Tag Archives: Fairy tales

Fairy Tale Friday (on Saturday!): Peach Darling, a Japanese Fairy Tale

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.

Fairy Tale Friday: The Ash Lad Who Had an Eating Match with a Troll (for Lisa)

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.

Fairy Tale Friday: The Terrible Head

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!

Fairy Tale Friday on Saturday: Pinkel the Thief

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.

 

Fairy Tale Friday: Long, Broad, and Quickeye.

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.

Fairy Tale Friday: Tsarevna Frog

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.

New Creative Writing Class: Intro to Writing Fairy Tales

Pucker up!

Come write fairy tales with me!

After nearly two years on hiatus from teaching, I have just secured a fabulous classroom for a new Intro to Writing Fairy Tales class!

This is what I sent out to the mailing list:

Learn how to write your own fairy tales on Saturday afternoons from April 14 – May 19
(12 pm – 3 pm).

The Intro to Writing Fairy Tales class is a terrific choice for authors of all experience levels. I tailor the class exercises to meet the needs of each student, so everyone has fun, works just hard enough, and ends up with a complete fairy tale by the end of the class.

Visit http://www.writefairytales.com to learn more or register now.

This six-week class costs $250. But you can save $50 if you register before March 18.

Not sure it’s worth it? See what other people think about the class.

We’ll meet at the Phinney Neighborhood Center – my favorite place to teach in the entire city. Ample parking, gorgeous classrooms, and a lovely neighborhood to stroll around before or after class.

Class description:

Intro to Writing Fairy Tales
Spend six weeks in the land of Fairy. Learn the basic rules of the genre, plus a variety of approaches to fairy tales as readers and as writers. Study western European tales from the late middle ages to modern times. Write a lot! Writing exercises assigned after each class. By the end of the course you will have written at least one original fairy tale of your own. All experience levels welcome.$250.

I hope to see you there!

How to Fail Like the World’s Most Successful Creatives

Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings wrote a wonderful post about the fear (and importance) of failure, and I liked it so much I am re-posting it here:

Embracing what is, or how to fail like the world’s most successful creatives.

While failure may be an integral prerequisite for true innovation, the fact remains that most of us harbor a deathly fear of it — the same psychological mechanisms that drive our severe aversion to being wrong, only amplified. That fear is the theme of this year’s student work exhibition at Stockholm’s Berghs School of Communication and, to launch it, they asked some of today’s most beloved creators — artists, designers, writers — to share their experiences and thoughts on the subject. While intended as advice for design students, these simple yet important insights are relevant to just about anyone with a beating heart and a head full of ideas — a much-needed reminder of what we all rationally know but have such a hard time internalizing emotionally.

Paulo Coelho – on the fear of failure. from Berghs’ Exhibition ’11 on Vimeo.

 

When you put love and enthusiasm into your work, even if people don’t see it, they realize that it is there, that you did this with all your body and soul.” ~ Paulo Coelho

 

Stefan Sagmeister – on the fear of failure. from Berghs’ Exhibition ’11 on Vimeo.

It is very important to embrace failure and to do a lot of stuff — as much stuff as possible — with as little fear as possible. It’s much, much better to wind up with a lot of crap having tried it than to overthink in the beginning and not do it.” ~Stefan Sagmeister

 

Rei Inamoto – on the fear of failure. from Berghs’ Exhibition ’11 on Vimeo.

What it comes down to is accepting the fact that many ideas and many solutions that we provide to our clients may always, or sometimes, fail. The trick, I think, is to A) accept it and B) have the courage to accept it and move forward with what you believe in.” ~ Rei Inamoto

But my favorite has to be Milton Glaser:

Milton Glaser – on the fear of failure. from Berghs’ Exhibition ’11 on Vimeo.

 

A characteristic of artistic education is for people to tell you that you’re a genius. [...] So everybody gets this idea, if you go to art school, that you’re really a genius. Sadly, it isn’t true. Genius occurs very rarely. So the real embarrassing issue about failure is your own acknowledgement that you’re not a genius, that you’re not as good as you thought you were. [...] There’s only one solution: You must embrace failure. You must admit what is. You must find out what you’re capable of doing, and what you’re not capable of doing. That is the only way to deal with the issue of success and failure because otherwise you simply would never subject yourself to the possibility that you’re not as good as you want to be, hope to be, or as others think you are.” ~ Milton Glaser

Explore all the videos on the exhibition site and feel free to share your own recipe for dealing with failure in the comments below.

via Creativity Online

Fairy Tale Friday: The Enchanted Pig

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.