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!