AppLit Home

Appalachian Tales of Strong Women / Animal Tales

Tina L. Hanlon

"Whitebear Whittington" or "The Three Gold Nuts" or "The Man that Turned Himself into a Bear"
and Other Animal Groom Tales

Appalachian "Whitebear" Tales Related Appalachian Tales

Tales from Other Regions

Hispanic Connection

"Whitebear Whittington." In Richard Chase. Grandfather Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1948, pp. 52-64. With one full-page drawing of the wife and a white bird along the road, by Berkeley William, Jr. Also referred to as "Three Gold Nuts" by storytellers such as Dicey Adams (one of Chase's ten sources). The wife who rescues her husband from bestial enchantment has more dignity, power, and independence than her counterpart in European tales (See "East of the Sun," below). The more active, trustworthy, and diligent wife in the Appalachian tale is portrayed developing a fulfilling relationship with a working man and earning the right to reunite her happy family. For more analysis, see
Tina L. Hanlon, "Strong Women in Appalachian Folktales." The Lion & the Unicorn, vol. 24 (April 2000): pp. 225-46. Available online through library services such as Project Muse.

"Whitebear Whittington." In The Blue Rose: A Collection of Stories for Girls, edited by Eulalie Steinmetz Ross. Illus. Enrico Arno. Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966. 186 pp. Thirteen fairy tales from older sources, including literary fairy tales by authors such as Eleanor Farjeon, Walter de la Mare, Laurence Housman, Ruth Sawyer, Howard Pyle, George MacDonald, Hans Christian Andersen, and others. "Whitebear Whittington" from Richard Chase's Grandfather Tales contains a full-page drawing of the heroine riding on the white bear with three children (at left). This is the oldest book in AppLit's bibliography Feminist Collections of Folktales.

"Whitebear Whittington." In Beauties and Beasts, edited by Betsy G. Hearne. Illustrated by Joanne Caroselli. Oryx Press, 1993, pp. 76 ff. A reprint of Chase's tale in a book that "presents several versions of 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Cupid and Psyche,' and provides several tales that reverse traditional gender roles. Includes commentary on each tale, activities, bibliographies, and a list of sources." Other Appalachian tales in this book are "A Bunch of Laurel Blooms for a Present" (pp. 22ff., from Marie Campbell's Tales from the Cloud Walking Country, 1958) and "The Dough Prince" from WV (pp. 151ff., reprinted from Ruth Ann Musick's Green Hills of Magic, 1970). Jerry Griswold includes an excerpt from Chase's tale in his analysis of many variants and adaptations in The Meanings of "Beauty and the Beast": A Handbook. Broadview Press, 2004.

A number of unpublished versions of this tale from various oral informants, titled "The Three Gold Nuts" (JTA-125, 3078, 3079), and "The Man that Turned Himself into a Bear" (JTA-112, 113) can be found in the James Taylor Adams collection in the Blue Ridge Institute and University of Virginia's College at Wise. Adams' typed transcript of JTA-125 notes, "Told me on August 13, 1940, by Mrs. Dicy Adams [his wife].  She heard her mother tell it. I heard my own father and mother tell this tale forty-four years ago." Full text of this version in this web site. JTA 3078 and 3079 were collected by Richard Chase.

"Whitebear Whittington" collected by James Taylor Adams (from the collection listed above). In Loyal Jones, ed. Appalachian Folk Tales. Illus. Jim Marsh. Ashland, KY: Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2010.

"Whitebear Whittington." Told by Marshall Ward. ACC #25, BM-64A: Track 4, Burton-Manning Collection, The Archives of Appalachia, Eastern Tennessee State University. Ward was the school teacher in North Carolina, a member of the Ward-Hicks-Harmon family of storytellers, who introduced Richard Chase to the Jack Tales. In this version the handsome prince shows himself to the woman as soon as they arrive at his home, and gives her the choice to have him as a bear at night or in the day. She says immediately that she loves him and "I want you to be a man at night and stay with me and be a bear during the daytime. I’ll keep house and do the work while you’re a bear." After the couple have three boys, the woman asks to visit her family and the prince explains fully what will happen if she tells his name, that he'll be taken by a witches and will forget them. But when her sisters and father ask, the wife tells the secret without thinking, then leaves her boys with her family to go find her husband. During her very long walk, a bird drops feathers with drops of blood on them to help her find the way. A very old woman gives her golden nuts in exchange for help with chores, beginning a chain of magical events that include the process of spinning and weaving golden fleece. The father of the rival woman plays a role in helping the husband stay awake on the third night his wife stays with him and then leave with his true wife.

Hooks, William H. Snowbear Whittington: An Appalachian Beauty and the Beast. Illus. Victoria Lisi. New York: Macmillan, 1994. N. pag. A verse narrative and romantic illustrations depict the strong heroine who marries a bear and rescues her husband from beastly enchantment. When Nell betrays her husband by telling her father his name, and the bear runs away, she sees "the red stains on his back, like heart's blood." On her quest to rescue her husband, Nell receives help from a white bird, a hundred blackbirds who help her cross a “raging river,” and a thousand fireflies that light “her way through treacherous mountains,” as well as three magic nuts from an old woman (gold, silver, and brass). The powerful images suggesting unity with nature, which are not found in “Whitebear Whittington,” are reminiscent of the episodes in the Norse “East of the Sun” when the wife is carried by the winds in search of her husband. Tears, roses, and love finally break the evil spell on the husband. Double-page color illustrations alternate with smaller black and white drawings. Hooks notes that the book "is based on the various oral versions that I have heard over the years of what began as Beauty and the Beast."

Kirby, Ellie. The White Bear: A Tale from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Troutdale, VA: Fox Creek Press, 2008. Kirby's Author's Note describes places she visited in the Blue Ridge Mountains and people who posed in 1910 Edwardian costumes for her watercolor illustrations. A resident of Southwestern Virginia, Kirby also used scenes in Western North Carolina in this story. The main character is a farmer's daughter who "lived way back in the mountains." The white bear is really an enchanted prince from way across the ocean. See page on Kirby's Fox Creek Press web site.

Davis, Donald. "Three Drops of Blood." Audio recording made in 1996 by William Bernard McCarthy. Transcribed in McCarthy's Cinderella in America: A Book of Folk and Fairy Tales. University Press of Mississippi, 2007, pp. 299-310, with notes on variations in this tale as Davis' family told it. Chapters 12 and 13 of this book focus on tales from the Southern mountains. The book demonstrates that American folktales, from Revolutionary times to the present, should not be viewed as watered-down versions of tales from older cultures. "These tales are drawn from published collections, journals, and archives, and from fieldwork by McCarthy and his colleagues." See tales listed at Folktale Collections Indexed in AppLit.

McCutcheon, John. "Story of White Bear Whettington." Audiocassette. 1978. Archived at Warren Wilson College. Storyteller "John McCutcheon tells a story for a group of high school students from Paideia school in Atlanta. The group is led by John Sundale. They are at Appalshop, home of June Appal recordings," Whitesburg, KY. Audio available in Digital Archive of Appalachia. Accessed 3/20/12.

"Three Gold Nuts." In Mountain Tales by Roadside Theater. 1 33 1/3 rpm, mono. sound disc (36 min.). Whitesburg, KY: June Appal Recordings, 1980. Other stories: "Jim Wolf," "Fat or Lean," "Fat Man," "Cat and Rat." Also includes songs: "Cripple Creek." "Thousand Legged Worm," "Old Smokey," "Handsome Molly."

"Whiteberry Whittington." In Isabel Gordon Carter. "Mountain White Folk-Lore: Tales from the Southern Blue Ridge." Journal of American Folklore vol. 38, 1925, pp. 340-74 (this tale on pp. 357-59). Reprinted in Part II of Jane Hicks Gentry: A Singer Among Singers by Betty N. Smith (University Press of KY, 1998). Carter published a landmark article containing tales told by Jane Hicks Gentry (1863-1925), recorded by Carter in 1923. Carter comments on the decline of storytelling among mountain families who used to know them better, although they had not been recorded as ballads had been. There is no bear transformation in this tale. Whiteberry Whittington is a hired boy who loves the hired girl, and she is able to wash blood out of his shirt while the king's girl, who loves Whiteberry, cannot. After he marries the hired girl and has three children, the king's daughter convinces him to go off with her. An old woman helps his wife find him, but she has "to climb the glassy mountain and wade the bloody seas to git to him." Three old women or witches take her three children and give her a fan, a comb, and a string of beads. The wife sells these items in exchange for a night with her husband, but the king's daughter drugs him so he can't talk to his wife, until the third night when he spits in his boot and stays awake. After his wife explains how the king's daughter has lied to him, they leave, kill the three witches, collect their children, and return home to live happy and rich. Available online through library services such as JSTOR. See tales listed at Folktale Collections Indexed in AppLit.

"Whitebear Whittington" is retold in Lee Smith's novel for adults Fair and Tender Ladies (Ballantine, 1988), as one of the traditional tales that influences the heroine Ivy Rowe from childhood. At the hour of her death in old age she thinks of Whitebear Whittington as a "wild, wild" bear running at night up on Hell Mountain (p. 316). More details at Folklore Themes in Longer Appalachian Fiction. Many works of criticism discuss the role of this folktale in relation to Ivy Rowe's character and her love life.

Ransom, Candice. Finding Day's Bottom. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2006. In this novel for children about a Virginia girl mourning the death of her father in a sawmill accident in the 1950s, her grandfather tells her three folktales (based on Richard Chase's versions in Grandfather Tales): "Whitebear Whittington," "Gallymanders! Gallymanders!" and "Like Meat Loves Salt." "To Jane-Eryís surprise, Grandpapís funny ways and strange stories bring her a comfort she never expected" (from publisher's book description). See more on this book in Folklore Themes in Longer Appalachian Fiction.

George Ella Lyon's Gina. Jamie. Father. Bear. (New York: Atheneum/Richard Jackson, 2002) is a young adult novel that links a contemporary story of divorce and family relations with paranormal experiences and the family stories in folktales like "Whitebear Whittington." The novel is about the relationships between the children and fathers more than the mothers who have left them. More details at Folklore Themes in Longer Appalachian Fiction.

Three Drops of Blood was a lively Lime Kiln Theater performance of the same tale in Virginia.

Hunsaker, David. Three-Way River. Play produced in Juneau, Alaska by a dramatist who had read Hearne's Beauties and Beasts (see above). His 2003 play "combines three myths: Appalachia's 'Whitebear Whittington,' Russia's 'The Glass Mountain' and the Tlingit story of 'The Woman Who Married a Bear.' All three are merged with the Beauty and Beast motif." The beast is a dragon in the Russian tale. Actor Gene Tagaban, who played all three beasts, said, "It's bridging people, bridging cultures. We all have the same stories. We all basically come from the same place. We all tell the same thing with our stories." Hunsaker said he "wanted to try and get something that reflected the cultures that have come together to form Juneau." Three styles of music were performed with the play. This information is from Korry Keeper. "Three Stories, Three Beasts, and the Women they Loved." 25 July 2003. There is a 95-minute DVD videorecording at University of Alaska Southeast Egan Library.

"Appalachian Roots" is a play created by a theater class at Middle Tennessee State University, taught by Dr. Jette Halladay. Appalachian folk artist Carol Ponder was a consultant. The class performed it in schools across Tennessee in 2010 and then took it to audiences of poor children in Northern Ireland. Within the play, "Whitebear Whittington" is one of the interactive "singsong stories" told by children for a school program that they are rehearsing in the midst of a mine accident in their 1920s community. ("Opossum" is another tale within the play, about an opossum learning a lesson about vanity.) The Irish roots of Appalachian oral traditions also inform the play. This information is from Emma Egli, "Theater Students Revive their 'Appalachian Roots.'" MTSU Sidelines. 26 Apr. 2010. p. 7. Article with two performance photos, available online as pdf. A color photo and article are in "MTSU Theatre Presents 'Appalachian Roots' Locally April 2 and 16 before Taking Production to Ireland." 1 Apr. 2010. The same press release by Lisa L. Rollins is at "Celebrate 'Appalachian Roots' with MTSU Theatre April 16." Creative Activities for Three Folktales includes several activities for "Whitebear Whittington."

Quilt squareRelated Appalachian Tales:

"The Girl That Married a Flop-Eared Hound-Dog," in Marie Campbell. Tales from the Cloud Walking Country. Indiana UP, 1958. Rpt. Athens: U of George Press, 2000. Collected by Campbell in Kentucky in the 1930s, this unusual variant of the tale features a king so addled by a talking hound-dog that he lets it marry his youngest daughter. The bewitched groom appears as "a natural man" at his wedding, since the nice girl is willing to marry him of her own free will. After 3 visits to her family's home, the wife, who gives in to her sisters' threats and reveals that her husband's secret name is Sunshine on the Dew, must travel 3 nights to recover her husband and babies. Reprinted in Catherine Peck, ed. QPB Treasury of North American Folktales. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1998.

"The Little Old Rusty Cook Stove in the Woods" from Marie Campbell's Tales from the Cloud Walking Country, pp. 59-62. Reprinted in Judith V. Lechner. Allyn & Bacon Anthology of Traditional Literature. New York: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, 2004. A princess, lost in the woods, finds a bewitched king's son trapped in a rusty stove. After her father sends substitutes to do her job of releasing him and then the princess breaks her vow by speaking more than three words when she goes to say goodbye to her father, "the stove man" disappears and she must climb a glass mountain to find his castle. Some toad-frogs having a play-party give her magical objects to help on this quest, including three nuts. She works as a cook, trades beautiful dresses found in the nuts to the prince's false bride for chances to sleep with him, and on the third night, when he doesn't take his wife's sleeping potion, she gets his attention. He gets rid of the bride that fooled him and marries the heroine. The narrator reminisces about the days when cook stoves were new to her and wishing to have the stove in the tale to play with when she was a girl hearing the tale from a woman her granny knew. Campbell cites tale type 425A, The Search for the Lost Husband, and Grimms' "The Iron Stove."

"The Snake Princess" in Marie Campbell, Tales from the Cloud Walking Country, pp. 151-55. Told by Uncle Tom Dixon in E. KY. The roles are reversed in this tale of a boy who dies while helping break the evil spell on an enchanted snake. The Snake Princess then revives and marries him. During a visit home, he breaks his promise to never wish her off the Golden Mountain. He must travel and overcome three giants before he can return to his Snake Princess in her castle on the Golden Mountain. This tale told in the 1920s and '30s seems racist to today's readers, with "little black men" in far-off lands who trick the boy's father into giving his child to him, and later torment the boy to death as he tries to rescue the enchanted princess.

"The Bewitched Princess" in Ruth Ann Musick's Green Hills of Magic. 1970. Rpt. Parsons, WV: McClain, 1989. Also about a man marrying a snake that is an enchanted princess. The snake stops him from killing himself when he couldn't find a wife and he follows her instructions for organizing a wedding even though there is no woman visible at first. "The Dough Boy" in this book is grouped with "Whitebear Whittington" and "A Bunch of Laurel Blooms for a Present" in Betsy Hearne's collection Beauties and Beasts (see above). "The Boy That Had a Bear for a Daddy." In Marie Campbell, Tales from the Cloud Walking Country, pp. 190-91. In this unfinished tale, a woman is raped by a bear, gives birth to a bear child, and dies seven days later. The bear boy gets into trouble with his superhuman strength.

"The Pretty Girl and her Lost Children." In Leonard Roberts (collector). Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland GapIllus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit: Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980, pp. 86-90. The plot has many similarities with Scandinavian tales about a woman marrying a polar bear king, King Valemon, except that the youngest girl who is destined to go off to a strange marriage is not selfless but the one who says she is always primping and watching for her boyfriend Bully Borns. The cook wanch and house cleaner are sent with Bully in her place but they say the wrong things and Bully Borns throws them down. He is never described as a beast or any kind of man (see "Bully Bornes," below), but his new wife chooses for him to be a man at night, not in the day. After he tires of his wife and leaves, an "old black dog" steals her children, and her quest is not motivated by any fault or act of her own. Women along the way give her magic objects to use "when you see more trouble than you ever saw in your whole life." One woman takes her to see Bully Borns fight a man and he gets three drops of blood on his shirt. Pretty Girl is able to wash out the spots, unlike three other women who claim him. When other women still claim him, Pretty Girl opens her magic ball of yarn, egg, and apple, which contain pictures she sells to the women in exchange for visits to sleeping Bully Borns. The third night, she is able to tell him not to drink a sleeping draught so Bully Borns "took her back as his faithful wife" and they pick up their children and return home.

"Bully Bornes." In Leonard Roberts. South From Hell-fer-Sartin': Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales. Lexington: U Press of Kentucky, 1955. Rpt. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1964. No. 77b, pp. 60-63. This tale has a Wishing Chair that a man found and in it his youngest daughter says she wants Bully Bornes, the prize fighter, to marry her that night. Her sisters get their wishes of marrying the handsomest and ugliest men. When Bully comes it seems like there is an earthquake and since Judy is the father's favorite, he tries to keep Judy home until Bully threatens to tear the house down. Bully is mean to his wife and threatens to leave her if she cries when a bulldog steals her babies. She cries, and follows him when he leaves. He gets a drop of blood on his shirt while prize fighting and she is able to wash it out, but another woman takes her place and makes Bully marry her. The wife follows them home and gets to see him at night but he has sleeping powder in his coffee. When a neighbor tells him about the woman who comes screaming and yelling at night, Bully doesn't drink the coffee. When his real wife says that she washed the blood out of his shirt, he marries her again and they get their children and live happily.

"The White Bear" is described as "a unique merging of Appalachian and Norwegian variants of this great old story." Told by Vermont storytellers Tim Jennings and Leanne Ponder. In World Tales Live at Bennington College. Audiocassette and CD. Eastern Coyote Prods. No date is given at, except that it is a 1999 American Library Association Notable Children's Recording.

A big white bear gives Jack a star out of the sky and a ride home, flying on its back, in Anne Shelby's original Jack tale, "Jack and the Christmas Beans." In A Kentucky Christmas, edited by George Ella Lyon. Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2003. Also in Shelby's The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales. Illus. Paula McArdle. Chapel Hill: Univ. of NC Press, 2007, pp. 55-61. See more under Shelby's name at Appalachian Folktales in General Collections, Journals, Web Sites and Appalachian Folktale Collections K-Z.

The Frog King is another animal-groom or beast husband tale. "A Bunch of Laurel Blooms for a Present" (described on "The Frog King" page) begins like "Whitebear Whittington" or "Beauty and the Beast," but the heroine saves her father by going to live with a witch, who makes her stay with a frog (enchanted man). "The Louse Skin" (also on that page) contains a choice about whether the husband will be a frog by day or night, and an unusual twist when the storyteller reveals that the frog could transform himself without testing the wife's devotion by making her pitch him into hot water.

Top of Page

quilt squareCompare "Whitebear Whittington" with Tales from Other Regions:

"Whitebear of Whittington." In Vance Randolph, ed. Who Blowed Up the Church? and Other Ozark Folk Tales. Columbia University Press, 1952. The youngest daughter in this tale marries a man who "always wore a long white coat made of bearskin, so the folks called him White-Bear Whittington." "East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon" from AsbjÝrnsen's Popular Tales from the Norse, translated by G. W. Dasent and adapted in many versions. Full text reprinted online with revised translation by D. L. Ashliman. "East of the Sun and West of the Moon." Annotated text (Andrew Lang's version based on AsbjÝrnsen and MŲe) with background, illustrations and links to many related tales and literature, at Sur La Lune Fairy Tales by Heidi Anne Heiner. "Beauty and the Beast" (from Madame de Villeneuve and Lang) also has a section in this excellent site.

"Black Bull of Norroway" is an English variant of this tale with a bull instead of a bear as the animal groom. Illustration at left by John Batton from Joseph Jacobs' More English Fairy Tales (1894). Reprinted at at Sur La Lune Fairy Tales by Heidi Anne Heiner. The third daughter of a woman in Norroway goes off voluntarily like her two sisters to seek her fortune, but she is "next to distracted with grief and terror" when it's a black bull, not a carriage, that takes her from the home of an "old witch washerwife." She and the bull later lose each other during their adventures because he tells her to "move neither hand nor foot" while waiting for him, but she crosses her feet and he can't find her after he defeats the Old One. She has to serve a smith for seven years to get iron shoes to climb over a glassy hill, then wash blood out of a shirt and use magic objects to overcome her opponents and reclaim her husband. The knight has the old washerwife and her daughter burned for trying to keep him themselves. Another variant from Scotland is called "The Red Bull of Norroway."

"The Brown Bear of Norway." In Andrew Lang. The Lilac Fairy Book, 1910. Reprinted at Lang, who says in the Preface that his wife translated and adapted this and other tales, identifies the source as West Highland Tales and Sur La Lune Fairy Tales identifies it as Scottish. The youngest king's daughter in this Irish tale wants to marry no one except the Brown Bear of Norway, with whom she fell in love when her nurse told her of an enchanted prince. She is magically transported to his castle in a dream, not compelled to go with him because of money or threats. As in the Appalachian "Whitebear Whittington," the bear tells her right away that he is enchanted and must have a wife who endures trials faithfully for five years to break the spell.

"Beauty and the Beast"—different versions in many books and films. Some variants of tale type 425C are reprinted in D. L. Ashliman's Beauty and the Beast, including "The Bear Prince" from Switzerland. Many novels and other works based on "Beauty and the Beast" are listed at Sur La Lune Fairy Tales.

Hague, Kathleen and Michael. East of the Sun and West of the Moon. New York: Voyager/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. Picture book.

Lynch, P. J. East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick, 1991. Introduction by Naomi Lewis. Dramatic watercolor illustrations by an Irish artist. The heroine has long, loose red curls (see cover at right).

Mayer, Mercer. East of the Sun & West of the Moon. New York: Aladdin/Macmillan, 1980. Picture book.

Willard, Nancy. East of the Sun & West of the Moon. Illus. Barry Moser. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1989. A poetic play adaptation with realistic paintings by Moser. The Winds are three women and their brother North Wind, who function as a chorus from the beginning.

Animal Brides and Animal Bridegrooms: Tales Told by North American Indians, edited by D. L. Ashliman, gives the texts of tales such as "The Bear Who Married a Woman."

"The Girl Who Married a Bear," a Native American legend retold by a contributor to Animal Myths and Legends. Peesunt, a vain Chief's daughter, has no fear of or respect for animals in the woods. She follows a man in a bearskin, finds herself trapped in a bear village married to a kind bear, has 2 children that are half bear and half man, and eventually turns into a bear herself although her brothers find her and she returns to the human world until she and her sons become bears in the woods. Her husband instructs her in how her brothers should kill him and treat his body, teaching Peesunt's people how to respect bears they kill.

"The Farmer's Youngest Daughter." Women in Celtic Myth, edited by Moyra Caldecott. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1988, 1992. pp. 199-206. From Campbell's Popular Tales of the West Highlands. The youngest of three daughters in this tale agrees to marry a talking dog that helps a farmer find his lost cattle. The dog becomes a handsome man when they go to his large house, and when she wants to visit her family, he tells her to be back before her child is born. Her child is born suddenly at the home of her father, so her husband comes to her while strange music puts everyone to sleep, and he takes the infant. Almost the same thing happens twice again yet she doesn't explain to her family or discuss it with her husband. The third time she explains to her father when he threatens to kill her for not telling, and her husband's silver-white mare does not come to take her home as before when she signals by shaking the bridle. She walks home to find her house empty so she walks on to find her husband. An old spinner who gives her shelter says he's gone to marry the daughter of the King of the Skies. This woman and her two sisters give her magic scissors, needle, and thread. At the King of the Skies' palace she seeks work and exchanges her magic objects for nights in the princess' bed. Although her husband is given a sleeping potion, their son sleeping nearby hears his mother talking all night and tells his father, so the man pretends to take the sleeping potion the third night and makes love to his wife. They return home and plant their crops. Commentary by Caldecott observes that the dog is a trivialized version of the mythic "great black supernatural beast that guards the way to the Other World" (p. 204). She also notes that the woman is in the tradition of the heroine of Celtic lore who became Cordelia in Shakespeare's King Lear, never giving up until she's reunited with her loved one; in this tale he "is at once her husband on a physical level, the guardian of the way in an Other Worldly sense, and the object of her spiritual quest" (p. 204). Taboos, forgiveness, and consequences are involved when she goes too far back into the material world and reveals too much, of her own free will. The man's mother and the three helpers on the road are aspects of the mother goddess and women's intuition who encourage her on her way, wash her, feed her, and give her rest. It is interesting that the child who combines the two of them helps the mother free herself and her husband.

quilt square Hispanic Connection:

Hayes, Joe. Pájaro Verde = the Green Bird. Illus. Antonio Castro. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press, 2002. Bilingual picture book retelling a northern New Mexico tale with medieval Spanish roots. "Although her mother and sisters make fun of her decision to marry a green bird, to Mirabel he is a prince and so when her family's jealousy endangers him, she sets out to save his life and their love." Mirabel is the two-eyed sister and each of her eight sisters has a different number of eyes, from nine down to the youngest with one eye. The green bird appears to Mirabel at night as a man, but when one of her sisters sees him and her mother injures the bird with glass on the windowsill, Mirabel has to heal his wounds with blood from other little birds and then make him recognize her before he marries another princess. The sun, moon and wind help Mirabel find her husband (similar to "East of the Sun, West of the Moon"). Hayes, a New Mexico storyteller and author, includes notes on sources and children's responses to this tale with "dream-like" images. (See Old One-Eye - and - Characters with One, Two, and Three Eyes and for the motif of sisters with different numbers of eyes spying on the hero/ines.)

"The Greenish Bird." In Angela Carter, ed.  Strange Things Sometimes Still Happen: Fairy Tales from Around the World. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1993, pp. 37-42. This is an interesting Mexican tale in which the heroine falls in love with a Greenish Bird, seeing that he is a man. When her jealous sisters injure him, Luisa sets out on a quest to find him. The sisters are orphans and in this tale it not through fault of the parents or the heroine that the hero must be rescued. Luisa gets help from the dangerous Sun and Moon and Wind, and their mothers. An eagle takes her to the palace where the Greenish Bird, now a leprous human, is about to marry another. Luisa gets work as a servant and the prince demands to marry her in the end, recognizing her partly through a cup of chocolate she prepares for him.

"Pájaro verde." In Luis Coloma. Ratoncito Pérez Y Otros Cuentos Para Niños. Bilbao: Mensajero, 2003. Spanish stories for children by a 19th-century writer.

Cata, Regina. "'The Green Bird': A Fable of Mexico." As told to Maurine Grammer. Western Folklore, vol. 16, no. 3, July 1957, pp. 184-188. A Spanish American folktale told by a woman from Juan Pueblo, New Mexico. "Her father's family came from Central America by way of Mexico" (p. 184). A green bird who turns out to be the enchanted prince helps Maria Garcia accomplish difficult tasks required by her witch stepmother, so she promises to marry him. Then she goes to the palace and seeks work (like Catskins), but the queen is jealous of her and she is assigned more impossible tasks, which ultimately help the prince return to human form and marry her. In one episode she follows his instructions to go to the house of a witch to retrieve his clothing, and when she is kind to creatures and things there, they refuse to help the witch attack Maria Garcia. The moral stated early on by her father and at the end of the tale is about finding both "sips of honey" and "tastes of bitterness" in marriage, which happens after Maria Garcia convinces her father to marry the neighbor who is her caretaker and a witch.

Top of page   |   Last update: 11/19/19   |  Links checked 4/29/15

Return to AppLit Folktale Index

Complete List of AppLit Pages on Folklore

Links to Online Texts

AppLit Home

Site Index