SurLaLune Header Logo

This is an archived string from the
SurLaLune Fairy Tales Discussion Board.

Back to February 2007 Archives Table of Contents

Return to Board Archives Main Page

Visit the Current Discussions on Yuku

Visit the SurLaLune Fairy Tales Main Page

Author
Comment
runalian
Registered User
(2/5/07 10:47 am)


frog, donkey and cat symbolism
Can anyone help me find out more about frogs, donkeys and cat symbolism in common fairy tales and folklore? I once read that frogs were considered to be sort of like a witch's pet and when they danced by moonlight it was actually devils dancing though I'm not quite sure...

Rosemary Lake
Registered User
(2/5/07 4:50 pm)


familiars
Frogs as witches' pets/devils sounds like the idea of a witch having a 'familiar spirit'; cats were common for that too. However I don't recall traditional European fairy tales (Grimm, Lang, Perrault, etc) using that idea.

In the Grimm/Lang/Calvino sort of tales, donkeys often produced something valuable -- search for 'gold-dung donkey'.

Cats are often helpful and may have something magical about them.There's Puss in Boots, and there's a house of cats (similar to a nunnery) in Calvino. White cats tend to be enchanted princes or something like that, iirc.

Frogs turn into princes/princesses when treated in a certain way. It's kind of like the 'unpromising hero' motif.

minervasrazor
Registered User
(2/5/07 11:27 pm)


Re: familiars
Frogs are often used interchangably with toads, but they are actually slightly different symbolically. Toads are more purely associated as being "witch" animals, both as familiars and as "witch souls" (i.e. the theriomorphic form of the witch, just like foxes and spiders are sometimes thought to be the witch's soul.) Frogs are positive creatures in many tales, but toads are usually destructive. They are often associated with poison and decay. Wicked girls are punished by having toads jump out of their mouths every time they speak. There are many tales in which a well has suddenly become poisonous, or a fountain has run dry, seemingly without explanation; but later it is discovered that there is a toad under a stone at the bottom, and when it is removed the water runs freely again. "The Devil's Three Gold Hairs" is an example of such a tale. The film "Pan's Labyrinth" also makes use of this motif, with a toad hidden in the roots of a dying tree.

Frogs are sometimes witch animals, but they can also be more general "mother" animals, like sows and heifers. There is a tale about a dummling prince who visits and underground kingdom of frogs ruled by a great frog matriarch. She gives him one of her handmaids for his bride, and the little frog eventually turns into a princess. And, as Rosemary pointed out, frogs are a favorite animal form for people under a curse.

As a matter of fact, all three of these animals (frogs, donkies, and cats) are used in stories where human beings are cursed to walk in animal form. Apuleius' famous novel "The Golden Ass" is the story of a man transformed into a donkey by witchcraft, and it is the source for a number of tales. D'Aulnoy's "The White Cat" is a well-known tale of a princess transformed into a cat.

Rosemary mentioned magic donkeys who pass gold coins for dung; other magic donkies drop coins from their ears. There is also a motif of devilish beings, witches and magicians being recognizable by having the features of a donkey; hooves are the most common, but ears and tails also feature. And, of course, this can be the result of a curse, as well (think of Midas, for instance.)

J

Edited by: minervasrazor at: 2/5/07 11:36 pm
runalian
Registered User
(2/16/07 5:46 pm)


Re: familiars
Thank you so much for your responses. It was really helpfull and i wasn't even thinking of the Devil's three gold hairs.

SurLaLune Logo

amazon logo with link

This is an archived string from the
SurLaLune Fairy Tales Discussion Board.

©2008 SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages

Back to February 2007 Archives Table of Contents

Return to Board Archives Main Page

Visit the Current Discussions on Yuku

Visit the SurLaLune Fairy Tales Main Page