I Would Rather Marry a Wolf
Disclaimer: Not mine and I make no profit.
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." And this was the beginning of humankind, according to the Jew and the Cristians.
The Norse told of three god brothers who slain frost giant Ymir. His blood formed the seas, his bones became mountains and his flesh became earth. From his hair, plants grew, and there were Aske the ash tree and Embla the elm and from those the first man and woman were made. Odin All Father gave the man and woman life and a soul each. The couple were given reason and motion, and speech and motion by his brothers Vili and Ve respectively. The Indians believe humans were born from the mating of Heaven and Earth, the ancient Egyptians said humans formed from Ra's tears. Eventually Charles Darwin concluded that humans had evolved from apes and this made no one happy.
As among the mundane, as among the mythos. Even among Fables the eternal question prevails; where did we come from?
In the Old Land there were hundreds of thousands of mundane people, woodcutters and seamstresses, house wives and millers, farmers and merchants and nobility even who grew up and then grew old, who swallowed a fish bone and choked or fell down the stairs drunk or died of childbirth or just plain old age, and they were buried and they never returned. And among these people walked immortal princesses disguised in rags and cows who jumped over the moon, and these special people asked: where do we come from? Why are we different? Which came first, the story or the hero?
The kings do not know, the wise men can not tell, but if you met an old woman in a rocking chair and were very polite to her she might tell you a tale. Not her own, no, for that she holds sacred and doesn't tell lightly, but maybe the story of someone else.
Once upon a time there was a girl of great beauty. Her hair wasn't merely black, but circled her face in raven locks, her skin was white and without flaw despite her being just a small village's girl who never sat a day idly inside, safe from the harsh elements. Her voice was sweet and her countenance comely and her name might have been Anqt or Brighid or Cecilia or Dolores, it didn't matter. It wasn't important who she was, but what; a lovely, sought after girl who refused her father's choice of husbands.
Let's call her Anqt. The old woman knew Anqt, though they were no friends. Certainly not close enough that she would have attempted to save the girl from the fate she chose. The man her father would have had her marry was a widower. He was older than Anqt, his skin was already deeply wrinkled and his hair grey for people grew old early back then, he had three children, all girls, and there were some who said his first wife hadn't fallen off the cliff into the sea by accident. She hadn't gifted her husband with a son after all, and without a strong son to take care of him once he is old a man is nothing. The man gave her a gift of red woollen clothe to make a fine dress of, one that all the other girls envied, and a bracelet made of bronze.
"I would rather marry a wolf!" the distraught girl screamed at the top of her lungs. She didn't see the bright red clothe and the gleaming bracelet, she remembered the brutish embrace of the man when he had lain with her just days before.
It had been Imbolc, the celebration of the beginning of the end of winter. New lambs were born, and a dish made from their docked tails was eaten. Women met to celebrate the return of the maiden aspect of the Goddess. In the night of celebration the man had lain with Anqt and not asked her leave to do so, and she also remembered the bloated corpse of his first wife and feared he might be even crueller if she were to give him yet another girl.
"Insolent girl! He is a good man and will take care of you," her father shouted and slapped her, leaving a red handprint on her face. Anqt's eyes were filled with tears.
"Like he cared for his first wife? Do you really hate me so, father, that you would do this to me?" she pleaded.
But she pleaded in vain. Those days children were subjects of their parents and did as they were told. Anqt's father beat her until she curtseyed to the widower and thanked him of the gifts and day of the wedding was decided on. But the bride was pale and her doe's eyes were wet with withheld tears and two days before the wedding she went to the forest to gather firewood and didn't return. Her bronze bracelet had disappeared along with her, as had her warm wolf cloak and a bread and her father's best knife and nothing was ever heard of her again. The widower married her sister instead and that was that.
Only it wasn't. People tell tales, happy tales and fun tales, but especially sad and cautionary tales, and when the story fails to be exiting or tragic enough they exaggerate. A drunken fisher told to a haberdasher who passed through the village, a dark-skinned man who sold buttons and ribbons and needles, how comely Anqt had been dissatisfied with men found for her by her father, and so she had married a wolf. Her father had been so angry at this that he had driven her into the woods and she had died there. The haberdasher told the story in the next village, and maybe he was the who added that Anqt had been pregnant with a wolf cub, maybe it was someone else, but this story the old woman later heard.
After that, the stories really ran wild.
For You formed my innermost self; You wove me in words as my mother wove me in her womb.
Other versions of the legend depicted Anqt as a beautiful maiden who rejected marriage proposals from the shepherds and fishers of her village. When an unknown hunter appeared, Anqt's father agreed to give her to him as wife in return for fish. He gave her a sleeping potion and gave her to the hunter who takes her to a large den under a cliff, revealing to her his true form, a great wolf. No, some said, the man was a dwarf, not a hunter, and some said it wasn't the father who gave the maiden away, but the mother.
I will give thanks to You, You who spoke and You who listened, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are the words that leave Your lips, And my soul knows it very well.
Mother changed into stepmother, and somewhere along the way the maiden's name was forgotten as well, and when someone thought she ought to have a name they made one up. She was beautiful, they said, her hair was dark as the night and her skin pale as the snow. She was taken by a hunter and her father left in a boat to rescue her from the floating ice-island where she was imprisoned. No, she was in a little hut in the woods. She was rescued by a dwarf, by seven hale and bold youths, no, by seven dwarves! In people's minds she was a fisher's daughter and a hunter's daughter and a princess, she had evil stepmother and seven dwarves or youths were involved and someone even remembered a sister her husband-to-be married instead.
She was beautiful, her skin white as snow, her mouth red as blood, her hair black as ebony. She was a princess and it was a truth universally acknowledged that every princess needs a prince or a knight.
You clothed me with tales as with skin and flesh; And You knit me together with Your tongue as bones and sinews.
Snow White was born in a small cottage and lived there with her twin sister Rose Red. Her mother was a witch and her aunt was the queen of a far-away land and Snow White was a special girl. She grew up but she didn't grow old. The queen ordered a hunter to kill Snow White, the hunter spared her instead and she fled into the forest. There, she found a cottage that was the home of seven wicked dwarves. She got her prince and divorced him and was estranged from her sister. She was a Fable, immortal as one so loved by the mundane can only be, her stories trickling through the walls between the worlds.
And an old woman called Frau Totenkinder was much later rescued by Snow White and Rose Red. Frau Totenkinder recognized Anqt in Snow for she had good eye for such things. Oh, Snow White wasn't Anqt, wasn't her soul or reincarnation or any such thing, for Anqt had gone the way all mortal souls go. But the poor, short-lived girl had left an impression behind, an empty mould, and nature abhors vacuums of all kinds. The Anqt-shaped hole in the existence had to be filled by something, someone.
And so Snow White filled it and filled it well, created her own legend, made her rather silly name famous. She may not have been a better person than Anqt was, but she certainly was stronger, in spirit and body both. She was her own woman. But deep, deep down in her innermost self there was an echo of a cry: I would rather marry a wolf!
Some were surprised when they heard. Frau Totenkinder only smiled knowingly.