Category Archives: Love

Happily Ever After


and so to the last of this trilogy on love. If you survive the fairytale challenges and avoid the legendary tragedy how do you get to ‘live happily ever after’?

Here we must turn to the folk tale where there is a vast store of anecdotes to take advice from, though they do not always agree. One of the main types warns men not to beat their wives of which my favourite is “The Peasant Doctor”.

A well to do peasant (he owns much land, three ploughs with their oxen and four horses) gets fixed up with the attractive daughter of a local knight by his well meaning neighbours.
After the wedding he suddenly begins to worry that, being a good looking lass, she will be beset by suitors while he is at work in the fields and, being of higher station than him, she will give in to their advances. To prevent this he hits on the plan of making her too miserable during the day for anyone to come calling and making up to her when he gets home. So in the morning he beats her and in the evening he begs forgiveness.
The next day, while he is at work in the fields two of the kings messengers stop at the house asking if there is a good doctor around, the young wife decides to teach her husband how a beating feels, for surely, if he only knew he would never beat her again. She tells the messengers that her husband is an excellent doctor… but will deny it unless he is given a sound thrashing!

Naturally, when the peasant protests his lack of medical expertise, the kings men are only too happy to administer the necessary encouragement and the peasant is brought before the king where he again tries to explain his true profession and is promptly persuaded by another walloping. The kings daughter has a fishbone stuck in her throat. The peasant, now forced in to finding a cure, has a large fire built, strips naked and scratches himself which is sufficiently amusing to the princess that she laughs the fishbone out. The peasant refuses payment, wishing to go home and forget the whole sorry business but the king ‘requests’ that he stay on and cure the many sick people who have come to the castle. Foolishly, the peasant protests his lack of expertise which leads to another dose of his own medicine. He then gathers all the patients in the great hall, sends the king and his men out, builds a big fire and explains that he can cure them but first he has to find the sickest amongst them, then burn that one to death and concoct a cure for the rest from the resultant ashes. Now of course no one will admit to being even the slightest bit under the weather so he sends them away and as the king questions them on the way out they each confess to having been cured.
With no more patients he is allowed to leave and accepts the kings rewards. Returning home with a new appreciation of how it feels to be beaten for no reason he is always kind and gentle with his wife and, realising that she is a smart cookie too, he takes care to listen to her thoughts. As a bonus for the whole escapade, since the king made him rich, he can pay someone else to work in the fields so he is able to stay at home and ensure no one calls on the good lady with dishonourable intentions, and they both lived happily ever after!

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Legendary Romance


The greatest romances are, for a reason which eludes me, all about forbidden love. Whilst constancy is generally required of a hero, the romantic heroines in the stories which make women swoon do not appear to be governed by the same strictures. Lets just take a moment to look at Guinevere and Isuelt, the two most famous of romantic females, yet both appear to have round heels when it comes to their royal husbands best mate.  Is this really a desirable quality?

I don’t like Sir Lancelot.  Oh I know some will complain, but he was introduced to the corpus of Arthurian literature quite late on by the French writer Cretien De Troyes.  let’s face it, a French writer adding a character that cuckolds the British king and turns his (previously virtuous) queen in to a floozy desperate for a Gallic hunk is clearly having a laugh. Even Lancelot’s name is a dodgy pun, we shall speak of him no more.

The Cornish Tristan, although a skilled harpist and singer, is also a consummate martial artist, which is handy because he is a hot-head too and, like many a hero of days gone by, will get in to a ruck as soon as look at you.  Despite his skill he manages to get wounded by a poisoned sword whilst saving the Kingdom from it’s annual tribute to the Irish.  The only person who can cure him is the daughter of the man he has killed so off he goes, pretending to be a troubadour, to meet the beautiful Isuelt who nurses him back to health. On his return he tells his Uncle, King Mark, of the Irish belle and is promptly sent back to win her hand for the ageing monarch.  Fortunately there is a dragon to be slain and the princess is on offer as the prize for this act of oversized-vermin control.  Tristan duly tops the lizard, once again managing to get himself poisoned in the altercation, and is soon back in Isuelt’s tender care.

Once healthy, Tristan surprises everyone by claiming Isuelt for Uncle Mark instead of himself. Iseult’s

"Oh alright, what's the worst that can happen?"

mother, in an effort to save her daughter from a loveless marriage, mixes a love potion into a bottle of wine for the happy couple to drink on their wedding night.  Naturally, Tristan amuses his charge on the long sea journey with many songs until Isuelt accidentally shares out the enhanced wine and the two are overcome with desire for each other.

They try to pretend that nothing happened and the wedding goes ahead.  In some variations the bespelled pair manage better at keeping their feelings hidden than others but more often than not they are discovered and have to run away, living on moors and other inhospitable places while an enraged King Mark’s knights search the lands, hot for Tristan’s blood.  Eventually Isuelt is returned to her bitter husband while Tristan flees to Brittany and there marries another princess, also called Isuelt. Spending his frustration in a succession of combats, Tristan is wounded so badly that only the original Isuelt can save him but she arrives too late and dies of sorrow over his corpse.

la-muerte-de-tristan-e-isolda.jpg

“Doh!”

Apologists for Tristan and Iseult claim that their love was brought into it’s full heat by the accidental consumption of the love potion and it is therefore not their fault, but “we were drunk, we couldn’t help it” has never been a good excuse.  If you ever find yourself in the same situation then calling off the wedding is probably the best move and will save a lot of heart ache all round.  Unless you want to bring a kingdom to it’s knees and spend the rest of your life living on the run while your erstwhile friends attempt to bash the life out of you, I suggest you do not use medieval romances as a model for your love life.

…here’s to living happily ever after, until the next adventure.

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Fairy Tale Romance


Fairy Tales are as full of good advice and examples of how to live a worthy life as any other type of story, but there is one subject on which they are almost completely useless: Love. Oh they’re are full of people falling in love but more often than not they are both good looking, it rarely takes anything longer than an instant and it is almost always mutual.

A beautiful woman rides on a knights horse leaning over to kiss him

La Belle Dame sans Merci by Sir Frank Dicksee

It’s hardly surprising people desire this fantastical meeting, it’s so simple! Meet, fall in love and live happily ever after certainly beats meet; date sporadically; introduce each other to each others disapproving parents/friends; move in together against parents/friends advice; fall out over work commitments; agree to separate and argue about the CD collection.

So what should you do if you are looking for that fairytale romance?
Although there may be other options the basic checklist for young men who are seeking the perfect girl in the old fashioned way is as follows:
1/ Be a 7th son or at least youngest of three
2/ Be poor
3/ Have a magical weapon
4/ Have a wicked step parent
5/ Be friends with a talking animal (see FTC June 2011)

If you satisfy 3 or more of the above requirements then finding a well connected damsel in distress and hacking up the cause of her oppression will usually get you past the awkward introductory stage of the relationship and frequently overcomes any reservations her parents may have had. Though if they aren’t around to see it it’s probably wise to keep some proof of your heroism as it is common for cowardly but power hungry political types to make a false claim that they did the deed.

For young women there is a similar but slightly different checklist:
1/ Be a princess
2/ Be pretty
3/ Be kind and smile through all hardship
4/ Have a wicked step parent
5/ Be friends with a talking animal

Don’t be put off if you are not a princess (though it often helps with the parental approval side of things); for ladies it is generally acceptable if you can only tick off one item on the list and number 3, the one item that is in your control, is by far the most important. Unfortunately you will need the wicked step parent or the cowardly politician to place you in the way of mortal peril in order to be saved by the lad who you will instantly fall in love with. You will also have to accept that, statistically, his name will be Jack.

Having achieved the goal of boy meeting girl, do the fairytales have any further advice for your romance? Well, there may be useful information on how to rescue your intended from fairies, trolls or witches and the like but once the excitement is over and the wedding guests have all gone back to their own kingdoms the business of living happily ever after is usually assumed to be a simple process and one on which the fairytales are generally silent. To find out about loving happily ever after we will have to look in a different class of tale and another FTC…

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