Monday, June 26, 2017

Trickster slays a dragon (Following folktales around the world 31. - Saint Lucia)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Folk-lore of the Antilles, French and English I.
Elsie Clews Parsons - Gladys A. Reichard
American Folk-lore Society, 1933.

For those small Caribbean countries where I could not find an individual book of folktales, I'll be reading chapters from this collection. Folk-lore of the Antilles is a three-volume opus that contains hundreds of folktales in French and English, organized by island.
Fir Saint Lucia, the book lists 34 tales - 10 of them in English, luckily (for me). The French texts have been written down phonetically in dialect, and my French is not that excellent... The stories were collected from fifteen different storytellers, many women among them.


There was a fascinating (and very dark) version for the Marrying the Devil tale in this books. A girl married the guy knowing that he was the devil (she was too much in love to care, she even hid the fact from his friends and brother), and then his brother ended up having to rescue her from her husband. I liked the dark details in this story. I knew it from Louisiana as Marie Jolie, but this rendition was definitely heavier on the horror.
I also liked the trickster tale where, between two times tricking Tiger, Brer Rabbit even had time to kill a dragon with nothing else but a small knife... I kinda like the idea of Trickster as the Dragon-slayer. Similarly entertaining was the anecdote about a priest who loved hot sauce, and people believed he had a sample off hellfire with him.


We are still in classic trickster territory. There was a tar baby tale, swapped executions (more than one, actually), and "trickster seeks blessing" (this time, Rabbit had to steal the golden tooth of a pregnant female gorilla to get into God's favors). There were also classic tale types like "mother killed me, father ate me" (I'm starting to wonder why the heck this type is so popular around the world), and Cricket (in which a poor man pretends to be a fortune-teller, even though he is simply very lucky). I was especially happy to find a version of the One-legged turkey - a story my grandfather used to tell me when I was little, and it can also be found in the Decameron. Some tales travel far.

Where to next?


  1. Michael Belgrader argued in his dissertation that Mother Slew me, Father Ate Me type tales originated as pourquoi tales meant to explain the origin of certain birds, especially those who sound kinda sad when singing or those whose cry is used in divination (for example the cuckooo, who, depending on how often iz cuckoos is meant to bring either good or bad luck). That may account for the popularity of the tale. Why THAT story in particular is used for that purpose, I don't know. But folklore seems to have a twisted fascination for cannibalism.

    I believe the Brave Little Tailor kills a dragon in some versions, doesn't he? If anything I wonder why tricksters don't kill dragons more often, they kill pretty much anything else from animals to ogres to monsters ;)

  2. Classic trickster territory... fascinating phrase.

    Always love learning of the stories you share! Like this one about the girl who married the Devil and even hid it from his brother. How did the brother not know?

    Joy @ The Joyous Living

  3. Very interesting. It's funny how so many cultures have dragon stories.