Also may be known as The Search for the Lost Husband or The True Bride (although it is a German version) and probably much older than the date when it was collected into written word by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, this Norwegian folktale relates human weakness and redemption.
Like many oral traditional stories, for instance Bearskin (Germany), in this story, the two main characters don’t have names.
It tells the tale of a youngest daughter of a poor husbandman who consents to go with a great White Bear in order to make her family rich and happy.
Interestingly enough, the family doesn’t worry about the safety of their youngest family member. In fact the father was very willing to give up his most beautiful child in order to get rich, without worrying what would happen to her.
So she is left to the care of a great White Bear who turns out to be gallant, protective and wise. In some cultures, some the Native American tribes, the bear – especially the grizzly bear – was associated with healing as well as immortality. The bear expressed many meanings: bravery and strength as well as brutality or clumsiness. One can understand how the bear is in this story.
They thus travel to a castle and supposedly all is well.
As one can imagine, the White Bear is an enchanted Prince and he visits the young girl every night. There is little info given about him except that he “is the handsomest Prince that eyes had ever beheld” as the story tells. He is also compassionate for wants to give the girl happiness when she tells him of her sorrows; he consents to help her as long as she gives him her word not to say anything of her life there. She, of course, promises and as can be inferred, she breaks her promise as well as lies to some extent in order to cover her fault.
Because of this, she loses her chance of happiness and begins her long journey towards redemption.
Her journey is not easy for she must walk “many a day”; she meets 3 old women who – though they don’t know the way to the Castle which lies East of the Sun and West of the Moon, where the girl’s love is – help her on her quest. Here she just receives the help but afterwards, she asks for assistance from other elements, in this case the four winds – humanized -, and in the end retrieves her love as well as destroys evil but with sacrifice, for she gives up the gifts given by the 3 old ladies in order to achieve her goal.
In our own lives, this can have a great resemblance. In our own journey through life, we receive many favors and gifts – big and small – from different people – sometimes without knowing or without wanting them – but they help us to reach our ultimate goal. Similar to the heroine of the story, we should always be willing to use all the support that is given to us, because after all, true and lifelong happiness is printed in human nature.
Here is the link for the full story: