(8/1/01 12:57:40 am)
| Two topics at once|
Hello, I wonder if anybody can help me out with two things.
1. Can anybody point me in the direction of a written version of "The Drowned Sailor" story? I'm not sure if it comes under the category of fairy story, Devon folklore or ghost story, but I was told it as a fairy story when I was a child.
The plot is roughly that a sailor heads off to sea leaving his fiancee at home; he's away for seven years and she hears he's drowned, so she marries another man; but on her wedding day the drowned sailor comes back from the sea to claim his bride.
The only thing I can find on the net is an old ballad called "The Drowned Lover", but it is really a variation on the theme.
I imagine there are also similar stories of mermaid brides etc in the same vein.
2. The second thing is that I'm wondering whether folktales like this are harking back to ideas of pagan nature gods? The drowned sailor isn't a merman but he is certainly "elemental" if you see what I mean. This leads me to wondering if anyone knows of other stories that might refer to old beliefs; perhaps stories involving the Green Man, Herne the Hunter etc?
(8/2/01 12:14:06 am)
| Devon sailor legend
Banjamin, I live in Devon and talk to people here about folklore
a lot, but I haven't yet come across this tale. On the other hand,
I'm on Dartmoor, not on the coast, so I haven't heard as many sea
stories as wood and moor stories. I'll ask around, and if anyone
in my neck of the woods knows the tale, I'll let you know. There's
a short article on Devon folklore on the Brian Froud web site www.worldoffroud.com/interview3.html,
but I'm afraid it doesn't have any sea legends.
I personally think a lot of tales are rooted in pagan beliefs, some
of which are still extant today. One still finds old people in Devon
(and not so old people, like Brian Froud) who believe in the fairy
faith and for whom such tales aren't just children's stories. My
92-year-old neighbor, for instance, was very pleased when I planted
a rowan tree in my yard, because it would attract fairies and keep
evil spirits at bay. She was quite serious when she said this, although
she'd never struck me as a particularly fanciful person before.When
I asked if she believed in fairies, she looked down her nose at
me and said, "Why of course, dahhhling."
(8/2/01 12:52:32 am)
| Re: Devon Sailor legend|
Thanks for pointing me in the direction of the article, it is a good summary; the Wisht hounds and such were just the sort of stories I had in mind when I was thinking about the paganism/folktale crossover. I'd always understood that the devil drove the pack of hounds, and to find the name Dewar was interesting; obviously he'd been branded as "the devil" as a matter of course by the time I got to hear about him.
I know what you mean about people not thinking twice about superstitions & "the other place" in Devon tho'; I've asked my grandparents about legends and the pixies and such countless times but they are such commonplaces (to them) that they don't think I'm being serious!
As to the sailor story, I heard it growing up in Plymouth & it seemed to be quite current, tho' I suppose being a port with people coming and going it may well have been imported from elsewhere.
(8/2/01 10:31:58 am)
| Unquiet graves|
I'm wondering if its possible that your story falls into the same catagory as the ballads of "unquiet graves" which are usually young men who leave behind true loves and don't return. In some versions, the ghost appears after seven years and begs the young woman to let him go, usually by forgiving the plighted troth of marriage. There is a lovely version called Margaret and Young William, where he returns seven years later (from Scotland) as a ghost and asks Magaret to release him from the marriage vow. She refuses initially but asks him to go through the motions of marrying her (a test of the poor ghost's fidelity I suppose) and only after they have gone from her father's hall, to the church, and engaged in a mock wedding does she give him back "the plighted troth" so that "in heaven may his soul find rest." There's also another version called "Bay of Biscay-O" where the lover returns for one more night, slipping away a dawn.
I think those stories and ballads have much to do with being stuck in place, stuck in a rite of passage that can't move forward. Whether it's the bride to be refusing to give up her claim on the ghost, or the ghost refusing to accept that death has occured.
There are of course the versions of the returning sailor--quite alive, sometimes recognized sometimes not by the young woman. (All those John Riley's for instance.)
But your version does have unique aspects...is the bride carried off to death (ala persephone?) by the sailor's ghost?
(8/4/01 5:28:40 pm)
| fairy faith|
Since you live, at least part-time, there among 'believers', have you formed an opinion yourself about what you think regarding the 'fairy faith'?
(If this is too personal a question, I apologize. :-)
(8/5/01 12:10:41 am)
| Re: fairy faith|
Tara: Well, I've never made any bones about being an animist when it comes to matters of faith, but I'm not sure I want to be more specific than that on a public discussion board. If you make it to Wiscon in the spring (the annual "feminist speculative fiction" convention in Madison, Wisconsin, where Midori and I are hoping folks from this board will gather), then come have a glass of wine with me at the bar, and I'll answer your question. <g>
Edited by: Terri at: 8/5/01 12:11:53 am
(8/6/01 12:43:32 am)
| Fetched Off|
I'm interested to hear that it is often the ghost of the man who comes back asking to be released from a vow of love. After all, a scrupulous heroine who had made such a commitment to her sweetheart, since died, may well want to be released herself from a vow in order to marry someone else. I suppose the drowned sailor story turns on the premise that the bride doesn't consider her previous engagement when she tries to marry.
I've heard two different endings to the story: the first is as you say, the heroine is fetched off into the sea by her drowned lover, where I suppose she drowns herself. The other ending has her die of fright at the altar straightaway. I daresay there could be a number of possible endings to it, which is why I'm interested in tracking down any written versions.
Thanks for your help.
(8/6/01 6:57:42 pm)
| Wiscon or elsewhere...|
Don't know that Wisconson is a likely travel-destination for me this year, but if you get closer to Seattle, I'd be happy to meet you anywhere. :-)
I bought an autographed copy of your "Midsummer Night's Faery Tale" (both you and Wendy Froud signed it) from Third Place Books not far from my home - the same place where Brian Froud and Jessica MacBeth came for their signing. (Did you actually come here? Or are they just bearing-signed-books?). Anyhow - any plans for a tour with your next Sneezle book? (Or any other book for that matter?)