may_lily: (Default)
may_lily ([personal profile] may_lily) wrote2013-07-04 05:02 pm

Doralice, Preziosa and Noble-Epine

From my tumblr.

The girl whose father tried to marry her is best known through Perrault’s Donkeyskin and the Grimms’ Allerleirauh, but there are many other similar stories. There are two earlier ones: Tebaldo/Doralice (Straparola) and The She-Bear (Basile). There is also an 18th century tale, Bearskin (author uncertain; perhaps Henriette-Julie de Murat or Marguerite de Lubert) which combines these two stories (my translation is from Wonder Tales). Read on for lurid tales of incest and bestiality.

Tebaldo: King Tebaldo desires to marry his daughter Doralice. She asks her nurse for help escaping, and the nurse gives her a potion that will keep her alive without needing to eat and hides her in a chest. The chest eventually gets sold to Genese, the King of England. She comes out of the chest to tidy his room each day, he eventually discovers her, and they marry and have two children.

Happily ever after, right? Not yet. Tebaldo is infuriated at the disappearance of his daughter and figures out where she is. He schemes his way into the children’s bedroom and murders them with Doralice’s dagger. Framed for murder, Doralice is tortured. Fortunately, the nurse comes forward and tells the king what really happened. Surprisingly for a fairy tale, the children stay dead. Poor Doralice suffers terribly before she finally gets her happy ending.

The She-Bear begins similarly: a king wishes to marry his daughter Preziosa. The old woman who does her make-up gives Preziosa a magic stick that will turn her into a bear when she puts it in her mouth. Preziosa becomes a bear, terrifies the king, and leaves.

After staying as a bear in a forest for a while, she meets a prince. Pleased by how gentle she is, he takes her home as a pet. Occasionally she turns herself back into a woman, and at one point the prince sees her and falls in love. Preziosa stays a bear for a while after that - it’s hard to say why she doesn’t change back and marry him right away.

The prince makes himself sick with love and insists that his bear should care for him. Finally he kisses her (while she’s still a bear) and the stick comes out of her mouth. It’s an interesting example of a kiss breaking a spell - which is far rarer in old fairy tales than many realise!

Bearskin combines these two stories. It removes the incest but ups the bestiality. This time, it isn’t the princess’s father that wants to marry her, but Rhinoceros, the king of the ogres. Princess Noble-Epine (called Hawthorn in the translation) must go with him to save her kingdom. Once in his home, she disguises herself in a bear skin which transforms her into a bear, thanks to her fairy godmother. She runs away and meets King Zelindor. Much like in The She-Bear, he’s charmed by how gentle she is and takes her home with him.

Noble-Epine can’t talk, but she can write, and she writes poetry for Zelindor. There’s an interesting difference here to The She-Bear. In Basile, the prince doesn’t fall in love with Preziosa until he sees her human form. In Bearskin, Zelindor doesn’t see Noble-Epine’s human form before falling in love. He falls in love with her poetry and her behaviour - while she’s still a bear.

Finally Noble-Epine permanently regains her human form, thanks to her fairy godmother, and she marries Zelindor and has two sons. The next part of the story is almost exactly the same as Tebaldo. Rhinoceros murders the children and frames the queen. The queen is sentenced to be executed. But things go better for the children here - it turns out that the fairy godmother had saved them and created an illusion of their deaths. At the last minute she returns them and reveals the truth.

I rather like Bearskin as a more family-friendly example of this tale type, and I’d love to see it adapted.