Sunday, 11 August 2013

Tales for Weddings

A couple of storytellers have asked about tales suitable for weddings or engagement parties. 

There are millions of stories on a theme of marriage, some more, some less appropriate for weddings, though weddings are traditionally places where inappropriate things can be said too. 

However, I'm not sure many newly weds would want Dave Tonge, the Yarnsmith of Norwich, to tell his startling tale of the husband, the wife, the angel and the magic ring just in the middle of their celebrations... (Not that it isn't a great story: you must hear Dave tell it some time! Just not exactly wedding fare, no matter how rude the best man's speech).

Anyway, here's a tale which appears in Jewish (Ashkenazim) tradition but also in India and North Africa (Mahgrebi) tales. 

* * *

Back in the days when young men and young women did not mix much socially, people still used a matchmaker to help them find a husband or wife. 

The matchmaker was called to a family where the son was thinking about getting married. 

Did he have any specific woman in mind? asked the matchmaker. No, said, the young man, but she has to be a kind-hearted girl - I couldn't live with a wife who was unkind.

The matchmaker thought about it and suggested some suitable, kind hearted girls, and the young man thought about it and said 'Fine, but what do they look like? I want a beautiful wife, obviously.' 

So the matchmaker thought again, and came up with a list of kind girls who were also beautiful. 

And the young man said, Yes, but are they intelligent and well-educated? I couldn't possibly marry someone who wasn't.

The matchmaker gave it some thought and brought a list of girls who were kind and beautiful and intelligent and well educated. 

And the young man said, You know what? It would be ideal to have a wife with a bit of money put by. 

So the list got re-jigged again. And this time the young man said, I forgot to mention cooking. A woman who can cook well - that's so important for me.' 

So... finally the matchmaker brought a list of suitable girls who were kind and beautiful, and intelligent and educated and had some savings and were good cooks. 

And the matchmaker and the young man went through the list, and this one had a brother the young man disliked and that one, well, the young man had once heard her use a swearword in public, which of course put her out of the question for him, and this one sometimes wore a dress the young man felt did not suit her ... and so the list got shorter and shorter, until there was just one woman left on it. Surprising there was anyone, really. 

And try as he might - and he did try hard - the young man could not find anything to object to. She was, by his standards, the perfect woman, and he thought she would make him the perfect wife. 

So... great excitement, the matchmaker set up a meeting between the two.

The young man went off to the meeting looking very pleased but he came back looking like a wet weekend.

What's the matter? said the matchmaker. Wasn't she as perfect as we thought?

No, said the young man. As far as I can tell, she's the perfect woman.

The problem is, she's looking for the perfect man.

Ah, you didn't think of that, said the matchmaker, and walked away.

* * *

No comments: