Date of Performance/Collection:
Once there were two women who had very stupid husbands. One day they made a bet to see which one of them was best at fooling her husband.
When one of the men was lying in bed feeling a little under the weather, his wife convinced him that he was dead. He was so dumb that he believed her, and he laid himself out so that he looked dead. His wife dressed him in burial clothes and put him in a coffin. Then she got everything ready and invited people to his funeral.
Among the funeral guests were the other woman and her dumb husband. When this husband had started to change his clothes of the funeral, his wife convinced him that he was already dressed! He believed her, and went along to the funeral in his birthday suit.
Afterward, the rode to the graveyard carrying the “corpse” to his grave while he lay in his coffin, peeking out. There was a small hole in the coffin, and through it he could see his neighbor walking stark naked in front of the funeral procession. After a while he couldn’t hold out any longer, and he burst out laughing. One just can’t bury a laughing corpse, so everyone had to walk back home again.
This story was also from a series of Swedish folktales, focusing on marriage relations. There is no true hero or villain in the story, only a comedic tale of wives and husbands, in which the wives are portrayed as the clever, good-natured tricksters and the husbands as shameless simpletons. The situations presented are ridiculous and hard to believe, but they would provide the target audience with ample amounts of humor, despite the fact that the story itself is relatively short. Children who heard the folktale wouldn’t fully understand the dichotomy between wives and husbands in marriage, but this story allows them a little preview of what the future holds. There are inter-couple and intra-couple competitions, to begin with. Also, the tale proves that one can’t shouldn’t take oneself too seriously, as the husbands are not shown to feel particularly embarrassed, and it also stresses the it’s important, or at least, better, to be clever than a fool, regardless if one is a woman or a man.
It is peculiar that the “joke” of the wives’ ends because “one can’t just bury a laughing corpse.” It’s not that the corpse was not a corpse at all, or that the wife felt sorry for the husband, but it was a socially unacceptable act to bury a non-somber body. It may simply be the writing or translation, or the style of the folktale itself, but I still found it interesting that the townspeople had to walk back only because the corpse was laughing, making it seem as if they would have had no problem burying the stupid husband alive.
Blecher, Lone Thygesen and Blecher, George. Swedish Folktales and Legends. New York: Pantheon Books, 1993. Print.