I’ve posted a new translation to Ephemera, a literary fairy tale called “The Vampire.” It’s another find from Ganso y Pulpo, the archive of forgotten nineteenth century Spanish literature. The tale is by an author that I’ve not translated before: the journalist, essayist, playwright, and author of short stories, Ramón García Sánchez (c.1840 – 1885).
- The Vampire (El vampiro): When a mysterious rich old man moves into an ancient castle, healthy young men from the surrounding villages begin to vanish. Their disappearances coincide with the occurences of wild but unexplained festivities in the castle. Finally, the young women of the village unite to solve the mystery and combat the evil that has come amongst them.
“The Vampire” is a variation of folktale type ATU 514, commonly referred to as A Shift of Sex. Folktales of this type feature a young woman who must disguise herself as a man to complete a quest; the transformed “hero” then becomes the object of amorous affection for another woman in the story. The interesting part is that in many folktales of this type, the disguised heroine magically becomes a man, and marries the woman who loves him! That doesn’t happen here, but it’s still a fun and interesting tale.
If you want to read an example of ATU 514 in all its glory, look no farther than Andrew Lang’s Violet Fairy Book, which includes the Romanian tale, “The Girl Who Pretended to Be a Boy.” For a more comprehensive discussion of this gender-switching class of folktales, I recommend “The Transgender Imagination in Folk Narratives: The Case of ATU 514, ‘The Shift of Sex'” by Psyche Z. Ready. This article appears to be based on Ready’s MA Thesis, which also includes some Finnish variants of ATU 514, presented in English for the first time. Links to both these pieces are below.
According to the biography of Ramón García Sánchez up on Ganso y Pulpo, García Sánchez was a die-hard Republican (meaning he adhered to the position that Spain should be a republic, as opposed to a monarchy), and an ardent defender of women’s education. These feminist sympathies may be why he found this particular fairy tale appealing. Several of his stories are up on Ganso y Pulpo, and I may do a few more in the future.
Ready, Psyche Z. “She Was Really the Man She Pretended to Be”: Change of Sex in Folk Narratives, Master’s Thesis, George Mason University, 2000.
—. “The Transgender Imagination in Folk Narratives: The Case of ATU 514, ‘The Shift of Sex’“, Open Cultural Studies, Volume 5, Issue 1, January 2021.
Illustration for “El vampiro” from El Periódico para Todos, No. 29 (17 July 1875), p. 456. Source: Hemeroteca Digital, Biblioteca Nacional de España.
Featured image: The Castle of San Lorenzo in Ragusa, Rudolf von Alt (1840). Source: WikiArt