Being stuck on an island and rescued by a bird is an important part of the ‘Grateful Dead’-theme, grouped by Thompson as ATU 506: The Rescued Princess. In part III. Overboard, the hero is thrown overboard by a rival but is rescued by a dead man and finally brought to the princess. The additional motif-series records: S142: Person thrown into the water and abandoned. K193.1: Impostors throw hero overboard into sea. S145: Abandonment on an island. R163: Rescue by grateful dead man. B541.2: Fox rescues man from sea. T68.1: Princess offered as price to rescuer. The type is split into two subtypes: 506A: The Princess Rescued from Slavery and 506B: The Princess Rescued from Robbers, but both contain part III. The dead man is grateful because the hero has paid for his funeral and other debts.
Jean de Calais (foto Alamy)
The rival or impostors that throw the hero overboard are comparable with the father (from the ‘key myth’) and the brothers/companions (from ATU 301). This tale-complex is investigated by Gerould in his 1908-study The Grateful Dead, but he doesn’t give our episode much attention. In the version of Jean de Calais by Mme. de Gomez (his nº I) the hero, while taking her to her father’s court, is separated from her by a treacherous general, but is saved by the grateful dead, and enabled to rejoin his wife. In three versions collected at the Riviera a former suitor meets him on his return to court with his wife (in III. goes with him) and throws him into the sea either by violence or by a ruse. He is cast up on an island (in III. is carried thither in a boat by the ghost in human form), whence he is conveyed by the ghost, on condition of receiving half of his first son, or half of what he loves best, to the court just as the princess is to marry the traitor. In a version from Brittany Jean is thrown overboard, but is washed up on an island, whither the ghost comes, announces himself immediately, and bargains rescue for half of the hero’s child. Jean is transported to court miraculously. In Jean de Calais II. and VII. the hero is sent back for his wife, but is pushed overboard by a traitor, being driven on a rock in the sea, where he is fed by the white bird. Meanwhile, the traitor goes to Calais and remains there seven years as a suitor for the princess’s hand. He is about to be rewarded, when Jean, after promising half of what he loves best to the white bird, is miraculously transported to Calais. In Gerould’s version VII., a Basque tale, the general pitches Juan overboard and goes for the princess, whom he persuades to marry him after seven years. At the end of that time, a fox comes to Juan on an island, where he has lived, and bargains to rescue him for half of all he has at present and will have later. In version VIII., a Breton version, Jean Carré is cast overboard by a Jew, who is the pilot; but he is saved by a supernatural man, who carries him to a green rock in the sea. The princess refuses to go to England when the fleet arrives, and is wooed by the Jew so persistently that after two years she promises him marriage. At this juncture Jean, who has been asleep during the whole interval, is awakened by his rescuer and carried over the sea, where the man explains that he is the ghost of the debtor. In version IX., from Asturia in Spain, Juan de Calais is cast off the ship by a former suitor of the lady, her cousin. He is carried to an island by invisible hands, where he lives until a phantom bargains to take him to court for half of what he gets by his marriage. He arrives on the day of the princess’s wedding. In version X., from Wallonia, a young lord of Calais accompanied them and threw Jean into the sea, while he took the princess onward and obtained from her a promise of marriage in a year. Happily Jean found a plank by which he reached an island, where a crow fed him every day. At the end of a year he promised the crow half his blood for rescue, and was taken to Portugal by a flock of crows. In a Basque version (Basque II) the lame mate pitches Juan Dekos overboard, and carries the lady to her father’s dwelling-place, where he is to marry her after a year and a day. Juan is saved by an angel (the soul of the grateful dead man) and placed on a rock. [Gerould 99-105] In Gerould’s version Breton VII the hero is pushed overboard by the first minister, who is an old suitor for the lady’s hand, but swims ashore on a desert island. The wife goes to court, and after three years consents to marry the minister. All this time Iouenn lives alone on his rock, but at the end is greeted by the ghost of the man whose body he buried, which appears in a very horrible form. On condition of giving in a year and a day half of what he and his wife possess, he is taken to court by this being. [Gerould 106f] In the Swiss version called Simrock I. the hero is cast into the sea by the captain, but is saved by a black fellow and brought back to the ship. Again he is cast overboard and again saved by the black man, and in return for the promise of his first child on its twelfth birthday he is given the power of obtaining his wishes. After a year and a day he is taken to court by his friend. [Gerould 107f] In Simrock II. it is a minister, who pitches the hero overboard and goes on for the princess, hoping to marry her. The hero swims ashore, in the meantime, and communicates with his wife by means of a dove, which also feeds him. Finally a spirit conveys him to London. [Gerould 108f] In the version called the Factor’s Garland or Turkey Factor, while returning with the princess, the hero is pushed overboard in his sleep by the captain, but swims to an island, whence he is rescued by an old man in a canoe. [Gerould 110] In the Bohemian version while they are all returning together, the hero is cast into the sea by the chamberlain, who takes the woman to court and obtains a promise of marriage, when a church has been built to her mind. Bolemir is saved from the sea by the ghost of the old man, and is given a wishing ring. He turns himself into an eagle and flies to court, into an old man and becomes a watchman at the church. [Gerould 111] In the Swabian version Simrock III they meet an Italian prince, who is a suitor for the wife’s hand. The hero is cast overboard, but is brought to land by a great bird, which tells him that it is the ghost of the man whom he has buried. [Gerould 112f] In Simrock VII they meet two officers of the king, who toss Wilhelm overboard from the ship in which they sail, but he is saved by the ghost of the dead man and brought to court. [Gerould 114] In Simrock V. from Tyrol the young couple start back home for the widow, but on the way the servants cast the young man into the sea. He escapes, however, to an island, where he is fed by an eagle. Later the eagle declares itself to be the ghost of the dead man, and brings its benefactor to court. [Gerould 115] In a version from Austria the hero is pushed overboard by the 3 emissaries sent to bring back the robbed princess, and washes up on an island, where an eagle brings him daily food. On the day the princess has to choose a husband between the emissaries [cf. Penelope who has to choose between the suitors] the eagle starts to speak and tells what is happening and offers to bring him in exchange for his firstborn son. Naked he is put by the eagle in a hallway, where he is found by servants, dressed and presented to the princess, who finally tells her father the truth, etc. 7 years after the marriage a son is born and the merchant’s son brings the child as agreed to the nut-tree indicated by the eagle. By fulfilling his promise, the man who was changed into a bird is now released, and the king (merchant’s son) can take his son back home. [Haiding 1969, 196f nº172: ‘Der gutherzige Schustersohn’. Cf. Abraham’s offer of Isaac]
In the Oldenburgian version, a minister pitches the hero overboard, goes on for the princess, and does not tell her of her loss till they arrive at court. She finally consents to marry the traitor after five years. Meanwhile, the hero lives on an island, whither on the day appointed for the princess’s bridal comes the ghost of the dead in the form of a snow-white dove. It takes him to the court. [Gerould 115] In Lithuanian II. while they are returning to her home with the princess, one of the nobles pushes the prince overboard. He lives on an island for two years, until a man comes to him and promises to bring him to court before the princess marries the traitor. [Gerould 97] In a Gaelic version Iain while going with the liberated princess to Spain is left on a desert island by a general, who has secreted himself on the ship; but after a time he is rescued by a man in a boat, the ghost of a dead Christian, whose debts he has paid. [Gerould 86] In Breton III on a hunt the hero was cast into the sea by an envious uncle of his wife, at a time when she was pregnant; but he was brought to an island by some mysterious power and nourished there for five years by St. Corentin. Finally an old man (the grateful dead man) appeared and took him home. [Gerould 87] In Norwegian I the hero is cast into the sea by the suitor. For seven years he lives on a desert isle, till an old man appears, tells him that it is the princess’s bridal day, and carries him to England. [Gerould 88]
In a Greek version ‘The Journey in the Golden Ship’, the prince-hero first liberates three beautiful girls. Then cast away by his parents he pays the debts of a dead man and has him buried with his last money. Then he comes alone in the city of the girls, who turn out to be the daughters of the king, and is promised one of them by the king, and he chooses the youngest, the five-times-beautiful-one, which is very much against the wishes of the son of the vizier, who during the night during the pick-up of the princesses throws the prince of the rocks into the sea. The prince is taken by the stream to a rock, and many days pass before a silent figure in a rowboat comes and takes him to the mainland, where he reveals himself as the grateful dead man and advises him to hurry to the city, where the princess is on the brink of marrying the son of the vizier. Dressed as a fisherman that has been shipwrecked he comes to the sisters and says that he wants to tell a story at the king’s table if all the doors will be closed. This is done with much laughter, and he tells his own story. The son of the vizier tries to sneak away but is caught and executed, while Jánnis marries the youngest and becomes king. [Klaar 1977, 86-94]
In an Icelandic version (Icelandic I), Thorstein has paid for a dead man and has liberated Signy, a princess, that was in the power of seven giants. They leave with a ship of Signy’s father, that had been sent out to look for her and the captain, Raud (= red), has been promised Signy as wife, so he sets in the night Thornstein overboard in a rowboat and sails away with the princess. The ghost of the grateful dead man makes the north-wind blow the little boat of the prince with top-speed and Thorstein arrives at Signy’s father before Raud, who has threatened Signy, but is caught as soon as he has crossed the carpet, after which Signy and Thornstein marry. [Barüske n.d. 44-48 = Gerould 88] Icelandic II. is similar to the variant just cited in several particulars, though it has important differences. Rauður comes in search of the princess, takes the couple on his ship, but puts the hero to sea in a rudderless boat. A man appears to Vilhjálmur in a dream, saying that he is the ghost of the man whom he has buried, and that he will bring him to land. [Gerould 89f] In Simrock IV. a merchant’s son on his voyage to court again is put overboard by the minister, who hopes thus to win the princess. However, he is cast up on an island, where the ghost of the dead man appears to him in sleep and transports him miraculously to court. [Gerould 91] In Simrock VI. Heinrich of Hamburg on his way back to fetch the rescued princess home is cast overboard by the mariner, who is the original kidnapper of the maiden. This man gets her and carries her to the court with the hope of marrying her. The hero is saved from the sea, however, by the ghost of the dead man, who brings him to the garden of the princess’s palace, where he is found by his bride. [Gerould 91]
In a Frisian version the hero is put on an desolate island with food for a week, and the boatman forces the English princess to say that he has liberated her, and that she wants to marry him. A few days later a dolphin comes to the hero, takes him on his back to London (later he reveals himself to be the grateful dead man). [Poortinga 1977, 110]
Arion rides his dolphin to safety in a third-century mosaic from baths in Henchir Thyna, Tunisia (foto DEA Picture Library)
This saving dolphin is already present in the ancient Greek story of Arion told by Herodotus (1:24). Here the motivation for the captain is the money Arion has won in singing contests. Before jumping overboard he has a last request (that cannot be refused!), to play a song on his lyre. After the song he jumps and is saved by a dolphin, and brought to Corinth faster than the ship, where he told his story, and is kept in a secure room till the others arrive and tell, that Arion is safe and sound where they left him. But he appears and the lie is detected. This is the story as the Corinthians and Lesbians tell it, implying that there are other versions. Graves (87b) tells us, that the dolphin (that was attracted by the music) was loth to part from Arion and insisted on accompanying him to court, where it soon succumbed to a life of luxury. Arion gave it a splendid funeral. The traitors all had to swear on the dolphin’s tomb that what they said was the truth, and then were confronted with Arion. They were executed on the spot. Apollo later set the images of Arion and his lyre among the stars. Graves (87c) knows more stories about men saved by dolphins: Enalus leaped overboard to join his sweetheart Phineis who, in accordance with an oracle, had been chosen by lot and thrown into the sea to appease Amphitrite. He was rescued by a dolphin, while the dolphin’s mate rescued Phineis. A dolphin saved Phalanthus from drowning in the Crisaean Sea on his way to Italy and Icadius, the Cretan brother of Iapys, when shipwrecked on a voyage to Italy, was guided by a dolphin to Delphi and gave the place its name; for the dolphin was Apollo in disguise [Graves 1977, 200f. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arion].
Arion and the dolphin (foto thanasis)
Let us take a closer look at the version of ‘Jean de Calais’ as recorded by Bladé (Gerould’s version II). Jean, the son of a rich widower from Marmande, is sent by his father to Bordeaux with 7000 pistoles to do business, but he spends all the money in paying off the debts of an dead man, whose corpse is eaten by dogs, because it remains unburied as long as the debts are not paid. After the funeral Jean returns to his father and is sent again on his way with 7000 pistoles. He passes the place, where he buried the dead man and prays on his grave at midnight. After the prayer a white bird sits on the graveyard-cross, that claims to be the grateful dead man and flies away. In Bordeaux Jean buys from a pirate-captain two beautiful girls and brings them to his father with the wish to marry the oldest, who is eighteen and to adopt the other one of seven as his daughter. Nine months later they get a son and a year after that Jean’s father dies. Then Jean has three paintings made, of his wife, his son and his foster-daughter, and leaves with a ship for Lisbon, where he draws with the portraits the attention of the king, who makes him his right-hand man and sends Jean back with a ship to go and get his daughters and grandson. One of the passengers is very helpful and Jean makes him his trustee (and must have told him where to find his wife), but the friend turns out to be a traitor, who in the night throws Jean overboard. – In the Greek tale ‘The journey in the golden ship’ there are also three portraits, but they are hanging in the palace of the king and are of his lost daughters. Like Jean is also Jannis thrown into the sea before the princesses are picked up. The son of the vizier asked, when he saw that the prince couldn’t sleep: ‘What is the matter with you, Jannaki?’ (a pet-name for Jannis) and Jannis says: ‘I can’t sleep, kaiméne (something like twin-brother).’ – The ship sails away and Jean swims until he can grab a piece of wood, while the white bird flies over him. After three days he washes up on a naked rock, and remains there seven years while every week the bird comes to bring him a bread and a jug of wine. Meanwhile the traitor has come to the castle of Jean, has presented himself as the dear friend of the drowned Jean, and wriggled himself into a position of control. Finally he wants to force the so-called widow to a marriage, but three times she manages to postpone the marriage for a year. Then the patience of the traitor has run out and on the wedding-day the bird comes to Jean and offers to bring him to the castle in one hour in exchange for half of his dearest possession, then digs his claws and beak into Jean’s hair, and flies quick as lightning over the wide sea and drops him at the threshold of his home. In seven years his hair has not been cut and his clothes are in shreds, so Jean looks like a woodman. He goes to the kitchen, makes himself known to his stepdaughter, who goes quietly for her sister. Together they make Jean decent, while at that moment the king of Portugal arrives with a big army looking for his daughters. While Jean remains hidden (like Arion), the traitor swears before the king that Jean has drowned, whereupon Jean comes out of his hiding (behind a curtain?) and explains everything. The traitor declares he is a liar, whereupon the white bird comes as a reliable witness. The traitor is executed, after which the bird wants his reward, half of the child. Jean rather gives him double his reward, and the bird flies to paradise, and Jean goes to Portugal to become king there. [Bladé 1982, 58-69.]
Again we are taken back to the Greek myths, this time to Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus was also seven years on the island of Calypso, departed on a raft that was hit by the wrath of Poseidon, and was on the brink of drowning, when he was saved by Leucothea, meaning ‘the white goddess’, a.k.a. Cadmus’ daughter Ino, who threw herself with her little son Melicertes into the sea, and was taken up under the gods by the name Leucothea, Lat. Albunea, also called Mater Matuta, (the silent mother, compare the silent dead man in ‘The journey with the Golden Ship’). She comes to Odysseus in the form of a seagull – a white bird – and gives him a veil as replacement of the heavy cloths from Calypso, after which he saves himself on a piece of wood and washes up on the beach of the island of the Phaeaken, who bring him home in one night, in time to prevent the marriage of his wife Penelope with one of the suitors.
The seven years on the island we encountered also in Gerould’s version Norwegian I. The hero lives from the fruit of a tree. Then comes an old man, the grateful dead man, who says that his wife hasn’t spoken for seven years (also a motif in ATU 301 and ATU 550/1, where the same betrayal takes place), and has to marry that day with the son of the emperor. In a flash the old man brings him to the palace, where the hero drops the ring the princess had given him in a glass that he offers her and is recognized by her despite his appearance as a woodman. She marries him and the emperor’s son is by his own sentence hanged and burnt. [Baars-Jelgersma 1941, 158-160] Compare also Gerould’s Jewish version. The son of a rich merchant of Jerusalem sets off after his father’s death to see the world. At Stamboul he finds hanging in chains the body of a Jew, which the Sultan has commanded to be left there until his co-religionists shall have repaid the sum that the man is suspected of having stolen from his royal master. The hero pays this sum, and has the corpse buried. Later during a storm at sea he is saved by a stone on which he is brought to land, whence he is carried by an eagle back to Jerusalem. There a white-clad man appears to him, explaining that he is the ghost of the dead, and that he has already appeared as stone and eagle. The spirit further promises the hero a reward for his good deed in the present and in the future life. [Gerould 27]
That Odysseus nearly drowned because of the heavy clothes that Calypso gave him can be compared with the situation of Strong Hans (KHM 166; ATU 301). After he is left in the world below he took the ring from the dwarf (Aladdin’s ring = Solomon’s ring), put it on his finger, turned it round and spirits came, who told him he was their master, and asked what his desire might be. He told them to carry him up. They obeyed instantly, and it was just as if he had flown up himself. But when he had arrived there, he found no one in sight. Fir-twister and Rock-splitter had hurried away, and had taken the beautiful maiden with them. But Hans turned the ring, and the spirits of the air came and told him that the two were on the sea. Hans ran and ran without stopping, until he came to the sea-shore, and there far, far out on the water, he perceived a little boat in which his faithless comrades were sitting; and in fierce anger he leapt, without thinking what he was doing, club in hand into the water, and began to swim, but the club, which weighted a hundredweight, dragged him deep down until he was all but drowned. Then in the very nick of time he turned his ring, and immediately the spirits of the air came and bore him swift as lightning into the boat. He swung his club and gave his wicked comrades the reward they merited and threw them into the water, and then he sailed with the beautiful maiden, who had been in the greatest alarm, and whom he delivered for the second time, home to her father and mother, and married her, and all rejoiced exceedingly. [Grimm 1972, 694f.]
Yuriwaka Daijin having released his bow, set in Fukaya-shuku, 1852 (foto Wikipedia)
In Japan the story has taken the form of a legend. The hero is called Yuriwaka-Daijin, because he is white as a lily (yuri). He was a head bigger than the other knights and showed no interest in the women of his country. People who saw him brooding said: ‘If he only knew the daughter of councillor Sanjô!’ When he heard this, he immediately set out and abducted in the night princess Sanjô. As punishment for this robbery he was sent to destroy the demons on the island Onigashima. His ship had sails made of 408 linen stripes and was accompanied by 48 ships. The demons were warned in a dream of his coming, but were convinced of their superiority. When the ships approached the island they threw rocks and stones, but Yuriwaka-Daijin stood high up the prow of his ship and caught all the stones with his war-shield painted with red sun-discs. Then the demons opened their windbag and let out fire-wind and fire-rain and burned the 48 ships that accompanied Yuriwaka-Daijin, whose ship alone managed to reach the land. Then followed an heroic fight between our hero and the leader of the demons, resulting in a massacre of the demons. Only a small one was left alive. The legend says that Yuriwaka-Daijin boasted to have brought about this victory by his own force without help from the gods and that he was punished by the gods for this presumptuousness. After the battle he fell asleep for three days and nights and meanwhile his subordinates Beppû no Jirô and Beppû no Saburô left with the crew and ship to collect the honour for themselves. When Yuriwaka-Daijin finally awoke he was alone on the island except for the little demon. He lived in a hole from seaweed brought by the little demon. The brothers Beppû upon their arrival spread the news that Yuriwaka-Daijin was killed in the fight with the demons and to reward them for the destruction of the demons they were awarded with the positions and estates of Yuriwaka-Daijin. But his wife couldn’t believe he was dead and commanded her falcon Midorimaru to fly to Yuriwaka-Daijin. The bird found him and he wrote a letter on a leaf and tightened it to the leg of the bird. When she received the message (maybe just one sign) she again sent out the bird with a brush and ink and an ink-stone and a letter, but the stone was too heavy and the bird dropped in the water and drowned and was washed up on the island of Yuriwaka-Daijin, who found it, but was left without means of communication. After three years on the island a fisherman dreamed he would catch a rare fish if he went to fish near the island of Onigashima. He went there and found Yuriwaka-Daijin, who had not been shaved nor his hair cut or taken a bath and looked like a woodman. He begged the fisher to take him aboard, but he reclined, so Yuriwaka-Daijin used force and was taken to his country. He arrived at his palace without being recognized except by his favorite old horse Onikage. As his body was covered with moss, he was given the name Kokemaru (moss-beard), but his old nurse saw him and was reminded of Yuriwaka, and thought about a way to make him smile so she could see if he had lord Yuriwaka’s double row of teeth. So she lifted her skirt, barred her bottom and danced in a funny way. Yurikawa couldn’t help but laugh and she saw the double row of teeth and knew it was him. Nobody wanted to believe her and a test was proposed: he had to ride the horse Onikage, that nobody could ride. The horse tolerated him on his back and to top it off he had brought to him the ‘thousand men bow’ that nobody could draw and shot the brothers Beppû dead and with them all the unfaithful men who abandoned him on the island. [Hammitzsch 1974, 17-32 nº6] The bow nobody could draw is of course Odysseus’s just like the recognition scene. A comparable test can be seen in a South-American version of ATU 301, collected by Pino-Saavedra and entitled ‘Hans Arcarpe’. After his rescue by the eagle the moment he is above the earth, the horse neighs, the bird sings and the princess laughs (cf. ATU 550/551). The king gives a party and whoever can lift the weapons of Hans Arcarpe, that the princess has brought back, may marry her. The eagle advises Hans to make a suit out of the skin of three rams and thus dressed as a herdsman he goes on a white mule to the palace, where he, unrecognized, also is called in to lift the weapons. In one hand he takes the rifle, in the other the sword and a moment later he is crowned and married. [Pino-Saavedra 1974, 17f (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuriwaka].
The abandonment on an island can also be seen in the Norse tale ‘Bird Dam’, wherein the 12 daughters of a king suddenly have disappeared, a well-known introduction of ATU 301. The news reaches another king with 12 sons, who want to go look for them. The father has a ship prepared under the guidance of steersman Knight Red. After seven years of sailing they come in a three-day storm and everyone falls asleep except the youngest prince, who sees an island with a barking dog. He goes on land and is taken by the dog to a castle, where the dog changes in a princess, that brings him to a horrible troll, who wants to help the prince, because he also wants to get rid of his master, the 12-headed troll, who has captured the 12 princesses. He commands the prince to take a old rusty sword from the wall, but the boy cannot move it. After a drink from a power-potion it goes without a problem The troll-prince warns him for Knight Red and says that over 7 years (minus 3 days) they will come again in a storm. Again everybody is asleep except the youngest, who goes on land with his sword and arrives at a castle with wolves, bears and lions, who bow down for him so he can enter. In a luxurious room twelve princesses are seated on golden chairs each one with a head of the troll in her lap to louse, and with gestures he signals them to go aside so he can chop off the twelve heads. Then he goes back to the ship to get the others, who don’t believe him at first. They go with him, throw the parts of the troll-king in the sea and take as many treasures as the ship can carry and sail away. But then they think about the box with their twelve crowns. The youngest goes to the island to get them, but Knight Red, who wants to have the youngest princess for himself, sails away and forces the other ones to swear that he too has released the princesses. When the prince notices their disappearance he goes back to the castle of the troll to spend the night there. In the middle of the night he hears after a lot of noise: ‘I’m the Bird Dam and will help you as much as I can.’ (Compare Sbadillon). In the morning the prince sees near him an enormous bird, that he has to feed 4 tons of rye, after which the bird takes him and the box with the crowns on his back. They soon pass the ship and the bird assures the prince that the youngest princess sleeps every night with his sword in bed next to her. Finally they come to the troll-prince, who is glad, because now he is king, and the prince may marry his daughter, but he declines as he wants the youngest princess. When the ship passes, there are again three days of storm, wherein everyone sleeps, and the prince goes aboard and he sees the youngest princess asleep with the sword next to her that he takes away, and on a carpet on the floor Knight Red. When another 7 years minus three weeks have gone by the prince borrows from the troll-prince a magic boat that goes by itself, that he loads with treasures, and a hammer to pass the ship of Knight Red unnoticed in a storm. After his arrival he goes to live, disguised as a sailor, in the house of a blabbermouth, so he is called soon to the king, while the ship of Knight Red is received in triumph. Only the youngest princess is not happy until the sailor comes with the box with the twelve crowns, after which Knight Red is exposed and executed by the king, whereupon a twelve-fold marriage takes place. [Baars-Jelgersma 1941, 250-257] We are back at ATU 301, as was already realised by Bolte and Polivka in their notes to ‘The Gnome’ (KHM 91: Das Erdmänneken): ‘The rescue of the left-behind youngest prince by the bird Grip (Greif) is already present in the around 1701 recorded Historia om sju prinsar ock sju prinsessor by Ahlström.’ And they continue: ‘In another chapbook Pelle Båteman the hero liberates as in the Flemish tale the king’s daughter from robbers and is pushed by the captain overboard; like Jean de Calais [he is saved] by a grateful dead man [and] comes before the princess disguised as a shoemaker’s apprentice.’ [BP II, 303f] In this Flemish tale Jan saves himself on a piece of driftwood and is washed up somewhere and goes to rest in a graveyard, where he hears a voice complaining: ‘Who will release me?’ Fearless Jan responds: ‘I will.’ And the ghost refers him to his house, where three pots of gold are hidden, that he partially has to use to pay off a theft the ghost has committed. The rest of the money and the house are for Jan who starts a bakery (as he was a baker’s apprentice). The princess lives in the same town and he hears of her wedding with the captain who saved her from the robbers, and arranges with the palace-cook that he can make the wedding pies, which he sculptured in scenes from the liberation. On the third pie he puts the ring the princess gave him, and the king demands an explanation. But the princess remains mute [which as we have seen she is the whole time] and the cook is called. Jan appears in his robber-costume and the princess throws herself in his arms and begs for forgiveness, because she was forced by that villain the captain, who is thrown in jail, and after the wedding of Jan with the princess his tongue is ripped out and he is decapitated. [Ned., 156-159 = De Mont en de Cock, Wondersprookjes, 208 (BP II, 302).]
The Swedish story of ‘Pelle Cook’ has more motifs of the ‘grateful dead’. Pelle had a friend, who fell overboard on a trip on the Spanish Sea. Pelle himself was ship’s cook and when he crossed the Spanish Sea he resigned and put himself on a hatch on the sea. And while the ships sailed on the crew could see a man coming out of the sea and seat himself silently next to Pelle: it is his dead friend. A big whale comes and gets caught in a piece of rope and drags the two friends with dizzying speed till they come to an island, where Pelle buries his friend. Then he goes on expedition, comes to a cave that descends in the earth and following this road he comes in many gorgeous halls to a beautiful young woman, that warns him for the 12 robbers, who have abducted her, a princess. She gives him the advice to present himself as a new member of the gang and he is accepted as cook. Secretly Pelle and the princess get engaged and she gives him half a ring, after which Pelle feeds the robbers drunk, and kills them by pouring hot tar over them. They live a while in the robbers house till a boat washes up, so they can leave the island with a lot of treasure. Near the capital in an inn they tell their adventures and two scoundrels hear it, attack them on the road, knock Pelle down (kill him), and force the princess to tell the king that they have saved her. Meanwhile Pelle is saved (brought to live) by his friend, the grateful dead, who gives him a spoon to stir the soup of the king, who shall then be healed of his incurable disease. Pelle manages to get a job in the palace kitchen and to prepare (with the help of the princess) the healing soup for the king. The healed king appoints him as cup-bearer and during the diner, when the princess will announce which one of the two scoundrels she will choose, Pelle drops the half of the ring in the cup of the king. When he finds the half of the ring the princess explains everything, after which the two scoundrels are locked up in the tower to be tried later, while Pelle Cook marries the princess and becomes king after the dead of the king. [Schier 1971, 149-155 nº36]
Another series of tales mentioned by Gerould that also contains the motif of the hero thrown overboard is connected with the motif of the water of life (ATU 551). In a Maltese version the three sons of a king successively go out in search of a bird, the song of which will make their father young. The elder two lose their all by gambling with a maiden in a palace by the way. The youngest brother pays four thousand pounds sterling to bury properly a man who has been dead eight months. He is warned against the maiden by a ghost, and so wins all from her (by using his own cards), thus rescuing his brothers. When he comes to the castle, the ghost again appears, and tells him to take the bird that he finds in a dirty cage. On the way back he is thrown overboard from the steamboat by his brothers, but is saved by the ghost, who appears in the form of a rock with a tree on it. He is rescued by another steamer, and comes home in rags, where he is recognized by the bird, which has hitherto refused to sing. The brothers are banished. [Gerould 127f] The treacherous brothers are also part of a Venetian story: Twelve brothers seek twelve sisters as wives. Eleven of them go out at first, and are turned to stone. The youngest brother sets out after a year, and on the way has a poor dead man buried. Later, when he has saved his eleven brothers, they become envious, and throw him into a well. The thankful dead man then comes, draws him out with a cord, and explains who he is. The hero proceeds to his home and tells his story. [Gerould 130]
According to a Polish story, a poor scholar pays his all for the burial of a corpse lying maltreated by the way. Later he goes to sleep under an oak, and on awaking finds his purse full of gold. He is robbed of this while crossing a stream, by some scoundrels who cast him into the water; but he is rescued by the ghost of the dead man, who appears in the form of a plank and gives him the power of turning himself into a crow, a hare, or a deer. He becomes a huntsman to a king, whose daughter lives on an inaccessible island. In her castle is a sword with which a man could overcome the greatest army. When war threatens, the king offers the princess to any man who can obtain the sword. By means of his power of metamorphosis the hero carries her a letter and wins her love. When he exhibits his magical powers, she cuts off a bit of the fur, or a feather, from each creature into which he turns. With the sword he then starts back to court, but on the way he is shot by a rival and robbed of the sword and a letter from the princess. He lies in the way in the form of a dead hare till the war is ended and the rival is about to marry the princess, when he is revived and warned by the ghost. At court he is recognized by the princess, who proves his tale by having him turn into various shapes and fitting the samples which she has taken. [Gerould]
Here we see the shape-shifting that is also part of Lévi-Strauss’s ‘key-myth’ and the hero’s death is comparable with the stay on the island like the death of the hero in some versions of ATU 551. Thompson has the story as ATU 665: The Man Who Flew like a Bird and Swam like a Fish. In a war [the hero] gets the sword of the king, who gives him his daughter as wife. I. The Hero’s Powers. (a) The power of transforming himself into a bird, a fish, and a hare is given to the hero (b) by an old man with whom he divides his last penny, (c) by a grateful dead man (see Type 505) or (d) by grateful animals (see Type 554). II. Fetching the Sword. (a) When he is serving in war, his hard-pressed king sends him to secure his magic sword (ring) from the princess. (b) By swimming as a fish, flying as a bird, and running as a hare he reaches the castle and gets the sword. (c) As he leaves the castle, the princess cuts a feather off the bird. III. The Impostor. (a) On his return he is shot as a hare by a man who takes the sword to the king and claims the reward. (b) The hero is restored to life by his helper. (c) He flies as a dove and reaches the castle in time to forestall the wedding. (d) The princess recognizes him by the feather. [Thompson 1961, 232(f): 18 Finnish, 11 Esthonian, 13 Lithuanian, 5 Scandinavian, 7 Irish, 2 Catalan, 13 German, 3 Hungarian, 3 Slovenian, 2 Serbocroatian, 2 Polish, 4 Russian, 6 Franco-American versions, etc.] The scene with the impostor is also present in the next type: ATU 667: The Wood-Spirit’s Foster son. The boy promised to the wood-spirit [Mot. F440] receives from the latter the power to transform himself into various animals [D630.1]. Frees the princess; is thrown into the sea [S142]. Treacherous nobleman claims to be rescuer of the princess [K1932; K1935]. And reference is made to types ATU 505, 506 and 552. [Thompson 1961, 233 (the reference to 552 escapes me), based on 1 Finnish-Swedish, 3 Swedish, 4 Danish, and 1 Flemish version (etc.).]
In the Hungarian 1 version the hero, while running back to the king in the form of a hare, was shot by an envious comrade, who took the ring and was rewarded. The hero was restored to life by the old beggar, and returned to the castle, where he was brought to the princess. She succeeded in proving the truth of his story by means of the feathers, the scales, and the tail, which she had so fortunately preserved. [Gerould 128f] In Rumanian II the hero by means of his magical knife changed into a hare, obtained the emperor’s ring as well as one from the princess’s own hand, and returned to the army. There he was met by his master, who plundered him, threw him into a spring, and went to the emperor for reward. The princess said that the man was not he to whom she gave the ring. Meanwhile, Christ had rescued the hero from the spring and sent him to the palace in the form of a fox with his ring in a basket. The princess recognized from the token that he was her true bridegroom, and brought him to the emperor. [Gerould 129] In a version of the story from the collection of Afanassiev collected in the Russian province Arckhangelsk, the hero Simon, the youngest of the three sons of a bridge-builder, is allowed a wish by two staretz (‘hermits’) and wants to be a soldier; they advise against it, because it will be hard, but the boy says that he who doesn’t cry in this world, will cry in the other, and the staretz put their hands on him and turn him into a fleet-footed stag, then into a hare and finally into a little bird with a golden head. All this shapes he can now take on at will, and he goes into the service of the king. Then there is a war and the king has forgotten his fighting club and sword. Simon is the only one who claims to be able to bring them within three days and leaves with a letter of the king to his daughter. As soon as he is a werst away, he turns into a stag and runs till he gets tired, than changes into a hare, and then a bird, arrives at princess Marfa as a man, gives her the letter, and she wants to know how he got there so fast. He takes on his animal shapes and she takes some hairs and feathers, gives him food and drink and the club and sword. They kiss each other goodbye and Simon hurries back, but near the camp he lays down to sleep on the beach with the club and sword beside him. A general sees him, throws him in the water and brings the club and sword to the king (who is victorious). Simon, fallen into the sea, is caught by the Sea King and taken to his Depth. He lives there a year, weeps out of homesickness and the king feels sorry and puts him on the shore in a flash. Simon prays God for a little bit of sun, but before the sun rises, Simon is caught again by the King of the Sea and has to stay another year after which the king puts him on the shore but at the break of day he takes him back again. After the third year the sun comes up and the king cannot grab him anymore and Simon goes quickly to the court, where the king, returned from the war, is on the brink of marrying Marfa with the general. As soon as she sees Simon stepping inside, she reveals the deception of the general, has Simon perform his transformations, while she shows the hairs and feathers she took before. And the king banishes the general, marries Marfa with Simon, and makes him his heir. [Bozoki 1978, 354-358 nº94: Le messager rapide (Afan. 259/145) = Guterman 1975, 124-130. For the release in three steps from the underwater-hold, see KHM 181 = ATU 316: The Nixie of the Mill Pond. Motif F4220.127.116.11. Water-spirits kidnap mortals and keep them under water (Thompson 1961, 111).]