghosts in the cities and faeries in the woods.  “Une nuit dans les bois” features a man who gets lost in the woods and what he discovers.  “La chasse maudite” is yet another tale of a sort of Wild Hunt.  “Le guerrier dormant” is about a mysterious sleeping warrior–a historical figure who  might awake when needed to save them?

But there are also repeating, specific tales: “Le pont des fées” or “The Faeries’ Bridge” has been told in so many different versions for this region that I included it in my growing collection of translations.  “La légende de l’horloge” or “The Legend of the Clock” also is a local favorite.  Likewise, “The Silver Rose” which features in “Petit légendaire alsacien,” and “The Legend of Hans-Trapp,” a sort of bogeyman to scare children into being good.  Not to mention, a whole slew of legends about the Strasbourg cathedral.

The repeating themes and tales are what I look for when trying to find something representative to translate.

Another use for surveying tables of content is you can see a pattern of everyone’s favorite go-to folklorists for the region, which you can then use in your own research.  Names such as Auguste Stoeber (who wrote in German), Prosper Baur, and Abbé Charles Braun figure repeatedly.

As for the book’s collection itself, I think it’s really well curated.  Especially in the “Petit légendaire alsacien” chapter which has a whole slew of bite-sized tales that paint a fantastic magical realism picture, from the countryside to the city streets.  I think it has something for everyone and something for everywhere.

So, here is the table of contents and the bibliography. Go ahead and skip over them if you don’t speak French or German. 😉

Table of Contents.

  • Une nuit dans les bois, conte-préface de Erckmann-Chatrian. (“A Night in the Woods,” a folktale preface from author-duo Erckmann-Chatrian.)
  • La légende de Saint Materne qui a évangélisé l’Alsace, Auguste Stoeber.
  • Sainte Attala, Auguste Stoeber
  • Sainte Richarde qui a ressuscité un petit ours, Auguste Stoeber
  • Comment le château de Scharrachbergheim est tombé en ruine, Jean Variot
  • La chasse maudite, Charles Grad
  • Le guerrier dormant, Abbé Charles Braun
  • La légende du Vergiss-Mein-Nicht, Prosper Baur
  • Thibaut le jongleur, Charles Grandmougin
  • Traditions sur la fondation et la construction de la Cathédrale de Strasbourg (récits rapportés par Auguste Stoeber), Louis Schneegans 1850
  • La légende de l’horloge, Prosper Baur
  • L’invention de l’imprimerie, Livret de colportage, 1838
  • La comète, Erckmann-Chatrian
  • Le miracle des flagellants, Auguste Stoeber
  • Petit légendaire alsacien, Auguste Stoeber
  • Le garçon meunier changé en âne, Jean Variot
  • Le pont des fées, Marie Strahl
  • Les elfs, Abbé Charles Braun
  • Les nains de la gorge-aux-loups, Auguste Stoeber
  • Les spectres, Abbé Charles Braun
  • Le schaefferthal et Saint-Gangolf, Abbé Charles Braun
  • Les tziganes, Auguste Stoeber
  • Le tisserand de la Steinbach, Erckmann-Chatrian
  • La légende du bailli, Prosper Baur
  • La légende de Hans-Trapp, Prosper Baur
  • La légende de Till, Prosper Baur
  • La légende de la noble dame de Zornberg, Prosper Baur
  • Sorcellerie d’autrefois, Claude Seignonlle
  • Un beau chapelet de malédictions, Auguste Stoeber

Bibliography

  • Prosper Baur : Légendes et Souvenirs d’Alsace, Paris, Dentu. 1881.
  • Abbé Charles Braun : Légendes du Florival ou la Mythologie allemande dans une vallée d’Alsace, Guebwiller, J. B. Yung 1866.
  • Erckmann-Chatrian : Contes des bords du Rhin.
  • Abbé Hunckler : Histoire des Saints d’Alsace, Strasbourg, Levrault, 1832.
  • Auguste Stoeber : Die Sagen des Elsasses nach Volksuberlieferung, gedruckten und handschriftlichen Quellen gesammelt und erlautert, mit einer Sagenkarte. Saint Gallen, 1852.
  • Jean Variot: Légendes et Traditions orales de l’Alsace, Paris, Georges Crès, éditeur, 1920.
  • Claude Seignolle: Les Evangiles du Diable. Maisonneuve, Paris, 1963.
  • Revue Alsacienne (1877-1890).
  • Revue d’Alsace (Colmar), 1ere année : 1830 ; 2e année : 1851.
  • Revue des Traditions populaires (Paris), 1902.

The second book I’m discussing today has pictures!  Some in color, some in ink.  I really like it because the folklorist not only tells the tale, provides illustrations, but as you can see on the right next to the key icon, there’s even commentary on the tale’s themes, cultural trends, etc.

“The Haunted Coach of Rosheim”:

20160505_091253

This is one of the folktales that inspired my retelling short story “What She Saw by Lantern Light.”  In the original tale, it’s a young, newly-married woman who makes the overnight trek from Rosheim to Strasbourg to be there for the early morning market and encounters the flying diligence coach, as you can see in the illustration.

IMG_0781

In my retelling “What She Saw by Lantern Light,” I changed the protagonist to be a younger girl trying to support her family and I also added a few other inspirations into the mix to make it my own, which I’ve discussed previously.

The retelling appeared in Kate Wolford’s Frozen Fairy Tales, and I suppose it’s been out long enough I can spoil it, haha.

“What She Saw by Lantern Light”is available at various retailers.

In any case, I mentioned earlier that I look for repeating themes when I translate.  Location is another.  Certain locations in Alsace tend to collect stories.  One of these is Nideck–the Nideck castle, Nideck waterfall.  There are many tales of the giants who lived at Nideck, and about the nymph who lives at the falls.  Wangenbourg castle, which isn’t far from Nideck, is another with several tales to its name.  Hohenstein castle is another.

To demonstrate, I translated “La dame blanche du Hohenstein” from this collection.  Not only does it take place at a folktale hot-spot, but it also features a White Lady, a common creature in French folklore.  In the tales I’ve encountered, she often bears a key, and…well, you’ll see.  This is from page 35.

“The White Lady of Hohenstein”
Numerous people out walking at the approach of evening have seen a lady, dressed all in white, haunting the Hohenstein castle ruins.  She sits at the top of a boulder, so close to the sheer drop that she seems to want to cast herself from its height.  She extends her hands beseechingly to every passerby and utters little moans and cries of despair.

One day, a very long time ago, a reckless–albeit dependable–man who lived in the area was passing nearby when he saw the white lady.  Believing it was only a tourist who had lost her way and could not manage to climb down from her difficult position, he scaled the rock to help her.  He was just about to take hold of her when the lady handed him a key, begging him to find in the ruins of the old fortress a strongbox:

“You will see a monster crouched atop the coffer, but do not be afraid; it will flee as soon as you insert the key into the lock.  You will open the coffer and find a treasure.  Take as many gold pieces as you can carry, for they will be yours; but above all, do not forget to return to me the key I have just given you.”

Somewhat surprised, our exuberant fellow set out on his search for the coffer which he did indeed discover.  On the lid sat a horrible monster, just as she had said. But, courageous, the traveler inserted the key and the beast vanished into thin air as soon as the lid opened, revealing marvels, gold, and precious stones within.  Eager, he stuffed as much as he could into his pockets, even clutching so much in his hands that he could no longer retrieve the key for fear of dropping a single coin.  Carrying his treasure, he returned to the white lady who, at his approach, uttered a cry of despair.  The key, her salvation, was missing!  In an instant the riches taken from the coffer transformed into a fistful of dust that the wind swept from his hands.  Desire had once again triumphed over vows.

And so, the white lady still awaits a being of exceptional quality who will not forget their promise or sell it for a little gold!

I really enjoyed this collection.  There are shape-shifting rabbits, men with wolfish eyes and wolves with human eyes, scarab beetles that might be gold, a wicked black stallion who keeps a lady captive, a man on fire, a pet dragon, cow-ammunition à la Monty Python, and last but not least, two white cat mages:

20160505_091528

Hold onto these two.  You might see them again later 😉

Table of Contents. (Note, not all accents included, for speed of my typing).

  • Un voyage à travers un pays mystérieux
  • La diligence hantée de Rosheim
  • Le <<Kindelbronne>> de Rosheim
  • La Vierge miraculeuse de Rosenwiller
  • La nuit du jugement au Guirbaden
  • La trahison du seigneur de Hohenstein
  • Le blé et la vache
  • Le diable et saint Valentin
  • Le roi des nains
  • La tombe du géant d’Altorf
  • Le pont des fées
  • Comment se protéger des mauvais sorts
  • Sorcières et esprits frappeurs à Oberhaslach
  • Le premier miracle de saint Florent
  • Les scarabées d’or de la ruine du Hohenstein
  • Clauss, le chercheur de trésors
  • La fille du géant au château du Nideck
  • La naissance de la cascade du Nideck
  • L’ondine de la cascade
  • Le crime du chevalier Rodolphe
  • La dame blanche du <<Urstein>>
  • Comment reconnaitre une sorcière ?
  • Deux sources miraculeuses : Soultz et Avolsheim
  • Le Christ et saint Pierre à Wolxheim
  • Le dragon terrassé par saint Denis
  • L’origine du nom d’Irmstett
  • Les couvents engloutis
  • Le fantome de Dangolsheim
  • L’homme de feu de Balbronn
  • Le fantôme du Ochsenlaeger
  • Le squelette de Charles le Téméraire
  • Les animaux fabuleux de la Mossig
  • Le monstre puni
  • Le dragon du << Scharrach >>
  • La horde sauvage
  • Le puits de sainte Anne
  • Les chasseurs de lune à Wangen
  • Les souris et les chats blancs de Wangen
  • Noel et quelques coutumes oubliées
  • Le voleur de la Vierge du << Marlenberg >>
  • Le loup du << Kronthal >>
  • Le spectre de Wasselonne
  • Le fantôme du  << Schneeberg >>
  • Le << Goldbrunnen >>
  • La fileuse Berchta
  • Le fantôme du << Brotsch >>

Bibliography.

  • Anderhalt Joseph : << Die Nixe vom Nidecker-Wasserfall >>, in Neuer Elsasser Kalender, 1938, p. 52.
  • Bergmann : << Elsasser Sagen >>, in Jahrbuch fur Geschichte, Sprache und Litteratur in Elsass-Lothringen (Vogesen-Club), 1980.
  • Dorny André : << Légendes d’Alsace >>.
  • Enderlin Hans : <<Burg Nideck und die Sage >>, in Neuer Elsasser Kalender, 1921, p. 51.
  • Fuchs Albert : << War Wotan ein obergermanischer Gott und im Elsass bekannt ?>>, in Elsassische Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und Volkskunde, 1921, p. 423 et 547. Du même : << Die Nidecksage >> (das Riesenspielzeug), dans même titre que précédemment, année 1912, p. 34 à 48.
  • Klingelé Otto Heinrich : << S’Wuedis-Herr >>, Die Sage vom Wilden Heer, 1985.
  • Lefftz Joseph : <<Die wilden Leute im Elsass  >> dans la même publication, année 1935, p. 7 à 12.
  • Menges Heinrich : << 100 Sagen und Geschichten aus Elsass-Lothringen >>, 1911.
  • Mentz F. : << War Wotan im Elsass bekannt ? >>, in Elsassische Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und Volkskunde, 1911, p. 546.
  • Muhl Gustav : << … ein Hinblick auf die Scharrachbergheimer Johanneskirche >>, in Alsatia 1852, p. 180.
  • Muntzer Désiré : << Elsassisches >>, Le même pour << Die Geisterkutsche >>, même titre, année 1854/55, Sagenbuch, 1910, p. 213.
  • Otte Friedrich : << Elsassisches Samtagblatt >>, 1856-1858.
  • Schaeffer F. A.: <<Der Feengarten auf dem Langenberg >>, in Elsassland, 1923, p. 83-85. Du même : <<Die Riesensagen im Elsass >>, même titre, année 1924, p. 92-93.
  • Specklin R. : << Une carte des légendes d’Alsace >>, in Revue d’Alsace 1954, p. 141.
  • Stintzi Paul : <<Die Sagen des Elsasses >>, Colmar 1930, 3 volumes.
  • Stoeber Auguste: << Die Sagen des Elsasses >>, Sankt-Gallen, 1852. Du même, dans la revue Alsatia, Jahrbuch fur elsassische Geschichte, Sage, Altertumskunde, Sitte, Sprache und Kunst, 1851-1876. Egalement : << Die Hexenprozesse im Elsass >>, 1857 et << Zur Geschichte des Volkes Aberglaubens im Anfange des 16. Jahrhunderts am Geiler von Kayserberg Emeis >>, 1856.
  • Tuefferd E. et Ganier H. : << Récits et légendes d’Alsace >>, 1884.
  • Variot Jean : << Légendes et traditions orales d’Alsace >>, Paris, 1919.

Just skimming through that, even for the non-initiate it should be farely obvious that this region–situated right on the border of France and Germany and contested between the two throughout all of time–has resources in both French and German.  It would be really cool to pair up with a German literary translator sometime and do a collection of folklore and fairy tales from this region.

Maybe someday….

“The Silver Rose,” an Alsatian folktale

(Originally posted in the Folktales’ section of the little translator website, June 30, 2016)

I translated this particular French version of the tale from the Castles of France website, and this version has been frequently posted in other folktale centers around the Internet. Other versions were collected by or referenced to Auguste Stoeber, either in the Revue d’Alsace (1851) or Die Sagen des Elsasses nach Volksuberlieferung, gedruckten und handschriftlichen Quellen gesammelt und erlautert, mit einer Sagenkarte. (1852)


In the heart of the Vosges mountains of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, there lived an entire nation of dwarves. These dwarves had built a subterranean city of shining beauty.

This city of crystal and silver was a permanent Gate between the two worlds. The dwarves dug into the earth and shadowed the men from whom they learned the arts of mining, of the forge, of gold and silversmithing.

But despite the good relations between humans and dwarves, skepticism and wariness began to increase in the hearts of man. Disputes, conflicts, and jealousies multiplied.

Then, it happened one day that the King of the Silberzwergen1 came up out of the mountain to contemplate the moonlight of the world of men. Near a stream, he saw a young woman who was the daughter of a rich miner and who had just departed from the cloister where nuns had raised her.

The young damsel was radiantly beautiful, and the king fell desperately2 in love. He revealed himself to her in order to confess to her his love, but she was frightened by the sight of this small, ill-formed creature, believing she had before her one of the demons the good sisters had spoken of. She fled without saying a word.

The King of the Dwarves was seized with a great passion for the damsel. He made a thousand attempts to seduce3 her, showering her with magnificent gifts. But she, terrified, always fled.

Mad with love, the King of the Dwarves no longer knew what to do. In the end, he offered the young woman the most wondrous treasure in his possession: the Silver Rose. It was the only one of its kind and held great power, crafted by the Ancients and the Goddess of the Moon. The Rose rested at the heart of the underground city, and it was the Rose that bound the two worlds permanently together by way of its magic.

But once again the young girl refused the dwarf’s advances. She fled, shouting hurtful words to the king as he held out the Rose to her in a gesture of supplication. As she ran, she had a terrible accident: she tripped on a root of a tree in the darkness of the night and fell into a river. Not knowing how to swim, she drowned.

The king of the dwarves felt an immense sadness after having learned of the young girl’s drowning. He returned to his mountain home and had all the mine’s tunnels collapsed behind him. As for his magical powers, the miners of the Valley of Sainte-Marie-aux-mines were no longer able to discover the veins of gold or silver flowing within the mountain. The King, still unhappy, took the magic Rose and departed for lands far away, in the regions to the east of the Waldwelt woods.

This unfortunate event had immense repercussions within the Waldwelt: upon learning what happened, its inhabitants felt it was no longer possible to maintain relations with humans if humans would only flee. Everywhere, faeries, elves, dwarves, and lutins4 disappeared little by little, leaving only a variety of legends and tales behind them.

As for the king of the Dwarves, he returned to his native land, in the mountains which arose at the castle of the Unicorn and the Forest of Shadows. There, he made a gift of this Rose to the Unicorn’s Lady, and this queen of the Elves accepted the guardianship of the treasure and cast it into the deepest well of her domain. The unhappy dwarf left to return to his dear mountains and died of grief….


1. German for “silver dwarves.”↩

2. The word in French is “éperdument” which is most often used in the context of love, as opposed to translation of “desperately” which can be used in many contexts. But this is a love that’s consuming, violent in its power and force, and may lead to destruction.↩

3. The French word “séduire” (seduce) didn’t gain a positive subtext (“entice”) until the late 18th century. If this tale were recorded as a 17th century fairy tale, I’d automatically assume, from this word, that the dwarf king’s intentions were less than noble. But instead all known recordings of this tale date from the 19th century, leaving us with the question: did the dwarf king only mean to entice her, win her over with his gifts? Did she run solely because she was afraid of how he looked?↩

4. Lutins are a French kind of hobgoblin.↩


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.

“The White Lady of Kœpfle Hill”

(Posted to the site February 2016)

Translated from the folktale “LA DAME BLANCHE DU KŒPFLE” collected by the Alsatian folklorist Auguste Stoeber, translated into French by René Stiébel and published in Revue des traditions populaires, volume 16 in 1901.

Between Didenheim and Zillisheim is a hill, belonging to this last town, called Kœpfle. A white lady is often seen there at noon carrying a set of keys. She seems to smile, and often she descends to the bank of the Ill near the Bisz watermill; there, she washes her face and her hair. Soon she returns, and one can hear her weeping until she disappears over the hill.

At night on this same hill, great blue wandering flames can sometimes be seen. The whole village believes the white lady guards a hidden treasure. People have sought it in vain. During the winter of 1849 a local left on this quest after saying Saint Christopher’s prayer1. He saw an apparition that he couldn’t describe. Then he returned home, sick with fear, and remained ill for a long time.


1. Saint Christopher is the patron saint of travelers. One of the traditional prayers is as follows:

Dear Saint Christopher,
protect me today
in all my travels
along the road’s way.
Give your warning sign
if danger is near
so that I may stop
while the path is clear.
Be at my window
and direct me through
when the vision blurs
From out of the blue.
Carry me safely
to my destined place,
like you carried Christ
in your close embrace.
Amen.
Sources: Prayer to Saint Christopher, Prayer to St. Christopher While Traveling


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.