Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Contemporary Legend Spotting: The Mistletoe Bough


Looking forward to reading how Mosse has adapted this tale.
(the following is from the review blurb linked above)

“The Mistletoe Bride” chronicles the wedding day of a young woman five hundred or so years ago. The party is held in Bramshill House in the middle of the winter, thus “there is mistletoe and holly, white berries and red,” and—in a tradition as old as time—a fine feast, made finer with wine. When all the sweetmeats are eaten, the new wife of Lord Lovell suggests “a game of hide-and-seek, for all those who yet have strength in their legs.”
The play is a way, attentive readers will realise, of delaying the daunting prospect of the wedding bed, an inevitability which leaves our narrator feeling conflicted. “I can see Lovell’s eyes on me and know he means to be the one who discovers my hiding place. There is part of me that shrinks at the thought of it, but he is a gentle man.”
Nevertheless, when the game begins, the mistletoe bride—Mosse gives her no other name—decides on one hell of a hiding place: in a “wooden coffer [that] is deep and long, the length of a man, and bound fast by four wide metal bands.” She settles into it as if it were a bed, and though she does not mean to sleep, sleep she does... with haunting consequences:"

"As the author asserts in her short survey of the various versions of this tale, which has been told almost as long as there were tales to tell, “The Mistletoe Bride” is “grisly, oddly compelling [...] the sort of story that sticks in the imagination,” and indeed it does. Some say it is founded on fact. Others suggest it springs from a song. In any event, it’s been an inspiration to many authors through the ages:
Charles Somerset produced a play of the same name in 1835, Henry James wrote ‘The Romance of Certain Old Clothes’ in 1868, transposed to eighteenth-century Massachusetts but clearly inspired by the story, and Susan E. Wallace published a short story—‘Ginevra or The Old Oak Chest: A Christmas Story’—in 1887. The tragic tale, a favourite of the protagonist, Brandon Shaw, is recounted in Hitchcock’s 1948 film, Rope. Jeanette Winterson wrote a haunting Christmas version of the story in 2002.
Whatever its legacy, “The Mistletoe Bride” is a fitting fiction with which to kick off this collection—and in a sense to bring it to an end as well, because the final short is another take on the same tale, if anything more impressive than the first: a strangely straightforward story for all its suggestiveness."

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