Queer folklore was erased from history by homophobes, but one ‘fabulously gay’ fairytale has survived
Most people have never heard a queer, traditional fairytale, but one writer has revealed that this is not because they didn’t exist, but because they were erased by a homophobic academic.
Cornish writer and illustrator Pete Jordi Wood has explained how queer folklore was erased from history, but revealed that he has managed to rescue one “fabulously gay” fairytale.
He told Forbes: “We know that queer characters and stories were prevalent in mythology.
“There is some fascinating stuff about the origin of Mulan and how it’s actually a trans narrative.
“So why, particularly in European fairy tales, did queer characters suddenly, seemingly, disappear?”
Wood explained that “before books, people told stories to one another, often around the fire”, but with the invention of the printing press during the industrial revolution, this tradition began to die out.
The study of folklore became an academic discipline in the 1800s, and folklorists began collecting and writing down tales to publish.
By the 1900s, a group of academics began to compile the Aarne–Thompson–Uther (ATU) Index, “a catalogue of the world’s folklore with a system which logs different variations of tales across borders around the world”, according to Wood.
But during the process of cataloguing fairytales and folklore from around the world, one of the index’s creators, Stith Thompson, began erasing queer stories.
Wood continued: “Unfortunately by his own accounts, Stith Thompson brought with him to the editing his own sense of right and wrong.
“In the accompanying Motif Index of Folklore he compiled in the 1920s, and revised in the 1950s, he lists ‘Homosexuality’ and ‘Lesbianism’ in a section called ‘Unnatural Perversions’ with bestiality and incest.
“Open about his views he admits he omitted many stories in the catalogue because they were ‘perverse’ or ‘unnatural’.
“One dude. One guy got to choose what stories did or didn’t make the cut in what is now the core resource and system for documenting folklore in an order still used today.”
The writer discovered one queer fairytale that had survived.
While studying for his masters degree in illustration, the writer “looked at over 600 tales in the archive, reading from a queer perspective”.
He said: “Finally, like any good fairy tale, my wish to find my Prince Charming came true.”
The Dog and the Sea was a tale that existed in multiple languages, but not in English, but after translating the various versions of the story Wood found an “unbelievably and fabulously gay” tale.
“You’ve got this guy who wants to be a sailor who goes on this great adventure, wining the hand in marriage of a handsome prince,” he said.
“The witch in it is fabulous, and ridiculously beautiful–a nice twist on the ugly old hag routine. The sailor’s mother is overprotective and funny.
“There’s a bunch of sexual innuendos. Plus the prince is a total dreamboat.
“Ultimately it’s an ancient tale with a positive portrayal, of a guy who can be read as gay or asexual, but certainly queer, who is the only person who can defeat the evil because he can resist her beauty.”
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Wood said the story gave him “gay goosebumps”, and added that it was “likely be far older than the 1800s when it was first written down in words”.
Having rediscovered the ancient tale, Wood has now released the queer fairytale as a book, titled The Dog and The Sailor, with his own illustrations.
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“What I draw from it is how much it resonates with today’s world,” he said.
“Not just the queer aspects, but a story about male mental health, austerity, and even climate change.
“If it was groundbreaking, then, whenever it first surfaced in history, in many ways, it still is.”