Sunday, July 22, 2018

12 Turtles

Today we’re gonna talk about a story I found in my collection “The Turnip Princess,” which is all stories compiled by Schonwerth. (Guys they’re amazing.)

So it’s a pretty basic story. Think “The Boy Who Set Forth to Learn What Fear Was.” Same basic pattern. You’re trying to win the hand of a princess, so you go and spend a long weekend at the local haunted castle.

There are a lot of things that can happen when you spend three nights in a haunted castle. Demons might go bowling, with your head as the ball and your ribs as the pins. They might roast you on a spit. They might peel off your skin. The ghosts come. The ghouls come. Every night you die, and if you’re brave enough you wake up in the morning alive.

Each night it gets worse. The third is the climax. And on this particular third night, in this particular story, there appear twelve turtles the size of washbasins.

In order to win the princess, you must kiss each one of these twelve turtles.

Now, fairy tales tend to have a lot of euphemisms, granted, but I don’t think that’s what we’re dealing with here. Schonwerth and his translator tend to be pretty direct. All this dude has to do on his final night in the haunted castle is kiss some turtles.

Which brings us to the next thing about Schonwerth. He actually did that thing we like to pretend the Grimms did, where he wandered around collecting stories from random people across the country. And then he just wrote them down. Didn’t edit, didn’t clean them up, just wrote them down.

So these ridiculous stories he’s telling are all stories that someone told to him. Educated people, uneducated people, old people, children, mothers and fathers, people from the city, people from the country—we have no idea who.

For this particular story, I like to imagine it being told by a small child. A girl of six, perhaps.

“And then the demons boil him into soup!” she tells Schonwerth, very excited.

“Oh? And what happens next?”

She pauses, considering. “And then there are turtles.”

“And what happens with the turtles?”

“He’s gotta kiss ‘em!”

I just love Schonwerth so much, guys. There’s so much personality in his stories, and not even his own personality, a good chunk of the time.  I’ve talked a lot over the years about collective storytelling, about folklore as a conversation we’re having throughout history. Men like Schonwerth make our conversation partners feel like real people again. And it’s beautiful.

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