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Yeah, I know. It's "James and Giant Peach." You wouldn't BELIEVE the image search results for "Peach Darling." Google at your own risk.

Today’s fairy tale is a short one from Japan, called “Peach Darling.” It shares motifs with some of my favorite European tales (the magical child given to the childless couple, a posse of animal companions, a monster-killing quest), but even though the ingredients are the same, the overall flavor of the story is a little different. (You like that metaphor? I feel so clever.) It’s from a 1911 collection from Teresa Pierce Willitson, and if you like it, you can find more here.

I confess to having a strong preference for the European tales, and I’ll also confess to feeling some good old-fashioned Anglo-Protestant guilt about that. So I’m on a quest to find stories from East and Southeast Asia, as well as Africa, that I like as much as I like the English, French, German, and Eastern European tales. Stay tuned. It’s about to get multi-cultural up in here.

PEACH DARLING

HERE once lived an old man and an old woman who had no child of their own. They felt very sad about this, for they said: “Who will care for us when we are too old to care for ourselves?”

Since they had no children of their own to love, they loved all other children and tried to make them happy. Even the cats and dogs, the birds and squirrels, knew they had friends in the old man and woman.

No cherry trees ever bore such beautiful blossoms as the ones by their cottage door, and all the bees of the village came to hum with delight at the long and graceful catkins on their willow tree.

One day the old man said: “To-day I must go to the mountains to cut grass. Oh, if I only had a stout young boy who could take this long journey for me! But then I must not complain, for we have each other.” So off he went, happy and contented, in spite of it all.

Then the old woman said to herself: “If my good husband must take such a long, hard journey to-day, I, too, will be at work. I will take all these clothes down to the river and wash them.”

Soon she was on the river bank, washing merrily, while the birds sang above her. “How jolly our little friends are to-day!” thought the old woman. “They twitter and sing as though they were trying to tell me a secret.

Just then something came splashing and tumbling down the river and caught among her clean clothes. The old woman took a stick and pulled it out. It was a huge peach. “I will take this home for my husband’s supper; he will be so tired, and this will taste very good,” she said. Oh! how the birds sang then!

That evening when the old man came home from the mountains his wife said: “Just see, here is a peach for your supper, which came floating down the river to me. I fancy the birds must have sent it, for they laughed and sang so when it came.”

The old man said: “Bring me a knife, that I may cut it in two, for you shall have half of it.”

When they opened the peach, there within it lay a tiny baby boy, as round and fat and smiling as could be. Because of his first cradle they called him “Peach Darling,” and loved him as a child sent from the gods.

Find out what this divine child did when he grew big and strong.

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Don't mess with the Ash Lad.

Today’s trickster tale comes to us courtesy of FTF friend Lisa, who said it reminded her of Pinkel the Thief (which was a Friday story back in April). It’s a Norwegian tale, and if you like your stories cold, dark, and full of trolls, you can find more like it at the Norwegian Folk Tales page of ancestry.com.

Side note: The Ash Lad is apparently a recurring figure in Norwegian folklore, and also the surprisingly foxy star of an ad campaign for underwear. [Thanks to Gypsy at the always great Once Upon a Blog for the tip.]

The Ash Lad Who Had an Eating Match with a Troll 

There was once a farmer who had three sons. He was badly off. and old and feeble, and his sons wouldn’t turn their hands to a thing. To the farm belonged a large, good forest, and there the father wanted the boys to chop wood and see about paying off some of the debt. At last he got them around to his way of thinking, and the eldest was to go out chipping first.

When he had made his way into the forest, and had started chopping a shaggy firtree, a big, burly Troll came up to him. “If you’re chopping in my forest, I’m going to kill you!” said the Troll. When the boy heard that, he flung aside the ax and headed for home again as best he could. He got home clean out of breath, and told them what had happened to him. But his father said he was chicken-hearted. The Trolls had never scared him from chopping wood when he was young, he said.

On the next day the second son was to set out, and he fared just like the first. When he had struck the fir tree a few blows with his ax, the Troll came up to him, too, and said,” If you’re chopping in my forest, I’m going to kill you!” The boy hardly dared look at him. He flung aside the ax and took to his heels just like his brother, and just as fast. When he came home again, his father became angry and said that the Trolls had never scared him when he was young.

On the third day the Ash Lad wanted to set out. “You?” said the two eldest. “You’ll certainly manage it – you who’ve never been beyond the front door!” He didn’t say much to that, the Ash Lad didn’t, but just asked for a big a lunch as possible to take with him. His mother had no curds, so she hung the cauldron over the fire to curdle a little cheese for him. This he put in his knapsack, and set out on his way.

When he had been chopping for a little while, the Troll came to him and said, “If you’re chopping in my forest, I’m going to kill you!”

But the boy wasn’t slow. He ran over to the knapsack to get the cheese, and squeezed it till the whey spurted.”If you don’t hold your tongue,” he shrieked to the Troll, “I’ll squeeze you the way I’m squeezing the water out of this white stone!”

“Nay, dear fellow! Spare me!” said the Troll. “I’ll help you to chop!” Well, on that condition the boy would sparehim, and the Troll was clever at chopping, so they managed to fell and cut many cords of wood during the day.

As evening was drawing night, the Troll said,” Now you can come home with me. My house is closer than yours.” Well, the boy went along, and when they came to the Troll’s home, he was to make up the fire in the hearth, while the boy was to fetch water for the porridge pot. But the two iron buckets were so big and heavy that he couldn’t so much as budge them.

So the boy said, “It’s not worth taking along these thimbles. I’m going after the whole well, I am!”

“Nay, my dear fellow,” said the Troll. “I can’t lose my well. You make the fire and I’ll go after the water.” When he came back with the water, they cooked up a huge pot of porridge.

“If it’s the same to you,” said the boy, “let’s have an eating match!”

“Oh, yes,” replied the Troll, for at that he felt he could always hold his own. Well, they sat down at the table, but the boy stole over and took the knapsack and tied it in the front of him, and he scooped more into the knapsack than he ate himself. When the knapsack was full, he took up his knife and ripped a gash in it. The Troll looked at him, but didn’t say anything. When they had eaten a good while longer, the Troll put down his spoon. “”Nay! Now I can’t manage any more!” he said

“You must eat!” said the boy. “I’m barely half full yet. Do as I did and cut a hole in your stomach, then you can eat as much as you wish!”

“But doesn’t that hurt dreadfully?” asked the Troll.

“Oh, nothing to speak of,” replied the boy. So the Troll did as the boy said, and then, you might know, that was the end of him. But the boy took all the silver and gold to be found in the mountain, and went home with it. With that he could at least pay off some of the debt.

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Have you met zefrank yet? He doesn’t do fairy tales, but he’s totally one of us anyway.

p.s. He says the word “penis” more than once. Several times more than once. So, you know – wear headphones if you’re at work.

 

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Don Cornelius isn't afraid of the Terrible Head! (This was one of the top image search results for "The Terrible Head." No joke.)

 

This peculiar tale from Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book is strongly flavored with cruelty, as well as Greek and Roman mythology. See how many different myths you can name as you read. (I count two in this first section alone.)

The Terrible Head

ONCE upon a time there was a king whose only child was a girl. Now the King had been very anxious to have a son, or at least a grandson, to come after him, but he was told by a prophet whom he consulted that his own daughter’s son should kill him. This news terrified him so much that he determined never to let his daughter be married, for he thought it was better to have no grandson at all than to be killed by his grandson. He therefore called his workmen together, and bade them dig a deep round hole in the earth, and then he had a prison of brass built in the hole, and then, when it was finished, he locked up his daughter. No man ever saw her, and she never saw even the fields and the sea, but only the sky and the sun, for there was a wide open window in the roof of the house of brass. So the Princess would sit looking up at the sky, and watching the clouds float across, and wondering whether she should ever get out of her prison. Now one day it seemed to her that the sky opened above her, and a great shower of shining gold fell through the window in the roof, and lay glittering in her room. Not very long after, the Princess had a baby, a little boy, but when the King her father heard of it he was very angry and afraid, for now the child was born that should be his death. Yet, cowardly as he was, he had not quite the heart to kill the Princess and her baby outright, but he had them put in a huge brass-bound chest and thrust out to sea, that they might either be drowned or starved, or perhaps come to a country where they would be out of his way.

So the Princess and the baby floated and drifted in the chest on the sea all day and night, but the baby was not afraid of the waves nor of the wind, for he did not know that they could hurt him, and he slept quite soundly. And the Princess sang a song over him, and this was her song:

“Child, my child, how sound you sleep! Though your mother’s care is deep, You can lie with heart at rest In the narrow brass-bound chest; In the starless night and drear You can sleep, and never hear Billows breaking, and the cry Of the night-wind wandering by; In soft purple mantle sleeping With your little face on mine, Hearing not your mother weeping And the breaking of the brine.”

Well, the daylight came at last, and the great chest was driven by the waves against the shore of an island. There the brass-bound chest lay, with the Princess and her baby in it, till a man of that country came past, and saw it, and dragged it on to the beach, and when he had broken it open, behold! there was a beautiful lady and a little boy. So he took them home, and was very kind to them, and brought up the boy till he was a young man. Now when the boy had come to his full strength the King of that country fell in love with his mother, and wanted to marry her, but he knew that she would never part from her boy. So he thought of a plan to get rid of the boy, and this was his plan: A great Queen of a country not far off was going to be married, and this king said that all his subjects must bring him wedding presents to give her. And he made a feast to which he invited them all, and they all brought their presents; some brought gold cups, and some brought necklaces of gold and amber, and some brought beautiful horses; but the boy had nothing, though he was the son of a princess, for his mother had nothing to give him. Then the rest of the company began to laugh at him, and the King said: “If you have nothing else to give, at least you might go and fetch the Terrible Head.”

The boy was proud, and spoke without thinking:

“Then I swear that I WILL bring the Terrible Head, if it may be brought by a living man. But of what head you speak I know not.”

Then they told him that somewhere, a long way off, there dwelt three dreadful sisters, monstrous ogrish women, with golden wings and claws of brass, and with serpents growing on their heads instead of hair. Now these women were so awful to look on that whoever saw them was turned at once into stone. And two of them could not be put to death, but the youngest, whose face was very beautiful, could be killed, and it was HER head that the boy had promised to bring. You may imagine it was no easy adventure.

But the boy was up to it, wasn’t he? Or WAS HE? Find out!

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Wicked Pinkel robs one of these creatures and steals the other. (Side note: Do you let your goats get into the bed with you? Discuss.)

 

Last week kicked off the latest Intro to Writing Fairy Tales class, and the students had to find a fairy tale they love or hate, then post a link to it on the FTF Facebook page. My favorite so far is “Pinkel the Thief,” yet another from Andrew Lang (this time from the Orange Fairy Book). It’s a trickster tale, featuring the clever, industrious, youngest son who consistently outwits his two lazy, envious brothers AND the evil witch who lives on an island.

Unlike many of my other featured stories, it does not contain any instances of cannibalism, mutilation, or jaw-dropping wickedness. Except for that one part where the girl gets pushed into the well.

How can a story be any good without cannibalism, mutilation, or jaw-dropping wickedness? You’ll just have to read and find out.

PINKEL THE THIEF

Long, long ago there lived a widow who had three sons. The two eldest were grown up, and though they were known to be idle fellows, some of the neighbours had given them work to do on account of the respect in which their mother was held. But at the time this story begins they had both been so careless and idle that their masters declared they would keep them no longer.

So home they went to their mother and youngest brother, of whom they thought little, because he made himself useful about the house, and looked after the hens, and milked the cow. ‘Pinkel,’ they called him in scorn, and by-and-by ‘Pinkel’ became his name throughout the village.

The two young men thought it was much nicer to live at home and be idle than to be obliged to do a quantity of disagreeable things they did not like, and they would have stayed by the fire till the end of their lives had not the widow lost patience with them and said that since they would not look for work at home they must seek it elsewhere, for she would not have them under her roof any longer. But she repented bitterly of her words when Pinkel told her that he too was old enough to go out into the world, and that when he had made a fortune he would send for his mother to keep house for him.

The widow wept many tears at parting from her youngest son, but as she saw that his heart was set upon going with his brothers, she did not try to keep him. So the young men started off one morning in high spirits, never doubting that work such as they might be willing to do would be had for the asking, as soon as their little store of money was spent.

But a very few days of wandering opened their eyes. Nobody seemed to want them, or, if they did, the young men declared that they were not able to undertake all that the farmers or millers or woodcutters required of them. The youngest brother, who was wiser, would gladly have done some of the work that the others refused, but he was small and slight, and no one thought of offering him any. Therefore they went from one place to another, living only on the fruit and nuts they could find in the woods, and getting hungrier every day.

One night, after they had been walking for many hours and were very tired, they came to a large lake with an island in the middle of it. From the island streamed a strong light, by which they could see everything almost as clearly as if the sun had been shining, and they perceived that, lying half hidden in the rushes, was a boat.

‘Let us take it and row over to the island, where there must be a house,’ said the eldest brother; ‘and perhaps they will give us food and shelter.’ And they all got in and rowed across in the direction of the light. As they drew near the island they saw that it came from a golden lantern hanging over the door of a hut, while sweet tinkling music proceeded from some bells attached to the golden horns of a goat which was feeding near the cottage. The young men’s hearts rejoiced as they thought that at last they would be able to rest their weary limbs, and they entered the hut, but were amazed to see an ugly old woman inside, wrapped in a cloak of gold which lighted up the whole house. They looked at each other uneasily as she came forward with her daughter, as they knew by the cloak that this was a famous witch.

‘What do you want?’ asked she, at the same time signing to her daughter to stir the large pot on the fire.

‘We are tired and hungry, and would fain have shelter for the night,’ answered the eldest brother.

‘You cannot get it here,’ said the witch, ‘but you will find both food and shelter in the palace on the other side of the lake. Take your boat and go; but leave this boy with me–I can find work for him, though something tells me he is quick and cunning, and will do me ill.’

‘What harm can a poor boy like me do a great Troll like you?’ answered Pinkel. ‘Let me go, I pray you, with my brothers. I will promise never to hurt you.’ And at last the witch let him go, and he followed his brothers to the boat.

Find out whether Pinkel keeps his promise.

 

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Would you trust these girls with your beard?

What with all the Snow White going around these days, I thought I’d bring the OTHER Snow White tale to your attention: “Snow White and Rose Red.” It’s not as complex and wonderfully evil as the seven dwarves tale, but it’s still a sweet story with enough weirdness to satisfy. And what it lacks in wicked witches, it totally makes up for in uncomfortably flirtatious bears.

I would love to see someone do a mash-up of the two versions someday…

Snow White and Rose Red

THERE was once a poor widow who lived in a lonely cottage. In front of the cottage was a garden wherein stood two rose-trees, one of which bore white and the other red roses. She had two children who were like the two rose-trees, and one was called Snow-white and the other Rose-red. They were as good and happy, as busy and cheerful, as ever two children in the world were, only Snow-white was more quiet and gentle than Rose-red. Rose-red liked better to run about in the meadows and fields seeking flowers and catching butterflies; but Snow-white sat at home with her mother, and helped her with her house-work, or read to her when there was nothing to do.

The two children were so fond of each other that they always held each other by the hand when they went out together, and when Snow-white said, “We will not leave each other,” Rose-red answered, “Never so long as we live,” and their mother would add, “What one has she must share with the other.”

They often ran about the forest alone and gathered red berries, and no beasts did them any harm, but came close to them trustfully. The little hare would eat a cabbage-leaf out of their hands, the roe grazed by their side, the stag leapt merrily by them, and the birds sat still upon the boughs, and sang whatever they knew.

No mishap overtook them; if they had stayed too late in the forest and night came on, they laid themselves down near one another upon the moss, and slept until morning came, and their mother knew this and had not distress on their account.

Once when they had spent the night in the wood and the dawn had roused them, they saw a beautiful child in a shining white dress sitting near their bed. He got up and looked quite kindly at them, but said nothing and went away into the forest. And when they looked round they found that they had been sleeping quite close to a precipice, and would certainly have fallen into it in the darkness if they had gone only a few paces further. And their mother told them that it must have been the angel who watches over good children.

Snow-white and Rose-red kept their mother’s little cottage so neat that it was a pleasure to look inside it. In the summer Rose-red took care of the house, and every morning laid a wreath of flowers by her mother’s bed before she awoke, in which was a rose from each tree. In the winter Snow-white lit the fire and hung the kettle on the wrekin. The kettle was of copper and shone like gold, so brightly was it polished. In the evening, when the snowflakes fell, the mother said, “Go, Snow-white, and bolt the door,” and then they sat round the hearth, and the mother took her spectacles and read aloud out of a large book, and the two girls listened as they sat and span. And close by them lay a lamb upon the floor, and behind them upon a perch sat a, white dove with its head hidden beneath its wings.

One evening, as they were thus sitting comfortably together, some one knocked at the door, as if he wished to be let in. The mother said. “Quick, Rose-red, open the door, it must be a traveller who is seeking shelter.” Rose-red went and pushed back the bolt, thinking that it was a poor man, but it was not; it was a bear that stretched his broad, black head within the door.

Rose-red screamed and sprang back, the lamb bleated, the dove fluttered, and Snow-white hid herself behind her mother’s bed. But the bear began to speak and said, “Do not be afraid, I will do you no harm! I am half-frozen, and only want to warm myself a little beside you.”

“Poor bear,” said the mother, “lie down by the fire, only take care that you do not burn your coat.” Then she cried, “Snow-white, Rose-red, come out, the bear will do you no harm, he means well.” So they both came out, and by-and-by the lamb and dove came nearer, and were not afraid of him. The bear said, “Here, children, knock the snow out of my coat a little;” so they brought the broom and swept the bear’s hide clean; and he stretched himself by the fire and growled contentedly and comfortably. It was not long before they grew quite at home, and played tricks with their clumsy guest. They tugged his hair with their hands, put their feet upon his back and rolled him about, or they took a hazel-switch and beat him, and when he growled they laughed. But the bear took it all in good part, only, when they were too rough, he called out, “Leave me alive, children,

“Snowy-white, Rosy-red,
Will you beat your lover dead?”

Right. He totally said that. Find out what happens next.

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In which the Marvel universe comes to the aid of a damsel in distress...

Today’s fairy tale is a simple, fun one that features not one, not two, but THREE magical helpers: Long, Broad, and Quickeye. Each one of these fine fellows possesses a unique talent, much like the members of the Fantastic 4, or the X-Men. One of them even blows stuff up with his incredible eyesight, just like Cyclops!

If that’s not enough to pique your interest, there’s also a sad, enchanted maiden, a prince who falls in love with her (emotionally unavailable people are so attractive), and a mean, old wizard.

From Andrew Lang’s Grey Fairy Book.

LONG, BROAD, AND QUICKEYE

Once upon a time there lived a king who had an only son whom he loved dearly. Now one day the king sent for his son and said to him:

‘My dearest child, my hair is grey and I am old, and soon I shall feel no more the warmth of the sun, or look upon the trees and flowers. But before I die I should like to see you with a good wife; therefore marry, my son, as speedily as possible.’

‘My father,’ replied the prince, ‘now and always, I ask nothing better than to do your bidding, but I know of no daughter-in-law that I could give you.’

On hearing these words the old king drew from his pocket a key of gold, and gave it to his son, saying:

‘Go up the staircase, right up to the top of the tower. Look carefully round you, and then come and tell me which you like best of all that you see.’

So the young man went up. He had never before been in the tower, and had no idea what it might contain.

The staircase wound round and round and round, till the prince was almost giddy, and every now and then he caught sight of a large room that opened out from the side. But he had been told to go to the top, and to the top he went. Then he found himself in a hall, which had an iron door at one end. This door he unlocked with his golden key, and he passed through into a vast chamber which had a roof of blue sprinkled with golden stars, and a carpet of green silk soft as turf. Twelve windows framed in gold let in the light of the sun, and on every window was painted the figure of a young girl, each more beautiful than the last. While the prince gazed at them in surprise, not knowing which he liked best, the girls began to lift their eyes and smile at him. He waited, expecting them to speak, but no sound came.

Suddenly he noticed that one of the windows was covered by a curtain of white silk.

He lifted it, and saw before him the image of a maiden beautiful as the day and sad as the tomb, clothed in a white robe, having a girdle of silver and a crown of pearls. The prince stood and gazed at her, as if he had been turned into stone, but as he looked the sadness which, was on her face seemed to pass into his heart, and he cried out:

‘This one shall be my wife. This one and no other.’

As he said the words the young girl blushed and hung her head, and all the other figures vanished.

The young prince went quickly back to his father, and told him all he had seen and which wife he had chosen. The old man listened to him full of sorrow, and then he spoke:

‘You have done ill, my son, to search out that which was hidden, and you are running to meet a great danger. This young girl has fallen into the power of a wicked sorcerer, who lives in an iron castle. Many young men have tried to deliver her, and none have ever come back. But what is done is done! You have given your word, and it cannot be broken. Go, dare your fate, and return to me safe and sound.’

So the prince embraced his father, mounted his horse, and set forth to seek his bride. He rode on gaily for several hours, till he found himself in a wood where he had never been before, and soon lost his way among its winding paths and deep valleys. He tried in vain to see where he was: the thick trees shut out the sun, and he could not tell which was north and which was south, so that he might know what direction to make for. He felt in despair, and had quite given up all hope of getting out of this horrible place, when he heard a voice calling to him.

‘Hey! hey! stop a minute!’

How does the prince find Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters his way through the terrible forest? Find out.

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Shop at therussianshop.com!

Kiss me, you fool! (And don't steal images. Only wicked people do that.)

 

“Tsarevna Frog” is a frog princess story, which means there’s some serious shape-shifting going on. There’s also a husband who makes a terrible mistake and has to pay for it by journeying the world over (we saw this same motif in “The Enchanted Pig” a few weeks ago), plus an appearance by my favorite fairy-tale character of all time: Baba Yaga. Not to mention the fellow who inspired this week’s selection: Koshchei the Deathless.*

Speaking of which, have you read the book Deathless by Catherynne Valente? Holy crackers, it’s so good. It’s a delectable fairy tale novel set in Stalinist Russia, just after the Revolution, and one of the main characters is the terrifying Koshchei the Deathless. (I posted “The Death of Koshchei the Deathless” around Halloween of last year, you might remember.)

Let’s see what Koshchei is up to this week, shall we?

Tsarevna Frog

IN olden time, in a time long before present days, in a certain Tsardom of an Empire far across the blue seas and behind high mountains, there lived a Tsar and his Tsaritsa. The Tsar had lived long in the white world, and through long living had become old. He had three sons, Tsarevitches, all of them young, brave and unmarried, and altogether of such a sort that they could not be described by words spoken in a tale or written down with a pen. During the long white days they flew about on their fiery, beautiful horses, like bright hawks under the blue sky. All three were handsome and clever, but the handsomest and cleverest was the youngest, and he was Tsarevitch Ivan.

One day the Tsar summoned his three sons to his presence and said: “My dear children, ye have now arrived at man’s estate and it is time for you to think of marriage. I desire you to select maidens to beloving wives to you and to me dutiful daughters-in-law. Take, therefore, your well- arched bows and arrows which have been hardened in the fire. Go into the untrodden field wherein no one is permitted to hunt, draw the bows tight and shoot in different directions, and in whatsoever courts the arrows fall, there demand your wives-to-be. She who brings to each his arrow shall be his bride.”

So the Tsarevitches made arrows, hardened them in the fire, and going into the untrodden field, shot them in different directions. The eldest brother shot to the east, the second to the west, and the youngest, Tsarevitch Ivan, drew his bow with all his strength and shot his arrow straight before him.

On making search, the eldest brother found that his arrow had fallen in the courtyard of a Boyar, where it lay before the tower in which were the apartments of the maidens. The second brother’s arrow had fallen in the courtyard of a rich merchant who traded with foreign countries, and pierced a window at which the merchant’s daughter-a lovely girl soul-was standing. But the arrow of Tsarevitch Ivan could not be found at all.

Tsarevitch Ivan searched in deep sorrow and grief. For two whole days he wandered in the woods and fields, and on the third day he came by chance to a boggy swamp, where the black soil gave way under the foot, and in the middle of the swamp he came upon a great Frog which held in her mouth the arrow he had shot.

When he saw this he turned to run away, leaving his arrow behind him, but the Frog cried: “Kwa! Kwa! Tsarevitch Ivan, come to me and take thine arrow. If thou wilt not take me for thy wife, thou wilt never get out of this marsh.”

Poor Tsarevitch Ivan. It’s like Fear Factor. Will he do what it takes to get out of the marsh?

 *If you love Russian tales, SurLaLune has a section called “Russian Wonder Tales,” where you can happily wander through a hand-picked assortment of Russia’s finest.

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Many thanks to Jonathan Carroll for posting this in his blog:

ANTILAMENTATION

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering
any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

~Dorianne Laux

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Now go clean your room.

"I don't care if I'm a tree. I'm still your mother and you need to listen to me!"

Today’s fairy tale is a variant of one of history’s most beloved stories: “Cinderella.” But you know what makes this story better than “Cinderella”? CANNIBALISM. And if you need more incentive to read it than that, well…you’re just not the person I married all those years ago.

From Andrew Lang’s Red Fairy Book.

THE WONDERFUL BIRCH

ONCE upon a time there were a man and a woman, who had an only daughter. Now it happened that one of their sheep went astray, and they set out to look for it, and searched and searched, each in n different part of the wood. Then the good wife met a witch, who said to her:

`If you spit, you miserable creature, if you spit into the sheath of my knife, or if you run between my legs, I shall change you into a black sheep.’

The woman neither spat, nor did she run between her legs, but yet the witch changed her into a sheep. Then she made herself look exactly like the woman, and called out to the good man:

`Ho, old man, halloa! I have found the sheep already!’

The man thought the witch was really his wife, and he did not know that his wife was the sheep; so he went home with her, glad at heart because his sheep was found. When they were safe at home the witch said to the man:

`Look here, old man, we must really kill that sheep lest it run away to the wood again.’

The man, who was a peaceable quiet sort of fellow, made no objections, but simply said:

`Good, let us do so.’

The daughter, however, had overheard their talk, and she ran to the flock and lamented aloud:

`Oh, dear little mother, they are going to slaughter you!’

`Well, then, if they do slaughter me,’ was the black sheep’s answer, `eat you neither the meat nor the broth that is made of me, but gather all my bones, and bury them by the edge of the field.’

Shortly after this they took the black sheep from the flock and slaughtered it.

Find out if our heroine forgets her manners and eats her mama for supper.

 

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