Dear Activist in Oslo–We wonder if anyone has sent you the list of stories from traditional sources with GLBTQ-friendly themes (or LGBT-friendly; doesn’t seem to matter) compiled by Storytell Listserve members a few months ago. It’s not very long, but there are some good stories there. Some involve storyteller changes, and others are the true to the original source. We hope others have more stories to add.–Stella and Amy
1. “The Blue Rose” Chinese Folktale. The princess says she will marry whoever brings her a blue rose. Several try, but she sees through their tricks. When the one she loves appears, they devise a plan so the chosen one will win. Traditionally her beloved is male, but…Richard Martin of Darmstadt, Germany, says: this morning while cycling in to school, (I was) thinking about a girl in one class who recently happily explained to me that she would be missing the next lesson because her mother was marrying her partner (since this was in German, the “partner” had a feminine ending to the word). This morning I told the class the Blue Rose (http://tellatale.eu/tales_blue_rose.html), and had the princess marry a woman.
And Nick Smith adds: It is one of the stories that lends itself to unusual variations without damaging the heart of the story itself.
2. Naomi Socher tells “a version of Catskin that ends in her marrying a nobleman’s daughter instead of a son. In my version, the nobleman holds grand balls to find the perfect mate for his daughter and all the eligible lords and ladies are invited, since she’s bi.”
3. Naomi also suggests The Arthurian tale of Percival, who was raised as a girl until a teenager, and later becomes one of King Arthur’s knights, making his tale an interesting exploration of gender.
4. David & Jonathan. “And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.” Samuel 18 ff.
5. Another biblical story which includes a covenantal relationship is Ruth, who gives Naomi a vow, to follow her in her life. When Ruth bears a son, the women say “There is a son born to Naomi.”
6. You might find some encouragement in good companions quest stories, although the protagonist usually ends up with a bride. Fran Stallings gives the example of “Tatterhood” from Ethel Johnston Phelps’ book Tatterhood. Two sisters have an adventure, and Tatterhood shows trust in “the prince,” but we don’t see her marry him.
7. Another example of such a story which does not end in a marriage is “Kanu Above and Kanu Below” in The Storyteller’s Start-Up Book by Margaret Read MacDonald. Four animal/insect friends go on a quest and successfully reunite a family. Though his people dislike the four, Chief Kanu Below stands up for each of them and, in the end, reminds the people that they wanted to kick the friends out of the village, yet it was those four who brought his daughter back to him.
8. Yet another such tale is the Spanish folktale “The Flea.” A shepherd boy and his animal companions go to the palace to take on a challenge given by the king where the reward is to marry his daughter. They solve the riddle, but decline the marriage.
9. Fran also suggests “Mandowmin” (legend of the origin of corn, found in Joseph Campbell’s The Masks of God, Volume I, Primitive Mythology (p. 216 ff).
10. From “Bi-anonymous,” by Melanie Ray, an essay in The Healing Heart – Families, edited by Allison M. Cox and David H. Albert. comes this entry from her “pitifully short list of some sources for stories”: Kissing the Witch by Emma Donahue, a literary retelling of 13 fairytales told through the eyes of the unique women in these stories.
11. “The Tackety Boots,” a Scottish Folktale retold by Hazel Lennox. In this time-warp tale, a man is cast out, becomes a woman for a time, marries and has children, and then is returned to being a man–without missing more than an evening in his home time/place. Also from The Healing Heart – Families.
12. “The Necklace” as retold by Elisa Pearmain (“Empowering Middle School Students to Stop Bullying,” in Storytelling Magazine, November-December 2012.) Bullying is always a core GLBTQ issue, and this all-girl tale seems particularly fitting for questioning youth.
13. Include “Truth and Story” in a GLBTQ-friendly program, reminding all of how people don’t really care as much about the bare, naked truth as they do about a heartwarming, human story.
14. In the rhythmic Limba tale “Ko Kongole,” a vain girl considers marrying a porcupine, an antelope, a bull, then finally decides upon a rooster because he is handsome. The notion of marrying someone who will make you look respectable in the wedding album is dispelled. Also from Margaret’s (Read MacDonald) The Storyteller’s Start-Up Book.
“My what a good start!” said Simplia, after listening to Sagacia read Stella and Amy’s list aloud.
“Indeed,” Sagacia agreed. “I do hope our magical friends have more tales to add!”