Academic journal article Journal of American Folklore

"The Princess in the Wooden Body": Israeli Oral Versions of "The Maiden in the Chest" (ATU 510B*) in Light of Incest Victims' Blogs

Academic journal article Journal of American Folklore

"The Princess in the Wooden Body": Israeli Oral Versions of "The Maiden in the Chest" (ATU 510B*) in Light of Incest Victims' Blogs

Article excerpt

Based on the examination of thirteen oral versions of type ATU 510B*, recorded in the Israeli Folktale Archive (IFA), mostly told by women, this article reviews and analyzes the common characteristics shared among these versions and blogs of incest victims, appearing on an Israeli website of sexual abuse victims. The nature of the disguise (a wooden body or the like), and the opening as well as the closing scenes, in which the maiden confronts her lecherous father, are discussed in light of these blogs. The article challenges the idea that we are dealing with an active heroine who takes charge of her life and is able to start over with another man. Instead, the power we find in these tales is fueled by the narrators, who use their stories to voice and externalize female distress and oppression in a patriarchal society.


AFS Ethnographic Thesaurus: women, incest, blogs, folktales, voice


The subject of incest, appearing in tale type Atu 510b ("cap o' rushes," "Donkey- Skin," "All kinds of Fur"), has been broadly discussed; however, scholars vary in their interpretation of the father's lust in this tale type. whereas some scholars view the father's wish to marry his own daughter as a projection of the girl's oedipal desire (el-Shamy 1999;1 Dundes 1982; bettelheim 1976), others focus on the escaping and hiding of the heroine. Goldberg, muhawi, and others portray the heroine as an active one, who succeeds in escaping from her lecherous father (motif t411.1) and takes charge of her life (Goldberg 1997; muhawi 2001; Perco 1993). even those who reject the Freudian concept of projection do not necessarily identify the father's crime as the central issue in question. nicolaisen, for example, demonstrates how the father does not really know that he is marrying his own daughter. in cases when the father figure is aware that he is marrying his own daughter, he does so because of his dead wife's wish and not because of his own perverted desires (nicolaisen 1993:63-4).2 however, while nicolaisen's interpretation is based on printed texts, muhawi, who focuses on two oral Arabic versions, emphasizes the patriarchal order and men's ownership of the woman's body in Arabic culture (muhawi 2001). muhawi states: "in arousing the desire of the father, the daughter's body in At510b is brought to the forefront of the action and highlighted throughout" (266). As may be observed in our discussion, this is especially true for "The maiden in the chest," on which this article focuses. nevertheless, in accordance with previous suggestions, muhawi also concludes that we are dealing with an active, smart heroine, who finds her own ways to operate within the patriarchal society.

Israeli Oral Versions of ATU 510

More than 50 variants of tale type Atu 510 are recorded in the israeli Folktale Archive (iFA), most of which originate from islamic countries. israeli scholars have already discussed the unique characteristics of some of the Jewish versions of tale type Atu 510A (bar-itzhak 1993; Alexander 1994b), as well as tale type Atu 510b (Alexander 1994a). These considerations examined non-western versions (moroccan and ye- meni) in an israeli context, emphasizing the oedipal component of the tales, among other features. lately, tales in which a maiden escapes from her lecherous father by hiding in a chest have attained a special classification, Atu 510b* ("The Princess in the chest"), which goes as follows: A widowed king wants to marry his daughter. She demands that he give her a magic golden chest. on their wedding day, she hides herself in the chest. The father sells the chest to a prince (it is cast into the sea, where a prince finds it and brings it into his house). when the princess secretly comes out and eats his food, he discovers her and falls in love with her. The prince's fiancée discovers the princess and sends her away. The prince becomes lovesick, and the princess brings him food in which she has hidden a ring for the prince. …

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