fairy tale friday

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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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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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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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Kiss me, you fool!

Would you marry this pig?

Today’s fairy tale (a Romanian tale from Andrew Lang’s Red Fairy Book) is essentially a version of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” but with a sweet, strong twist of “Bluebeard” at the beginning. Favorite motifs include: an enchanted pig!, self mutilation, a poignant explanation of why the sun is grumpy every night when he comes home, and did I mention the enchanted pig? Who brings all the pigs of the world with him when comes to woo the king’s youngest daughter? I love that part.

As an aside, the Folio Society released a heart-breakingly exquisite edition of the Red Fairy Book. Check it out.

THE ENCHANTED PIG

ONCE upon a time there lived a King who had three daughters. Now it happened that he had to go out to battle, so he called his daughters and said to them:

`My dear children, I am obliged to go to the wars. The enemy is approaching us with a large army. It is a great grief to me to leave you all. During my absence take care of yourselves and be good girls; behave well and look after everything in the house. You may walk in the garden, and you may go into all the rooms in the palace, except the room at the back in the right-hand corner; into that you must not enter, for harm would befall you.’

`You may keep your mind easy, father,’ they replied. `We have never been disobedient to you. Go in peace, and may heaven give you a glorious victory!’

When everything was ready for his departure, the King gave them the keys of all the rooms and reminded them once more of what he had said. His daughters kissed his hands with tears in their eyes, and wished him prosperity, and he gave the eldest the keys.

Now when the girls found themselves alone they felt so sad and dull that they did not know what to do. So, to pass the time, they decided to work for part of the day, to read for part of the day, and to enjoy themselves in the garden for part of the day. As long as they did this all went well with them. But this happy state of things did not last long. Every day they grew more and more curious, and you will see what the end of that was.

`Sisters,’ said the eldest Princess, `all day long we sew, spin, and read. We have been several days quite alone, and there is no corner of the garden that we have not explored. We have been in all the rooms of our father’s palace, and have admired the rich and beautiful furniture: why should not we go into the room that our father forbad us to enter?’

Sister,’ said the youngest, `I cannot think how you can tempt us to break our father’s command. When he told us not to go into that room he must have known what he was saying, and have had a good reason for saying it.’

`Surely the sky won’t fall about our heads if we DO go in,’ said the second Princess. `Dragons and such like monsters that would devour us will not be hidden in the room. And how will our father ever find out that we have gone in?’

While they were speaking thus, encouraging each other, they had reached the room; the eldest fitted the key into the lock, and snap! the door stood open.

The three girls entered, and what do you think they saw?

The room was quite empty, and without any ornament, but in the middle stood a large table, with a gorgeous cloth, and on it lay a big open book.

Now the Princesses were curious to know what was written in the book, especially the eldest, and this is what she read:

`The eldest daughter of this King will marry a prince from the East.’

Then the second girl stepped forward, and turning over the page she read:

`The second daughter of this King will marry a prince from the West.’

The girls were delighted, and laughed and teased each other.

But the youngest Princess did not want to go near the table or to open the book. Her elder sisters however left her no peace, and will she, nill she, they dragged her up to the table, and in fear and trembling she turned over the page and read:

`The youngest daughter of this King will be married to a pig from the North.’

Now if a thunderbolt had fallen upon her from heaven it would not have frightened her more.

She almost died of misery, and if her sisters had not held her up, she would have sunk to the ground and cut her head open.

When she came out of the fainting fit into which she had fallen in her terror, her sisters tried to comfort her, saying:

`How can you believe such nonsense? When did it ever happen that a king’s daughter married a pig?’

`What a baby you are!’ said the other sister; `has not our father enough soldiers to protect you, even if the disgusting creature did come to woo you?’

The youngest Princess would fain have let herself be convinced by her sisters’ words, and have believed what they said, but her heart was heavy. Her thoughts kept turning to the book, in which stood written that great happiness waited her sisters, but that a fate was in store for her such as had never before been known in the world.

Besides, the thought weighed on her heart that she had been guilty of disobeying her father. She began to get quite ill, and in a few days she was so changed that it was difficult to recognise her; formerly she had been rosy and merry, now she was pale and nothing gave her any pleasure. She gave up playing with her sisters in the garden, ceased to gather flowers to put in her hair, and never sang when they sat together at their spinning and sewing.

In the meantime the King won a great victory, and having completely defeated and driven off the enemy, he hurried home to his daughters, to whom his thoughts had constantly turned. Everyone went out to meet him with cymbals and fifes and drums, and there was great rejoicing over his victorious return. The King’s first act on reaching home was to thank Heaven for the victory he had gained over the enemies who had risen against him. He then entered his palace, and the three Princesses stepped forward to meet him. His joy was great when he saw that they were all well, for the youngest did her best not to appear sad.

In spite of this, however, it was not long before the King noticed that his third daughter was getting very thin and sad-looking. And all of a sudden he felt as if a hot iron were entering his soul, for it flashed through his mind that she had disobeyed his word. He felt sure he was right; but to be quite certain he called his daughters to him, questioned them, and ordered them to speak the truth. They confessed everything, but took good care not to say which had led the other two into temptation.

The King was so distressed when he heard it that he was almost overcome by grief. But he took heart and tried to comfort his daughters, who looked frightened to death. He saw that what had happened had happened, and that a thousand words would not alter matters by a hair’s-breadth.

Well, these events had almost been forgotten when one fine day a prince from the East appeared at the Court and asked the King for the hand of his eldest daughter. The King gladly gave his consent. A great wedding banquet was prepared, and after three days of feasting the happy pair were accompanied to the frontier with much ceremony and rejoicing.

After some time the same thing befell the second daughter, who was wooed and won by a prince from the West.

Now when the young Princess saw that everything fell out exactly as had been written in the book, she grew very sad. She refused to eat, and would not put on her fine clothes nor go out walking, and declared that she would rather die than become a laughing-stock to the world. But the King would not allow her to do anything so wrong, and he comforted her in all possible ways.

So the time passed, till lo and behold! one fine day an enormous pig from the North walked into the palace, and going straight up to the King said, `Hail! oh King. May your life be as prosperous and bright as sunrise on a clear day!’

`I am glad to see you well, friend,’ answered the King, `but what wind has brought you hither?’

`I come a-wooing,’ replied the Pig.

Find out what happens when a pig comes a-wooing.

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Illustration by Henry Justice Ford

"Let go of my beard, you jerk!"

Today’s fairy tale features yet another bad bargain, in which a tricksy villain blackmails an unknown reward from a desperate king. (Remember: If someone offers to save you from peril in exchange for the first thing that greets you when you get home? DON’T DO IT.) It also features 30 beautiful, shape-shifting maidens, amnesia, betrayal, wild flight, and a green-eyed monster.

Taken from Andrew Lang’s Green Fairy Book, this Russian tale is like a mash-up of many of my favorite motifs. See how many other fairy tales you can remember that use at least one of the same tropes.

King Kojata

There was once upon a time a king called Kojata, whose beard was so long that it reached below his knees. Three years had passed since his marriage, and he lived very happily with his wife, but Heaven granted him no heir, which grieved the King greatly. One day he set forth from his capital, in order to make a journey through his kingdom. He travelled for nearly a year through the different parts of his territory, and then, having seen all there was to be seen, he set forth on his homeward way. As the day was very hot and sultry he commanded his servants to pitch tents in the open field, and there await the cool of the evening. Suddenly a frightful thirst seized the King, and as he saw no water near, he mounted his horse, and rode through the neighbourhood looking for a spring. Before long he came to a well filled to the brim with water clear as crystal, and on the bosom of which a golden jug was floating. King Kojata at once tried to seize the vessel, but though he endeavoured to grasp it with his right hand, and then with his left, the wretched thing always eluded his efforts and refused to let itself be caught. First with one hand, and then with two, did the King try to seize it, but like a fish the goblet always slipped through his fingers and bobbed to the ground only to reappear at some other place, and mock the King.

‘Plague on you!’ said King Kojata. ‘I can quench my thirst without you,’ and bending over the well he lapped up the water so greedily that he plunged his face, beard and all, right into the crystal mirror. But when he had satisfied his thirst, and wished to raise himself up, he couldn’t lift his head, because someone held his beard fast in the water. ‘Who’s there? let me go!’ cried King Kojata, but there was no answer; only an awful face looked up from the bottom of the well with two great green eyes, glowing like emeralds, and a wide mouth reaching from ear to ear showing two rows of gleaming white teeth, and the King’s beard was held, not by mortal hands, but by two claws. At last a hoarse voice sounded from the depths. ‘Your trouble is all in vain, King Kojata; I will only let you go on condition that you give me something you know nothing about, and which you will find on your return home.’

The King didn’t pause to ponder long, ‘for what,’ thought he, ‘could be in my palace without my knowing about it–the thing is absurd;’ so he answered quickly:

‘Yes, I promise that you shall have it.’

The voice replied, ‘Very well; but it will go ill with you if you fail to keep your promise.’ Then the claws relaxed their hold, and the face disappeared in the depths. The King drew his chin out of the water, and shook himself like a dog; then he mounted his horse and rode thoughtfully home with his retinue. When they approached the capital, all the people came out to meet them with great joy and acclamation, and when the King reached his palace the Queen met him on the threshold; beside her stood the Prime Minister, holding a little cradle in his hands, in which lay a new-born child as beautiful as the day. Then the whole thing dawned on the King, and groaning deeply he muttered to himself ‘So this is what I did not know about,’ and the tears rolled down his cheeks. All the courtiers standing round were much amazed at the King’s grief, but no one dared to ask him the cause of it. He took the child in his arms and kissed it tenderly; then laying it in its cradle, he determined to control his emotion and began to reign again as before.

The secret of the King remained a secret, though his grave, careworn expression escaped no one’s notice. In the constant dread that his child would be taken from him, poor Kojata knew no rest night or day. However, time went on and nothing happened. Days and months and years passed, and the Prince grew up into a beautiful youth, and at last the King himself forgot all about the incident that had happened so long ago.

 

Find out what happens when the green-eyed monster comes to claim his prize.

 

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Happy Friday, everyone! I don’t know about you, but I have had a long, hard week and I am so glad the weekend is here.

by the incredible Lawrence Beall Smith

To celebrate, I present you with a tale from Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book, a fascinating variation of “Cinderella” in which Cinderella is a MAN. That’s right – CinderFella.

ONCE upon a time there was a man who had a meadow which lay on the side of a mountain, and in the meadow there was a barn in which he stored hay. But there had not been much hay in the barn for the last two years, for every St. John’s eve, when the grass was in the height of its vigor, it was all eaten clean up, just as if a whole flock of sheep had gnawed it down to the ground during the night. This happened once, and it happened twice, but then the man got tired of losing his crop, and said to his sons–he had three of them, and the third was called Cinderlad–that one of them must go and sleep in the barn on St. John’s night, for it was absurd to let the grass be eaten up again, blade and stalk, as it had been the last two years, and the one who went to watch must keep a sharp look-out, the man said.

The eldest was quite willing to go to the meadow; he would watch the grass, he said, and he would do it so well that neither man, nor beast, nor even the devil himself should have any of it. So when evening came he went to the barn, and lay down to sleep, but when night was drawing near there was such a rumbling and such an earthquake that the walls and roof shook again, and the lad jumped up and took to his heels as fast as he could, and never even looked back, and the barn remained empty that year just as it had been for the last two.

Next St. John’s eve the man again said that he could not go on in this way, losing all the grass in the outlying field year after year, and that one of his sons must just go there and watch it, and watch well too. So the next oldest son was willing to show what he could do. He went to the barn and lay down to sleep, as his brother had done; but when night was drawing near there was a great rumbling, and then an earthquake, which was even worse than that on the former St. John’s night, and when the youth heard it he was terrified, and went off, running as if for a wager.

The year after, it was Cinderlad’s turn, but when he made ready to go the others laughed at him, and mocked him. “Well, you are just the right one to watch the hay, you who have never learned anything but how to sit among the ashes and bake yourself!” said they. Cinderlad, however, did not trouble himself about what they said, but when evening drew near rambled away to the outlying field. When he got there he went into the barn and lay down, but in about an hour’s time the rumbling and creaking began, and it was frightful to hear it. “Well, if it gets no worse than that, I can manage to stand it,” thought Cinderlad. In a little time the creaking began again, and the earth quaked so that all the hay flew about the boy. “Oh! if it gets no worse than that I can manage to stand it,” thought Cinderlad. But then came a third rumbling, and a third earthquake, so violent that the boy thought the walls and roof had fallen down, but when that was over everything suddenly grew as still as death around him. “I am pretty sure that it will come again,” thought Cinderlad; but no, it did not. Everything was quiet, and everything stayed quiet, and when he had lain still a short time he heard something that sounded as if a horse were standing chewing just outside the barn door. He stole away to the door, which was ajar, to see what was there, and a horse was standing eating. It was so big, and fat, and fine a horse that Cinderlad had never seen one like it before, and a saddle and bridle lay upon it, and a complete suit of armor for a knight, and everything was of copper, and so bright that it shone again. “Ha, ha! it is thou who eatest up our hay then,” thought the boy; “but I will stop that.” So he made haste, and took out his steel for striking fire, and threw it over the horse, and then it had no power to stir from the spot, and became so tame that the boy could do what he liked with it. So he mounted it and rode away to a place which no one knew of but himself, and there he tied it up. When he went home again his brothers laughed and asked how he had got on.

“You didn’t lie long in the barn, if even you have been so far as the field!” said they.

“I lay in the barn till the sun rose, but I saw nothing and heard nothing, not I,” said the boy. “God knows what there was to make you two so frightened.”

“Well, we shall soon see whether you have watched the meadow or not,” answered the brothers, but when they got there the grass was all standing just as long and as thick as it had been the night before.

The next St. John’s eve it was the same thing, once again: neither of the two brothers dared to go to the outlying field to watch the crop, but Cinderlad went, and everything happened exactly the same as on the previous St. John’s eve: first there was a rumbling and an earthquake, and then there was another, and then a third: but all three earthquakes were much, very much more violent than they had been the year before. Then everything became still as death again, and the boy heard something chewing outside the barn door, so he stole as softly as he could to the door, which was slightly ajar, and again there was a horse standing close by the wall of the house, eating and chewing, and it was far larger and fatter than the first horse, and it had a saddle on its back, and a bridle was on it too, and a full suit of armor for a knight, all of bright silver, and as beautiful as anyone could wish to see. “Ho, ho!” thought the boy, “is it thou who eatest up our hay in the night? but I will put a stop to that.” So he took out his steel for striking fire, and threw it over the horse’s mane, and the beast stood there as quiet as a lamb. Then the boy rode this horse, too, away to the place where he kept the other, and then went home again.

“I suppose you will tell us that you have watched well again this time,” said the brothers.

“Well, so I have,” said Cinderlad. So they went there again. and there the grass was, standing as high and as thick as it had been before, but that did not make them any kinder to Cinderlad.

When the third St. John’s night came neither of the two elder brothers dared to lie in the outlying barn to watch the grass, for they had been so heartily frightened the night that they had slept there that they could not get over it, but Cinderlad dared to go, and everything happened just the same as on the two former nights. There were three earthquakes, each worse than the other, and the last flung the boy from one wall of the barn to the other, but then everything suddenly became still as death. When he had lain quietly a short time, he heard something chewing outside the barn door; then he once more stole to the door, which was slightly ajar, and behold, a horse was standing just outside it, which was much larger and fatter than the two others he had caught. “Ho, ho! it is thou, then, who art eating up our hay this time,” thought the boy; “but I will put a stop to that.” So he pulled out his steel for striking fire, and threw it over the horse, and it stood as still as if it had been nailed to the field, and the boy could do just what he liked with it. Then he mounted it and rode away to the place where he had the two others, and then he went home again. Then the two brothers mocked him just as they had done before, and told him that they could see that he must have watched the grass very carefully that night, for he looked just as if he were walking in his sleep; but Cinderlad did not trouble himself about that, but just bade them go to the field and see. They did go, and this time too the grass was standing, looking as fine and as thick as ever.

The King of the country in which Cinderlad’s father dwelt had a daughter whom he would give to no one who could not ride up to the top of the glass hill, for there was a high, high hill of glass, slippery as ice, and it was close to the King’s palace. Upon the very top of this the King’s daughter was to sit with three gold apples in her lap, and the man who could ride up and take the three golden apples should marry her, and have half the kingdom. The King had this proclaimed in every church in the whole kingdom, and in many other kingdoms too. The Princess was very beautiful, and all who saw her fell violently in love with her, even in spite of themselves. So it is need- less to say that all the princes and knights were eager to win her, and half the kingdom besides, and that for this cause they came riding thither from the very end of the world, dressed so splendidly that their raiments gleamed in the sunshine, and riding on horses which seemed to dance as they went, and there was not one of these princes who did not think that he was sure to win the Princess. …

Find out what happens next.

Link courtesy of Laura Gibbs’ wonderful site.

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