Monday, July 23, 2012

Clever Grethel: Cutting Off Ears... or Worse!

Dan Ashliman's website has this BRILLIANT story from 1001 Nights which is a parallel to the Grimm Brothers story about Clever Grethel but oh-so-risque by comparison! It starts out with a married woman whose LOVER wants to have the geese to eat - One day the lover saw the geese and felt his appetite tempted by them, so he asked if his mistress would not cook them for him. The woman is glad to have the chance to dupe her husband, and tells her lover, "Light of my eyes, I promise that my bastard of a husband shall not have a taste of them." So, she cooks the geese, gives them to her lover and then proceeds to trick her husband and his guest. She tells the guest that her husband plans to castrate him! As Allah lives, my husband is offended with you and has laid a snare for you to cut off your testicles and to reduce you to the sorry condition of a eunuch. The guest, of course, runs away - and the story ends just as the version in Brothers Grimm, where the husband runs after him shouting that he will take just one... meaning one goose, but the guest thinks he means just one of his "eggs." HA!

Here is Walter Crane's illustration for the Grimm story:


  1. The Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio (a 14th century Italian) also had a story very similar to this one. A cook gave the leg of a bird to his lover, and then tried to convince the master that this particular type of bird (I don't remember what the bird was, off the top of my head...some sort of water fowl) had only one leg. He then took the master out to a lake and SHOWED him all of these birds standing on one leg. The master wasn't fooled, but thought the joke was so funny that the guy wasn't punished.

  2. Oh yes, I love those ones about stealing part of an animal to eat and pretending the animal never had the part to begin with. There's an Aesop's fable about that with a pig: The Farmer and the Pig - and also about a fox who steals part of a deer: The Lion, the Fox and the Deer.
    I really am reveling in this first week of class - I am so much more comfortable reading folktales than traditional literature... but it was so encouraging to me that Rabkin started the class with this folktale unit; I am curious what kind of echoes and patterns he will see in the literature resonating with these great old folktales. :-)



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