A Treasury of Forgotten Fairy Tales: Part 3 – East of Sun and West of Moon to Gold Tree and Silver Tree

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As you can see, most of the forgotten fairy tales you see will come from Europe. Indeed, Eurocentrism is part of it since there are plenty of fairy tales around the world that you never hear about. However, we have to keep in mind that fairy tales have always originated through oral tradition that’s passed on to generations. And it takes a long time for someone to write these stories down. In this installment in my blog series, I bring you another 10 forgotten fairy tales. First, are two Norwegian tales with monstrous beasts and amazing supernatural elements. Second, we have an Italian story about a merchant’s son who’s too generous for his own good. Third, is an English tale of a woman who becomes a royal servant in drag. After that we have two Russian stories with magical creatures and mystical lands. Next, are 3 Grimm tales about a man who tries cheating death, a golden goose, and a golden mountain. Lastly, is a Scottish version of Snow White that ends with a threesome and contains no dwarves whatsoever.

21. East of Sun and West of Moon

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The Norwegian tale East of Sun West of Moon opens when a white bear offers to fix a poor family’s situation in exchange for the youngest daughter. Indeed, he has a nice castle and the girl’s got a nice life save with that awkward sleeping situation.

From: Norway
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe. Though this might be the Norwegian version of Eros and Psyche from Greek mythology.
Best Known Version: Obviously, the Asbjørnsen and Moe version.
Synopsis: A white bear offers to take a poor family’s youngest child to fix their situation. The parents accept and the bear takes the young girl to a castle where a man slept in the same room as her at night in the dark. As such, she can’t see who it was. When she’s homesick, he lets her go home on the condition that she can’t stay with her mom alone. Of course, the girl doesn’t listen and takes a magic candle from her mom. When she returned to the castle, she’s able to see the face of the man who’s been visiting her bed at night who was actually the bear. After he yells at her and is revealed to be a handsome prince the whole time, his troll stepmother takes him away to marry a troll princess. But before leaving, he tells her that he’ll be at a land East of Sun and West of Moon.

So the girl sets off to find him, meeting a woman and her daughter along the way. The woman gives her a golden apple and lets her borrow a horse. She meets another woman who gives her a golden carding comb. While a third woman gives her a golden spinning will and tells her that she should find the east wind who might take her to her destination. But the east wind couldn’t help her as he never blew that far and suggest she visit the west wind. After the west wind gives her the same answer, she goes to the south and finally, north wind. The girl then gives up all her golden items to a princess in exchange for a night with the prince. But she couldn’t wake him the first 2 nights.

Eventually the servants tell him about the girl and he tosses away a drink (actually a sleeping potion) from the princess that night. In the end, the girl defeats the trolls by washing out the tallow from one of the prince’s shirts because the prince refused to marry a girl who couldn’t do something so simple. The trolls explode and everyone lives happily ever after.

Other Versions: Some versions have her knowing that she’s trying to break a curse. Sometimes she’s even told not to look at him for a few more nights and is given a cure by a wise woman who turns out to be the troll stepmother. Swedish version is “Prince Hat under the Ground.” Included in Andrew Lang’s The Blue Fairy Book.
Adaptations: Novels East by Edith Pattou and Once Upon a Winter’s Night by Dennis L. McKiernan. Also, ICE by Sarah Beth Durst which inserts some Inuit imagery. There’s even an adaptation by Mercer Mayer.
Why Forgotten: It’s popular in Norway. But it’s hardly mainstream. Perhaps the weird sleeping situation has something to do with it.
Trivia: N/A

22. Fair Brow
From: Italy
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Frederick Thomas Crane in Italian Popular Tales.
Best Known Version: Probably the Crane translation.
Synopsis: A merchant sends out his son, Fair Brow with some money to trade. He blows that on paying off a dead man’s debts so he can be buried. The merchant gives him another sum, which he spends on a kidnapped slave whom he marries. Thus, since Fair Brow’s too altruistic for his dad’s bottom line, the merchant throws him out and he can’t work. Luckily his wife’s an artist who has him sell her paintings but warns him not to tell anyone who paints them. Unfortunately, some Turks recognize them as the Sultan’s daughter work, trick Fair Brow into revealing his wife’s identity, and abduct her once more. He goes east and meets an old man who asks him to go fishing with him. A storm carries them off to Turkey where they’re enslaved as the Sultan’s gardeners. His wife recognizes him and they run off with her maids and much treasure. The old man demands half share for both the gold and the wife. But Fair Brow insists he takes the larger share of the treasure instead. The old man reveals he’s the ghost of the man he buried and leaves him with all the treasure before vanishing. They return home. Fair Brow’s dad comes to live with them and dies shortly afterward after making him his heir.

Other Versions: Italo Calvino has a variant in his Italian Folk Tales.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: It’s kind of specific to the region while it also involves bad Middle Eastern stereotypes.
Trivia: N/A

23. The Famous Flower of Serving Men

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In the English The Famous Flower of the Serving Men, a young woman dresses in drag and gets a job at the palace as a chamberlain. Though it’s only a matter of time when she gets the king’s attention.

From: England
Earliest Appearance: Child Ballad #106. Collected by Francis Child.
Best Known Version: Probably Child’s version.
Synopsis: A woman’s husband and child are murdered by her mother’s knights. After the funeral, she dresses herself as a man and works for the king, where she eventually becomes his chamberlain (essentially the masculine equivalent of a chambermaid). One day, the king goes hunting where a white hind leads him into the forest. The king reaches a clearing, the deer vanishes and a bird appears (the personification of the woman’s dead husband) lamenting what’s happened to his love. The king asks why and the bird tells his story. Realizing he no longer had to question his sexuality when his favorite “chamberlain” was in the room, he kisses the still dressed as a man servant in front of the assembled court to their shock. The woman’s mother is put to death and the two marry.

Other Versions: Child’s version has the woman lament her fate during the king’s hunting trip and a servant overhears it. Some have the woman’s mother her stepmother.
Adaptations: Well, it’s been covered a lot.
Why Forgotten: Though the protagonist is a woman disguised as a man, the title might drive off some who may not be comfortable with the LGBT community. Also, contains a grisly murder scene.
Trivia: N/A

24. The Feather of Finist the Falcon

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In the Russian tale, The Feather of Finist the Falcon, a merchant’s daughter is given to marry a falcon. Actually, the falcon is quite nice. But the sisters, not so much.

From: Russia
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki.
Best Known Version: The Afanasyev version obviously.
Synopsis: Before going to the fair, a merchant asks his three daughters what they want him to bring back. The two plain, nasty, and vain older sisters asked for rich gifts. The pretty and nice youngest daughter asks for a red flower to put at her window. Twice he remembered to bring the expensive gifts but forgot about the flower. He remembered the third time but couldn’t find one anywhere at the fair. On the way home, he meets an old man who had one for the future bride of his son, Finist the Falcon. The merchant gets it only on the condition his daughter marry his son.

After her dad explains the whole situation, the daughter agrees to marry if he wooed her. That night, a falcon flew into her room and transformed into a handsome prince. He gave her a feather which would conjure whatever she wished. As her sisters went to Mass the next day in all their finery, she waited until they were gone before summoning a coach and fine attire and herself. Even her own family didn’t recognize her. But when she returned home early and sent away her treasures, she forgot to remove a diamond ornament from her hair. Her envious sisters tell their dad that she must’ve taken a secret sugar daddy. When he didn’t listen, they roofie their sister with sleeping potion and put knives in the window so the falcon is badly injured. Thinking his fiancee caused this, the falcon curses the girl, “My beautiful dearest, hast thou ceased so soon to love me? Never shalt thou see me again unless thou searchest through three times nine countries, to the thirtieth Tsardom, and thou shalt first wear through three pairs of iron shoes, and break in pieces three iron staves, and gnaw away three holy church-loaves of stone. Only then shalt thou find thy lover, Finist the Falcon!”

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After her sisters put knives in Finist the Falcon’s wings, the girl sets off to find him. Here she overlooks an immense castle.

The girl sees the blood the next morning and remembers hearing the words in her sleep. She has the shoes, staves, and bread made out and sets out to look for him. Along the way, he meets 3 of Finist’s elderly relatives, telling her he was due to marry and give her magic trinkets as a wedding gifts. Reaching the Tsardom of Finist’s new bride, the daughter finds a servant unable to wash the blood out of Finist’s shirt. But her own tears of sorrow washed it clean, attracting his bride’s attention. The daughter gets a job as a scullery maid, but even then, she couldn’t catch Finist’s eye. The cruel and greedy bride offered to trade her 3 nights to sit up by him, each bought with one of the 3 trinkets. Each night, the daughter weeps and begs over Finist’s bedside. But the bride had put an enchanted pin in Finist’s hair so he wouldn’t wake up. Despairing on the third night, she leaned over to kiss him removing the pin for fear it might him. He wakes up and is joyfully reunited with his beloved. The next day, Finist summoned all to court and asked whether he should marry the woman who bought him or the one who sold him. All agree he should be with the former so he marries the daughter.

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Reaching the castle, the girl gets a job as a scullery maid and bribes Finist’s fiancée 3 times in order to see the guy. The first 2 he’s sleeping in his bed. On the third night, she removes the pin keeping him out.

Other Versions: In some versions, the girl goes to her dad, goes to church with Finist in all her finery, and has her sisters talk about seeing a prince and princess there. The girl confesses and marries Finist.
Adaptations: Retold by Josepha Sherman as The Shining Falcon. Also made into a Russian film.
Why Forgotten: Well, it’s popular in Russia. Nonetheless, there’s a scene of violence involving knives at a window.
Trivia: N/A

25. The Fire Bird, the Horse of Power, and the Princess Vasilissa

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In the Russian tale, The Firebird, the Horse of Power, and the Princess Vasilissa, a Tsar sends an archer and his wonder horse on a series of impossible tasks. Of course, the horse does all the work.

From: Russia
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki.
Best Known Version: Probably the Afanasyev version.
Synopsis: One of the Tsar’s archers had a horse of power. One day riding through the forest, he saw a marvelous feather which he knew must’ve been shed by the legendary Firebird. Despite the horse’s warnings to not pick it up, he does so anyway, thinking the tsar would reward him. But the tsar demanded that he bring back the whole firebird or lose his head. Terrified, the archer asks the horse what to do. On its advice, he requests that 100 maize sacks be spread over a field at night. The firebird arrives at dawn as he and the horse capture it. But as soon as he arrives with his price, the king sends him on another quest to go to the world’s very edge and bring back Princess Vasilissa as his bride. At the horse’s advice, the archer asks for a silver tent with a golden roof along with food for the journey. He rides to her land, sets up a tent, and spread out the food. When the princess arrives out of curiosity, the archer invites her to eat and drink. She drank and falls asleep, he carries her off on the horse.

Despite such treatment, Vasilissa prefers the handsome young archer to the old and greedy tsar. So she refuses to marry him without her wedding dress which was still in her own country and still hidden in the sea besides. Again, the king dispatches the archer who rode to the world’s edge on his horse. On the shore, the horse waited until it could get between the enormous lobster and the sea before stepping on its tail and not letting it go until it agreed to bring up the wedding dress. After his return, Vasilissa still wouldn’t wed until the archer had been boiled alive as punishment for abducting her. Terrified, he asks to see his horse one last time, but the horse advises him to submit. The princess waves her hand over the boiling cauldron. The archer plunges in and comes out unharmed and even handsomer than before. The tsar jumps in afterwards and boils to death. After the funeral, the archer becomes tsar in his place, marries Vasilissa, and built a nice stable for his horse to show his gratitude.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Adapted into a Soviet cartoon called Ivan and His Magic Pony.
Why Forgotten: Let’s just say, the fact the princess requests the archer dive into a boiling cauldron will certainly scare the crap out of you. Luckily, he’s fine. But the Tsar should’ve really taken the Don’t Try This at Home disclaimer very seriously. Then again, that was Princess Vasilissa’s intention. Also, it’s from Russia. Not to mention Princess Vasilissa wouldn’t fit in a Disney movie as she manipulates her way to get the man she wants.
Trivia: N/A

26. The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body

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In The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body, a young prince sets off to find his brothers after they and their new wives end up petrified. There he meets a hostage princess and they conspire to get rid of the giant.

From: Norway
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe.
Best Known Version: Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe’s version, obviously.
Synopsis: A king has 7 sons who he loves very much that he always had to keep one of them with him. One day, he sends the older 6 to find brides and directed to bring back a seventh for their little brother. The brothers met a king with 6 daughters who were so lovely that they forgot about their brother. On the way back, they pass too closely by a giant’s home. And the giant turned them all into stone. Seeing that his brothers didn’t return, the king wanted his youngest to never leave. But the prince finally persuaded him and set out. He gave his food to a raven, helped a salmon back into the river, and gave his horse to a starving wolf on the condition it help him as his steed. The wolf brought him to the giant’s house, showed him his brothers and their brides and told him where to go and do whatever the princess instructed him.

The princess warned him that the giant didn’t keep his heart in his body so he couldn’t be killed the usual way. Rather, she had him hide and begged the giant to tell him where his heart was. He claimed it was under the door sill. But when she and the prince dug there the next day, they find nothing. The princess adorned it with flowers and told the giant it was to honor the place where his heart lay. The giant told her it was in the cupboard, which was the same. And the princess strewed the flowers again. Finally, he tells her: “Far, far away in a lake lies an island; on that island stands a church; in that church is a well; in that well swims a duck; in that duck there is an egg, and in that egg there lies my heart, — you darling!” With the assistance of the wolf, salmon, and raven, the prince gets the heart. He squeezes it and demands that the giant his brothers and brides. The giant refuses. So the prince squeezes the heart in half and kills him. They all return to their dad. While the youngest prince marries the princess the giant held hostage, who was the prettiest one of all.

Other Versions: Included in Ruth Manning Sanders’ A Book of Giants. A harsher version has the prince split and eat the giant’s heart and use its head as a trophy.
Adaptations: Retold by George MacDonald as “The Giant’s Heart.”
Why Forgotten: This basically involves a guy stumbling to a house outside of town where he falls in with some other guy’s wife and they conspire to kill her husband. Granted, the giant really deserves it, but yeah it’s kind of unsettling how similar the plot is to movies like Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Trivia: Has a variant in a Mario video game.

27. Godfather Death

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The Grimms’ Godfather Death is about the Grim Reaper taking a young man under his wing and helping him to become a doctor. But when he tries to cheat death is when the trouble starts.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm Brothers’ version is the most famous.
Synopsis: A poor man has his 13th child. And since he’s already asked every suitable candidate he knows to be godparents to his other 12 kids, finding one for his newborn son is a serious problem that he’s eventually asking random strangers he meets on the road. After meeting God and the Devil and rejecting them as godfathers, the man meets a stranger claiming he’s Death and would like to be his son’s godfather. This time, the man accepts.

When the boy comes of age, Death visits and declares he’s going to make his godson a famous physician. Showing him a magic herb, he tells the young man that whenever he’ll visit a patient, he’ll see Death standing at the sick person’s head or feet. If Death stood on the head, the patient can be cured. But if he stood at the bed’s foot end, well, that one gonna die. Armed with this knowledge, the young man becomes a famous and wealthy doctor. One day, the physician is called to cure the king. But Death stands at the king’s feet. Yet, because the sick man is a king, the doctor turns the bed around so that Death could stand at the head. The trick works and the king gets better.

However, Death is super pissed for his godson tricking him. He lets it slide but only with a warning that if he does it again, he’ll take the doctor’s life. Not long after, the princess falls ill. The king promise his daughter’s hand in marriage and inheritance of the crown to the physician if he could cure her. But when the doctor sees the princess, he sees Death at her feet. Ignoring this and wanting to marry the princess and get her dad’s sweet kingdom so badly, the physician turns the bed so princess can get better. But Death grabs the doctor by the arm and drags him to a cave with millions of candles each burned to different lengths. Death explains that each candle’s length shows how much longer a person has to live. When Death shows the physician his candle, the doctor notices that It’s very short. So he doesn’t have much time left.

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After reviving the princess when she should’ve died, Death brings the physician to a cave of candles. Each candle represents each person and the longer it is, the longer the person will live. Still, if you think the hero in this tale gets a happy ending, you’re sorely mistaken.

The physician pleads with his godfather to light him a new candle so he’d live a long and happy life as a king and husband to a beautiful princess. He then walks to his child’s candle and tries to make it his own. But Death says he can’t for if one must be lit, one must go out. The physician begs that he take out one candle to light a new one. Death obeys. He walks to the physician’s candle and looks at it. But just as he’s about to light a new candle, Death lifts his scythe and the boy’s candle goes out. And the physician falls dead to the ground as Death whispers, “You once looked for the most righteous one to be the godfather of your child, but at the Bed of Death you betrayed that and instead grasped for the life of another. Now sleep my unwise apprentice.”

Other Versions: A later Grimm edition has Death pretending to light the candles and failing on purpose, killing the doctor. Other cultural variants exist in Poland, Lithuania, Ireland, and Mexico.
Adaptations: Adapted into an Anne Sexton poem.
Why Forgotten: You know how many of these fairy tales where the hero marries the princess and inherits the kingdom? Well, the hero in this one doesn’t.
Trivia: N/A

28. The Golden Goose

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In The Golden Goose, an idiot villager finds a golden goose in s tree stump. However, whoever else touches it ends up stuck.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: Grimm’s version is the most famous.
Synopsis: A man has 3 sons with the youngest a “fool” who’s continually abused. One day, the older sons go out to cut wood and are rude to a little old man who asked them to their food. Both of them cut themselves so badly they had to return home. The youngest asks to go, too. Yet, unlike his older brothers, he actually shares his food. The old man points to a tree to chop down and found a goose with golden feathers down to its roots when he did. The youngest takes the goose to the inn where he stays for the night. When one of the innkeeper’s daughters tries stealing a feather and got stuck to it. Her 2 sisters tried as well and got stuck to her. The youngest set out the next day and the girls had to run to keep up to him. The parson chides them for their antics, grabbed hold, and he got stuck on it as well along with the sexton. The youngest son went to the city where a princess lived. Now she was so serious that she never laughed. So the king decreed that whoever makes her chuckle. Well, in comes the youngest son with a procession that the princess thinks is hilarious. So he marries her and inherits the kingdom.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Made into a musical.
Why Forgotten: Maybe cause the plot is so absurd.
Trivia: N/A

29. The Gold Mountain

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In the Grimms’ The Gold Mountain, a young boy stumbles upon a castle where he finds a princess, gets beat up, and becomes King of the Golden Mountain.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: Obviously the Grimm version.
Synopsis: A ruined merchant meets a black-haired and bearded dwarf offering 7 years of wealth and prosperity as well as success in all of his endeavors in exchange for his firstborn son. Said son grows up well acquainted with fairies. But when the day comes for the merchant to pay up, the boy draws a circle he can’t cross and spends an entire day arguing with his dad on the deal’s validity. Finally, the dwarf and the boy’s dad reach a compromise that the boy will sail off in a boat so neither will have him. In turn, the boy’s fairy friends send a squall capsizing the boat to fake the kid’s death so the dwarf won’t look for him.

The boy travels the world and sometime later stumbles upon a castle by a mountain made of gold. The castle is empty and abandoned save for a white snake claiming to be a princess under a curse that first caused her food to vanish, then her guests to leave, and finally herself transformed into a snake. To the break the curse, someone must spend 3 nights in castle. But there’s a cache. During the first night, men will come at midnight and viciously beat him. The second night will be worse. And the third night they will kill him. Should he cry out, fight back, or escape, the curse won’t be broken. Still, if he endures all 3 nights she’ll become human and resurrect him from a healing spring. He succeeds and the grateful princess marries him, making him King of the Gold Mountain. In time, they have a young son of their own.

But eventually the King’s heart grows heavy as he thinks of his parents who still assume him dead. The princess gives him a wishing ring for him to carry but begs he must never wish his wife or son from their home at Gold Mountain. He agrees and wishes himself home, changing clothes with a beggar at the city gates to get in. His dad is thrilled to find his son alive and they speak long into the night and the following day. Unfortunately, he carelessly wishes his dad could see his wife and son who are immediately brought before them by the wishing ring. The princess is furious but holds her tongue. She then takes her husband for a long walk and picnic. When he falls asleep, she immediately steals the ring and wishes herself and her son home.

When the King of the Gold Mountain wakes up, his wife, son, and wishing ring are gone. He vows to find them. Yet, he doesn’t know the way back to his former kingdom. He quests far and wide until he meets 3 quarreling giants whose dad just died and are squabbling over their inheritance consisting of an invisibility cloak, a pair of boots that can carry someone anywhere in the world, and a sword that could cut a hundred heads or fell a hundred trees with one swing. Seeing him as one of the clever “little people,” the giants ask the king to resolve their dispute. He replies that he must test them, to make sure they work as said, and the giants hand over the goods asking to promise not to use the sword against them. Instead, he flees and tells the boots to take him to the Gold Mountain.

Once home, the king sneaks in under an invisibility cloak and finds a horde of suitors vying for his wife’s hand. He hides by her and starts eating and hiding her supper, reminding her of how the curse first began. When she runs into a private chamber, she asks why this is happening again in despair. He whispers that she betrayed and left her rightful husband. As the princess breaks down crying, the king strides out in the great hall, and kills all the suitors with a magic sword.

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When the King of the Golden Mountain comes home, he psychologically torments his wife and beheads all her suitors with a magic sword. Now we know why they don’t read this to children.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, I think the mass slaughter in the great hall at the end might have something to do with it (despite it being quite similar to the end of Homer’s Odyssey). Also, contains murder, theft, and psychological torture as well as the hero coming off as a jerk once he marries the princess.
Trivia: N/A

30. Gold Tree and Silver Tree

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In the Scottish Gold Tree and Silver Tree, a queen relies on a fish on ego boosts. When the fish proclaims Gold Tree as prettier, Silver Tree goes on a quest to get her killed.

From: Scotland
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Joseph Jacobs in his Celtic Fairy Tales. A variation of Snow White but with no dwarves, a magic fish instead of a mirror, and basically ends with a threesome.
Best Known Version: Probably the Jacobs version.
Synopsis: Gold Tree is the daughter of a king and his wife Silver Tree. One fateful day, Silver Tree meets a magical fish telling her Gold Tree is prettier than she is. Offended and not realizing that being the prettiest isn’t everything, Silver Tree vows to kill Gold Tree. One day, she lies to her husband claiming to be very ill and that she needs Gold Tree’s liver and heart to cure her. Fortunately, a faraway prince recently proposed to Gold Tree so the king marries her off and tricks the queen with an animal’s heart and liver instead. The next year, Silver Tree consults the fish again, who informs her that Gold Tree is still alive in her new husband’s country. So the queen persuades the king to let her visit her daughter. Yet, upon learning that her mom’s coming, Gold Tree’s servants lock her away for her own safety. But the queen manages to sneak a poisoned thorn through a keyhole and into Gold Tree’s finger.

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After the servants lock Gold Tree in a tower to keep her from Silver Queen, the queen still manages to knock her out with a poisoned thorn. Wonder how she accomplished it.

When the prince returns, he’s horrified to see his wife dead but he can’t bury her since she’s too pretty. So he keeps Gold Tree’s remains in that room. Times passes and he marries a new woman out of royal obligation but warns her to stay out of that room. However, her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers Gold Tree and the thorn in her finger. The new bride removes it, resurrecting Gold Tree and possibly implicating her new husband on bigamy charges. The next year, Silver Tree learns about this from the fish and sets out to kill Gold Tree again. But now the threesome know better and prepare ahead of time (apparently they seemed to work things out and give polyamory a try). When Silver Tree offers her daughter a poisoned drink, the prince’s second wife tells the queen to take the first sip to take the first sip, claiming it the land’s custom. As the queen raises the glass, the second wife forces her to actually swallow the potion. Silver Tree is dies while Gold Tree, the prince, and the second wife live happily ever after.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: For God’s sake, it’s basically Snow White ending in a threesome.
Trivia: N/A

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A Treasury of Forgotten Fairy Tales: Part 2 – Cap O’ Rushes to Donkeyskin

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Well, we’re off to a good start. Nonetheless, we often associate fairy tales with children’s stories. While we often cater fairy tales to children. However, at another time, this hasn’t necessarily been the case. After all, many of these fairy tales contain content much more suitable for Game of Thrones like sex, rape, incest, nudity, and graphic violence. Hell, even some of the classic fairy tales we know and love contain stuff that’s really not suitable for children. In this installment, we’ll look at 10 more forgotten fairy tales. First, we look at 3 tales of young women who get turned out of their homes and have to resort to unconventional clothing choices. Second, is an Italian story of Catherine and her series of unfortunate events. Third, is Norwegian tale about a man and his “cat.” Next, is a Scottish story about a boy’s adventures in Elfland to save his sister. After that is an Italian fairy tale about three magical triplets followed by a legend of an Armenian war hero and a future Lord Mayor of London. And finally, we get to a French fairy tale about a princess who’s a lot smarter than she initially seems.

11. Cap O’ Rushes

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Cap o’ Rushes revolves around a princess who gets kicked out of the castle by her dad by spouting a metaphor he doesn’t understand. So she lives in the wilderness under a coat of rushes over her finery.

From: England
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Joseph Jacobs in English Fairy Tales.
Best Known Version: The Jacobs version obviously.
Synopsis: A rich guy asks his 3 daughters how much they love him (you can see where this is going). The oldest says more than her life. The second says like the whole world. The youngest says like meat loves salt. Not understanding what the youngest daughter meant by her use of strange metaphors, the rich guy flies into a rage and throws the girl out. Wandering the wilderness, the girl makes a hooded cloak out of rushes to conceal her fine clothing.

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Cap o’ Rushes earns her nickname since she wore clothing made out of marsh plants. Thankfully, she never had to deal with a forest fire.

Eventually, the girl finds a job scrubbing dishes at a great house. Because she didn’t give her bosses a name, she’s called “Cap O’ Rushes” due to her cloak. One night, the house holds a ball and Cap O’ Rushes sneaks into the party by removing her cloak so her full fine clothes are on display. The master’s son sees her and falls in love with her, but he couldn’t go up to her to know who she is. After meeting at 2 more balls, he gives her a ring. When he couldn’t find her, he fell ill. The sick son receives her at his bed. After Cap O’ Rushes persuades the cook to have her make the gruel for him, she puts the ring in the bowl, allowing the son to find and marry her. At the wedding party, Cap O’Rushes tells the cook to make a meal without any salt. This left all the dishes without flavor and her father starts crying since he realized what his daughter meant, fearing she’s dead. Cap O’ Rushes reveals herself as his daughter and forgives him. And they all lived happily ever after.

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Cap o’Rushes seeks employment at a great house. Though she gets a job as a scullery maid, she’s game on anything.

Other Versions: Also included in Andrew Lang’s journals.
Adaptations: Read on a BBC series.
Why Forgotten: I’m not exactly sure. Too much like Cinderella but far removed from civilization I guess.
Trivia: N/A

12. Catherine and Her Fate
From: Italy
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Thomas Crane in Italian Popular Tales.
Best Known Version: Probably the Crane version.
Synopsis: Catherine is a merchant’s beautiful daughter. One day, a woman visits and asks her whether she’d be happy when young or old. Catherine says she’d rather get it over with and be happy in old age. Called Fate, the woman vanishes. Soon, her dad loses all his money and dies. Realizing this was the unhappy part, Catherine tries getting a job but Fate ruins it for her for 7 years until she gets a servant job and keeps it. One of her tasks is bringing bread for her mistress’ Fate.

Catherine’s mistress finds out why she’s always crying and told the girl to ask her Fate whether she could be freed. She does. That Fate brought her to her own, who gives her a hank of thread. Think it useless, Catherine considers throwing it away. But her mistress convinces her to keep it. One day, a young king was to marry. But his wedding garment needed a hank of thread, and none in the kingdom had the proper color. Except the thread Catherine’s Fate had given her. And the king declared she’d be rewarded with an equal weight in gold.

But when it was put to scale, the thread always outweighed however much gold they put on the other side. After putting the entire treasury and the king’s crown, the king demands how Catherine came by this thread, she tells her story. Then a wise old court lady declared it was time for her happiness to begin and the crown showed that it was her fate to be queen. So the king declared Catherine will be his, marrying her instead of his original bride.

Other Versions: Included in Andrew Lang’s The Pink Fairy Book.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Not exactly sure.
Trivia: N/A

13. The Cat on the Dovretell

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Originating from Norway, The Cat of Dovretell is actually not about a cat but a bear. Sure it’s scary, but provides great protection against trolls.

From: Norway
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe. Contrary to the title, it’s actually about a bear, not a cat.
Best Known Version: The Asbjørnsen and Moe version.
Synopsis: A man was bringing a trained bear to the king, but had to stop at Dovretell. Yet, because of the trolls driving visitors out during the Christmas season, the people couldn’t offer him a place to stay. But the guy says he’d stay anyway. So they let him and all sorts of food for the trolls’ feast. The trolls come. Calling the bear, “pussy,” one of them tries baiting the bear with a sausage. But the bear turned on the trolls and chased them off. The next year, a troll asked townspeople if they still had the “cat.” The man said he did and that she had 6 “kittens” all fiercer than she was. The trolls never came back again.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Retold by Kaja Foglio in comic book form and Jan Brett as Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve.
Why Forgotten: The title is very misleading. Since it’s actually about a bear not a cat.
Trivia: N/A

14. Catskin

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An English fairy tale, Catskin tells of a lord’s daughter who runs away because her dad wanted her to marry a guy she didn’t like. In the wilderness , she wears the skin of cats over her finery.

From: England
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Joseph Jacobs in More English Fairy Tales.
Best Known Version: The Jacobs version obviously.
Synopsis: A lord has a daughter when he’d rather have a son to inherit the estate. Naturally, he orders her married off as soon as she’s old enough. But she hates the groom and demands 3 fancy dresses and a catskin coat. With it, she runs off, bringing the dresses with her.

She gets a job as a scullery maid and sneaks off to a ball, winning a young lord’s heart. He manages to track her down and marry her by the 3rd ball. Later the cook jeers at the girl for being poor. After having a son, she tells her husband about her dad. The lord tracks him down to find him all alone and wishing he could see his daughter again. He brings him home and he lives with them.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: I’m not exactly sure.
Trivia: N/A

15. Childe Rowland

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Based on a Scottish ballad, Childe Rowland focuses on a boy trying to rescue his sister from the King of Elfland. Inspired Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

From: Scotland and England
Earliest Appearance: Said to be based on a Scottish ballad.
Best Known Version: The one in Joseph Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales.
Synopsis: Four of the queen’s children consisting of 3 boys and a girl play ball near a church. When the youngest boy, Rowland kicks the ball over the church, their sister Burd Ellen goes to retrieve it. Yet, she inadvertently circles the church’s “widershins” or opposite the sun’s way, and disappears. Rowland goes to Merlin asking what happened to her. According to the wizard, the King of Elfland took her to the Dark Tower and only the boldest knight in Christendom can save her. Yet, should he venture, Merlin instructs the boy not to eat anything in Elfland and lop off every elf he meets there. Rowland’s brothers try to save their sister in Elfland but the Elf King puts them in a magical coma. Rowland goes in, decapitates 3 elves, saves his sister, evades evil elf magic with brute force and a good sword, and grants mercy to the Elf King.

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Childe Rowland confronting the Elf King in Elfland. Still, you have to like the gothic design.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, the title isn’t forgotten. But most people aren’t familiar with the story.
Trivia: Was referenced in King Lear and served as an inspiration for Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

16. The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird

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In The Italian tale, The Dancing Water, 3 babies are abandoned in the forest and taken in by a deer. They then grow up with very special talents.

From: Italy
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Giuseppe Pitrè.
Best Known Version: The one in Joseph Jacobs’ European Folk and Fairy Tales.
Synopsis: Wandering the streets, a king overhears 3 sisters chatting. The oldest one said: “If I were the wife of the royal butler, I would give the whole court to drink out of one glass of water, and there would be some left.” The second one said: “If I were the wife of the keeper of the royal wardrobe, with one piece of cloth I would clothe all the attendants, and have some left.” While the youngest said: “Were I the king’s wife, I would bear him three children: two sons with apples in their hands, and a daughter with a star on her brow.”

The king takes the youngest as queen and arranges the marriages for the older sisters who do as they say. But the older sisters resent the queen. When she gives birth to the magical triplets she promised she would, they kidnap the babies for exposure to the elements and put puppies in their place. Furious and ignorant on human reproduction, the king orders his wife put on a treadmill as a slave. 3 fairies see the kids and give them a deer to raise them, a purse full of money, and a ring that changes color when one of them is in danger.

When the children were grown, the fairies tell them to go into the city. As soon as they get a house, the sisters realize these are the wonder children who could reveal what they’ve done. They try to dispose of them with impossible tasks. The older brother fetches the Dancing Water and the Singing Apple. But when sent to get the Speaking Bird, it reveals its past and startles him into speaking, turning him into stone. The next brother did the same. But the sister managed to do it and save her brothers. The king comes to see these marvelous young men and woman. The Speaking Bird reveals the truth and then, at the king’s orders, describes how their aunts and the nurse who aided them are to be executed. While the king, queen, and their kids are all reconciled.

Other Versions: Thomas Crane’s translation as “The Herb Gatherer’s Daughters” in Popular Italian Folk Tales.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, putting one’s wife on a treadmill as a slave might do it.
Trivia: N/A

17. David of Sasun

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The Armenian tale David of Sasun is about a legendary king and his epic adventures. Based on an epic poem.

From: Armenia
Earliest Appearance: From oral tradition dating from as early as the 8th century. Part 3 of a 4-cycle epic poem called Daredevils of Sassoun. Though scholars point out the pagan elements which might make it even older. It’s said that the Egyptians are an expy of the Arab conquerors
Best Known Version: The first written version by Garegin Srvantdziantz in 1873.
Synopsis: Sasun King Lion-Mher and his wife regret they are unable to conceive a child in their old age. An angel visits and informs the king that his wife will bear a son, but in exchange they will both die. Lion-Mher agrees and 9 months later, David is born. But his parents die just in time for Egypt to invade Sasun and force its citizens to pay tribute. David is to live with Sasun ruler and his paternal uncle Big-Voiced Ohan who surrendered to Egypt. Wary that her nephew might take the throne from his uncle, Ohan’s wife ensures that nobody tell David about his past. For most of his childhood, David is sent outside where he befriends the animals and terrorizes the town by bringing them home with him. One day in the woods, he meets an old hag who tells him about his father. With this knowledge, David decides to become a warrior, take back his throne, and challenge Egypt for Sasun’s independence.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Made into an Armenian cartoon.
Why Forgotten: This is primarily from Armenia and seldom remembered anywhere else.
Trivia: N/A

18. Dick Whittington and His Cat

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Unlike most of the fairy tales on this list, the story of Dick Whittington and His Cat is based on a real person. Whittington really did rise from humble origins to become Lord Mayor of London. But his cat was just totally made up.

From: England
Earliest Appearance: This tale is based on a real Lord Mayor of London who was elected 4 times as well as served as its sheriff and Member of Parliament. During his reign, he made many beneficial changes to the city like building an unmarried mother ward at St. Thomas Hospital and prohibiting apprentices from washing animal skins in the Thames River. Started as a play, The History of Richard Whittington, of his lowe byrth, his great fortune.
Best Known Version: An 1861 play by H. J. Byron.
Synopsis: Hearing tales of the streets paved with gold, Dick Whittington leaves his home in Gloucestshire for London. When that quickly proved to be horseshit, he’s so disheartened that he’s ready to leave. But suddenly, he hears London’s bells call out, “Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London!” So he decides to stick it through. After some Tonga adventures where his cat killed all the rats in the country, he’s given 3 chests of gold and realizes his destiny.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Has been presented on TV many times.
Why Forgotten: This is kind of a specific myth about a real guy which doesn’t have much basis in fact.
Trivia: Often performed around Christmas as a pantomime.

19. The Discreet Princess

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The French tale The Discreet Princess is about a bad prince trying to get into 3 princesses pants. When he gets to the third, she pushes him down a sewer.

From: France
Earliest Appearance: In 1696 in a compilation written by Charles Perrault’s niece Marie-Jeanne L’Héritier de Villandon as L’Adroite Princesse ou les Aventures de Finette.
Best Known Version: N/A
Synopsis: A king goes on a crusade and leaves his 3 daughters locked in a tower. They’re called Nonchalante (Dronilla; the lazy one), Babillarde (The Babbler; or Pratilla), and Finette. Each receives a glass distaff designed to break apart as soon as the princess misbehaves. Oh, and an evil prince from a neighboring country with a grudge against the royal family called Riche-Cautèle (Rich-Craft) decides to make a visit. Dressed as a female beggar, he sneaks into the tower where he tricks the two older sisters into letting him and seduces them. Consequently, their distaffs break. Rich-Craft tries to do the same to Finette, but she waves with a hammer and makes a bed for “them” which is on top a sink with a large drain leading to a sewer. Rich-Craft gets on the bed and well, he goes down and ends up with shit all over him. He then has his servants kidnap her and tries to roll her down a mountain in a barrel full of blades. But she puts him in the barrel instead. She later seals her little nephews in boxes and sneaks them in Rich-Craft’s placed as “medicine” while disguised as a doctor. Now dying from being stabbed through a bunch of blades in a barrel, Rich-Craft asks his brother Bel-à-Voir marry Finette, which he does. But at consummation time, Finette uses a sheep’s bladder dummy which Bel-à-Voir stabs before having a moral meltdown. But don’t worry, he and Finette live happily ever after, anyway. Meanwhile, her two older sisters end up dead by having to toil in a garden.

Other Versions: There’s a bowlderized where the evil prince just beats up the 2 older princesses instead of seducing them.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Given that Finette pushed a guy in a barrel filled with blades and sent him down a mountain which resulted in his death, I don’t expect her becoming a Disney Princess anytime soon. Also contains extra-marital sex and smuggling babies.
Trivia: N/A

20. Donkeyskin

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To escape her incestuous father, a princess flees the castle donning a donkeyskin. By the way, when this donkey was alive it could shit gold.

From: France and Italy
Earliest Appearance: Recorded by Charles Perrault in 1697. Though Giovanni Francesco Straparola’s Doralice might even be older, which is basically Cinderella meets Game of Thrones.
Best Known Version: The Perrault version is the best known.
Synopsis: A king loses his wife on her deathbed where she demands to promise her not to remarry except to a woman more beautiful than she is. But the king finds it impossible to find such a woman until he realizes that his daughter is the only one who surpasses her mom’s beauty. Thus, not letting the incest taboo stand in his way and being to sexist to perhaps let his daughter inherit the throne, the king decides to marry her. The despairing princess begs for her Fairy Godmother’s help who advises her to declare she won’t marry unless she’s brought 3 impossible dresses: one as blue as the sky, one that shines like the moon, and one like the sun. When the king succeeds anyway, the fairy godmother advises the princess to ask for the king’s magic donkeyskin that literally shits gold. But despite the potential money you can make from it, the king has the donkey slaughtered and presents the skin to the princess. She then decides to run away clothing herself in a donkey’s skin so no one would recognize her.

Next, she travels to a far-away kingdom, takes a menial farm job, and calls herself “Donkeyskin.” While entertaining herself by dressing in her sun golden dress in her hut, a prince passes by and is quite taken with her. In an effort to prove her identity, he requests she bake him a cake, in which he finds the princess’s ring. Then consulting the Cinderella Prince playbook, he announces that he’ll only marry the girl whose finger fits this ring and tries it on every woman in the kingdom. When the ring fits Donkeyskin’s finger, her identity is revealed and the two get married.

Other Versions: The Grimm Brothers had one called “All-Kind-of-Furs.” Some versions have the princess have 3 golden items that she hides in the prince’s soup each morning after a ball. And sometimes she doesn’t see the prince before baking the cake for him. While bowlderized versions have the king wanting his daughter to marry a guy she doesn’t like. One version from the Victorian era just has the donkey drop gold from the ears and makes the princess the king’s adopted or stepddaughter to soften the creepy incest vibe. Sometimes the king is easily forgiven and marries a hot dowager queen (who could be the prince’s widowed mom). Then there’s the primitive version called Doralice by Giovanni Francesco Straparola where the king doesn’t take his daughter’s new marriage to a foreign prince very well at all. In fact, he hides in the castle, kills his grandchildren, and blames Doralice for the crime so she’d be condemned to execution. But the nurse’s testimony exonerates her and the king gets dismembered.
Adaptations: Adapted as “Sapsorrow” in The Storyteller, Deerskin by Robin McGinley, and as a 1970 musical by Jacques Demy. Wikipedia also lists plenty of others.
Why Forgotten: For one, it bears some similarities to Cinderella. Second, a king wanting to marry is daughter is clearly incestuous.
Trivia: N/A