Folk Tale Query

Lars Martin Fosse l.m.fosse at
Sat Dec 14 01:00:33 UTC 1996

>On Wed, 11 Dec 1996, Lars Martin Fosse wrote:
>> S. Kichenassamy wrote:
>> >
>> >There is a very similar story I was told as a child (we are Tamils): A
>> >king cut himself and his chief minister applauded at the good news---the
>> >minister was of course immediately jailed...  Later on, while traveling,
>> >the king was caught by a tribe of cannibals who were looking for a
>> >physically perfect king for their purposes. To their dismay, the king had
>> >this small wound...and they had to release him. Is there proof that the
>> >above is of foreign origin? 
>> I don't think you can prove that the story given above is of foreign origin.
>> But the idea that the king should physically perfect is also found among
>> ancient peoples in Europe. In addition, he should be more handsome than
>In this case, though, the point is that the
>*sacrificial victim* has to be physically 
>perfect.  Yes, this story ("ellAm nallathaRkE", 
>i.e., "All is for the best") is well known (it 
>was in one of my Tamil schoolbooks).

You may be right that the point here is rather that the victim should be
physically perfect. I was thinking of kings rather than sacrificial victims
as such, but of course the fact that the victim is a king may be irrelevant. 

The point I wanted to make was, however, that we have evidence from ancient
Europe that kings were supposed to be physically perfect. According to an
Irish source, king Congal the One-eyed, who had been blinded by bees, was
put from his kingship. The source says that it was tabu that there should be
a king with a blemish in Tara. There are also examples of this attitude from
Sassanian Persia. Since kings are potential sacrificial victims in several
cultures, there may be a connection between the idea that sacrificial
victims shall be without blemish and the idea that the king should be
without blemish. But the king was also regarded as an idealized man, and it
is this idea that seems to have a reflex in the ideas that ordinary
Americans have about the physical appearance of their president, which I
quoted in my email.

Sorry about the confusion.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

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