Saturday, 14 May 2016

The Boy with the Mouse and the Flea

I have also posted this tale to another blog: Norwegian Erotic Folktales, which is where I will be posting the rest of the short collection.

It would be naive to imagine that folklore collectors only heard socially acceptable tales on their collection tours. In fact, people have been telling each other dirty stories for as long as we can tell, and many of these stories were recorded alongside the beloved tales we and our children all know.

The tale below is of a quality that, on account of its language and subject matter, does not become #FolkloreThursday: two small animals cause the prince to shit himself, and thus lose the hand of the princess. Or perhaps it is the tale of how the boy wins the princess by shrewd application of his shit-inducing pets.

In any case, it is a subversive tale in a number of ways. First, it breaches the rule of threes: the boy has 300 dollars, but spends only 200; and there are only two animals, rather than three. (They do visit their mischief on the prince three nights in a row, however.) Secondly, the princess is sexually active before marriage; in fact, it appears that she accepts or rejects her suitors based on their performance in bed. She is generous, too: despite the prince shitting himself two nights in a row, she is willing to give him a third chance. Lastly, the tale is subversive due to falling somewhat outside the Aarne-Thompson-Uther system. Nominally, it is classified as “ATU559: The Princess’ Laugh;” however, I cannot imagine the princess laughing much whilst lying in a beshitten bed, let alone doing so three nights in a row.

The Boy with the Mouse and the Flea

There was once a princess who was very particular in her choice of suitor; but a farmer’s boy thought: I’ll catch the princess, I will. So he set off, but he took with him 300 dollars that he had inherited from his mother. When he had done some distance, he met a man carrying a knapsack.

“What do you have in your knapsack?” said the boy.

“I have something strange in there,” said the man.

“What is it?” asked the boy.

“It’s a mouse that can do anything you want,” answered the man.

“What will you have in exchange for it?” said the boy.

“A hundred,” said the man.

“I’ll give you that,” said the boy; and they traded.

When the boy had gone some distance more, he met a man with a knapsack on his back.

“What do you have in your knapsack?” asked the boy.

“I have something strange in there,” the man answered.

“What is it, then?” said the boy.

“A flea that can do anything you want,” said the man.

“What will you have in exchange for it?” asked the boy.

“A hundred,” answered the man.

“I’ll give you that,” said the boy; and they traded.

So the boy came to the king’s farm, and asked for lodging, and he was allowed to stay in the domestic quarters. In the evening, the princess came to the domestic quarters and ordered one of the domestics to run an errand for her. The boy told the flea to pull his boots off him. The flea jumped to it, but couldn’t manage to pull the boots off.

“I’ll help you, I will,” said the mouse, and grabbed hold of the toe; and the boot came off. The princess stood and laughed at all this.

“You shouldn’t laugh,” said the boy, “for these will help me win you for my wife.”

A very rich and handsome prince had come to the king’s farm, and he would present his suit before the princess. She was going to sleep with the prince that night, but when they had retired, the boy instructed the flea to jump into the prince and princess’s bed, and creep into the prince. Then she was to behave herself so badly that the prince shit himself. The flea did so.

In the morning, fourteen doctors were called to look after the prince in his terrible sickness.

The next night, the princess was again to lie with the prince, so the boy instructed the flea to jump into the prince and behave herself even more badly than before. The flea did so, and in the morning, the prince was so ill that it was terrible. And twenty-four doctors were sent for, from far and wide.

The third night, too, the princess should lie with the prince. This time, however, the prince had been more careful. He had made himself some leather trousers, and he had put an ash stopper in his backside. When they had retired, the boy told the flea to get into the prince and behave herself even more badly than she had so far. The flea went, but when she came to the prince, she couldn’t get into the leather trousers. So she had to return and tell that she couldn’t get in.

“I’ll go with you,” said the mouse; and they went to the bed. The mouse gnawed a hole in the trousers, but the stopper was still in the way.

“I’m sure I can manage that,” said the mouse, “but you must be quick when the stopper comes out,” she said. And then she ran up and tickled the prince on his nose, so that he sneezed; and the stopper flew out, and the flea jumped in. And the flea almost killed the prince.

In the morning, the princess said that she could not have the prince; she would rather have the boy in the domestic quarters. So the prince was thrown out in the mud, and the boy won the princess. And they celebrated well and long.

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