Fairy Tales 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Of Feminine Subtlety"

Gesta Romanorum's story is quite funny, if not a bit unpleasant toward women. That is one of the themes (women are evil) that makes his story "Of Feminine Subtlety" (I'll get to the title in a moment) have fairy tale qualities. A basic outline of the fairy tale-ness:

*A youngest son is given
*three magical gifts by his father (a king) that will help him achieve happiness outside the realm of material goods (the kingdom and personal possessions go to his brothers).
*The mother is the keeper of the items, but does not do a good job of making sure the son can handle them.
*He is warned "to beware the artifices of women" so he does not lose his magical possessions.
*He is well loved but too trusting, so he loses his gifts to a
*wily, cunning, plotting, beautiful woman (also called a "concubine"), who not only figures out how to get them from him, but she steals them away and lies to him about it later AND then leaves him in the desert to die.
*Although he is forsaken and upset, the prince doesn't forget to "fortify himself with the sign of the cross."
*He then goes on a journey through
*a magical space, where nature gives him the powers to hurt and heal, restoring him to health. He also learns some lessons about trust in this time.
*He uses his powers to nurse a king back to health and cheat his former love into a painful illness. But not before getting her to confess and give him all of his talismans back. Then "she was tortured with agony." This line is rather blunt and without feeling, as many of the evil women's ends have been.
*The prince is welcomed back with open arms -- "the whole kingdom rejoiced at his return."
*"Then he recounted how God had saved him from various dangers, and after living many years, he ended his days in peace."

Also, structurally, this story had much of the feel of oral tales. While the characters had names (unusual for a fairy tale), the writing was sparse and without elaborate (or any) details. The thing that catches me about this story is the title - "Of Feminine Subtlety." The moral of the story is don't let a woman trick you out of your magic powers, and don't get carried away by a woman's beauty. The story is pointing out ways women subtlety (I guess - how subtle she is is up for debate) trick men out of their powers (whatever they may be) and aims to help men realize this. The story has no real focus on happiness being found in hard work or trusting God (although those are both in there); it is simply a complaint about women and the tricky things they do to hurt men. Women are often not the best of characters in fairy tales, as we've talked about, especially when they are cunning or smart. They are never tricky for good - only for bad.

No comments:

Post a Comment