For love of a human man, a weasel turned herself into a woman.
She locked away her fierceness, blunted her teeth against the edges of rocks. She shed her soft sleek fur, leaving only cold white naked skin behind. When there was nothing left of her, when she was no more than a fading memory of something that had, once, been a weasel, she went to the man she loved and begged him – as she had once before, on the day when she learned to despise herself, to rake her claws through fur and skin and let the blood shine through – to be with her, to marry her, to love her.
Now that she was a weasel no longer, the man (quite graciously, she thought) agreed.
She did not miss being a weasel, very much. The man loved her, just as he had promised. He called her his ermine, because she was beautiful (he said), and because she was pure: like snow, he said, like a funeral lily. She was not a stoat – she had never been a stoat – but all the same she was proud to be his ermine.
(It was only later that she realised what he meant by the word. That he was a hunter; that she was his prey. That she should give herself up rather than stain herself – that she should choose death before allowing any trace of the weasel inside of her to show. That she was his for the keeping.)
She was good. She kept her teeth blunt and her fingers to herself, and never dared to leap and twist in the joyous dance of the hunt. She fed herself on vegetables and grains, though her throat rebelled against the not-food and her belly cried for meat, though she grew sick and wasted without it. How could she not? He loved her, and she did what she must so that his love remained hers.
(Who would not change themself for the one they love? Who would not give themself up?)
But no matter how she wore herself down, no matter what she carved away out of her flesh, there was something of the weasel in her still. It was there in the tiny treasures she ferreted away, when the man forgot to watch her, to bring herself comfort in the naked cold of her woman’s flesh. It was there in her hunger, in the fierceness she had pushed down and locked away but never managed to burn. It was there in the deathlike sleep from which the man could never wake her.
It wasn’t much. But it was all she had, and it was more than the man would suffer.
On the day that he cast her out (with shame and laughter and cruelty, as on that day so long ago when her claws had first become knives), the woman once more became a weasel: soft and sleek and once again fierce, though not yet joyous. Her teeth were still blunted; she let her claws remain knives.
He did not bleed from the wounds she cut into him. He felt no pain. (Perhaps she loved him, still. Perhaps she gentled the edge of her blade.) But the wounds were deep, and would not heal; and the weasel flew away on the wind.
Written for JessaMar's Multicultural Fairy Tales lit contest. The objective: Write a story which combines and retells/adapts two different fairy tales or folk stories from two different cultures.
My first story: Aesop's fable of the weasel (retold here), in which a weasel spurned by a human man begs Aphrodite to turn her into a woman, has her prayer answered, propositions the man again (this time successfully), and then turns back into a weasel again as soon as they have sex.
My second story: not quite a story as such, but definitely folklore. Kamaitachi: Japanese youkai, riding on dust devils and appearing as a weasel with sickle claws/limbs with which they cause deep, but painless and bloodless, wounds.
Ermines are winter-coated stoats (which are a subtype of weasel, unless you refer to a least weasel simply as weasel, as is common in Britain), and associated with purity in European legend, due to a belief that they would literally rather die than get their fur dirty. Even if one was actively hunting them.
In Inuit mythology weasels are noted for their bravery.
This illustrates so well how much we sometimes bend and break just trying to be liked by someone who will never appreciate who we truly are.
This was such an interesting story. I couldn't help but feel it was commenting on issues surrounding abusive relationships, so it was really fascinating to read about the contest and ideas that inspired this piece. The creative thought that went into this is really impressive.
Fascinating blend. I love the kamaitachi stories. One of the spookiest myths I've come across in a while.
Thank you! I really love this sort of folklore in general, so this contest was an exciting opportunity.
I like that some of this is told in parentheses. It's not a style I'd usually associate with fairy tales, but actually it suits it very well.
The asshole had it comin'! Poor weasel lady.
This is glorious and it made me tear up when she became a weasel again. Fucking beautiful.