Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Growing Up Beastly

As you probably know by now, I’m kind of obsessed with Beauty and the Beast. And I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the nature of the Beast, and especially on his origins and on the idea of the Beast as a victim. (Like this post in my Sexual Abuse in the Folk Tradition series, and this post and this one about why we don’t curse children.) 

Today we’re going to talk about a slightly different Beast, from a different variant of this story type. This is, of course, Prince Lindworm.

Like our usual beloved Beast, it’s not the lindworm’s fault that he’s a lindworm, although for slightly different reasons—his mom screwed up, and he was born a lindworm. This enchanted bridegroom has literally never been unenchanted; there’s no natural state for him to return to. He’s always been a beast. (Sort of like Hans My Hedgehog, actually; maybe I’ll come back to that in another post.)

Before the lindworm gets transformed into a man, he eats two princesses. Which is…not great. However. He is a lindworm. Which is a kind of dragon. Which is, you know—I mean presumably they have dietary needs that differ from a human’s?

I have so, so many questions about this story that are not addressed in the original text. But the main one is what on earth did the lindworm think was going on here? So. Several points.

Firstly. There is a distinct possibility that he’s sort of a baby lindworm. (At least in the early Danish version. In the later version incorrectly attributed to Asbjorsen and Moe, we have a clearer timeline.) The queen gives birth while the king is at war. The lindworm slithers away, and reappears as the king is coming home from war.

Is this a war that’s lasted fifteen to twenty years? Did the king come home from the first war, stay home for several years, then go fight in another war that he’s returning from when the lindworm approaches him? Did the queen give birth to a fully grown lindworm that met the king a few months later? Did the queen give birth to a baby lindworm that was an adult by the time the king got home, either because lindworms grow faster than humans or because magic? Did she give birth to a baby lindworm that’s still a baby? How old is this lindworm?

Secondly. How did the lindworm know the king was his dad? Because he clearly did. He just slithered up one day and said “Hey, I’m your son. I wanna get married.”

Who raised this lindworm? Who told him who his real parents were? The text says he burrows under the bedchamber as soon as he’s born, and doesn’t mention him having any further contact with the queen or with anyone else.

Thirdly. Did the lindworm even know he was under a spell? Dude’s been a lindworm for his entire life. He knows his parents are human, but, like, do lindworms have access to comprehensive sex education? For all he knows, all lindworms might have human parents. Is he aware that he’s not supposed to be a lindworm? Even if he is, does that necessarily mean he wants to stop being a lindworm?

Fourthly. What was his ultimate goal here? He demands brides. He eats them. He demands more. Why?

Personally, I know nothing about lindworm culture and tradition. Maybe they’re, like, reverse black widows or praying mantises, and eating their wives is just, like, what they do. Or maybe he was just really hungry—though surely there would be people other than his new wives available to eat.

Why did he want to get married? Did he ever intend for a wife to survive past the wedding night?

Fifthly. The transformation. Did he see this coming? Again, did he even realize it was a possibility? When this chick starts demanding that he molt out of season and then whips him and bathes him in milk, what does he think is happening? Does he realize it’s a transformation spell? Was he expecting it or hoping for it? Does he think it’s just a bizarre human wedding tradition? Did the other two girls try to break the spell too, and do it wrong?

Shedding ten layers of skin in a row is gonna be pretty incapacitating for any sort of reptile. Once he’s done that, there’s no defending himself from things like the whipping. If the other girls tried to break the spell too, but skipped the shedding step and went right to whipping, he might have eaten them in self-defense.

Sixthly. The aftermath. So our lindworm is now a handsome prince. Okay, now what? What does that even mean? He’s literally always been a lindworm, with, as far as we can tell, lindworm behaviors and a lindworm palate. You aren’t turning him back into a prince—you’re turning him into a prince. Even if he always knew he was under a spell and it would someday be broken, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s like, inherently, fundamentally, a lindworm. He grew up as a lindworm, doing lindworm things.

He has no idea how to be a person, much less a prince. Walking, gesturing, chewing food—all exciting new experiences.

I mean, on the bright side, the king and queen didn’t actually miss out on their only child’s babyhood, after all—they still get to have all those fun experiences, just with an adult man who’s on his third wife and ate the first two.

I just, like, I don’t get how this whole thing is going to work. I have questions. I have concerns. I have many, many concerns.

Th circumstances are wildly different, but ultimately I think he’s a victim, too. Brides for lunch and all.

It’s not his fault he’s a lindworm, and while he was a lindworm, he did, presumably, what lindworms do. And now he’s a man, whether he wants to be or not. So he’s lost everything he’s ever known and been, and now he has to learn how to be a different kind of creature, from scratch, twenty years too late. (And depending on that whole king-at-war timeline, he may have just transitioned over night from a baby dragon to an adult man, which….yikes.)

What is the learning curve going to be like here? Let’s assume he’s not going to try to eat any more people, because of the sizing issue if nothing else—lindworms are probably a lot bigger than men. (How does he feel about the bride eating, looking back? Does he feel guilty? Does he shrug it off as a lindworm thing that he did when he was a lindworm? Is it all just kind of awkward?) Is he going to eat—or try to eat—a few cats or rats or lap dogs? How many months or years will it take him to remember he has to step out of bed in the mornings, instead of trying to slither and falling in a heap on the floor? When molting season comes around, is he going to try it and sprain something? (Or will molting forever be associated with terrible, terrible trauma after that bizarro transformation sequence?)

This guy has been totally screwed over since literally the moment of his conception. And for the stupidest reason. He didn’t insult someone, didn’t turn down their advances or refuse to share or help. His mom ate too many flowers. That’s it. That’s the whole reason he’s a monster, the whole reason two innocent girls are dead.

(Also, on the subject of those flowers, he should have been a girl. The queen ate the girl flower first, then the boy flower; she should have had a girl. I think I’ve done everything I’m going to with this story, but if you want to write a retelling where the lindworm is a girl, hit me up in like five years when my publishing company has expanded a little and I’ll publish it for you.)

(I wrote a book about the crazy aftermath, and you can get it here.)

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Second Half: Related Stories

So I’ve been thinking more about the second half of King Lindorm, though I still haven’t put together a more thorough translation. But that’s just a good reason to take a more thorough look at other, similar stories.

The second half deviates significantly from the first; it’s categorized by Aarne-Thompson as a completely different tale type—707.

Some other notable stories that fit into this type are The Girl Without Hands, Mary’s Child, Bearskin, and the entire Bird Brothers category (This includes The Six Swans, The Twelve Brothers, The Twelve Wild Ducks, etc.). You can read more about Mary’s Child here, and you can read a post I wrote about Bird Brothers for Blooming Twig in 2015 here.

Now, most of these stories are, like King Lindorm, two part stories, where the first part ends with a girl marrying a king, and in the second part we have type 707. And a lot of these stories have pretty different first parts, though obviously the entire Bird Brothers category is very similar in both parts. And for the second half we split into two variants. In the Bird Brother types and Mary’s Child, the king’s wife is accused eating her own children and can’t defend herself because something in the first half of the story has made her unable or unwilling to speak. In Bearskin, The Girl Without Hands, and King Lindorm, the king’s wife is accused of giving birth to animals, and is unable to defend herself because she has no idea what’s going on—the king is away, and they’re sending letters to each other which are being switched out by someone with a grudge.

The one thing that I find really important about all of these stories is that the king is totally on his wife’s side. Their baby is dead and in pieces, and her mouth is smeared with blood? Clearly she’s being framed, or there’s been some kind of misunderstanding. His wife gave birth to puppies? Okay, that’s a little weird, a little concerning, but we’ll sort it all out when I get home.

These are men who love, trust, and defend their wives. Which is kind of rare in folklore.

And a lot of these guys are just straight up being good husbands, but the lindworm, specifically? He had better be a good husband. He was literally a dragon and she fixed him. Dude owes her. He had better be sticking up for his wife, and he has exactly zero room to judge when it comes to giving birth to non-humans.

(I think it’s worth noting that of all the stories in this category I’ve ever read, King Lindorm is the only one that features the king’s wife, um…feeding her breast milk to two other enchanted princes to break their spells? Don’t quote me on that, because I still don’t have a totally solid translation.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Born a Monster

While animal bridegrooms are an extremely popular folktale motif, it’s fairly rare to encounter bridegrooms who were originally born non-human. (This is particularly interesting as it is much more common for brides to be born nonhuman—see “The Little Mermaid,” anything about selkies, “Undine,” “Melusine”—there’s also a distinct aquatic theme here, but I’m getting off-topic.)

There are only two other stories like this that come to mind: “The Pig King” (Italian and French) and “Hans My Hedgehog.” (German) (I am sure there are other stories out there that fit into this category, but there are hundreds of thousands of fairy tales in the world, and I can only read a small percentage of them, and can remember even less.)

“Prince Lindworm” differs from these other two born-a-monster stories in that his reason for being a monster is slightly more traditional. Monster bridegrooms are generally turned into monsters as a punishment—usually for a fairly minor offense, such as general rudeness or turning down romantic advances. The lindworm is a lindworm because of his mother’s minor offense of eating too many flowers. There’s no punishment involved in Hans’ or the Pig King’s monstrousness; their parents wanted desperately to have children, and someone magical heard their pleas and said yeah, okay, sure—but with a fun little twist. (Although Hans’ dad totally brought it on himself by saying “I want a kid so bad I wouldn’t even care if he was a hedgehog.”)

All three stories involve the beast marrying before his transformation. But while Hans and both versions of the Pig King remain beasts at least part-time for some time after their marriage (we’re talking months, here), the lindworm is transformed on their wedding night. Hans and French pig are the types of characters that can only be permanently freed from their animal forms when the animal skins are destroyed. Which their wives handle, having become extremely fed up with this whole bestiality situation. The terms of transformation for the Italian pig are just that he be married three times. (Which, by the way, no one actually knew about. The terms and conditions were totally secret in this situation. And personally, if I didn’t know about the 3 weddings deal, I probably wouldn’t have kept getting married after multiple spouses attempted to kill me, but whatever, you do you.)

Prince Lindworm just feels more like an enchanted bridegroom story than the others—partly because of the consequences-for-your-actions element of his lindworm-iness, but mostly I think because of the transformation sequence? And the role the main girl plays.

Hans’ bride comes off more like a Brave Little Tailor girl than an enchanted bridegroom girl; you don’t really get the sense that she’s saving him from enchantment. He won the right to marry her through tailor-typical feats, and their relationship is something that she endures until she figures out she can make it a little more bearable by trashing his hedgehog skin.

The pig king’s bride lying with him every night when he’s not wearing an animal skin is actually pretty common in folklore, with the best example being “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”—and of course there’s “Cupid and Psyche” there, too. But I do feel that a fundamental part of those stories is the journey that the girl goes on after seeing his face. “The Pig King” just feels—I don’t know.

I think an important part of enchanted bridegroom stories is the step where the girl does something to save the beast—whether that’s going on a journey to find him, initiating a bizarro transformation sequence, or searching frantically through the palace to find him and marry him before he dies of sorrow.

I don’t know. I just think that "Prince Lindworm" is better than the other born-enchanted stories I’ve encountered. It just feels right.

I can’t think of a good ending, here. Whatever. Remind me to come back to that whole girls-more-commonly-start-out-non-human thing sometime when I have the energy to spare for anything non-Lindworm related. (Even when bridegrooms are born monsters, they’re still distinctly enchanted, born from normal humans. Brides are more likely to be just naturally nonhuman, which is—there’s something significant in that, I’m sure, and I actually meant it to be a part of my seminar paper five years ago, but the professor made me narrow my focus, which was probably a good idea as the paper was still like 25 pages long.) 

Preorder my book, Lindworm, here!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Prince Lindworm and Prince Marcassin

So the Italian “The Pig King” (Straparola) was, at one point, I don’t remember when or where, advertised to me as the closest equivalent to “Prince Lindworm.” And I finally got around to tracking it down, as well as the longer, more detailed “Prince Marcassin,” which is a very similar, but expanded, French story by Madame D’Aulnoy.

I have the full text of “The Pig King” from the library, and the Surlalune text of “Prince Marcassin,” as I was unable to find it in English anywhere else, and we’re just going to go through the stories, and then compare them to Prince Lindworm at the end.

Now, “The Pig King” and “Prince Marcassin” are two separate stories, but they’re so similar that for the purposes of today’s blog, we’re mostly going to treat them as one. I’ll let you know when we run into significant differences.

(Marcassin is, according to google translate, French for wild boar.)

Both of the pig stories are the type where three siblings undertake a task, and only the youngest succeeds, by virtue of being an all-around better person. I’m not a big fan of this in cases where the task is “survive a marriage.” (The only other story like this I can think of right now is the Grimms’ “The Sea Hare;” you do see this in Bluebeard variants like “Fitcher’sBird,” but that’s a lot less distressing since the groom is explicitly the bad guy. Generally I just don’t love it when the protagonist lives happily ever after with a spouse who killed their older siblings. It’s awkward.)

So. Now that that little tangent is out of the way, let’s take it from the top. Barren queen longs for a child, takes a walk, falls asleep. Three fairies come by and decide to give her one, but to make him (temporarily) a pig. In “The Pig King,” the queen sleeps through the fairies’ visit and never knows about it. In “Prince Marcassin,” she dreams of the fairies’ visit, but only hears what the first two fairies say, about how she’ll have a son, and misses the pig element added by the third.

Nine months after this little nap, she gives birth to a pig.

I do think the relationship between mother and son here is really sweet. She just loves her monster baby. I’m reminded, a little, of that ancient piece of pottery featuring Pasiphae and the young Minotaur (see here).

She gave birth to this pig. She raised him. She loves him. He rests his muddy head in her lap. He roots around for truffles and brings them home for her. He’s kind of just treated like a normal prince, and we all dance around the awkwardness of the pig situation. (In “The Pig King” the dad is pretty on board with this arrangement too; in “Prince Marcassin” he sort of humors his wife but makes it clear that he feels the correct thing to do when one births a pig is to cast it into the sea.)

When Marcassin falls in love with a girl who doesn’t feel the same, Mom tells him he can do better. Unfortunately, when she says that, he says, “No, Mom, I cannot do better. Like, seriously, come on, I am literally a pig.” So she arranges the marriage. And when that goes wrong, another marriage.

In “Prince Marcassin,” the first wife kills herself on the wedding night rather than be married to a pig. The second wife attempts to kill him, and he kills her in self-defense. In “The Pig King,” he ends up killing both of the first two brides in self-defense.

This is the point where the plot begins to differ significantly. In “The Pig King,” the third bride agrees to marry the pig. They have an extremely muddy wedding night, which they both survive. She stays apparently happily married to the pig for some time before he decides to show her that he can cast off his pig skin and become a hot guy at night. After this, they stay even more happily married until they have a (normal, human) son. Finally, the bride can’t bear to keep the secret anymore, and tells her mother-in-law about the nighttime-shapeshifting. They destroy the discarded pig skin, and he stays a hot guy from then on.

(Let’s just take a moment here to appreciate how sensible the third bride is. Like, yeah, this dude is a pig, but he’s also the king and queen’s only child, and therefore the future king. This means two absolutely critical things. 1) if you can handle being married to a pig, you get to be queen someday. 2) even if your attempt to kill your unwanted husband was successful, you would be in big, big trouble afterwards. Fate worse than pig-marriage. So bride number 3 here definitely made the right call. Although, to be fair, it does appear that the marriage was actually consummated prior to even the nighttime-only transformation, so. Well. I also would not want to have sex with a pig. But murder is not the answer.)

In “Prince Marcassin,” after being forced to kill his second wife in self-defense on their wedding night, Marcassin says, “Screw this, humans suck; I’m gonna go live like other pigs,” and takes off into the woods to befriend some more normal wild boars.

He does, however, write letters home so everyone knows he’s okay.

The mother of his first two (deceased) brides has now moved out into the countryside with her one remaining daughter. Prince Marcassin encounters this third daughter while living like a pig, and somehow convinces her to come live with him? In the woods? Where he’s just being a standard wild boar?

And they live together in the woods until she gets pregnant. Which. I have concerns. I have so many concerns.

This girl’s two older sisters died after being forced to marry this pig. While he was living like a man. Now he’s living like a pig, and she’s run away from home to have sex with him in a cave in the woods?

I do kind of love how the French fairy tale writers don’t pull their punches. A lot of stories from a lot of cultures sort of imply that maybe some sex is going on behind the scenes in enchanted bridegroom situations, but the French ones just come out and say it. This girl’s been lying with a pig and now she’s pregnant. Villeneuve’s Beast doesn’t ask “Will you marry me?” every night; he asks “Will you sleep with me?” There’s just something refreshing about that refusal to dance around the issue.

But still. Deeply, deeply concerned.

Killing yourself or your pig groom is not a good solution to the problem. But neither is running away with him and letting him knock you up! Surely there must be some sort of acceptable middle ground in this very messed-up situation.

Anyway. Eventually she finds his discarded pig skin, figures things out, and gets rid of it, and they go home to the palace and live happily ever after. (At which point Marcassin mentions that he’s been discarding the skin every night? And we’re supposed to believe that this girl just never noticed? Like, it doesn’t matter how dark it is, she’s gonna notice a difference between a pig and a dude when they’re sleeping together.)

It’s kind of a messed up story.

So, onto the Prince Lindworm comparison: literally all these stories have in common is the born-already-enchanted element and the three brides. Even the circumstances of the brides’ deaths and the success of the third bride are totally different. They were fun to read, though.

Preorder my Prince Lindworm retelling here!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Missing Half

So if you’ve been around for a while, you’ve probably heard me talking about Prince Lindworm, and not just recently, as I prepare to release my book. I’ve been obsessed with this story for a long time, I’ve written several blog posts and essays about it, and it’s even the source of my username on many websites—konglindorm. 

But today, I’m going to talk about something new: the second half of the story.

I honestly didn’t know until very recently that this story did not end with the lindworm being transformed and everyone living happily ever after. I’ve been working for a long time on my own translation of the story, from a 100+ year old Danish book, and last month I finally reached the end of it.

And then saw that there were three more pages.

Now, I’m preparing to publish my first novel, and I don’t have the time or the energy to translate another three pages. But I did a quick read-through, enough to get the basic idea, and I did some more research. Then I ran it through Google translate, which produced something that’s…pretty rough, but it’s useful to having something in English to glance back at as I work on this post.

So it’s not relevant to my retelling at all, and it’s actually a really common fairy tale type that I’ve encountered many times before, but I’m really excited about this. Quick recap, before we start: Barren queen wants baby. Queen is instructed to eat one flower if she wants a son, another if she wants a daughter, but not, under any circumstances, both. Queen eats both. Queen gives birth to lindworm. Lindworm eventually demands bride. Eats her. Demands second bride. Eats her. Demands third bride, third bride does some really weird stuff that somehow turns him into a human. Great rejoicing, etc., etc.

Now on to part two. I’m gonna be honest; some really weird stuff happens here. Which shouldn’t be surprising, coming from the same fairy tale that brought us “To turn a snake into a man, make him molt ten times, dip some whips in lye, whip him a bunch, and dunk him in a tub of milk.” My understanding of the story is hindered somewhat by lack of a complete and accurate English translation, but it looks like at some point our girl helps break the spells on two other enchanted princes by feeding them her breast milk? It’s, um. It’s something, and something I’ll need to fully translate eventually to understand better. I think I’m missing a fair amount of context and nuance.

(Between the two halves, I ‘m thinking I need to do a lot of research on the healing properties of milk in folklore. Is that a thing? Does it come up elsewhere? This story is Danish; anyone from Denmark know if there’s some cultural element to this or something?)

But for now we’re going to focus on the main thing, the basic plot of the second half.

Our girl gets pregnant. Lindworm and his dad go off to war, leaving pregnant girl with Lindworm’s mother the queen. Now, normally, that would cause some trouble in the fairy tale world, because usually, old queens are not fond of their daughters-in-law, and often try to frame them for horrible crimes.

But not our queen. She gave birth to a monster. Her only heir was a dragon, and he was eating people. Then our girl came along and turned him into an upstanding member of human society. This queen loves her daughter-in-law. So we need a different bad guy.

Our girl gives birth to twins. She sends a letter to the lindworm, letting him know. Normally, in this story type, the queen swaps it out with a letter saying she gave birth to something else, but not our queen, so that role is filled by the Red Knight. No information on who this dude is, what he has against our characters, or why it’s his job to run letters back and forth between the palace and the war zone.

He gets rid of the letter saying our girl had twins, replaces it with a letter saying she had puppies. Lindworm gets the letter, thinks, “well, that’s super weird, but who am I to judge, my mom didn’t give birth to a human either.” Sends back a letter saying, “Okay, we’ll sort that all out when I get home.”

Red Knight was apparently hoping for a less go-with-the-flow type answer, because he replaces that letter with one telling the queen to set our girl and her babies on fire.

The queen gets the letter, and I guess she’s probably thinking that maybe the transformation didn’t quite work after all, maybe her son still has some monster in him, because what the heck, dude? I’m not burning my grandbabies.

So she doesn’t know when the lindworm is coming home, and she’s afraid of what he’ll do to his family when he does; she sets our girl up with some supplies and sends her and the babies out into the world where they’ll be safe.

(This is when she turns a couple birds into princes by nursing them, and apparently hangs out with them in their palace for quite some time. Not clear on the nature of their relationships, a little concerned, will update you guys someday when I’ve sorted it all out; if anyone’s read this entire story in Danish and fully understands it, or if you’ve encountered a complete English translation, please do let me know!)

Lindworm comes home, looking for his wife. Queen is pissed at her son. Son isn’t sure what she’s so upset about; he thought he was pretty chill about the whole gave-birth-to-puppies thing. Queen isn’t sure what puppies have to do with anything, but setting your family on fire is in no way chill. They argue for a while, eventually get to the bottom of things, Red Knight is in big, big trouble. Lindworm goes looking for his wife and kids. Eventually finds them hanging out with these two other princes.

This is where Google translate really breaks down on me, and things just make less and less sense, and I can’t go down to the source material with my Danish-English dictionary and sort it out right now; I’m on a bit of a tight schedule. But it’s looking like the Lindworm and the two other princes sort of fight over our girl, all three of them drink her milk (it seems like it’s been long enough that she shouldn’t be producing milk anymore; it also seems like these two dudes are drinking her milk regularly? I am so concerned about so many things.)

Somehow the conflict is resolved, the other two princes marry other princesses, and our girl and the twins go home with the lindworm.

Now, there’s a lot to unpack here, obviously, and a lot of it is going to have to wait until another time. It is nice to know that King Lindorm is consistently just absolutely bizarre through both halves.

But what I really, really like about the second half is that some new dude is our bad guy, and the queen is fully and firmly on our heroine’s side.

Before I made any effort at even the crappiest translation of the second half, I did some research on what it was about. And I was so concerned about it as soon as I found out what story type it was, because some sort of mother figure is almost always the bad guy. (Shout out to the Grimms for not doing that in “The Girl Without Hands,” too.) And it just seemed really awful that the queen would turn around and try to sabotage our girl after she fixed the lindworm. So I was really relieved to find the Red Knight in my first quick skim-through.

I’m just really impressed with Grundtvig, Adjunct Levisen, and Maren Mathisdatter for deviating from the norm here.

(Another notable deviation, aside from “The Girl Without Hands,” listed above, is the French fairy tale “Bearskin,” by Marie-Madeleine de Lubert; I doubt it’s a coincidence that women were definitely involved in the telling/recording of 2 of these 3 stories where people are not out to get their daughters-in-law.)

Also, like. Can we just take a moment to appreciate the incredible stupidity of the Red Knight? The lindworm was born as a giant snake monster, and for some reason Red thinks he’ll be shocked and horrified that his children were born as puppies? The lindworm is pretty much the only person in the world who has no right to be upset by that. He, of all people, should know that these things just happen sometimes, and they’re totally fixable, though not, perhaps, without bloodshed.

(Also, also. As I said above, I don’t know who the Red Knight is or what he has against our characters. It’s possible that the text does tell us and it just didn’t come across in my incredibly quick and crappy translation. But my theory is that he’s somehow connected to one of our two dead and eaten princesses. In which case he’s entitled to be upset, even if he’s handling it poorly.)

Preorder my book here!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Prince Lindworm: Version Comparison

Over the years, I have managed to find three different versions of King Lindorm—the one that appears in Svend Grundtvig’s Gamle Dansk Minder i Folkemunde, the one that appears in Andrew Lang’s Pink Fairy Book, and the one that appears in the Folio Society’s East of the Sun and West of the Moon. (There is no indication of where this story came from originally or who translated it, so we’re just going to call it the Folio version here.)

 I’ve talked a lot before about the origins of this story; the earliest version, Grundtvig’s, is from Denmark. The Folio Society attributes theirs to Asbjørnsen and Moe, in Norway, which we know is incorrect as it doesn’t appear in any other edition of their work. Lang attributes his version to Sweden.

So today, we’re just going to work our way through the three versions and compare/contrast. 

They all start the same way. Queen wants baby, queen can’t have baby, old woman tells her how to make it happen. Lang’s version deviates most from the others in the beginning. In the other two versions, the queen encounters the old woman while out on a walk; in Lang’s, the old woman comes to the palace and seeks out the queen specifically to impart her wisdom.

In both Gruntvig’s version and the Folio version, the queen is to eat only one of two differently-colored roses that will grow up overnight under a two-handled cup left in the garden. Very specific, perfectly identical. The lindworm comes because the queen eats both roses.

In Lang’s version, the queen is to take a bath in her room. Two red onions will appear under the bathtub afterwards, and she is to peel and eat both. Her mistake is that she eats the onions without peeling them. (Note that in this version the queen is not given the option to choose the gender of her child.)

Another little deviation in Lang’s version is that the queen apparently doesn’t know she’s given birth to a lindworm? Her waiting woman tosses the lindworm out of the window as soon as it’s born, and the queen doesn’t notice it at all.

Lang and Folio both feature a normal, human prince born after the lindworm. In Gruntvig’s version the lindworm is an only child. Since Gruntvig’s version has no siblings, he approaches the king directly to ask for a bride. In the other two, he waits until the prince goes out to find a bride, and then goes up to him and says, “Hey, I’m your secret brother, and since I’m older, I get to get married first.”

Here, again, Lang’s version deviates significantly. The other lindworms both marry (and eat) two foreign princesses, then a local shepherd’s daughter selected by the king. Lang’s lindworm marries and then eats an unspecified number of slave women before a wicked stepmother offers up her stepdaughter as a bride. Specifically, she tells the king that her stepdaughter would like to marry the lindworm, and the king apparently doesn’t question this? He for some reason finds it believable that a young woman would volunteer to marry a monster who’s already eaten multiple previous wives, without asking for any kind of compensation for her family or anything?

And, okay, Lang is going full German-Cinderella here. After the stepmom screws her over, girl goes to her mom’s grave, where she’s given three nuts. This is what happens in the place of her meeting an old woman and getting instructions in the other two versions.

Lang’s main girl goes through similar basic wedding prep steps to the others, with no indication of where she got the idea from; while the other girls have a tub of lye, tub of milk, whips, and ten gowns/shifts, Lang’s girl has the tube of lye, only seven shifts, and three scrubbing brushes. After they go through the whole take-off-your-shift-take-off-your-skin situation, Lang’s girl just, like, scrubs all the lindworm-iness out of him? She just scrubs until he turns into a dude.

The other two versions, of course, have the much more complex and disgusting transformation sequence of dip whips in lye, whip lindworm, dunk lindworm in milk, take lindworm to the bed, embrace.

The Folio version ends immediately after this, with the girl and the transformed prince living happily ever after. The other two stories continue.

In the second half of Lang’s version, the old king dies, the lindworm becomes king, the lindworm goes to fight in a war, and the girl’s stepmother steals a bunch of letters and tells a bunch of lies that result in the girl and her two young sons fleeing the palace until the lindworm comes to find them. During this time, the girl uses her magic nuts to save a man named Peter.

In the second half of Gruntvig’s version, the old king and the lindworm both go off to war, it’s a character called the Red Knight who switches the letters, and while she and the babies are away, our girl somehow uses her breast milk to help two other men who’ve been transformed into animals? IDK, I don’t have a full English translation yet, but what we do have to work with is seriously weird.

Lang’s version definitely deviates significantly from the others; it has no points in common with Grundtvig’s aside from the most basic plot—barren queen, ignoring food instructions=lindworm, brides eaten, transformation involving shedding/undressing and lye, heroine flees into the woods with children due to mail-tampering, saves someone else before reunion with lindworm.

The Folio version deviates from Grundtvig’s only in that it ends halfway through and includes a second prince.

Today is the first time I’ve read through Lang’s version in several years, at least, and somehow, despite its differences from the others, it feels the least unique? I was definitely first drawn to “Prince Lindworm,” as a child, because despite falling into my much-beloved Enchanted Bridegroom category, it felt very different from any other story I’d read. The beast as a snake-like creature, the brides being eaten, the unsettling transformation sequence—it was all just great. This was the Folio version, that I was reading as a child. But when I first encountered the second half of the story in Grundtvig’s version, it was also delightfully unique and bizarre, even if I can’t fully understand it. The lindworm’s mother—the girl’s mother-in-law, often a villainous figure—is 100% on her side, and the main person to try to help her through what happens next. And the milk situation is just—well, it’s something.

Lang’s version, despite being the same basic story, just feels bland and unoriginal. There’s an evil stepmother, which is just, sort of cliché, you know? The transformation sequence has been cut down and seriously sanitized. And then the situation where he marries an unspecified number of slave women in the place of two princesses—well, I have a number of issues with that.

Firstly, the number three is so often symbolic in fairy tales, and to replace the three total marriages with an unspecified number is lame, but that’s a dumb, nitpicky issue. The marriages to slave women indicate that this is a country that holds slaves, which I don’t love. But my big issue with this is that a significant part of the charm of the other versions is just the absolute, idiotic absurdity of marrying your monster son to a second princess after he eats the first. Like, you know what’s going to happen now—the same thing that happened last time. He’s gonna eat the princess and another powerful king is going to be rightfully angry with you. Marrying him instead to someone who won’t be missed lowers the stakes and raises the rationality in a way that bores me, and also implies that some potential brides are worth less? Like, with the first couple brides as princesses, we know they matter even though we never properly meet them, because their deaths put the threat of war over our heads—which is probably why the king and the lindworm go off to war shortly after the spell is broken in Grundtvig’s version. “A whole bunch of random slave girls died with no consequences and then we met our main character” just seems sort of…cheap.

So! While I did enjoy reading Lang’s version, I don’t think I would have fallen in love with this story if it was the first I encountered. I think the other versions are both more absurd and more meaningful.

Preorder my book based on this story here!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Lindworm cover reveal!


When a lindworm comes to the palace and begins demanding—then eating—brides, Marit is the third victim chosen to marry him. Against all odds, she survives her wedding night, but the trouble has only just begun. Separated from her family, bound to a traumatized prince who doesn’t know how to be a man, Marit must protect her unwanted husband from his family, from his enemies, and from himself.

Preorder here!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Workshop Recording Repost

 As you probably know by now, my novel Lindworm will be released on April 13, 2021. Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing a lot of different things related to this, including the first chapter!

I've shared the first chapter of this story before, on the blog, and also at my university library. The chapter has changed a lot since then, so I'm not going to repost the original, although you can certainly find it yourself if you're interested. However, I thought it might be cool to post the library video again!

Remember, the chapter's undergone significant edits since this recording; the current version will be available soon. This is a long recording, featuring readings by several other authors that I took a class with. My part starts at 44:00.

*You can preorder Lindworm here!*

Monday, March 8, 2021

Lindworm Promo Series Repost: My Story

 *This is a repost from 10/8/17 with minor edits*

The curse is broken, but the transition from beast to prince isn't always that easy.

After the lindworm is defeated, Marit expects to go back to her normal life. But two princesses are still dead, and two wars are still brewing, and Marit is (technically) still married to the lindworm. Or Prince David, as they’re calling him now.

The thing about Davey is that he’s hopeless—and who can blame him? He spent the first two decades of his life as a giant snake. He doesn’t know what to do with legs. He doesn’t know what to do with hands. He doesn't appreciate the fact that he has to chew his food now. All of this, in addition to the fact that his dragon instincts have been replaced with a human conscience, leading to overwhelming guilt over the two princesses he ate.

All Marit wants is to go home to her father and sister. But instead she finds herself deeply embroiled in palace intrigue, trying to save a depressed, inept prince from himself and everyone around him.

*You can pre-order my novel Lindworm here!*

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Lindworm Promo Series Repost: The Allegory

 *This is a repost from 9/24/17, with minor edits*

I don’t remember the first time I read Prince Lindworm, but I do remember the first time I understood it. It was the spring semester of my freshman year of college, and I was sitting in the left front corner of my British Literature class. As usual, I had two notebooks open—one for class notes, and one for anything actually interesting that I thought of while paying slightly less attention to class than I should have been.

On this particular day, I was neglecting Byron in favor of speculating on why, when the Lindworm’s spell was broken, we just forgot about the dead girls and everything was hunky dory. Then I thought about his mom eating the flowers, and suddenly, the whole ridiculous thing made sense. It’s a Christian allegory. 

You start out with a woman eating something she was specifically told not to eat. Hello, Eve. Nice to see you—it’s been a while.

Because of the mother’s dietary choices, the child is born cursed. Fall of man.

Then along comes our girl, and she’s willing to give her life for the sake of her kingdom, because she rocks. And because of her sacrifice (see: Crucifixion), our fallen man is redeemed, i.e. returned to humanity.  And when this happens, when he is purified by her sacrifice, all of his sins are forgiven. He is embraced by the father and immediately welcomed home.

The basic structure of this story is drawn directly from the basic structure of the Bible.

And of course, it’s not that simple. There’s more, much more, because this story is just a little crazy. There are definitely Prodigal Son elements in the versions where the queen gives birth to a prince as well as a monster, but I’ll let you think about that on your own time, because I’m much more interested in the spell-breaking, and I’m on a tight schedule—this needs to be ready to post in just a couple hours, and I still need to track down some old research.

What I consider the really big revelation here happened a few weeks after that day in British Literature, though it was also related to the class. I was writing an in-depth analysis of Tennyson’s “The Journey of the Magi.” The Catholic sacrament of penance ended up being a major theme. And that got me thinking more about the specifics of the transformation, which had previously struck me as baffling, creepy, and just this side of suggestive.

(And look, I can make it sound all nice and symbolic here, but when you get to actually writing the scene, I just can’t get all the suggestiveness out. Fair warning. It’s in chapter two.)

So let’s review the transformation. Step one: some seriously excessive molting. (Snakes molt, right? Or is it shed?) Step two: whips soaked in lye. Step three: dunk in a tub of milk. Step four: the embrace. However you wanna interpret that.

Okay. Step one. We cast off the old self, the sins, whatever. It’s really hard and it kind of hurts. Step two is, like, well. The lye is purifying, right? That’s soap? The whips are a little…we can call that penance or something, okay? I promised Biblical connections, but not necessarily theological soundness.  Think like hair shirts and whatever. He’s paying for his sins and being made clean.

Not sure why it’s milk, exactly, but step three is obviously baptism. We’re gonna call step four acceptance into the body of Christ, and ignore any sexual undertones we might be picking up.

And then the fallen son is welcomed home with opens arms, easily and fully forgiven, and everyone lives happily ever after.

This leaves us with only two mysteries in this previously completely incomprehensible story. I already told you I’m not sure about the milk, although the google search “milk symbolism”—

Wait. I take that back. It may now be twenty-six minutes after this post was initially intended to go out, but I have an answer to the milk question. Apparently, in Corinthians and Hebrews, it’s symbolic of, like, basic doctrine. So you’ve got baptism and Bible 101. Milk actually has a lot of symbolism attached to it, including purity and, apparently, Nazism, although I vote we discard that one as irrelevant to our current line of inquiry.  Let’s call the milk problem solved.

*Added note not included in original post: the purifying nature of milk also features prominently and disturbingly in the 2nd half of the original Danish version of the story. More on that in a future blog.*

Our last mystery: the flowers. We’ve got the scene in general down as representing the fall of man, but let’s get into the specifics. Eat this one if you want a girl, that one if you want a boy. So the mom eats the girl flower, and then she eats the boy flower. She winds up with a boy lindworm, and in some versions also a boy human.

Note the lack of girl here, despite the initial intake of the girl flower. I’m completely down with the lindworm as punishment for disobedient flower-consumption, but why is it a boy? Just further punishment? Logically, if she’s going to have two kids, the first born should be a human daughter, in line with the first flower, and the second should be a male lindworm due to the forbidden flower. If there’s only one kid, why is it a boy? Did the entire request for a girl get nullified by the second flower?

Why isn't the lindworm a girl? If the lindworm is a boy, why doesn’t he have a sister? Specifically, an older sister? I don’t have an answer. It’s been years and years of intermittent research, and I don’t have an answer.

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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Lindworm Promo Series Repost: Cite Your Sources

*This is a repost from 9/17/17* 

I first read Prince Lindworm in a collection of Scandinavian fairy tales illustrated by Kay Nielsen, who, by the way, is awesome. The problem here is that it was a later edition of the book. At some point, I don’t remember why, I got super into finding out the history of Prince Lindworm. See, it was in this book, which was supposed to be stories from Asbjornsen and Moe. Those are the big Norwegian fairy tale dudes, for those of you who don’t know.

But I’m a little obsessive about my fairy tales. You may have noticed. And this book wasn’t even mine. It belonged to my grandparents. So of course I had my own Asbjornsen and Moe anthology. Or two. Maybe three. And I kind of kept buying these books because I wanted my own copy of this one wacky story. But it wasn’t there. So I googled the complete works of Asbjornsen and Moe. It wasn’t there.

I took advantage of my university’s interlibrary loan system to request every single book in the country that mentioned lindworms. Or lindorms. Or lindwyrms, or a variety of other spellings.

Have I mentioned that I’m a little obsessive about my fairy tales?

Several other books and authors and random people on the internet attributed the story to Asbjornsen and Moe. Who definitely didn’t record it. The reason for this, as far as I can tell? This book my grandparents had, really nice hardcover, fancy publisher, gorgeous illustrations—it was kind of a big deal. All sorts of people had read the story in this book, and only this book, and assumed the information provided was reliable.

And here’s where the publishers went wrong. There’s an editor’s note in the front. It explains that all but two of the stories in the volume are from one particular translation of the works of Asbjorsen and Moe. What they apparently neglected to mention is that one of those two stories was not only from a different translator, but a different source entirely.

So Prince Lindworm didn’t come from Norway. That’s settled. And, okay, I don’t know what to tell you about the one random outlier in my interlibrary loan adventure that said the story was from Sweden, but I’ve got this worked out.

Really, it could have been worse. When I wanted to read the earliest recorded version of Beauty and the Beast, and I couldn’t track down a translation anywhere, I spent months tearing the internet apart before I found a copy that was clearly printed well over one hundred years ago, given the spelling and lettering, in French, scanned in and saved as a pdf. I still have that saved on my computer somewhere. Given that I don’t know any French, dictionaries only provided modern spellings, and any given character could easily have been three to six different letters in that typeface, the several months I spent attempting to translate didn’t really get me anywhere. I don’t think I even translated the first paragraph successfully.

I did a little better with Prince Lindworm. It still took me a couple months to find the text, and it was still a crappy pdf with outdated spelling. Plus it was in Danish. But the lettering was slightly more modern, and I happen to be much better at slogging my way through Danish than French. A little bit of Norwegian, a little bit of Anglo-Saxon, a tiny bit of German. It’ll get you places. Sadly, my extensive background in Latin was utterly useless to French. (And Spanish. It seems my teachers lied to me. I strongly suspect Romani and Portuguese would also be a bust, but at least I can stumble blindly through basic Italian.)

It was, when I found it, three or four pages of a quite large collection. I haven’t gotten into the rest of it yet—soon, hopefully. Gamle dansk Minder i folkemunde, it’s called.  I’m good at general ideas in Germanic languages, not so much actual translations, so bear with me here, but I’m going to tentatively call this “Old Danish Memories from the Mouths of the People.” Sounds better in Danish, right? This is why I keep my translations to myself.

The compiler of this book is listed as Svend Grundtvig, and he’s generally known for collecting Danish folk songs, but as far as I can tell, in my admittedly spotty Danish comprehension, there’s no music for this one.

And, okay, I know I talk a lot about how stories, especially folk stories, don’t belong to anyone, because they’re so mutable, because a story is really a community, a conversation. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to know where the conversation started.

For crying out loud, people, cite your sources! I dedicated months of my life to this. Do you have any idea how many utterly worthless books I had to read in search of some tiny hint of origins? How many incorrect attributions I had to read? How much respect I lost for researchers in this field in general?

Look, sometimes tracking down crap pdfs of source material can be fun, okay? I love pulling random linguistic data from obscure folklore and stuff like that. But really. Really. How hard can it possibly be to say, “hey, this historically and culturally significant story that I’m making a profit on because it’s been in the public domain for a hundred years originally came from Denmark”?

There is no excuse not to give fairy tales the correct attribution. Like, anthology and picture book based fairy tales have got to be the easiest writing to make a profit on.  The story has been marinating in your brain forever, right? Do you even remember a time before you knew Cinderella? Just tell it in your own words, and someone else will come along and slap some beautiful illustrations on, and you’re good to go. It costs five minutes and zero dollars to add in a little note saying, “This adaptation was inspired by the French version of the story as recorded by Charles Perrault.”

But no, that’s too much work for you. Instead you’ll just go and publish a wildly popular book that heavily implies incorrect information, and let it spin wildly out of control until poor innocent college kids are staying up all night on the internet reading languages they don’t understand and enlisting the help of just about every library in the continental United States.


Anyway, Grundtvig is a really awesome dude who absolutely knows how to cite his stories. Kong Lindorm was told in 1854 by Maren Mathisdatter, age 67, in Fureby. It was recorded by Adjunct A. Levisen.

See? Was that so hard?

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Friday, March 5, 2021

Lindworm Promo Series Repost: The Story

 *This is a repost from 9/10/17, with some edits for spelling and to reflect my current publishing situation*

Today I’m going to tell you about my favorite story. The story that built this blog. The Danish title is Kong Lindorm. The English is King Lindworm, but it’s often translated Prince Lindworm instead, and that’s how I met it, in a collection on my grandparents’ shelf.

It goes like this:

A queen can’t have children. The literal translation of this is that “nothing was written on their wedding sheets,” which I think is stunningly beautiful, and I want everyone who says that fairy tales are just bare bones, lacking in character development or imagery, to read it.

The queen goes to a wise woman, who tells her about a fancy ritual where she puts a couple of upside-down-tea-cups by the north gate and two flowers come up overnight. Queen eats one if she wants a boy, the other if she wants a girl. She is not, under any circumstances, to eat both.

So she grows her flowers and translations vary, but usually she chooses the girl flower. Then it tastes so good, she just has to eat the other one too.

Sometimes the stupidity of fictional people just makes me want to bang my head against the wall repeatedly, you know?

I have in my possession what I believe is the earliest recorded version of this story (more on that later), and this is the point where it branches off from the one I grew up with. In the first version, the queen gives birth to a Lindworm, which is a Scandinavian dragon/snake monster, usually bipedal with small wings. In my first version, she does this, and then gives birth to a normal human son, as well. Since I started with the version with the brother, I tend to prefer it—it adds to the story, but takes nothing away, so if you want a sense for the original, just quietly disregard a few sentences as I move forward here, assume the Lindworm is speaking to the king instead of the prince, whatever.

Prince grows up, wants to get married, sets out to find a bride. Lindworm, who slithered away immediately after birth and about whose existence their mother said nothing, appears in the road to say, “hey, actually I’m a few minutes older than you, so I’m supposed to get married first.”

A real interesting conversation ensues at the royal family dinner table that night.

They get a princess to marry the Lindworm. The Lindworm eats her right after the wedding. Prince goes bride-hunting again, Lindworm objects again, a second princess is provided. Same thing happens. Prince sets out a third time, Lindworm demands a bride a third time. Wising up, finally, the king recruits some random girl whose parents don’t have the means to go to war against him.

Third girl encounters a wise woman in the forest. Wise woman gives her some seriously wacky advice. Wedding happens, they retreat to the honeymoon suite, and the Lindworm tells our girl to take off her dress.

Only if you take off your skin, she says. He does. She does. She’s wearing a second dress. Same deal. Turns out she’s wearing one more layer than the Lindworm is, so that’s a disgusting mess. Then she whips him with whips soaked in lye. Then she dunks him in a big tub of milk. Then she embraces him.

When they wake up the next morning, the Lindworm is a handsome prince. The kingdom rejoices. His bloody history is instantly forgotten. We all live happily ever after.

I was drawn to this story immediately, largely because it was completely ridiculous. For years I have burned with the desire to understand all this craziness. And I more or less do now, but more on that later. This is just the beginning.

Welcome to my new series. Welcome to my new promotional tactics. Welcome to my novel.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be talking about this story in much more detail. And on April 13, my novel Lindworm will be released!

I’m really excited about this story, and I’m really excited about sharing it with you.

*Remember to follow me on Patreon!*

Publication Announcement

My first novel, a retelling of "Prince Lindworm," will be released next month! Stay tuned for more information, and if you want to hear it faster, consider supporting me on Patreon!