Weaving Folklore with Shawls & Silk Stories from around the world
Folktales are yarns spun over the ages with new threads added every now and then. Shawls have been such a part of cultures around the world that they feature in folklore by one name or the other. They embrace silken threads of life and weave them into exquisite wraps. Here are a few tales from around the globe that will make you prize your shawl collection even more.
Indonesian – The Prince of the kingdom of Sulawesi was once wandering around a pond in his garden when he spotted seven beautiful angels dancing there. They removed the delicate lace shawls they wore around their shoulders as wings and dove into the pond. He instantly desired to get one of the angels and his wife and sneaked one shawl from the ground and hid it. As the angels returned, they wore their shawls and flew away. But one of them could not find her wings and cried for help. The prince offered his help and pretended to look for them. He asked her to stay with him while they could locate the shawl and eventually asked her to marry him. Years passed by and they had kids but though the angel was happy to have the prince as her husband, she longed to go back to where she came from.
One day their son stumbled upon the hidden wings and the angel saw them. She immediately understood what must have happened. Despite the prince’s crying pleas, she returned to where she came from. Before leaving, she told him that whenever he missed her, he should look for a rainbow and know that she is dancing somewhere.
Malaysian – Bawang Putih was a beautiful, young girl who lived with her step-mother and step-sister after the death of her father. Her step-mother and her step-sister where not kind people. Bawang was made to work like a maid and it was while washing her step-mother’s shawl that she lost it in the river current which happened to be her favourite. Cruel as she was, her step-mother refused to let her enter the house without the shawl. Looking for it, she reached the home of an old woman, Buto Ijo. She was rumoured to be crazy and scary. When Bawang Putih asked her for the shawl, she agreed on the condition that she would cook and clean for her for a few days. After she had been there for a few days, Buto Ijo returned the shawl to her and also gave her a pumpkin which she was to open only on reaching home. She was pleasantly surprised to find a bunch of jewellery inside the pumpkin.
When her step-mother came to know about it, she pretended to lose the shawl all over again in the same way. When Buto Ijo asked them to serve her for a few days, they were reluctant and did it half heartedly. When they got back the shawl and the pumpkin, they were happy that now they too would get a lot of jewellery. But when they got home, they found what they deserved, a lot of snakes inside.
Norwegian – Although the original tale revolves around Christ, this retelling features Odin and Loki. They were both hungry and knocked on a door. A housewife named Gertrude, who was wearing a red head scarf and an apron covered in flour, opened the door. They asked her for a bit of whatever she was baking and she asked them to come in but not without instructing them to behave themselves. The two of them took turns casting magic as she rolled out dough to make bannock. This made the bannock turn as large as the griddle. She had to chuck a few as they were too big to eat. When she finally gave up and refused to give them any food, they got upset and decreed that she shall turn into a bird and eat from the bark of trees. As Gertrude turned into a woodpecker, her red scarf turned into feathers on her head and as she tried to fly up the chimney, her body turned black.
Japanese – The popular tale of the grateful crane is much loved around the world and hs many versions. This is one. An old couple comes across an injured crane in the snow and tends her back to good health. As the crane heals, it asks the old couple to leave her alone in a room at night and in the morning presents them with an exquisite woven shawl which fetches them a very good price. Every night this is repeated and the couple gets increasingly curious. One day they decide to look inside the room and find a beautiful girl weaving and creating the shawls. She plucks her own feathers and weaves the shawls and that is the reason they are so beautiful. When she is discovered, she turns into a crane again, takes their leave and flies away.