Tales and Tails


This week’s myth begins with a fairy named Pressyne, who lived in a forest during the Crusades. When Elynas, the King of Scotland, found this fairy, he proposed marriage to her. She agreed, but only on the condition that he not look when she went into labor with his children. If you’ve read other folk tales, you probably realize that he broke the taboo. This led to Pressyne taking her three daughters to raise on the mystic island of Avalon. The eldest daughter, Melusine, found out about her father’s oath-breaking and sought revenge by locking Elynas inside a mountain. Her mother punished her for her rash behavior by cursing her to take the form of a serpent from the waist down on Saturdays. When she married Raymond of Poitiers, she gave him the condition that he could not look at her on Saturdays, but he was suspicious and once again broke his promise.

When she found out, she flew away and never saw Raymond again, although some stories say that she did visit their children.

In other legends, she’s a water-dwelling fairy and a stealer of children.

Melusine is sometimes featured in heraldry, but instead of part woman and part snake, she’s usually portrayed as a mermaid with a split tail.

As such, it’s probably Melusine who features in the Starbucks logo.

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One Response to Tales and Tails

  1. Bryan Babel says:

    A book that might merit your consideration is “The High Place” by James Branch Cabell, the first third of which deals largely with this tale (though Elynas and Pressyne are called Helmas and Pressina there); the rest of the story is what happens when Duke Florian, who has broken Melusine’s curse on the castle, marries her disenchanted and disenchanting sister Melior.

    The family crest of the Babels (who hail from the German parts of Silesia) features a Melusine, so I’ve always been rather interested in her.

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