Fulla’s shadow: Rapunzel

Lately I’ve felt drawn to contemplate Fulla.  (“Fulla, whose name means ‘Fullness,” “Bounty” or “Plenty.” Fulla is most often described as a handmaiden, possibly sister of the Goddess Frigga. According to the Edda, as Frigga’s Handmaiden, Fulla is entrusted with carrying her casket, looking after Her shoes, and being privy to Her secrets.Fulla might have been viewed as a Goddess of abundance, wealth, prosperity, harvest, and maybe even household management.the gold band Fulla wears round her forehead symbolizes nobility and Her unbound hair indicates Her unmarried status. (Karlsdottir, p. 133). She also speculates that like Sif, Fulla’s long and flowing hair can be viewed as being symbolic of the ripening grain, which would tie nicely into Her role as Habondia, Goddess of the earth’s bounty.”  From: http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2010/11/decembers-deity-of-the-month-fulla-keeper-of-friggas-treasures.html)

 

The more I think about this quiet goddess, the more she seems to be the matriarchal, powerful version of Rapunzel, before patriarchy decided she needed a prince to save her:

-Firstly, both ladies are recognizable by their long, flowing hair.  This is not as superficial as it might sound as in both cases this hair is a link to the earth, to welcome (through bringing people inside the tower or through working together to bring in the harvest and/or sharing the plenty you have), and to abundant growth.   The difference is that Fulla’s abundance feels free and natural, and belongs wholly to herself, whereas Rapunzel is depicted as needing her plentiful hair for protection and escape, as a conduit to external power.  The symbol’s basically the same, the difference is that one lady is powerful and the other is victimized.

 

-Secondly, both Fulla and Rapunzel are linked to the earth-Fulla through portraying wheat and nature’s bounty, and Rapunzel through her mother’s need for rampion plants.  Even in this backstory, Fulla brings out the positive and best in nature, symbolizing control and Rapunzel’s life is worsened and controlled by her link to nature.  Yet, both ladies symbolize the fruits of a harvest, their beauty reflects the generous and good parts of nature, and they remind us that all life should be connected to the earth.  One lady is simply denied her authority and agency in portraying this legacy.

 

-Thirdly, Fulla’s duties center around the space and belongings of her sister Frigga.  Her duties to guard Frigga’s casket and slippers would dictate that Fulla spend much of her time in Frigga’s apartments.  This echoes the relationship of Rapunzel and the witch: she must stay inside a space belonging to the more powerful woman, who has at least an adopted family kinship with the long-haired maiden.  Once again, the similarities are striking but the role of power is completely switched.  Fulla’s position as right-hand lady to Frigga granted her great power and knowledge.  Fulla’s ability to keep secrets and be trusted with important messages is a testament to the wealth of reliance and ability attributed to this goddess.  Most importantly, Fulla keeps by her sister’s things in order to protect them, to support her sister in her power and therefore claim recognition for being partly the source of the abilities of the mistress of Asgard.  It is Fulla in the proactive role, using her agency, and creating even the power technically outside of her and belonging to her sister.

Rapunzel, on the other hand, is shown to be kept within the witch’s confines for her own protection, rather than in order to protect her tower.  Even the versions that show the witch as gaining power from Rapunzel in some form deny Rapunzel agency or power in that dynamic.  So long as the witch is there, Rapunzel cannot have power-she needs to overthrow this other woman.  In Asgard, women knew how to work together to share and build power.  Rapunzel’s story undermines this by denying non-absolute views of authority-it must be oppressor and oppressed.  Moreover, the ability of the maiden to offer protection and plenty is completely reversed.  Rapunzel’s tower has become a symbol of denial, rather than a bastion symbolizing her strength and guarding ability.

 

-Fourthly and most basically, Fulla the maiden goddess owns her own golden band of nobility.  She needs no prince to ennoble or enrich her, just as she needs no prince to rescue or act for her.  Just because this archetype has been carried off and subjected to male dominance does not mean we need to forget her calm power, reassuring protection, or empowering support.

All hail Fulla.

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