I’d never read this one before, and was delighted by it! It showcases two of my favorite motifs: animal transformation and beating the Devil.
THERE was once a young fellow who enlisted as a soldier, conducted himself bravely, and was always the foremost when it rained bullets. So long as the war lasted, all went well, but when peace was made, he received his dismissal, and the captain said he might go where he liked. His parents were dead, and he had no longer a home, so he went to his brothers and begged them to take him in, and keep him until war broke out again. The brothers, however, were hard-hearted and said, “What can we do with thee? thou art of no use to us; go and make a living for thyself.” The soldier had nothing left but his gun; he took that on his shoulder, and went forth into the world. He came to a wide heath, on which nothing was to be seen but a circle of trees; under these he sat sorrowfully down, and began to think over his fate. “I have no money,” thought he, “I have learnt no trade but that of fighting, and now that they have made peace they don’t want me any longer; so I see beforehand that I shall have to starve.” All at once he heard a rustling, and when he looked round, a strange man stood before him, who wore a green coat and looked right stately, but had a hideous cloven foot.
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In a far off Tzardom, there lived a little girl who was so lovely that she was known as Vasilisa the beautiful.
When Vasilisa was eight years old her mother became ill and no doctor could cure her. Just before she died, she called Vasilisa to her bedside and told her:
‘My dearest Vasilisa, do not weep for me, but listen carefully to my words. I am leaving you this little wooden doll, which my own mother left me; you must never show it to anyone. Always carry it with you wherever you go. It will help you whenever you are in trouble and comfort you when you have no one to turn to. When you need help, go somewhere quiet and give it something to eat and it will tell you what to do.’
Blinking back her tears, Vasilisa took the little wooden doll, received her mother’s blessing and kissed her for the last time.
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It’s that time again! The Intro to Fairy Tales students are sending me their favorite stories, and I’m delighted to share them with you.
Once upon a time there was a king and a queen, as in many lands have been. The king had a daughter, Anne, and the queen had one named Kate, but Anne was far bonnier than the queen’s daughter, though they loved one another like real sisters. The queen was jealous of the king’s daughter being bonnier than her own, and cast about to spoil her beauty. So she took counsel of the henwife, who told her to send the lassie to her next morning fasting.
So next morning early, the queen said to Anne, “Go, my dear, to the henwife in the glen, and ask her for some eggs.” So Anne set out, but as she passed through the kitchen she saw a crust, and she took and munched it as she went along.
When she came to the henwife’s she asked for eggs, as she had been told to do; the henwife said to her, “Lift the lid off that pot there and see.” The lassie did so, but nothing happened. “Go home to your minnie and tell her to keep her larder door better locked,” said the henwife. So she went home to the queen and told her what the henwife had said. The queen knew from this that the lassie had had something to eat, so watched the next morning and sent her away fasting; but the princess saw some country-folk picking peas by the roadside, and being very kind she spoke to them and took a handful of the peas, which she ate by the way.
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My friend Arlene picked this story as her favorite fairy tale:
LONG, long ago in the province of Tango there lived on the shore of Japan in the little fishing village of Mizu-no-ye a young fisherman named Urashima Taro. His father had been a fisherman before him, and his skill had more than doubly descended to his son, for Urashima was the most skillful fisher in all that country side, and could catch more Bonito and Tai in a day than his comrades could in a week.
But in the little fishing village, more than for being a clever fisher of the sea was he known for his kind heart. In his whole life he had never hurt anything, either great or small, and when a boy, his companions had always laughed at him, for he would never join with them in teasing animals, but always tried to keep them from this cruel sport.
Second installment of ‘favorite fairy tales from students':
THERE once lived a poor tailor, who had a son called Aladdin, a careless, idle boy who would do nothing but play ball all day long in the streets with little idle boys like himself. This so grieved the father that he died; yet, in spite of his mother’s tears and prayers, Aladdin did not mend his ways. One day, when he was playing in the streets as usual, a stranger asked him his age, and if he was not the son of Mustapha the tailor. “I am, sir,” replied Aladdin; “but he died a long while ago.” On this the stranger, who was a famous African magician, fell on his neck and kissed him, saying, “I am your uncle, and knew you from your likeness to my brother. Go to your mother and tell her I am coming.” Aladdin ran home and told his mother of his newly found uncle. “Indeed, child,” she said, “your father had a brother, but I always thought he was dead.” However, she prepared supper, and bade Aladdin seek his uncle, who came laden with wine and fruit. He presently fell down and kissed the place where Mustapha used to sit, bidding Aladdin’s mother not to be surprised at not having seen him before, as he had been forty years out of the country. He then turned to Aladdin, and asked him his trade, at which the boy hung his head, while his mother burst into tears. On learning that Aladdin was idle and would learn no trade, he offered to take a shop for him and stock it with merchandise. Next day he bought Aladdin a fine suit of clothes and took him all over the city, showing him the sights, and brought him home at nightfall to his mother, who was overjoyed to see her son so fine.
This session I tried something new and asked my students to e-mail their favorite fairy tale to the group between classes. The idea was to (a) get them to read more fairy tales and familiarize themselves with the genre, (b) get them talking to each other, if only in e-mail, (c) read some stories outside my habitual group of favorites.
So this week I’m going to post a new student favorite each day. We’ll start with “Thumbelina”:
THERE was once a woman who wished very much to have a little child, but she could not obtain her wish. At last she went to a fairy, and said, “I should so very much like to have a little child; can you tell me where I can find one?”
“Oh, that can be easily managed,” said the fairy. “Here is a barleycorn of a different kind to those which grow in the farmer’s fields, and which the chickens eat; put it into a flower-pot, and see what will happen.”
“Thank you,” said the woman, and she gave the fairy twelve shillings, which was the price of the barleycorn. Then she went home and planted it, and immediately there grew up a large handsome flower, something like a tulip in appearance, but with its leaves tightly closed as if it were still a bud. “It is a beautiful flower,” said the woman, and she kissed the red and golden-colored leaves, and while she did so the flower opened, and she could see that it was a real tulip. Within the flower, upon the green velvet stamens, sat a very delicate and graceful little maiden. She was scarcely half as long as a thumb, and they gave her the name of “Thumbelina,” or Tiny, because she was so small.
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“Very, very long ago in an Old Russian village there lived an old couple: the woodcutter and his wife. They barely made the ends meet, owing to the old man who cut logs in the forest and carried them into the nearest town. They were poor and had no children, so as they grew older they became sadder and sadder. The old woman often asked, “Who will take care of us? We are so old.” Her husband used to answer, “Don’t worry, old woman. God will not leave us alone, he will help us, if necessary.”
One cold winter day they both went to the forest, the old man to chop wood and his wife to help him. The frost that day was severe. The old man said, “Shall we make a little snow-girl to solace us, as we have no child?” In a short time they had made a “Snegurochka” – a Snowmaiden. It was so beautiful that no tale could describe it and no pen could portray it. They were looking at it and becoming even sadder and the old woman said, “If only the almighty Lord had sent us a little girl looking like this Snegurochka.
Suddenly the Snowmaiden’s eyes twinkled and she became alive, may be owing to the strong desire of the poor good people. There was a precious tiara on her head, her hair was white as snow, a brocade cape covered her shoulders, and embroidered boots were on her feet. The woodcutter and his wife were amazed and could not believe their eyes. Snegurochka breathed, trembled and stepped forward. They grew numb thinking they were dreaming. Snegurochka came toward them and said, “Good afternoon, kind folks, do you want to be my parents? I will be a good daughter to you and honor you as mother and father.” “You will be the joy of our old age. Come home with us,” answered the old man and they led her from the forest.”
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courtesy of Coilhouse