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The Folktale
Stith Thompson

Motif K2151

The corpse handed around. (The thrice-killed corpse.) Dupes are accused of murder when the corpse is left with them. The trickster is paid to keep silent. *Types 1536C, 1537; *Taylor MPh XV 221ff., 226 n. 1; **Suchier Der Schwank von der viermal getöteten Leiche (Halle a. S., 1922); *Pauli (ed. Bolte) No. 598; *Wesselski Hodscha Nasreddin II 214 No. 438; Köhler-Bolte I 190; Bédier Fabliaux 469; BP II 10; Parsons MAFLS XV (1) 73 n. 3. – Spanish: Espinosa III Nos. 176, 189, *Espinosa JAFL XLIX 181 – 193; Italian Novella: *Rotunda; India: *Thompson-Balys; Japanese: Ikeda.

Part Two

The Folktale from Ireland to India

III – The Simple Tale

1. Jests and Anecdotes

K. False Accusations

If we take all kinds of tales, especially if we include the complex wonder tale and the literary anecdote, we should find a very large number of motifs concerning deceptions through shams. Besides the bluffs and impostures popular in oral anecdotes, we should also have found a large number of deceptions by disguise or illusion, and of tales of hypocrites; and we should meet a whole gallery of villains and traitors. These latter do not form much of a part of the repertory of jests which are preserved in oral tradition. But there does remain one series of deceptions that has attained a real popularity in folklore, though most of them are unmistakably taken from old literary collections of jokes. These are stories of false accusation.

In the wonder tale, false accusations are usually tragic in their intensity, but in short jests they may be used merely to produce a humorous situation. Such, for instance, is the tale of the priest's guest and the eaten chickens. The servant who has eaten the chickens tells the guest to flee, because the priest, who is arriving, is going to cut off his ears. Then he tells the priest that the guest has stolen two chickens. The priest runs after him and the guest makes all the speed he can (K2137; Type 1741). This medieval literary tale has been recorded over most of Europe and sporadically in other continents. It is, of course, closely related to the tale of the trickster who sends his master running after the wife's paramour (K1573), and it is often joined with that story.

A small group of tales in which the innocent are made to appear guilty secures its primary interest from its gruesomeness. In one of these, a corpse is handed around from one dupe to another. Each is accused of the murder and the trickster is paid to keep silence (K2151; Types 1536C, 1537). This well-known fabliau and medieval jest

Is told all over Europe and a good part of Asia, and is known in Africa and in America, both in European and American Indian tradition. In a similar tale a corpse is set up to frighten people and usually when it is knocked down, the bungler is accused of murder (K2321; Type 1536A). Of this small group, the best known in literature is undoubtedly the tale of the three hunchbacked brothers who were drowned. In this old fabliau a drunken man is employed by a woman who has accidentally killed three hunchbacked brothers to throw one of them into the river. He does so, and then she puts another out, and finally the third. The man thinks that they keep coming to life. Finally he sees the woman's hunchbacked husband and drowns him (K2322; Type 1536B). This latter story is hardly a part of oral tradition at all, but has probably been learned over and over again directly from literary collections. [p. 209]

 

Types:

1536A, 1536B, 1536C, 1537, 1741

Motifs

K1573, K2137, K2151, K2321, K2322