Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thrice-Told Tales: East of the sun, west of the Moon

“East of the sun and west of the moon.' As unfathomable as the words were, I realized I must figure them out, reason it through. For I would go to this impossible land that lay east of the sun and west of the moon. From the moment the sleigh had vanished from sight and I could no longer hear the silver bells I knew that I would go after the stranger that had been the white bear to make right the terrible wrong I had done him.... "--East, by Edith Pattou*
The next section of Thrice-Told Tales focuses on stories without a strict canon--folktales and legends, with no definite form. Today's post focuses on the old tale, primarily associated with Scandinavia, "East of the Sun, West of the Moon."
The youngest daughter of a large and rather poor family is taken away by an enchanted white bear in exchange for providing for her family. Unknown to her, the white bear is cursed; only by living with him for a year and a day without seeing his true face can she break the spell.  Of course, the condition is broken; the bear is whisked away by the troll queen, only able to tell her that he is going to a land "east of the sun, west of the moon."
East by Edith Pattou is the first version of this story I've found, and one of my favorites. All the characters are well-developed, with reasonable flaws that support the events, making them more plausible. Another version, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George, adds the unique twist of making this reoccurring event--the troll queen has had dozens, perhaps hundreds, of mortal lovers she has toyed with in this fashion.
Finally, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, by Jackie Moore sets the story around the turn of the last century, with the daughter of a refugee going with the bear. I generally like modernized fairy tales, but the ending wasn't satisfying to me, though others might like it.

*image from The Golden Compass

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I'll check those stories out. Fairy tales provide rich fodder for endless reworkings.