“NĀRANJ O TORANJ” AND A TROLL IN THE WELL

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Iranian-American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: San Ramon, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 25, 2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Some Farsi

MAIN PIECE:

Informant: I am gonna be live remembering this… So what I know is it’s called “Nāranj o Toranj.” And nāranj… Means like… Orange, kind of? I think? I have no idea what toranj means. But maybe that’s a name. Um… But there’s something to do with it… So there’s this prince. And his family is pushing him to find a wife and marry and settle down. Um, of course you know, as with all fairy tales he refuses. And so this is what sets us off on our journey. And so, he keeps refusing these suitors that are being brought to him, or I guess, female suitors, whatever the equivalent of that is…  Potential brides that are brought to him… And, uh, one day he finds refuge in their, uh, family’s great orchard, in the backyard of the castle… And… In doing so he… Stumbles upon an orange tree and sees a beautiful woman, sitting in the tree. And it seems to be known that this woman seems to have been grown from this orange tree. She herself is an orange, um… But she is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, and she has this beautiful voice, and… Yada, yada… So they start this kind of cute little affair where um… He will come to the woods and listen to her play music and recite poetry, and he just, he falls so in love with this woman. Uh… And one day a troll… A one-eyed troll… Uh, invades… The castle… And steals the princess… And I’m trying to recall if this is the prince’s fault? ‘Cause he wasn’t doing his duty? Or if the troll was just sort of like an ex machina thing… But the troll comes, steals the princess, and the boy goes on this quest to find her… I believe the boy goes down a well into the troll’s dwelling, which is underground, uh… And he finds where the princess is… And he has to––oh and he takes with him––he makes a plan to get the troll. And he takes with him a little bag that has, uh… A thing of salt in it, and jacks. Like the pieces in the game Jacks… I want to say there was something else… But it’s not coming to me right now. Effectively, he gets close to the troll. He does kind of like a traditional folktale thing where he’ll trick the troll to get close to him. Um… I think there’s a meal and the troll falls asleep ‘cause  the troll is so full. Perhaps that other thing that he brought––oh, I think he brought a chicken. And he––and then the uh… The troll got so full off of the chicken. And so now the troll is knocked out, the princess is there, he grabs her and when he tries to escape, the troll of course wakes up, and starts chasing him. So then he gets the jacks and he throws the jacks on the ground, and the troll starts stepping on them and he’s in pain and he falls over. And once the one-eyed troll falls over, the boy throws salt into the troll’s eye. And the troll’s in so much pain and he’s blinded so he can’t chase them, and he and the orange princess escape out of the well and live happily ever after and then she becomes his, uh, his queen… Uh, that he decides to marry. 

INFORMANT’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE PIECE:

Informant: This story is something that was orally told to me. Until we found like a picture book at like a Barnes and Noble. And this was in like elementary school… And um… OH! Oh no…  I think I actually… I think I kind of conflated––I actually just conflated those two. Two different stories! ‘Cause I think there’s like a “Jack and the Beanstalk”-esque… Persian story, where like a poor farm boy has to go and like…  Best the troll in order to survive, and he has to like… Trick the troll, and so he brings the chicken and the salt and the jacks. Um… And there’s the troll in his well… And then there’s a totally separate story about the orange princess. And I think the problem with the orange princess… Um…  There was something where… The… Prince disrespected a witch…  And…  She effectively cursed that they then couldn’t be together… Um, but eventually they were able to marry.

REFLECTION:

The conflation of two tales to create a new hybrid tale showcases the variable nature of folklore. When stories are passed on through oral tradition, it is likely that they will fluctuate and change, as there is no written guide ensuring the story remains the same each time. This variation may be caused from faulty memory, which is what the informant was experiencing. In misremembering “Nāranj o Toranj,” the informant created a new tale. If he had not caught his mistake, he could have continued to pass on this hybrid story, contributing a new version of “Nāranj o Toranj” to tradition. Alan Dundes says folklore must exhibit multiplicity and variation. Human error is one driving factor behind why folklore may change.