Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you undoubtedly one of the strangest Rejected Princesses: Corn Maiden, mythological Native American figure.
Corn Maiden figures into a vast number of tribe mythologies, all of which are slightly different from one another. This much is generally agreed upon across most of the stories:
- Corn Maiden was a pretty neat lady who settled down with the tribe in question, a long time ago.
- Somehow, whenever she was around, the corn storehouses would overflow! Corn for everyone! It was pretty great!
- But, she warned, never try and check out why or how that’s happening.
- Eventually someone did, only to find Corn Maiden secretly rubbing corn off her skin in the most delicious case of leprosy ever recorded.
- In some versions, it’s hinted that she was actually pooping it out into bucket after bucket, bag after bag, like a chunky firehose.
From there, one of two things happened:
1) The tribe chased Corn Maiden out of town, subsequently ran out of corn, realized their terrible mistake, and attempted to find her/make amends, or:
2) The tribe decided to kill her for witchcraft, at which point Corn Maiden was like, “Okay cool, but after you kill me, drag my gruesomely-murdered corpse around the field, and corn will pop up wherever you go. Taking one for the team here, guys!”
I probably don’t need to tell you which one is my favorite.
The variations across this legend are innumerable. In the Arapaho tradition, to get rid of her, they tied her up and tossed her in the river. In the Zuni telling, instead of the tribe as a whole driving her off, she was frightened off by the erotic gyrations of the male dancers — only to be later found, after the head rain priest climbed a giant tree to look for them, hiding underneath the shadow of a duck’s wing, deep in the ocean.
Undoubtedly the absolute zaniest Corn Maiden tale is the Tepecano version. Due to a lot of exposure to European cultures, their legend got warped into a sort of hyperactive medieval fanfiction that was easily twice as long as any other tribe’s version. Try and follow me here.
This guy, let’s call him Joe, is lazy and stupid. He finds Corn Maiden in a clearing and is like, “Hey God!” — yes, we’re talking Christian Jesus here — “can I marry her?” and God is like, “Sure why not.” So he marries Corn Maiden, despite never having seen her face or apparently talked to her. On the way to their house, a personalized cloud forms around Corn Maiden’s head, obscuring her features. She then retires to a private room the first night in his family house, and in the morning, it’s full of corn. How mysterious!
From there, it is a comedy of errors how poorly things go for poor Corn Maiden:
- Joe’s mom makes some corn tortillas and burns the shit out of them, which in turn burns the shit out of Corn Maiden’s clothes and skin.
- Joe starts cheating on Corn Maiden with a turtle, whom I cannot tell is actually human or a literal turtle. For hilarity’s sake, I am imagining a literal turtle.
- The turtle makes some corncakes, burns the shit out of them, which, again, burns the shit out of Corn Maiden.
- Joe then cheats on Corn Maiden with a raven. Again, picturing a grown man screwing a literal bird here.
- The raven then steals some grain, which pisses off Corn Maiden some more.
- Corn Maiden, sick of Joe’s shit, runs off.
- Joe goes to God on bent knee, promises he’ll be better, and God is like, “Okay, I believe you. Hey Corn Maiden, get back with Joe.” And she does. I mean, what you gonna do?
- At this point, Joe is pretty curious as to what Corn Maiden actually looks like. So, despite being told — by God — in no uncertain terms NOT to look at her face, Joe waits until she’s asleep and lights a lamp. She is, of course, beautiful.
- Joe then drops the lamp on her face, again burning the shit out of her.
- Corn Maiden gets the fuck out of his house and runs off before someone else sets her on fire.
From there, it gets EVEN WEIRDER. Joe goes searching all over the world for Corn Maiden, but nobody has seen her, not even God. Eventually Joe finds her in the magical city of Merlin, where the wind does not blow. He then has to bust her out of Merlin prison, fighting off the palace guards in the process, alongside his buddy, Wind — who is an anthropomorphic embodiment of the concept of wind.
Told you it was like medieval fanfic.
Immediately after exiting the citadel of Merlin, Corn Maiden turns into a bunch of corn in a field, and says, “Hey Joe! Look after me for one month, I’ll be back, I just have to do this one thing.”
Joe makes it a whole fifteen days before getting married to some other girl. Who, presumably, was yet another form of wildlife.
At the wedding, Corn Maiden shows up, drags Joe up in front of God, and is like, “THIS GUY IS A TOTAL DICKBAG.”
God finally agrees and turns Joe into a weird vegetable-man-thing, with his head planted in the soil and his feet dangling in the air.
- Her dress is designed to look like corn, with the skirt being the eaves and the shirt being corn-patterned. In many versions, she was responsible for blue corn more than other colors, so I made the kernels blue.
- Joe is visible on screen right.
- Ducks are flying overhead, as she was found underneath their wings in the Zuni version.
Lastly: I would like to thank the inimitable Kate Johnson for suggesting Corn Maiden. Without her, this illustration would not exist.