The Marsh King’s Daughter III…


barbrook III (14)

Hi-ho the Carrion Crow, bow and bend to me…


…There usually is.

Perhaps one reason for the tale’s obscurity these days is its perceived, overtly, Christian message.

This takes the form of a priest who is captured and tortured by Helga’s Viking fosterers, provokes in her the first stirrings of love and compassion and affords the young girl opportunity to embrace the process which results in the fusing of her day/night time personalities and her achievement of wholeness in mind and form.

However, the culmination of this process is complicated somewhat by the priest’s death at the hands of robbers and his subsequent appearance in a dream vision and by the denouement of the tale which sees the Changeling Child whisked away to heaven by the priest only to return a short time later and find her original home now long lost to the ravishes of time.

The Rip Van Winkle like nature of the priest’s ‘heaven’ may give inkling  to the original story source for this episode, as might his appearance on horse-back wielding his cross much like a knight would wield his sword.

As an other-world component of the story the Christian priest is perhaps less dramatically successful than he might be as a ‘Fairy King’ or ‘Lord of Light’ but still gives us pause for thought and contemplation as to the precise mode of consciousness his figure represents.

That’s almost all, folks…


 ‘What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet;

long live the weeds and the wildness yet.’


All photographs – Sue Vincent.

All epithets – The Grateful Dead, ‘Mountains of the Moon’.

Epitaph -‘Inversnaid’, Gerard Manly Hopkins.

17 thoughts on “The Marsh King’s Daughter III…

  1. Chilling.

    I’m mesmerized by that integration of personalities you alluded to, and can’t exactly fathom how it was done. I never read the actual tale, but I think my bewilderment goes beyond that. So many questions–why a priest, and what was the rationalization for torturing him, and how did someone else’s suffering lead to the daughter’s love and compassion rather than fear and rejection of the adopted parents who never went beyond ambivalence in taking her in anyway?

    I can’t think that unsettling poem at the end was coincidence. It fits in a haunting way, like a warning delivered in complex four-part harmony.

    It’s … easy? Usual? Recommended in many cultures? … to always pair wildness with danger, albeit with more or less immediacy. I don’t know enough about fairies or lords of light to say, but the king of the tuatha dé Danann would definitely meet you with a challenge that typically feels like that–untamed, unknown, unappologetically light and dark– and not looking away is like, metaphorically, teedering on the edge of a jagged cliff and looking down without losing balance or falling. Good? Bad? Perhaps neither, you’re needing to stop facing outward and get yourself inwardly in order, more quickly than you’d want to. Ever changing and always changing you? Yes. Dangerous? Well, how dangerous is always looking outside yourself for balance? Many take that journey without ultimate regret, without needing violence to teach them, without ever wondering if they’re truly living. Wild is who we are, but we forget, and it’s human nature to fear what is forgotten.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The story is definitely worth a look and will answer many of your questions, Eilis. And, yes, the King of Tuatha would have fit the original role if I am correct about the source of that particular episode…’Beyond good and evil’ is a position many people shrink from considering, probably through fear…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I just finished reading the story. It’s very sad. The Marsh King story has me particularly subdued: I can’t figure out the symbolism of having the person who is the means to a needed transformation also be the cause of severing that person from happiness, from an identity. Time and place ground identity as much as the form we take, and sometimes in these stories it is as if the lesson is that in achieving a transformation in one, you will lose hold on at least one of the others. Not to be trite about it or anything, but that’s just devastatingly unfair. To be honest, such stories are one main reason I am too terrified to try astral traveling. I’m not sure if the tragedy of skipping centuries ever occurred outside mythology, most likely not. But since I know someone who had such a story told of him, I’m not about to tempt fate, even though the story never reflected reality. I got to experience the mists of the land of the ever young, and only went there in a dream. Otherwise I’ve met those who live there in this world, insisted on it. Just in case…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. There is an argument that it is something of a one way ticket, however, the stories are probably designed to give credance to other worldly consciousness whilst cautioning balance. It would be a mistake to read these things too literally…

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ah, now I find out… lol! I seem to have a tallent for assuming the literal which only slightly falls short of my overactive empathy and imagination. And there are at least twelve people in the otherworld who would know all about that. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

      1. Realy did Stuart, it gave me lots to think about about the underlying myths contained in stories and how they underpin the narrative even when they are not part of the core story.. they act almost like a shorthand

        Liked by 3 people

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