Friday, March 15, 2013

Gold-tree and Silver-tree: and Irish Snow White

Some Irish fairy tales for this weekend, to coincide with St. Patrick's Day!

Once upon a time there was a king, who lived with his wife, Silver-tree, and daughter, Gold-tree. Silver-tree went to a glen where there was a trout in a well. She asked the trout, "an not I the most beautiful queen in the world?"

"Oh indeed you are not."
"Who then?"
"Why, Gold-tree, your daughter."

The Queen fell ill. The King asked what he could do to cure her, and the Queen said the only thing that could heal her was the heart and liver of her daughter, silver-tree. It happened that a prince of another kingdom had asked for Gold-tree's hand in marriage, so the King sent her off to be married, and had his lads cook the heart and liver of a goat for his wife, which she ate, believing them to be her daughter's.

A year later Silver-tree went back to the glen, and asked the trout the same question as before. He revealed to her that Gold-tree was still living in another kingdom.

The Queen demanded that she go and be allowed to see  her daughter. She herself steered the helm of the ship that took them to Gold-tree's kingdom. Gold-tree did not want to see her mother, for she knew she wanted to kill her. So she had herself locked into a room. When Silver-tree begged to see her, Gold-tree said that she was locked in and could not get out.

Silver-tree said, "Will you not put out your little finger through the keyhole, so that your own mother may give a kiss to it?"

Gold-tree did, and Silver-tree put a poisoned stab in it, and she fell down dead.

The prince was grieved when he found his wife dead, but unwilling to bury her because she was still so beautiful, he kept her in a room of his house, and he alone had the key to the room.

Over time he remarried, and one day he forgot to take with him the key to the room, and his second wife found Gold-tree, the most beautiful woman she ever saw. She tried to wake her, and then noticed the poisoned stab and pulled it out. Gold-tree rose alive, as beautiful as she was before.

That night the second wife was eager to tell her husband what she had discovered. The Prince was overjoyed. The second wife said, "Since she is the first one you had it is better for you to stick to her, and I will go away."

The prince insisted that she stay, and both be his wives.

The next year, Silver-tree again went to the trout in the glen and found out Gold-tree was still alive. She had the ship made ready to go to Gold-tree's kingdom. Gold-tree was afraid when she saw the ship, but the second wife told her not to be afraid, for they would meet her together.

Silver-tree offered Gold-tree a drink. The second wife told Silver-tree it was a custom in their country that whoever offered a drink must first take a sip of it themselves. As Silver-tree was taking a sip, the second wife pushed the rest of it into her mouth, and Silver-tree fell down dead. They buried her corpse, and the prince and his two wives lived happily ever after.

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I like this version of Snow White, especially the fact that the father and heroine are not as stupid as in the Grimm's. Although I hate the polygamy aspect and don't believe there's ever a situation where that would actually work out well, in a way it's refreshing to read about two women who should be rivals who forge a friendship. How ironic that in fairy tales, mothers and daugthers can never get along without trying to kill each other, but two wives of the same husband can.


The full tale is found in Surlalune's Sleeping Beauties book-I've summarized it here.

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