Help! I’m Made of Glass!

Several glass bottles and a stone owl



I’ve written on a third collection of Asexual Fairy Tales. It’s crowdfunding now on this link. One of the tales I discovered - and which I retell in the book - comes from the pen of Miguel de Cervantes, the 17th-century author of Don Quixote. 

It’s called “The Glass Lawyer”. The title character Tomás Rodaja, a lawyer from Salamanca, has never been in love. When a lady’s advances to him are snubbed, she feeds him a potion she believes to be an aphrodisiac. But instead of having the effects she hopes, it makes him ill. And when he recovers, he finds he has developed a strange condition.

He believes he is made of glass.

I won’t tell you the whole story. (You’ll have to wait for the book!) But Tomás becomes terrified of being touched in case he breaks, and travels around in a packing case full of straw.

What is interesting about this story is that, although it’s fictitious, there was a condition known as Glass Delusion, documented from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Sufferers included King Charles VI of France (reigned 1380-1422) who had a suit of iron ribs made to protect himself, and Princess Alexandra of Bavaria (1826-1875) who believed she had swallowed a glass piano. Royal physician Louis de Caseneuve (1626) told of a Parisian glassmaker who had a cushion tied to his buttocks to stop them shattering. And in a 1569 account, a man was convinced he was a glass flask.

Commentators suggest this condition was linked to notions of purity and chastity. Princess Alexandra never married; she became abbess of a religious community and an author in her own right. Her glass fixation apparently started after her father, King Ludwig I, caused a scandal by bestowing titles and favours on his mistress, the actor and dancer Lola Montez.

I find this all fascinating. Readers of my previous Asexual Tales book will know how glass (and its counterpart, ice) features in many of the stories. Glass coffins, mirrors, the fragile, icicle hair of the Ice Queen. And long before I had heard of the Glass Delusion, I wrote an interactive short story, “Within the Rain Palace”, in which one of the protagonists was the Princess With Glass Legs.

I do hope you’ll enjoy the story when the book comes out. And tell me in the comments if you know any interesting tales or folklore about glass.

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