Last week’s blog focus put me in a sad mood. I love selkies, but they are so reminiscent of the helplessness I often feel about my place in the world as a woman. Unfortunately, that’s what much of Eurocentric folklore, fairytales, and mythology do. That’s why I became so happy when I saw that the prompt for this week’s #FairyTaleTuesday on Twitter was for “Damsels In Charge.” I knew exactly who I wanted to talk about: Tatterhood.
I thought about how I wanted to construct this blog. So far, my usual style has been to summarize and back up my arguments that way. The only thing I have to say about Tatterhood is that she’s fantastic and pretty much better than all your Disney princesses. So, for this blog, I’m just going to retell the story and interject my own thoughts on specific areas. Relax and enjoy.
Once Upon A Time
There was a queen who wanted children very much. After trying for a long time, she realized that wasn’t going to happen. So, she adopted a daughter.
If you’re feeling all warm and fuzzy about this adoptive queen and daughter relationship, save that emotional energy. You’ll never hear about this kid again after this next bit.
She found her adopted playing with a poor girl and was pretty upset about it. She was ready to banish the poor girl from the palace just for playing with her kid. Except, the poor girl said that her mother could help her have biological children, which the queen was still very interested in. So, she sent for the poor girl’s mother.
I could say a lot here. I could talk about how unfair this is to the adopted daughter. I could talk about how classist this is. I hope you, my dear reader, don’t need me to explain that the queen is not a good person. Don’t worry. She’s not our protagonist.
It turns out that the poor girl’s mother is a witch, and there’s a lot of very convoluted stuff she does for a spell, which actually works. The queen becomes pregnant, and then she gives birth to two little girls. However, these were not ordinary children. The first daughter that was born came out riding a goat and carrying a wooden spoon. She was also very ugly. The queen was so distressed at how ugly her daughter was that the baby said, “Don’t worry, my sister will be born soon, and she’s lovely.” The second daughter was born, and she was incredibly beautiful. The queen was much relieved.
A few points here:
- She was born riding a goat and holding a wooden spoon?! WTF?!
- She was born riding a goat and holding a wooden spoon, and the queen’s big freakout was that her daughter was ugly?!
- Her firstborn daughter can speak, but what impresses the queen more is that her second daughter is pretty?
- Holy cow! A talking newborn!
- Holy cow! A talking newborn who has a super positive attitude and a healthy attitude about her looks! She should give motivational speeches.
They named the older sister Tatterhood because she was so ugly, dirty, and raggedly dressed. They tried to keep her shut away in a room by herself, but it never worked. She always had to be by her twin sister’s side. The two sisters loved each other and were very close.
Seriously, what kind of monsters are these people? She’s a child. Her cleanliness and clothing are 100% up to them. Has it ever occurred to them that she’s living up to the dang name they gave her? Also, they tried to shut her away in a room because she wasn’t pretty? That’s pretty standard fairytale stuff, but still upsetting. Last, it’s actually kind of sweet that the two sisters are so close.
When the sisters were teenagers, there was a lot of noise outside on Christmas Eve. Tatterhood had to know what was going on and, after a lot of badgering, she discovered that there were some evil trolls and witches causing problems just outside. Tatterhood told her family to close all the doors and windows tightly while she went out and got rid of these rascals. They did as they were told while Tatterhood, ever the badass, went outside with just her wooden spoon and kicked troll booty.
Would you send your child to fight monsters outside with a wooden spoon? Someone, please call the Department of Children and Families. But, seriously, how cool is Tatterhood?
Tatterhood’s sister became too curious about the noises outside. She’s not the smart twin. So, she opened a door just a little to take a better look at the battle outside. Quick as lightning, a witch came by to steal the princess’s head and replace it with a cow’s head. All the poor girl could do was moo. When Tatterhood was done kicking monster butt, she came back inside to see what happened to her sister. She was livid. She told off her parents, scolding them for being so reckless with their daughter’s life by allowing her to open the door even slightly.
First, the idea of a princess with a cow head mooing is one of the funniest images I’ve ever pictured. Second, good for Tatterhood! She took care of the monster problem AND finally called out her parents for being just the worst.
Tatterhood decided she was going to save her beloved sister. After all, if you want something done right, you better do it yourself. So, she convinced her dad to give her and the pretty sister their very own royal ship. She insisted on no captain or crew. She would captain that ship herself. Why? She didn’t want anyone getting hurt.
Did they have sunglasses in 1800s Norway? I can’t help, but picture Tatterhood dressed up as a pirate but wearing really cool sunglasses. She’s standing on her ship with her sister, Princess Cowhead, looking into the setting sun. She is just so COOL.
They arrived at a land of witches. Tatterhood rode her goat up to where they were hiding her sister’s head and stole it back. The witches saw her right away. However, her goat clobbered them and they were also no match for Tatterhood’s wooden spoon. They quickly gave up. Tatterhood got back to the ship and put her sister’s correct head on. Tatterhood’s sister was perfectly beautiful and princessy again.
Technically, the goat is the queen’s child too, right? Since it was birthed from her? It’s her KID, if you will. Anyway, this is more proof of Tatterhood being the best of all fairytale princesses.
They didn’t go straight home but sailed by a kingdom where a widower king ruled, with only his one son for family. When Tatterhood’s boat passed by, people saw her riding around in circles on her goat’s back. This was so interesting that they asked if anyone else was on board. Tatterhood stated that her beautiful sister was on board. The people wanted to see her, but Tatterhood said she would only come out if their king himself came out to greet them. So, they sent for the king at once. When he heard about a girl riding around on a ship on the back of a goat, he came right away.
What I’m sensing from this is that people didn’t have much entertainment before television.
When the king arrived, the beautiful princess came out, and the king fell instantly in love. He proposed to her right away, but Tatterhood insisted that her sister couldn’t marry the king and unless the prince married Tatterhood. The prince really didn’t want to marry Tatterhood because she was so ugly, but the king talked him into it.
Cringe, right? These are teenage girls, first of all. Also, sisters marrying a widower and his son? Ick. Last, forced marriage isn’t cool at all. Poor prince. Poor Tatterhood. No one deserves this. The king sounds like a jerk.
On the wedding day, the king was so pleased with his new bride. The prince was miserable. Tatterhood kept asking him why he was downcast, and he kept moping. So, she asked more direct questions? About her goat, her spoon, her tattered hood, and her looks. When he responded with wonder about them, she would answer that they were something much more marvelous than they appeared. First, the goat became a beautiful horse. Then, her spoon became a magical wand. Next, her hood became a golden crown. Last, she became ten times lovelier than her sister. The prince was now happy, and they all lived happily ever after.
Now, it’s time for me to express a mixture of awe and disappointment. I will start with what let me down. I miss my scrappy, goat-riding princess who wasn’t upset at being ugly. She was the best. Why does her happy ending have to be that she’s pretty now and married to a prince? Tatterhood deserves better than that.
However, holy cow, Tatterhood has magical powers! She’s got transfiguration down pat! The question is, was she always ugly and then turned herself pretty, or was her unattractive appearance a costume all along? Not only did she save her sister, but she got them away from their crappy parents and ensured a stable future. Honestly, this is the best a woman can expect in any fairytale.
If you enjoyed my brief summary of Tatterhood, I hope that you will go read the entire story at Gutenberg. It’s part of an excellent collection of Norwegian fairytales called Popular Tales From The Norse by Sir George Webbe Dasent. This is an obscure fairytale that deserves so much more attention than it receives.
ALSO during my research, I discovered just the most amazing artist/writer named Kris Sayer who actually has several amazing comics about Tatterhood. She fully embraces Tatterhood on her professional website. Some of the images used in this blog were created by her.
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Princess Eya’s life changes forever with the discovery of the Statue of the Goddess Winds, just as she’s coming of age. The long-overlooked kingdom of Hicares finds itself in a war it isn’t prepared for against the far more powerful empire of Pescel. To survive, Eya must flee her home, losing everything and everyone she loves in the process.
Yet, by leaving behind all she’s ever known, she learns that her sheltered life didn’t prepare her for the real world’s strange and frightening nature. She encounters people, places, and creatures beyond anything she ever imagined, along with sinister enemies from every direction. Perhaps her most surprising revelation is that she is developing terrifying powers of her own. Will Eya be able to find happiness in her new life, or will she continue struggling with the current?
Struggling With the Current is the first book of The Telverin Trilogy, a fantasy war story that takes place between several countries in the world of Telverin.
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Struggling With the Current is the first book in The Telverin Trilogy, a story about an exiled princess who finds herself in a terrifying world with equally frightening powers.