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The Female Hero's Journey

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East of the Sun and West of the Moon

The Norweigian Cupid and Psyche

East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a Norwegian fairy tale that is strikingly similar to the story of Cupid and Psyche. It was originally collected by Peter Christen Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe.
For the complete text of the story, please go to:

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

The heroine begins her story in the "Innocent World of Childhood", the hut where she lives with her family. The "Call to Adventure" comes when the the Polar Bear comes to her house to ask her to be his bride.

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At first, she refuses the call, but her father spends a week trying to convince her to marry the bear and finallly she agrees. She rides on the bear's back to his palace.

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The heroine's initiation into the "World of Eros" starts when she begins living with the polar bear prince. She encounters temptation when she visits her mother and is told to steal a look at the prince while he's asleep.

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Unfortunately, the candle wax falls on the prince and he finds out. He tells her that he cannot live with her anymore, and must marry an ugly troll woman. When she begs him to tell her where he will be so that she can search for him, he tells her that he will be in a kingdom "East of the sun and West of the moon."

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At this point, the heroine is in the belly of the whale, at the lowest point in her journey. She sits in the forest and weeps and then sets off to find her lover. She encounters supernatural aid in the form of old woman with a golden apple, another with a golden carding-comb, and another with a golden spinning wheel. She takes all of these things with her although she doesn't know why. She befriends the East wind, who blows her part of the journey to his brother, the West wind, in the hopes that he will be strong enough to carry her to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. The West wind manages to get her to the palace.

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Once she's at the troll princess's castle, she sits outside the castle walls and uses the golden apple, carding-comb and spindle to bribe the princess to let her spend the night with the prince. The prince does not wake up because the troll has drugged his food and he never notices that the heroine is there. However, prisoners in the next room hear her crying and tell the prince. He tells the troll princess that he will only marry the woman who can wash the candle wax out of his clothes. Our heroine is the only one who can do it and the troll becomes so angry that she and all the other trolls burst into pieces. All of the trolls' prisoners are released ("World Transformed") and the heroine and the prince take a "Magic Flight" back to their world courtesy of the West wind.

The illustrations are by Kay Nielsen in "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" (1914), Violet Moore Higgins in "East O' The Sun and West O' The Moon" (1924) and the anonymous illustrator of "Scandinavian Folk & Fairy Tales" (1984) edited by Claire Booss.