Czechoslovak Fairy Tales, Parker Fillmore and Jan Matulka

Fairy tales interest me greatly.  They are alluring in their apparent simplicity and inherent power.  They are visceral, dark, violent, and often funny.  Within their confines, both terrible and magical things are possible.  Sometimes punishment is just, sometimes it is arbitrary.  Though the main character may be rewarded with good fortune in the end, they will not arrive there without suffering unheard of horrors first.

Amazon has many free kindle collections of folk and fairy tales organized by culture of origin.  Since I have some Czechoslovakian heritage, I decided that this particular collection would be a good place to jump in.  There are only fifteen stories in this collection, so it’s an easy read.  If you’re a fan of fairy tales in their purest form, where really crazy shit happens for no apparent reason and there’s rarely a moral or a point at the end, then you should enjoy this book.  It might not hold you rapt for hours at a time, but I enjoyed reading a story or two before bed in rotation with more in depth reading.  Did I mention it’s free?

Recurring themes in these stories include the virtue of hard work, the inability of royalty to accomplish anything without the special help of their subjects, and magical self-multiplying gold coins.

Of course, one of the most satisfying parts of reading fairy tales is seeing the wicked get their just deserts.  In this regard, these stories don’t disappoint.  In one tale, the devil himself comes up to earth to drag a wicked mother and daughter screaming into hell, but my favorite grisly end of a villain appears in the tale called, “Rattle-Rattle-Rattle and Chink-Chink-Chink.”

In the story, we get the familiar motif of a beggar who, after being treated well or poorly, is revealed to be a powerful being.  Usually, the kindly host or hostess is rewarded with riches or salvation, while those who treated the stranger poorly are left to live in squalor.

The inhospitable cottage dweller, Dorla, is not so lucky in this tale:

Then Dorla was very frightened and she hid in the corner.  Long Beard broke open the door and he caught Dorla and he shook her out of her skin.  It served her right, too, for she was a wicked, spiteful girl and she had never been kind to anybody in her life.

Long Beard left her bones in a heap on the floor, and he hung her skin on the nail at the back of the door.  Then he put her grinning skull in the window.

I’d love to see the Disney version.


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