illustration (c) Mary Azarian




a tale of beauty and horror

This may be the most widespread story in the world. Pacific Islanders, Italians, Appalachian highlanders, all have their variants.

We tell our own translation of the version included in Grimm. It's one of two tales there contributed by the painter Philippe Otto Runge.

It is probably our most popular story on college campuses, and is one of the stories on our CD, World Tales Live at Bennington College.


Here is a picture of us performing it to a large & happy crowd on a Saturday night from the main stage at Vermont's SolarFest, following a high-energy dance band. (Click the picture for more about this.)

It's the only folktale listed in the Thompson-Aarne index of folktale types and motifs by the song that runs through it:
Mama Killed Me/Da
ddy Ate Me.

German scholar Maria Tatar has written angry books about how abusive the Grimms tales are about women and children-- all except for one, she says. This one. This one, she says, is good for kids. But we mostly stick to telling it in high schools and colleges.

Our subtitle, "A tale of Beauty and Horror" is from Tolkein's fine essay "On Faerie Stories." He neglected to comment on the tale's dark but very real humor.

This is a program we often do around Halloween. Another is The Ogre Boyfriend, and another is the long Irish adventure of the young man Guleesh, the sinister Sheehoague, and the King of France's daughter.

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