Bibliographic Information: Walser, Richard. North Carolina Legends. “The Honeymoon.” Raleigh: NC Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History. 1980. pp. 32-33.
Ethnic Origin: American
Running Time: 5-8 minutes
Power Center(s): The feeling I would like the listener to come away with after this story is intense fear. I want to show how the main characters lives were seemingly secure, but changed in an instant. The newlywed couple went from being happily married and safe and cozy, to being dead or traumatized. This story is also ironic, in that the very thing George uses to show his love to his wife ends up killing him, so I also hope the listener comes away with this sense of morbid irony. I chose these power centers because I know young adult listeners like to be scared, and have that feeling of horror—it’s entertaining to them. I also think those power centers are the ones that can be best expressed in this story.
Characters: George Bolton, Mary Lawton, and the neighbors
Scene 1—George Bolton is a young farmer, looking for a wife. He and Mary Lawton fall in love, and are to be wed.
Scene 2—George decides to built the couple’s new home using a large, flat rock, pocketed with small holes, as the foundation, floor, and hearth of the house. He works a long time and the home is finished by the time the couple is to be married. He does not start a fire in the hearth, because he wants to bring Mary to the house for the first fire.
Scene 3—The couple is wed, and they go to the house for the night. They start a fire and secure the house and retire.
Scene 4—The couple wakes up to a strange noise coming from the ground. George leaps off the bed to relight the fire. He steps into hundreds of snakes, all on the floor of the cabin. They start biting him, and he tells Mary, in his dying breath, to cover herself, and to be still.
Scene 5—Mary does as she is told. The night creeps by, snakes crawl over her. Finally neighbors come to check on the couple, and find the snakes, a dead George and a traumatized Mary.
Scene 6—George didn’t know it, but hundreds of rattlesnakes were hibernating in the flat rock used for the floor and hearth of the house, and they had been warmed to life by the fire.
The story takes place in the hill country of North Carolina, where young George Bolton and Mary Lawton fall in love. They decide to get married. George begins building their future house on a large flat rock which is pocketed with small holes. He uses the rock as the floor and hearth of the home. After the two are wed, George takes Mary to the house, and they start the first fire in the hearth and retire for the night. They are awakened to strange noises coming from the floor of the house. George gets out of bed to explore, and steps on rattlesnakes, hundreds of which are covering the floor. He is bitten several times, but manages to tell Mary to cover up and be still, before he dies. She does as she is told, and the night creeps on. The snakes crawl across her on the bed. Finally, morning comes, and neighbors come to check on the couple. They kill the snakes, get George out, and help Mary, who is very shocked and traumatized for life. The snakes were hibernating in the rock, and had been warmed to life by the fire.
Audience: I chose this story for young adults because I read it when I was about seventeen, and it scared me. It still scares me! I like the fact that there is nothing really supernatural about it, so it is very believable. Most people in general are afraid of snakes, so this draws on a pretty inherent fear, and magnifies it because of the amount of snakes there are. According to Stover and Tway, young adults are learning to deal with future plans, and this is part of the story; George and Mary make future plans to get married, and they must also find a place to live. According to many sources (Havighurst, Elliot and Feldman, and Stover and Tway), adolescents are trying to learn how to deal with the opposite sex, and this story deals some with that facet of their lives. Young adults get a glimpse of what it was like to “court” a while ago. This story also has underlying themes in it which are useful to the young adult, such as ‘things are not always as they seem’ (i.e., the rock that George used to lovingly build a home for Mary was filled with poisonous snakes).
Bibliographic Information on other versions/variants:
Frazer, J.G. Apollodorus: the Library. London: William Heinemann; NY: GP Putnam’s Sons. 1921. p 93.
This version containing the motif of snakes in the bridal chamber comes in a long, mythical type story, which seems to chronicle the lives of gods and goddesses, and other famous kings and characters in mythology. The allusion in this story is not very similar to the legend I told. It talks of a baby being born and put in a box, and people open the box to look at it. They see the baby and it has a serpent coiled around it. This is very different from the motif of snakes killing the groom on the wedding night. The flavor of the entire book is very chronological—there is not a lot of description and it goes through each scene very quickly. There is definitely a Greek ‘flavor’ to the book.