One of the great things on Storytell is the ability to ask a question and get replies from members ranging from beginner through professional. One of our professionals, Richard Martin in Germany asked:
Recent events have made me look for folk tales of rulers who become sufficiently divorced from the reality perceived by others that they end up doing terrible things to their land - perhaps even the lands of others. So far I have only thought of the Ovid tale of King Erysichthon whose insatiable greed led him to prostitute his daughter and eventually to consume himself.
O Founts of Wisdom, which tales can you suggest?
Rachel Hedman replied:
I appreciate that, but it is the tragic story of the person heading for doom which I find interesting. Sometimes we need to look at such things.
I tend to resonate with Richard, here. Using folktales to explore
possible outcomes - good or bad - can provoke conversation and
thought, in my world anyway :) Admittedly, I do love a trickster
and a good ending, though, so Richard, some thoughts below which
might only partially help. Also, a few ideas that are based in
history, but have a somewhat mythical quality about them - again,
take what you find useful and ignore the rest.
The one that popped into my head was the story of the "battle in sign language" - the Spanish inquisitor, wanting to evict the Jews, the "debate" etc. I know you know this story. From the perspective of today, perhaps there is the feeling of the inquisitor heading for doom.
The other is about the witch prickers - here is one historical example of a woman in the role (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-20315106), but a bit of Googling might be of interest.
I wonder if Loki and his involvement in the death of Baldur might be interesting - as a reader or listener, we know it's going to go badly on every level, and it does.
Thinking of the Greeks, I think you might also want to look to
Minos in Crete - paying to Poseidon for a sign of the god's
favour, then refusing to sacrifice it, resulting in the gods
(unfairly) visiting a punishment on him in the form of Pasiphae
falling in love with a bull, and so on. Again, as soon as you know
that Minos tries to trick Poseidon, well... Not a particularly
hopeful story, unless you follow it through to Minos' death at the
hands of the daughters of King Cocalus in Sicily, but perhaps
that's just me being a bit too interested in retribution!!
Going back a bit earlier, I think the whole story of Prometheus stealing fire, the gods creating the "girl with all the gifts" etc. also has seeds of doom.
Gengis Khan popped into my head, too, as I thought there were some doom-filled stories about him that were unproven, but I haven't been able to find anything.
The Ethiopian tale of the fire on the mountain - felt a bit ominous, although all works out in the end.Maybe the tale of King Midas - happy ending in the end, but there is that idea of "doom" at the outset.
*(Cassandra Wye)Hi Richard,
* (Marilyn McPhie) Here's a story that might fit the theme:
Long ago, lived a king named Reggis. In his kingdom, there was a carpenter, who made beautiful wooden chests. The king declared him as the royal carpenter. King Reggis served his country well. No one went hungry. The people under his rule were happy. One day, he overheard the cook saying, Ours is the best king we ever had! and the king silently agreed. The next day the king overheard the gardener talking to his assistant, King Reggis is amazing, he could do anything! and the king silently agreed. These thoughts filled the king's mind. He became displeased with anything ordinary. Each day he had to find another way to show that he was the best and he could do anything. He paced restlessly in the moonlight. The moon was so bright and silvery, the king wondered what it would be like to touch it. So he called his carpenter and said I wish to touch the moon. So, what is the fastest way to build a tall tower? The carpenter answered, If you stack up all the chests in the kingdom, that would make a tall tower. The king agreed and asked him to begin work. The carpenter knew this was not possible, but he had to do as the king ordered. He went to work. Every chest in the kingdom was brought to the garden and stacked up. The king's purple and gold one was first. Then all the others went on top. When all the chests were stacked, it was not high enough to reach the moon, so the king ordered the carpenter to make more chests. The carpenter used every scrap of wood left in the kingdom, and all the new chests were added. The king announced he would climb the tower that night and touch the moon. Everyone watched in wonder. When the king stretched up his hand as he stood on the last chest on top of the tower, the moon was still out of reach. So the king demanded that one more chest be sent up. But there are no more chests , the carpenter shouted up to the king. Then take one from the bottom and send it up! the king commanded. The carpenter knew the king's pride had finally made him blind to even the most obvious facts. There was nothing to be done but do as the king commanded. So the carpenter pulled out the purple and gold chest and then ran out of the garden. The tower toppled over with a huge crash, filling the garden with chests. When every chest had fallen, the carpenter was afraid to look for the king. But the king was thankfully not badly injured. The king returned to his royal duties with a very different attitude. One day he overheard the cook say to the gardener, Our good king is foolish, but he is no longer full of pride and the king silently and strongly agreed. Source: Adapted from a Caribbean folktale
This was in my files. Sadly, I apparently didn't record the source. If anyone else has it, please let me know.
There's also the Chinese legend of Wan Hu who decided in the 16th century to launch himself into space. Supposedly, he has a chair built and attached forty-seven rockets to it. When the fuses were lit, there was a huge explosion. When the smoke cleared, there was no evidence of Wan Hu or the chair.
* (Allison Galbraith)
The one where a king only has a bath once in a blue moon, and when he does his feet get dirty on the way out of the river.
So he makes ridiculous demands to have the land washed (flooded) and brushed (too dusty) and finally covered in an enormous quilt of patchwork leather (nothing can grow)
A wise soul puts him right by suggesting they cut the leather carpet neatly around the king’s feet, then tie it onto his feet with straps.
Hence the rest of the land can be freed of carpet, and the king’s feet are kept clean in the first pair of shoes ever made
I can’t remember where I first saw/heard this tale or where it originates – hopefully someone else can help with that!
* (Elinor Benjamin)
There is always the Wicked Prince
* (Rona Leventhal)
Probably not exactly what you want, but The Fisherman and His Wife has
some of the similar motifs and stories mentioned in this thread. Been
meaning to work on that one myself for quite a while!
* (Nicola-Jane le Breton)
* (Tim Jennings)
* (Olive Shaughnessy)
This are the stories l love to tell!
Like Hoa Ai (other spellings are available) - who is both a hero and a
I love telling them with teens and getting them to discuss the concept of
“hero” and ‘wise”
Why can’t we all be wise and unwise?
Such a better concept to live with rather than up to