Can we learn life lessons from fairy tales?
I believe we can. We can learn from any good story because a good story is about people. Fairy tales are some of the oldest stories around. Some have existed for hundreds of years, some for thousands! During that time a process of selection occurs. Good, meaningful tales are kept, poor ones dropped.
Let us take the old European folktale of Melusina. Here is my favorite version:
The story starts with the fairy Pressina. Pressina married a King on the condition that he not visit her during her “laying-in". This is the time just before and after a woman gives birth. The King agreed and soon Pressina had three daughters, triplets. When the King was informed he forgot himself and went to see Pressina. Instantly, Pressina screamed and disappeared, taking the children with her.
The children grew to be beautiful young women. When they were 15 one of them, Melusina, asked Pressina why they did not live with their father. After Pressina explained, Melusina was seized with anger. She called her sisters and in secret they planned revenge on their father. They robbed him of all his wealth and imprisoned him.
Then Melusina told her mother what they had done. Pressina punished them for their actions. Melusina was cursed that every Saturday she would become a mermaid. This curse would endure until she found a husband who would marry her under the condition of never seeing her on Saturday. Melusina could not explain to him what happened to her or why.
Melusina left her mother then and went to live in France. She became a fairy queen and ruled the land around a fountain called the Fountain of the Fairies or the Fountain of Thirst.
One day a knight named Raymond came to the fountain to drink. There he saw three women, one of whom was Melusina. He was struck by her beauty and her pleasing manners and soon they were in love. He asked Melusina to marry him and she told him the strange condition: he must never see her on Saturday and he must never ask her why.
Raymond agreed and they were wed. They lived happily together for many years. The only flaw being that all their children where deformed and ugly. This occasioned Raymond some sadness but he never considered giving up his wife. Over time his love for her had only increased.
One Saturday, while Melusina was hidden away, Raymond's cousin came to pay him a visit. They talked and Raymond accidentally dropped a remark about the strange condition of his marriage. His cousin seized on this and insisted that Raymond find out what Melusina was up to on Saturdays. He suggested that the curse that haunted Raymond's children is because Melusina was a demon, or the mistress or some monster.
Raymond broke into his wife's room and found Melusina sitting in a bathtub. In the place of legs she had the long, scaly tail of a mermaid.
This was the end of their marriage. Some versions say that Melusina shrieked and jumped out the window. Others that she berated her husband and even killed him. All agree that they never saw each other again.
One interesting point about this story is that Melusina repeats her mother's situation with similar results. They asked for trust and love and were rewarded with suspicion and betrayal. Is this sort of thing still happening? Yes, though in different forms of course….
In some Latin American countries men do not allow their wives to have keys to their own houses. They do not trust their wives and are afraid of what they may do in private. These people are not from small towns far from civilization but modern city-dwellers. They are often well-educated and from all classes, rich and poor. Sad to say, Raymond and Melusina are alive and well.
You can find many more myths and legends about mermaids at the following pages:
As well as some great mermaid art at: