2.Many children: In the days before more reliable birth control, birth rates in families were higher. Infant mortality was also higher. If many children survived, the ability for a poor family to provide for all of the needs of the househould would be significantly lessened. Before the advent of more efficient welfare systems, some poor families would use different methods to feed everyone, including child labor, child abandonment, and selling children, including into slavery. Some of these issues are addressed by fairy tales. Return to place in story.
3.Food or clothing: Food, clothing, and shelter are the basic needs for survival. These are the needs children rely upon their parents to provide so they can reach adulthood and fend for themselves. Another tale in which parents struggle to provide for their children's basic needs is Hansel and Gretel. Return to place in story.
4.Youngest daughter: Fairy tales often contain multiple siblings in which the youngest becomes the protagonist. Traditional folklore is primarily interested in only children or youngest siblings. Either the youngest is the most beautiful and worthy--often female protagonists--or the youngest is stupid and lucky--often male protagonists. In either scenario, the youngest achieves good fortune through an adventure and/or magical helper. "It is the modest, the humble, and often the dispossessed who are elevated to noble rank" (Tatar, 2002, 235).
The youngest is the least experienced and perhaps most protected of the children in a family. The youngest is also the child least likely to receive a financial inheritance in the days when the eldest son received the bulk of a father's estate. The youngest would consequently find it necessary to know how to fend for themselves in the world by marrying well or choosing a career. Return to place in story.
5.So beautiful that there were no bounds to her beauty: In this tale, the daughter's beauty makes her desirable to a mysterious stranger, an animal bridegroom. This beauty is not a complete blessing for the daughter. While she can give herself to the animal bridegroom and thus relieve her family's financial burdens, she is essentially forced into an arranged wedding with a stranger on account of her beauty. Her beauty is a blessing for her family and somewhat of a curse for herself, at least at this point in the story.
In Cupid and Psyche, Venus is jealous of Psyche's beauty and tries to have her married to the ugliest creature, but her son Cupid falls in love with Psyche and marries her instead. Return to place in story.
6.Thursday evening: Fairy tales do not usually provide detailed settings of time, such as the day of the week and season, like the one provided in this tale.
Thursday is named after the Norse god of thunder and the sky, Thor. Thor, the son of Odin, is one of the most popular and powerful gods in Norse mythology. "The Norse believed that during a thunderstorm, Thor rode through the heavens on his chariot pulled by the goats Tanngrisni ("gap-tooth") and Tanngnost ("tooth grinder"). Lightning flashed whenever he threw his hammer Mjollnir." He was the "the protector of both gods and humans against the forces of evil" (Lindemans, Pantheon.org). Return to place in story.
7.Autumn: Once again, fairy tales do not usually provide detailed settings of time, such as the day of the week and season, like the one provided in this tale.
Autumn is "the third season of the year, or the season between summer and winter, often called ``the fall.'' Astronomically, it begins in the northern temperate zone at the autumnal equinox, about September 23, and ends at the winter solstice, about December 23; but in popular language, autumn, in America, comprises September, October, and November" (Webster's 1990). Return to place in story.
8. Terribly dark, and raining so heavily and blowing so hard: In other words, it was a dark and stormy night, the now cliched setting for a story. Return to place in story.
9.Three times: The number and/or pattern of three often appears in fairy tales to provide rhythm and suspense. The pattern adds drama and suspense while making the story easy to remember and follow. The third event often signals a change and/or ending for the listener/reader.
The reasons and theories behind three's popularity are numerous and diverse. The number has been considered powerful across history in different cultures and religions, but not all of them. Christians have the Trinity, the Chinese have the Great Triad (man, heaven, earth), and the Buddhists have the Triple Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, Sanga). The Greeks had the Three Fates. Pythagoras considered three to be the perfect number because it represented everything: the beginning, middle, and end. Some cultures have different powerful numbers, often favoring seven, four and twelve. Return to place in story.
11.A great big white bear: The bear is often portrayed as a polar bear in illustrations for the tale although he is not described as such beyond his white fur. The bear is likely a polar bear since they are native to the Arctic Circle, including Norway where this tale is found.
With winter approaching in the tale, it is important to note that polar bears do not hibernate. According to the World Wildlife Federation, "polar bears are clearly at the top of the food chain, and they've been known to kill and eat seals, walrus and even beluga whales. Standing on its hind legs, a male polar bear can look an elephant straight in the eye. The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is the largest terrestrial carnivore. Adult males can measure more than nine feet in length and weigh between 770 to 1,430 pounds" (WWF.org). You read more about Polar Bears on the WWF's Polar Bear Page.
A bear represents bravery, strength, self-restraint, an evil influence, a problem or difficulty, an obstacle, violence, clumsiness, and solitary life (Olderr 1986). Return to place in story.
12. "Good-evening to you," said the White Bear: The bear is the first fantasical or magical element to appear in the story. Many scholars do not consider a tale to be a fairy tale unless it has magical elements in it. A talking bear qualifies this story to be a fairy tale. Return to place in story.
13.Will you give me your youngest daughter?: Here we have one of the first motifs which make this tale very similar to Beauty and the Beast. A beast asks for the youngest, beautiful daughter. The implication is that he wants to marry her, although a wedding ceremony is usually not acknowledged or detailed until the end of the tale once the enchantment has been broken. Return to place in story.
14.I must first ask my daughter about this: In a feminist analysis of the tale, it is surprising that the father asks the daughter if she will go with the bear. In times past, parents had the right to arrange a daughter's marriage without her consent, usually for financial gain either for themselves, their daughter, or both. In fairy tales, it is necessary for the heroine to willingly go to live with the animal bridegroom, thus showing her willingness to sacrifice her desires for her family, a sign of virtue. In Beauty and the Beast, the beast stipulates that Beauty must come to live with him willingly. Return to place in story.
15.She said no: In some inaccurate translations, the father refuses the offer first and then the daughter herself decides to go in order to benefit the family without any pressure. Return to place in story.
16.Talked so much to her about the wealth: According to Maria Tatar, "the father's callous alacrity to marry his daughter to a monster reveals the degree to which marriage is connected to economic opportunity in many of the old tales. But it is also the event that sets in motion a plot with a happily-ever-after ending" (Tatar 2002, 188).
In From the Beast to the Blonde, Marina Warner theorizes that many fairy tales were created to comfort daughters who faced arranged marriages and leaving their homes to live in the unknown household of their in-laws. While the daughter is reluctant to leave, she is ultimately rewarded with a happy marriage through her honor of her parents and the initial sacrifice of her desires. Return to place in story.
17.Washed and mended all her rags, made herself as smart as she could: Most brides would have a dowry of clothing and household items, including linens, to take with them. That the daughter only has rags--not even described as clothing--shows her family's poverty and desperation. The daughter's pride and strength is shown in her personal preparation and care of her few meagre possessions. Return to place in story.
18. Came to fetch her: Here the animal bridegroom carries the daughter away from her home to a location unknown by her family. In Beauty and the Beast, Beauty goes to the Beast's castle with her father. In that tale, unlike this one, there is some comfort that the father knows where she is. Return to place in story.
20.Are you afraid?: Once she has made her decision, the heroine faces her betrothed and her future without fear. She is asked several times throughout the tale if she is afraid, but she never is. Return to place in story.
21.Keep tight hold of my fur, and then there is no danger: The daughter is encouraged to literally cling to her spouse who will protect her in her journey away from her childhood and into adulthood. Return to place in story.
22. Far, far away: Throughout the story, the heroine travels great distances. She travels a great distance, both in her odyssey to her future home and in her quest for love. In Cupid and Psyche, Psyche is first carried to Cupid's palace by Zephyrus, the wind. Later in this tale, the four winds will provide the heroine with transportation on her quest. Return to place in story.
23.Mountain: The difference in landscape in Scandinavian tales such as this one from the landscapes found in the Grimms' tales reflects the geographical difference between the two countries. In this tale we have mountains, hills and rivers while in the Grimms' tales we have forests and wooded areas. Both have imposing auras of mystery and power with their natural grandeur. Return to place in story.
24.A castle: The enchanted animal bridegroom lives in a castle, similar to the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. Maria Tatar states: "That the castle is in a mountain suggests a kinship between this story and tales about men trapped in wilderness caves and mountain caverns. Kingdoms are often concealed in mountains in myths and folktales. Venus was said to lure her suitors into a palace hidden in a mountain, and Peer Gynt spends time in the hall of the mountain king" (Tatar 2002, 188). Return to place in story.
25.Brilliantly lighted rooms which shone with gold and silver: Bright light, gold, silver, and food shows the opulence and wealth of the white bear's home. Lighting was meager and expensive before the harnessing of electricity for power. Only the wealthy could afford bright lighting, which still might be magically enhanced, as well as gold and silver, precious metals limited to households of the higher classes.
Gold represents virtue, intelligence, superiority, heaven, worldly wealth, idolatry, revealed truth, marriage, and fruitfulness (Olderr 1986). Return to place in story.
26.Ring this bell, and what she wanted would appear: The magical castle, with its invisible servants, appears in Cupid and Psyche as well as Beauty and the Beast. Psyche receives the omnipresent service since she is in the home of a god, Cupid, with the divine powers associated with a mythological god. The other heroines live in a home of enchantment where every physical desire is met. They have moved from poverty to complete luxury. Supposedly they should be content and feel no more want, but they also know there is more to life than physical luxury. Return to place in story.
27.A bed: In some inaccurate translations of the tale, there are two beds in the room, one for the woman and one for her mysterious visitor. Since no marriage ceremony has been described, two beds were more acceptable by a larger audience, especially during Victorian times and the first half of the 20th century in which married couples on television slept in separate beds. Cupid and Psyche are described as married at this point in the story, while this tale is less exact on this point. Return to place in story.
28.Put out the light a man came and lay down beside her: Note that the heroine is not asked to sleep with a beast, but a man. While animal bridegroom stories are abundant around the world, the maiden often finds herself sleeping with a human male in her marriage bed.
Many analysts believe animal bridegroom tales are intended to alleviate a maiden's fears of the marriage bed. While her husband may appear to be a beast before their marriage, she will learn that he is simply a caring man once the marriage is consummated. Return to place in story.
29.Cast off the form of a beast: Shapeshifting is a common motif in folklore and found in almost every culture around the world, often attributed to gods and mythical creatures, but sometimes practiced by humans. The change can either be voluntary or imposed through enchantment, as it is here. The most common types of shapeshifting for humans usually involves changing into a bear or wolf, especially for men. Shapeshifting is often instigated by the rising or setting of the sun or moon. Return to place in story.
30.Never saw him: The only stipulation for this heroine (and Psyche, her counterpart) to retain all of her new wealth and luxury is that she cannot look upon her spouse. This tale, like Bluebeard, has often been interpreted as a warning against feminine curiosity. Return to place in story.
31.She did so wish to go home to her father and mother and brothers and sisters: Homesickness for family is usually the catalyst for the next events in the story. The heroine's inability to be happy in her new home and let go of her old one causes the lovers to be separated and nearly causes the destruction of her lover. Return to place in story.
32.Promise me never to talk with your mother alone: Promises, while important today, were more powerful in the past when honor was a great motivator. Also, before the time of literacy among the masses and written contracts, verbal promises were given greater weight. A promise was a contract and actionable by law if broken. Folklore emphasizes the importance of a promise by meting punishment upon those who do not keep their promises. Return to place in story.
33.You will bring great misery on both of us: In each of these tales, the bridegroom emphasizes the inherent danger of the bride's family visit, but each loves his bride enough to want her to have all of her desires met. In Beauty and the Beast, the Beasts says, "I cannot refuse you anything you ask, even though it should cost me my life." Return to place in story.
34.Troll: Trolls originated in Scandinavian folklore. They are large and powerful monsters, enemies to humans. Some protagonists in folklore seek the treasures hidden by trolls in their castles or simply to rescue another human captured by a troll. They are similar to ogres in that they have low intelligence and can often be defeated through a battle of wits. They travel at night and live in darkness since their greatest weakness is sunlight. Direct sunlight will cause them to either burst or turn to stone (Jones 1995). Trolls also appear on this site in The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Return to place in story.
35. I will teach you a way to see him: In Cupid and Psyche, the heroine's sisters encourage her to look at her husband in his sleep. The sisters are jealous and hope to replace their sister. The mother appears to be genuinely concerned about her daughter's welfare. While the mother's intentions might be good, the heroine's fault lies in listening to her mother and/or sisters instead of her new husband's counsel, always a danger in marriages. Return to place in story.
36. A bit of one of my candles: Candles have been a source of light for centuries, taking on different forms and derived from various materials. The real question here is why the heroine didn't think to use a candle before now to relieve her curiosity. Perhaps, as some modern interpretations of the tale have suggested, all of the candles in the castle were enchanted and prevented her from using them for this purpose. Return to place in story.
37. Tallow: Tallow is "obtained from suet [hard fat around the kidneys and loins in beef and mutton] and used in making soap, candles and lubricants" (WordNet). Tallow can be made by rendering other types of animal fat, too. Because of tallow's offensive odor, beeswax or other waxes derived from plants was preferred although more expensive to produce in times past. Tallow became virtually obsolete in the 19th century with the advent of paraffin. Return to place in story.
38. The handsomest prince: Princes are as handsome as the princesses are beautiful in fairy tales. Often, the ugliness or fierceness of the animal bridegroom balances the beauty of the disenchanted prince. The two extremes make one person, the bridegroom. Return to place in story.
39. She did kiss him: Here we have the heroine waking the prince with a kiss, but with disasterous results. The prince in Sleeping Beauty, however, wakens the sleeping princess with positive results. Return to place in story.
40.She let three drops of hot tallow fall upon his shirt, and he awoke: The bear, like Cupid in Cupid and Psyche, is literally burned by the love and curiosity of Psyche. This event is not a surprise. The heroine has failed to heed each of the admonitions she has received. Now the true suspense comes in wondering what price she will pay for her disobedience. Return to place in story.
41. I have a step-mother who has bewitched me: Very few of the animal bridegroom tales explain the reason for the bridegroom's enchantment.
The image of the evil stepmother occurs frequently in fairy tales. She is associated with jealousy and cruelty (Olderr 1986). "In masculine psychology, the stepmother is a symbol of the unconscious in a destructive role" (von Franz 1970). The stepmother figure is actually two sided, in that while she has destructive intentions, her actions often lead the protagonist into situations that identify and strengthen his or her best qualities. Return to place in story.
42. East of the sun and west of the moon: The title of the tale, obviously derived from the place where the heroine must find her beloved, has a mysterious, otherworldly sound since it is virtually impossible to reach. The phrase has been used in song and verse, as well as literature to convey a far away, romantic location and occasionally everywhere. Return to place in story.
43. A princess: Note the bridegroom's apparent desire to marry for love, not the requirements of station. Since his betrothed proved unfaithful, he is required to marry a princess who matches his rank, however undesirable she may be. Return to place in story.
44. Three ells long: An ell is a unit of measure for cloth, now rarely used. It is of different lengths in different countries; the English ell being 45 inches, the Dutch or Flemish ell is 27 inches, and the Scotch about 37 inches. In England that would make her nose 135 inches long (Webster's 1990). Return to place in story.
45. She now is the one whom I must marry: In the Beauty and the Beast subcategory of animal bridegroom tales, the enchantment is broken once Beauty realizes she loves the beast and declares her love for him. Then she learns that he is actually a man under an enchantment. In the tales more closely related to Cupid and Psyche, however, the heroine needs to wait over a given time period for the enchantment to end. Her impatience to see the true figure of her husband causes the curse to separate them. The husband must go and marry another with his first marriage virtually annulled by his wife's indiscretion. Return to place in story.
46. Self-same bundle of rags: Since her commitment was been broken, all of the riches and luxuries she received have been revoked. She is returned to the same state in which she began the story. Return to place in story.
47. She set out on her way: Note that the daughter, like her predecessor Psyche in Cupid and Psyche, is "brought to happiness by obedience and trial; hers are outer obstacles while Beauty's are inner conflicts resolved by free will" (Hearne 1989, 19). This is perhaps the most significant difference between the stories, making Beauty and the Beast the preferred story with our modern sensibilities.
In the Cupid and Psyche tale as recorded by Apuleius, Psyche is pregnant throughout her search for the missing Cupid. The baby, named Pleasure, is born after she is reunited with Cupid. Later versions of the tale, such as the one by Thomas Bulfinch, omit this detail.
Folklore heros, and occasionally heroines, are often given quests and/or tasks to achieve a reward. Here the heroine must search for her husband to prove her worthiness and dedication after her indiscretion. The most famous quest in folklore is perhaps that of King Arthur's knights and their search for the Holy Grail. Return to place in story.
48.An aged woman: The heroine will meet three aged women, see the note about the pattern of three above, who will give her guidance and gifts to help her with her quest. Old crones are often sources of wisdom and advice in fairy tales, as well as gifts to help younger characters on quests. Sometimes the old women are gods, fairies, or angels in disguise. Return to place in story.
49.A golden apple: According to Maria Tatar, "heroines of folklore are often the recipients of domestic items made out of gold, tokens of the way in which the ordinary can take on the quality of the extraordinary" (Tatar 2002, 193). In contrast, Snow White is given a poisonous apple by an old crone in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
In times past, offering an apple was a symbol of love and affection (Philip 1997). The apple was sacred to Aphrodite and represented knowledge, especially sexual knowledge, fertility and love. Return to place in story.
50.She who ought to have had him: The aged women appear to give the heroine help since she is the first and true bride of the prince, not for any of her own virtues. In this way, the tale upholds the sanctity of marriage. Return to place in story.
51. Loan of my horse: Horses are intelligent, strong animals highly valued and sometimes worshipped in numerous cultures. The lending of a horse is a sign of trust and faith. Horses are often considered lucky in folklore. Return to place in story.
52. A gold carding-comb: Again, the heroine receives a golden example of a domestic item, this time a carding-comb. A carding-comb is "a toothed instrument used for separating and cleansing wool, flax, hair, etc." (Webster's 1990). It is used in clothing production, a traditionally feminine domestic chore. Return to place in story.
53. A golden spinning-wheel: Spinning wheels have long been important in folklore, especially in tales like Sleeping Beauty and Rumpelstiltskin. A spinning wheel is "a small domestic spinning machine with a single spindle that is driven by hand or foot" (WordNet). It is used to produce flax for cloth production, a traditionally feminine domestic chore. Return to place in story.
54. East Wind: The heroine will now receive help from the four winds, figuratively traveling to the four corners of the earth in search of her lover. While the winds are often portrayed in conflict with each other, in this tale they work together to help the heroine achieve her goal.
In European folklore, each of the four winds has a different personality. The gentle East Wind brings warmth and rain. The vigorous West Wind brings dry weather. The South Wind brings heat and drought. The North Wind is the strongest of the four and brings winter and bitter cold to Northern Europe. (Jobes 1961, 1682-1683). The genders of the winds are malleable and often not designated as they are in this tale.
In Greek mythology, Notus is the god of the South Wind, Eurus is the god of the East Wind, Zephyrus is the god of the West Wind, and Boreas is the god of the North Wind (Lindemans, Pantheon.org). Return to place in story.
55. North Wind: In the Arctic Circle, where Norway and this tale is found, the north wind would be considered especially cold and fierce, the strongest and most dreaded of the four winds. Return to place in story.
56. If I may go to the Prince who is here, and be with him to-night, you shall have it: According to Maria Tatar: "The 'true bride' often tricks the 'false bride' into letting her spend the night with the prince, or, as in this tale, she bribes her. The imposter bride is always eager to take possession of an object and will sacrifice the prince's welfare for material gain" (Tatar 2002, 198). For a different type of tale with a false bride and a true bride, read The Goose Girl. Return to place in story.
58. She could not wake him: Here we irony. The heroine lost her husband by accidentally waking him. Now she cannot wake him to get him back. Return to place in story.
59. Christian folk: Asbjornsen and Moe included the reference to Christian folk in the original Danish. This was not a translator's choice of words. As Christianity spread across Europe, Christian messages and icons were added to the traditional folklore. The Grimms in Germany added many Christian themes and images to their recordings of German folktales. It is not certain if the Christian reference was added by the Asbjornsen and Moe or was included in their original source material. Return to place in story.
60. Wash the shirt which has the three drops of tallow on it: Here the washing came take on several meanings. First the maiden's ability to clean the garment would mark her as skilled at domestic arts and thus a suitable bride.
Second, the heroine is accomplishing a difficult task, removing a settled stain from clothing. Psyche, in Cupid and Psyche, has to perform three impossible tasks to prove her devotion to Cupid.
Third, the endeavour emphasizes the Christian themes of forgiveness and purity. The maiden is washed clean of her sins when she cleans the shirt--which becomes as white as driven snow--since she is now shown to be of the Christian faith. In many religions, brides go through ritualistic cleansing before their marriage. The pagan creatures--the trolls--only make the shirt dirtier and blacker as they attempt to clean it. Their failed attempts to remove the spot is reminiscent of Lady MacBeth's inability to remove the vision of blood from her hands in Shakespeare's MacBeth. Return to place in story.
61. No one shall ever be my bride but the woman who can do this: In folklore, bride tests are often centered around domestic duties such as cleaning, cooking or sewing. The woman who best completes the domestic tasks is chosen as bride for the prince or suitor. Return to place in story.
62. Flew into such a rage that she burst: Trolls are supposed to burst when exposed to sunlight. See more about trolls in the note above. The troll's self-destruction is reminiscent of Rumpelstiltskin's self-destructive rage. Return to place in story.
63. Took away with them all the gold and silver that they could carry: Carrying away the treasures of the defeated antagonist is common in fairy tales, including Jack and the Beanstalk and Hansel and Gretel. While supporting the ideals of love, honor, and virtue, fairy tales are very practical, supporting the idea that heros need some degree of material wealth and security to live happily ever after. Return to place in story.