In this tale, Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden are two beautiful, talented individuals that are thought to be gifted by the gods. They fall in love and marry, yet their infatuation for each other only deepens, and they in turn neglect their duties, traditions, and religious obligations.
When White Corn Maiden suddenly dies, Deer Hunter is inconsolable. He refuses to accept her death and, long story short, convinces her to return with him, promising he’ll always love her and be with her, no matter what.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that White Corn Maiden is still dead, and dead people don’t exactly make pleasant bedmates. Her body continues to deteriorate, and Deer Hunter tries to avoid her, but White Corn Maiden holds him to his promise and follows him around wherever he goes.
In the end, having drawn the ire of the gods, they are put into the sky as a pair of stars. The brighter one being Deer Hunter, having been in the prime of his life; and the dimmer one White Corn Maiden, having died, yet forever following her husband through the sky.
It breaks my heart a little bit paraphrasing this story so crudely, because it really is beautiful and if you can (and have the inclination) it’s really worth seeking out to read in its entirety.
I love this story because it touches upon so much that I love in mythology and folklore. Like Orpheus and Eurydice, it’s portrays the mourning husband who refuses to let his dead wife go. I don’t know why that resonates with me so much (I’ve loved that Greek myth ever since I first heard about it, when I was around 12 or so I think). Maybe I just like the idea of loving someone so much that the laws of nature no longer have a say in the matter. It’s a beautiful notion, and, like my strong childhood desire for Narnia to actually exist, I suppose I want it to be true.
I also love myths that tell how constellations came to be, which this one has.
Lastly, this story is wonderful because it’s a little bit creepy. White Corn Maiden is dead. Her skin turns ashen; she develops an unpleasant odor. It’s both gross and interesting, and I love the contrast between the grotesque and beautiful. I give it 10 stars out of five. Truly love it.
Source: Erdoes, Richard, Ortiz, Alfonso, “Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden”, American Indian Myths and Legends, Pantheon Books, 1985. Translated from the Tewa by Alfonso Ortiz.
“Crack and Crook” is an Italian folktale of two thieves who find each other by trying to steal from each other. They then team up and break into the king’s treasury and make away with much of his riches. Flummoxed by this, the king consults a thief in his dungeon on how to best capture these rogues. Continue reading
“Foul little men that like to steal children, sometimes leaving a basket of leaves in its place. Quite fond of shiny things, though. Where I’m from, superstitious wives will leave a coin or silver spoon in the crib so that should a boggan arrive it will take that rather than the babe.”
Boggans are my own creation, inspired partly by boggarts and hobgoblins of the faery realm (with a little bit of Annis if you noted the part about stealing children). They are generally harmless creatures that are prone to mischief where tall-folk are concerned. Any theft of children is done more out of curiosity and a desire to collect things than any desire to do the child harm (the leaves are considered to be payment, and is quite a fair arrangement as far as the boggans are concerned). Yet they have a streak of cruelty that is quick to surface if they are provoked or denied the practice of their misdeeds.
A man no larger than a child gazed up at her with bulbous eyes. His hooked nose hung over sneering lips while a tiny white spider crawled within a cavernous nostril. His clothes were mottled green and brown as though someone had woven together a sack of leaves and moss. Bright red berries hung from the hem of his garment as pearls might hang from a fine dress. On his feet he wore two hollowed gourds, the ends removed to allow his long toes—with even longer, yellowed nails—to dangle freely. He grinned at her, showing rows of darkened teeth that looked of rotten wood.
Excerpts from The Thirteenth Tower.
This post marks the beginning of the A to Z Challenge! In case you missed it, I’m doing a theme that I like to call A Bestiary of Mythological Creatures (and People). If you’d like to know more about the theme, you can read the post I wrote about it. Otherwise, let’s move on to…
Black Annis the Blue-faced Hag
I’ve had a long-term infatuation with Annis. Her name is one I’ve used instead of my own at times. She was also the inspiration for the creepy woman in my short story Glow. When I first read about her in Brian Froud’s Good Faeries, Bad Faeries, I was instantly enamored:
This highly dangerous fae hag grabs children through open windows and takes them back to her lair to devour them. When horrid Black Annis is hungry, her howls can be heard for miles.
I can relate, because I also don’t handle hunger very well. But that’s not really part of her charm. No, it was the whole stealing-children-through-windows-to-eat-them gig that I liked. I don’t condone such behavior, mind you. It’s not what she does that I was drawn to, rather the feeling that it engenders.
For me, fairy tales speak of a time when night was actually dark, and the things that bumped in that darkness were to be feared. They speak of superstition, of whispers around fires and horseshoes hanging over doorways. They speak of magic and nature and the blending of our world with that of another. Fairy tales are reminiscent of a time when man lived closer to nature and, in his limited comprehension of the world around him, created stories as a means to better understand and to survive. They make me think that maybe there was a time when magical creatures like Annis were truly thought to be true, and if enough people believed it, then maybe they really were.
Somehow Annis managed to encapsulate all that just from the brief block of text quoted above. She remains my inner alter ego, and keeps a part of me believing in magic and in fairy tales, and allows me to wonder what might be lurking in the darkness.
Source: Froud, Brian, Good Faeries, Bad Faeries, Simon and Schuster, 1998