A physicist loose among the liberal arts

Goldberry’s kind gets around

Since my wife is a nutritionist, I got her to look at my “fairy perils” post to make sure I had everything in the diabetes section right. She corrected one point, and then asked, “Who is Goldberry?”

Biographical interruption: English is my wife’s fourth language, so it’s OK that she’s not a Tolkien fan. She comes from a village in the mountains of Algeria; by ethnicity, she’s one of the original inhabitants. They call themselves “Kabyle”, and they’re part of the Amazigh (Berber) people.  (Reading Roman history is weird now that I actually know Numidians, including someone named “Jugurtha”.)  Her grandmother was a sort of village wise-woman. I never got to meet her, alas, but from all the stories, she was basically a short Granny Weatherwax.

I answered that Goldberry was the River-woman’s daughter, and I told the story of  how she and Tom Bombadil met.  Madame replied, “Oh, that happened to my grandfather!  He was walking to the orchard one day, and a blonde-haired, green-eyed woman came up out of the creek.  She had lots of gold and silver jewelry in her hair and around her neck.  She said she wanted my grandfather to marry her. My grandfather turned and ran back home as fast as he could.  My grandmother told him to go to bed and go to sleep.  When he woke up the next day, he had dozens of tiny bleeding wounds all over his face.  They took a week to heal.”

When I started studying fairy-stories, it was with the explicit intention of doing something that had no practical application in everyday life.  I hope that still holds, and that susceptibility to attacks by rusalki is territorial and not transmitted in families.

Rusalka, her prey ensnared

Rusalka, by Mikhail Vrubel


King Arthur Has Returned


The Story of Half-Cock


  1. You should share this on folklore Thursday on twitter.

    “Oh, that happened to my grandfather!” !!

    • Joe

      Good idea. It’s hard to think of something as “folklore” when one actually knows the folks.

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