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 [85. Man-Snake as Bridegroom.]


85. Man-Snake as Bridegroom.

Besides the last number, three other types of monster marriage stories are common in Jamaica, all of which, though versions overlap or vary, follow a fairly fixed pattern. They may be distinguished as the Snake husband, the Devil husband, and the Bull husband.

The Snake husband story is very common. Besides the half dozen here set down of the many versions offered me, seven Jamaica stories already collected follow the general pattern with more or less exactness. See Lewis, 291-296, Sarah Wintun; Milne Home, 54-55, The Sneake; 46-50, De Sneake an' de King's Darter; Bates, JAFL 9: 121, The Yalla Snake; Jekyll, 26, The Three Sisters; 102-104, Yellow Snake; 65, Tacoma and the old Witch Girl.

The story has three parts. (1) A difficult young lady refuses all suitors, but falls in love with a Snake dressed as a handsome man. (2) He has borrowed his fine parts and on the journey home drops them one by one, becomes a Snake, and takes her to his home. (3) Her brothers hear her song of distress and rescue her just as the Snake is about to swallow her. These elements are fairly constant in modern Jamaica versions.

(1) "The pick and choose" idea occurs in Bates's, all Jekyll's and all my versions, although the idea that fine clothes do not make the man is also emphasized.

For the "pick and choose" motive, compare Zeltner, 85, where the girl refuses to marry anyone but "un homme n'avant aucune ouverture;" Nassau, 68, where she will have no man with "even a little bit of a blotch on his skin;" Tremearne, FL 22: 346, where he must have "not one blemish;" and Christensen, 10, where the girl refuses to marry anyone with a scratch on his back. In none of these cases does the husband take the form of a Snake. Compare also Jacottet, 126-159, where are recorded five snake-husband stories, four of which are enchanted beast stories (two of the "Beauty and the Beast" type and two of the "Yonec" type), and the fifth is a good and bad-mannered girl story, none of which use the "pick and choose" motive.

(2) The borrowed clothes appear in both Milne-Home's versions, in Bates's, in two of Jekyll's and in two of mine. In-Milne-Home,

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the story ends with the dropping of the clothes; in Jekyll and in two of mine, the monster carries her to his den or "stone-hole."

The clothes-borrowing idea occurs in Cronise and Ward, 178-186, where "half-man" borrows his other half; in Dayrell, 39; Fortier, 71; Hollis, Masai, 201-202; Parsons, Andros Island, 48 iv, 49 v, 50 i, 53 iv, and in Sea Islands, 46.

(3) In Jekyll, 102, and all my versions, the girl's song for help and the answering swallowing song furnish the main interest of the story; and the rescue by the brothers follows in Jekyll and in my two versions. In my third version, the Snake swallows the girl while her parents are sleeping. In Lewis's much earlier story, a jealous sorceress gives her step-daughter over to a great black dog named Tiger, who takes her away to his den. She sings until her hunter brothers hear her song, rush in and rescue her.

In Renel 1:275-277, a girl weds a beast in disguise, because of his handsome clothes, is carried away to his hole, and finally attracts her mother's ears by her song of lamentation. In other African stories of monster marriages, the song is entrusted to a bird messenger.

For the rescue, see Jekyll's Bluebeard story, 35-37; Bleek, 61-64; Christensen, 10-14; and numbers 83 and 86.

Evidently the story has become fixed in Jamaica out of a number of different elements and does not depend upon a common source. The lesson to the over-fastidious girl, ridicule of her fear of the ordeal of marriage, and the old setting of the rescue by hunter-brothers, are drawn together into a coherent story. It is the song that makes the story popular.

Next: Note 86. The Girls who married the Devil.