Curious Disasters: Failed Marriages in Folklore


Eleanor teaches Social Studies to 6th graders and spends the bits of time left over writing books that bring history -- and magic -- to life. She enjoys rock climbing, bullet journaling, & gardening focused on plants you can actually eat.

13 Responses

  1. As always, very thoughtful and entertaining.

  2. really great article! will definitely be back for more =)

  3. Aderyn Wood says:

    I like your insight with this. I’ve always thought of such instances of broken marriages in folk lore to be the fault of the persnickety lover who sets the conditions in the first place. Sometimes my partner tells me (jokingly) that I’m not allowed in his shed, which of course makes me want to go in his shed! You know, if someone tells you not to do something, it puts the thought into your head. But your comments on the Lady of the Lake in particular, had me thinking about it differently.

    • Eleanor says:

      I think the beauty of the folklore examples is that it IS so easy to be like, “well, of course you have a right to know that your spouse is a murderer” or “is a shapeshifter” or “is a rich god” — it’s so arbitrary and weird to say “keep out of the bathing chamber” until we sit down and think of what the analogue is.

      Is it so unreasonable to ask your spouse for a couple hours of privacy and quiet on the weekend, to write? Do you have a right to know everything about your spouse? What if she has scars, and doesn’t feel safe showing them off. Do you have a right to see them? What if she’s been raped, and it’s left emotional scars. Do you have a right to *that* explanation? And that’s where the lines start to blur, I think, and it’s easier to see the point of the lover — who society often blows off for being unreasonable… like the wife who leaves her husband after years of putting up with little microaggressions like refusing to rinse the dishes after repeated requests.

      So I’m really happy I could help shed a different light on those old stories for you!

  4. One of the classes I took my first year at a college was on fairy tales… We read a variety of versions of Bluebeard, Snow White, and other tales. The discussions ranged between the topics of gender, politics, and science, and I’m certain we discussed this phenomenon as well. It’s interesting how differently people can interpret stories. I agree with you, though–these stories are more about people and the mistakes they make, rather than a specific gender.

    • Eleanor says:

      It sounds like a fascinating class, Heather — I’m jealous! I sometimes wonder if our constructs of gender are as artificial and modern as our constructs of race. There’s this feeling sometimes in our culture of “this is how it is because this is how it’s been” — like when you see people arguing about the whitewashing of “historic” movies and games and the rejoinder is “but there were no POC in place at time” … which is usually untrue and always misses the point about how historic cultures viewed racial lines. Fundamentally, people are people and have always been people, and we spend far too long justifying or pigeonholing crappy behaviors. It’s a shame, because it deflects attention from what I think are the real problems.

  5. Icy Sedgwick says:

    I’ll be honest, I’m not a very tactile person and I often ask people not to touch me unless I invite contact (for example, I ask people I like if they want a hug when they’re clearly upset). Most people I know forget, but apologise the instant they touch me, which is fine, but some people think I’m being “weird” or I’ll somehow “get over it” if they keep at it. Sadly I’ve never yet turned into a dragon as a result.

    • Eleanor says:

      I’m a bit surprised that you have difficulty with people forgetting, actually, and sorry for it; but I work in an alternative school, where “don’t touch people!” is a pretty hard-and-fast rule… you never know when you’re going to run across an abused kid with triggers.

      The “you’ll get over it if I keep pushing your boundaries” thing is awful though >.< I hope those people aren't ones you have to deal with often.

  6. Laura says:

    I hear ya about the flowers…. I dated a man who gave me a beautiful bunch of yellow roses on the anniversary of our first date. I loved them; I raved about them. I told him how much I preferred them to red roses. That I found red roses cliché, overdone, overused.

    But when Valentine’s Day came around, I got red roses. I was underwhelmed. But I was told that you’re supposed to have red roses for Valentine’s Day.

    That was one of many instances of how he did not hear me. He wasn’t passive aggressive, just dim, unimaginative. He did not hear what didn’t fit his picture of how things should be. And he never understood why I was unhappy with him.

  1. Monday September 26th

    […] about some of them on this blog before: Bluebeard and Cupid and mermaids featured prominently in my article about folklore and marriage. That article focused on what folklore can tell us about modern marriage. This week, I’d like […]

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