Friday, May 11, 2012

Fairy Tale Friday: The Girl and the Golden Bower

This week Literary Transgressions is hosting Fairy Tale Friday.   Jump over there to join in.  My review today is on The Girl and the Golden Bower (by Jane Yolen).  The story begins with a woodsman who lives on the edge of a tangled forest.   The woodsman is from a long line of men who served the castle. After the Queen’s death, the king disappears.  No one lives in the castle except small animals that scurry though the overgrown weeds that now hold it captive, and one great beast with the head of lion, body of deer, a tail like a serpent, and eyes like hawks.     

One day, the woodsman finds a frail young woman in the forest who has no memory of anything--even her name.  Her only possessions are the dress she is wearing and a plain comb the color of her long hair.  While the woodsman takes care of her, they fall in love and get married; Aurea is born to them some time later.  When Aurea is a five, another woman visits the cottage.  She asks for room in board.  In exchange, she will cook for them.  Aurea only receives watered down porridge.  The couple, on the other hand, enjoy delicious meals which are meant to distract them from their new cook’s real purpose.  She is sorceress, looking for a charm she believes is nearby.  Soon after, the mother becomes deathly ill, so she calls Aurea to her.  She bequeaths her the russet comb she came to the cottage with.   Aurea is told the comb belonged to her grandmother and will watch over her. 

After the wife’s death, the sorceresses casts a spell on the woodsman to attempt to learn the charm.  When he reveals nothing, she discards him.  Now, only two remain—the enchantress and the child.  Believing the child must own the charm, the sorceress tries to woo her with her good food and feigned kindness.  Aurea does not trust her though.  She instead retreats to the forest where she is surrounded by creature that comfort her as she combs their hair with her beloved comb.  Realizing the comb is the charm, the sorceress works to get it from her.   Aurea refuses. 

The sorceress drags her deep in the forest and puts a sleeping charm on her, hoping she will die of starvation.  The animals all gather round to comfort her, and with the use of the comb, they build a protective gate around her.  When the sorceress returns, she finds that everything nearby has turned to gold.  Instead of a child lying there, it is now a young woman.   Forgetting about her original goal, she begins to cut the gold strands for herself.  A loud roar resonates from the other side of the gate and the cut strands bind the sorceress. 

After being awoken, the young woman walks over and opens the gate.  Her animal friends transform into huntsman. Thinking she will be rescued, the sorceress commands them to kill the beast.  Instead, they do not move.  The young woman walks up to the beast and begins to comb his hair with her comb, causing both of them to be transformed—the beast into a man (the king) and the young woman back to the girl Aurea.  The comb allows them to realize that Aurea is his granddaughter.  The king is overjoyed to have found her.  The sorceress receives her just “reward.” 

This original, modern fairy tale is an interesting combination of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and another tale I once read about a huntsman in the woods.  The soft watercolor illustrations (by Jane Dyer) in are lovely.  They capture the setting beautifully and compliment the text exquisitely. What continues to stand out to me in fairy tales is that a vulnerable child is trapped and destitute.   So many fairy tales depict these children overpowering the oppressive forces and people to be reconciled with those they love and to live in the safety (usually in a castle).  If you think about it, isn’t that what most movies and stories are at their barest form.  Fairy tales are a window into the psyches of humanity—in particularly children but generally all humans.  Children today still need that reassurances—Mom and dad will always be there for you.  You can overcome adversity.   You can fight to get free if someone tries to take you (at least I always told my children this).   I highly recommend The Girl and the Golden Bower for ages 5 and up.  

For teaching and extensive ideas with fairy tales, visit my Fairy Tale Teaching Ideas board on Pinterest.  

1 comment:

  1. This sounds amazing! I adore Jane Yolen, so I may have to make a library dash for this one. Thanks for the rec!


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