Tag Archives: romance

The First Christmas Tree, A German folk tale


Once upon a time there was a Count, by the name of Otto, who lived near Strasburg. Although handsome and single he was so indifferent to the flirtations of the ladies that they called him “Stone Heart”.

One year Count Otto hosted a Christmas Eve hunt in the forests around his castle. He and his guests rode for hours through woods and wastes until, as is pretty much compulsory for a noble who goes hunting in a story, Otto found himself alone and lost. Finding a spring he stopped to wash the dust of the chase from his hands. He was surprised to find the water warm despite the time of year and plunged his arms deeper into the bubbling well head. As he did so he felt as if a smaller softer pair of hands met his own and drew from his finger his favourite gold ring. When he withdrew his hands the ring was indeed missing so he made a mental note to send some servants to fetch it out the following day.

As he lay in his bed that night he heard sounds as of the drawbridge going down and a host of people arriving. Rather shortly afterwards he also heard coming from his own Great Hall the sounds of music and merriment, rather like some throng feasting. When he threw open the doors he found that was indeed the case as colourfully clad dancers whisked past him. In the centre of the room a fir tree stood, bedecked with gold rings, diamond encrusted bracelets, bejewelled belts and ruby pommeled daggers in silver sheaths. As Otto stood staring in disbelief, the dancers parted and as the music faded away the most beautiful woman he had ever seen swayed towards him with raven hair and fine dress in plush satins and velvets. “We have come to return your Christmas visit to our fairy well” she said, “and return to you something you have lost.” She held out a small gold casket which, when opened, revealed his ring. “I am Ernestine, Queen of the fairies” she said holding out her hand. As the music began again Otto found himself taking her hand and joining the dance. As they danced the other fairies shimmered away leaving only Ernestine in his arms. Entranced he sank to one knee and asked her to marry him. Ernestine smiled and said: “As long as you never speak the word “Death” in my presence.”

The two were wed the very next day and spent many happy years together. Otto still enjoyed hosting the occasional hunt and Ernestine joined in too. One day, when everyone was in the courtyard ready to set off on for the pursuit, Ernestine was still in her chambers. Otto held up the departure. Time trickled away and Otto grew impatient. Eventually Ernestine came out through the doors. Otto was quite angry by this time, “You have kept us waiting so long,” he cried, “that you would make a good messenger to send for Death!”

There was barely time for her to utter one anguished scream and then she was gone, vanished in to thin air. Otto was frantic. He searched the castle and the forest, dived in to the fairy well and ranged up and down the banks of the stream that flowed from it, all to no avail.

Every year he brought a fir tree in to his hall and dressed it in bright shiny jewels and candles in remembrance of their first night together and the hope that its sparkling lights might bring her home.

After a while Otto’s neighbours began to put up decorated trees of their own. Slowly the custom spread until now, if the queen of the fairies should return to seek her lost love, she would find his signal shining from houses all over the globe.

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

The Travelling Talesman www.thetravellingtalesman.co.uk

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Filed under Christmas, December, Fairytale, Folk Tale

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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Filed under Love, Romance, stories

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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Filed under Fairytale, February, Love, Romance