You might notice that a lot of these fairy tales revolve around royalty. Of course, this isn’t very much of a coincidence. Since back in the day, kings were usually the guys with all the power and wealth in the land. While a prince or princess was the dream spouse anyone would want since they’re probably hot as hell and come with a castle as well as large tracts of land. Of course, in reality, there was no way for an ordinary person to land a prince or princess since their daddy really wanted that alliance with France. Anyway, in this installment, I give you another 10 forgotten fairy tales. First, is a Grimm story about a king who puts a princess in her place. Second, is an Indian tale of a king who goes out of his way to keep his daughter from marrying a slave’s son, only to epically fail. Third, we come to an English fairy tale about a prince and the world’s worst personal assistant. Then we have a couple of Italian tales about finding a dream girl in an orange and creating a dream guy by oneself. Next, is a French story about 3 wishes wasted. After that is a Scottish tale of a young girl who tricks a giant into killing his whole family followed by a story of a Japanese folk hero and his animal friends. Then, we find a tale by Hans Christen Andersen about a Chinese Emperor and a bird in his garden. And lastly, we hear an African story about a young woman who gets her hand cut off.
41. King Thrushbeard
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, obviously.
Synopsis: A king has a daughter so beautiful that available kings and princes come from miles in hopes of winning her hand in marriage. But despite her beauty, the princess is also proud, arrogant, and constantly insults and rejects her suitors. She’s particularly cruel to one young handsome young king, calling him “King Thrushbeard” because of his long thick beard. Finally, her dad loses patience with his rude daughter and declared that since she’s rejected every man who’s come to court her, he’ll marry her off to the first beggar at the gate. The next day, a clean-shaven minstrel arrives at the palace and the king likes his music so much that he marries the guy to his daughter. The princess is angry with the whole thing but doesn’t have a choice in the matter. As she and her new husband depart, they pass by lands and properties belonging to “King Thrushbeard.”
The princess starts to regret rejecting him, especially when her new home turns out to be nothing more than a wooden shack. Now forced to work, the princess proves completely incompetent at household tasks like weaving and spinning. She has some success at selling pottery until a drunken soldier smashes her stall. Finally, she’s forced to work as a scullery maid in King Thrusbeard’s palace with the only benefit being that she could take home food scraps for herself and her husband. One day, the palace holds a great party to celebrate the King Thrushbeard’s engagement. The princess watches behind the curtain until King Thrushbeard discovers her himself. Despite her attempts to escape, he pulls her onto the dance floor and all the food she’s hidden in her apron spills out. Completely and utterly embarrassed, the princess tries to flee, but the king stops her. He then reveals himself as the beggar she married and the soldier who destroyed her stall. He put her through the ordeal to cure her proud ways and punish her haughtiness. With that, they marry and live happily ever after.
Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Retold several times and made into at least 2 movies.
Why Forgotten: It’s basically The Taming of the Shrew taken to the extreme. Seriously, King Thrushbeard makes Petruchio seem like an amateur.
42. The King Who Would be Stronger Than Fate
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Andrew Lang for The Brown Fairy Book.
Best Known Version: The Lang version.
Synopsis: A king has a beautiful daughter and loves hunting. When chasing a white stag, he gets very lost in the woods before stumbling on a hermit. After the king presses him, the hermit tells him that his daughter’s fated to marry a slave girl’s son. He immediately treats with the king who owns her and having been given both the woman and her son, takes them to the wilderness killing the woman and abandoning the baby. However, a poor widow without a family lives in that wilderness with her goats. But she wonders what she’ll do if ill or injured. One day, her best nanny goat doesn’t yield a drop of milk. After this happens over a few days, she follows it finding a baby with his dead mom. She buries the woman and takes in the baby to help her in her old age. He grows up into a brave, handsome, and industrious young man.
One day, he finds the peddler’s donkey eating their cabbages. So he beats it, defending himself to his neighbor. The neighbor exaggerates, claiming he’s threatened the peddler. And the king (who’s been the peddler in disguise) has him arrested on the pretense that even a poor peddler could have justice in his lands. He realizes who he is because his adopted mother is too old. Then he tells the young man that he could receive a pardon if he joins the army since he looks like a good soldier and could use some discipline. Once in, the young man is sent on many dangerous missions, which he survives. Then the king tries having him poisoned, but a dog eats some of his food first, alerting him. Finally, the king sends him off with a message to a governor (whose wife the princess is visiting).
The young man arrives with the message. But he’s told the governor is sleeping and will receive him in the evening. He then goes to sleep in the garden. But the princess isn’t a fan of daytime siestas so she pretends to do so in order for her ladies to sleep. So she can wander as she pleases. She comes upon the young man and is so taken with his looks. She then steals the message to find it orders his execution. She alters it to say they should marry at once. Being one of the king’s most faithful servants, the governor carries out the wedding. The king is much distressed but learns to stop fighting fate. He then accepts his son-in-law, who becomes his heir after he dies.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: For one, unless you live in India, you’ve probably never heard of it. Still, nonwestern folk tales don’t usually have much of a reception in the western world. Still, this would make a pretty good Disney movie. Besides, the title is misleading since the king is not stronger than fate.
43. The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward
Earliest Appearance: First printed in 1580. Derived from the chivalric romance Roswall and Lillian.
Best Known Version: Appears as Child Ballad #21. Collected by Francis Child.
Synopsis: The young lord of Lorn is sent abroad to study languages. But the servant who went with him and sworn to keep him safe tries to murder him. But he only lets him off on the promise to never reveal the truth to any man or woman. The lord lands a job as a shepherd. Presenting himself as the lord, the steward wins the Duke of France’s daughter. She sees the lord one day and offers him a job. But the steward objects due to his lowliness. So the duke puts him in the stables. One day, after a horse kicks him, the lord rebukes it, telling it if it only knew who it was kicking. The duke’s daughter overhears it, asks him to explain. When he refuses, she has him sit down and tell it to the horse. He does. The duke’s daughter puts off the wedding and sends a letter to his dad, who arrives with great force. The steward is captured and is executed as he had sworn to be when he failed to guard the young lord (and boy, did he blow that). The young lord and daughter marry.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: I’m not exactly sure.
Trivia: Played to the tune of “Greensleeves.”
44. The Love of Three Oranges
From: Italy, Portugal, Czech Republic, and France.
Earliest Appearance: Oldest version came from Italy as “The Three Citrons.” Collected by Giambattista Basile in the Pentamerone.
Best Known Version: The second Italian version since it bears the familiar title.
Synopsis: A prince is on a quest to find a wife. He finds a place where he receives 3 oranges (or citrons or other fruit). But he’s instructed not to break them open until he has some water. When he breaks them open, a beautiful woman appears and asks for water. Twice he fails, she either dies or disappears. But the third time, he finally gives her water and wins her. The prince then leaves her by a spring (or other body of water) so she can be properly brought to his father. While he’s gone, an ugly slave sees the reflection, takes it as her own, and decides she’s too pretty to be a slave. She then realizes the beautiful woman is there and tricks her into letting her transform into a bird by driving a pin into her head. When the prince returns, she claims to have been magically transformed and the prince dutifully returns with her. The bird interferes with the wedding festivities. Someone catches her and draws out the pin revealing the truth. The slave is punished and the prince marries the woman.
Other Versions: Has multiple variants such as the Portuguese “The Three Citrons of Love” and the French “The Enchanted Canary.” Also has a Czech version called “The Three Citrons.” Many versions mention the slave girl being beaten by her mistress as if it was no big deal. While most of the older versions spend a disturbing amount of time describing how disappointed everyone is by the mere fact she has black skin. Also, in Basile’s version the first 2 orange maidens are restored in the end. In other variants, the slave kills the woman and she returns as a bird ghost. While the oldest version depicts the woman with red hair.
Adaptations: Adapted into an opera by Sergei Prokofiev.
Why Forgotten: This is a widespread fairy tale in Europe with several variants. But it might have some unsettling aspects depending on version.
45. The Ludicrous Wishes
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Charles Perrault.
Best Known Version: Obviously, the Perrault version.
Synopsis: A down on his luck woodcutter is granted 3 wishes by a magical entity for his help in a time of need. Anyway, the woodcutter goes home and his wife persuades him to put off wishing until the next day. But while sitting by the fire, he wishes for sausages. His wife taxed him for his folly. So he wishes for a sausage in her nose. Finally, they agree to use the last wish to take the sausage off her nose, leaving them no better off than before.
Other Versions: Magical entity can be the God Jupiter, a fish whose life he spared, or a tree spirit. Some versions use black pudding instead.
Why Forgotten: It’s short and doesn’t have much of a plot.
46. Molly Whuppie
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Joseph Jacobs in his English Fairy Tales. Main inspiration was the Scottish “Maol a Chliobain” printed in 1862 in John Francis Campbell’s Popular Tales of the West Highlands.
Best Known Version: The Jacobs version.
Synopsis: Molly is the youngest and cleverest of 3 daughters who were turned out of their home because there was nothing to eat. They take shelter with a giant and his wife who initially accept them with kindness before attempting to kill them in their sleep. The quick-witted Molly arranges that the giant slay his own 3 kids instead. So that night, the girls escape to the king’s palace. Impressed by the story, the king sends Molly on 3 successive errands to steal a treasure from the giant. She’s caught on the third try, but she escapes death by her wits, causing the giant to murder his hapless wife. When the giant gives chase, he can’t cross the narrow bridge over the river and must futilely rage from the other bank. As a reward for her efforts, Molly and her older sisters marry the king’s 3 sons.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: I’m not sure. Maybe the fact it involves a girl tricking a giant into killing his family.
Earliest Appearance: Appeared as early as the Edo period.
Best Known Version: It’s hard to say since there are variants by region.
Synopsis: Momotaro is born when an old woman washing clothes discovers a peach floating down the river. She takes the peach home to share with her husband but when they open it, they discover a child inside. They name him Momotaro and raise him as their son. After he grows older, Momotaro decides to fight an oni band Onigashima (Demon Island) who’ve been robbing nearby villages. His parents give him a sword and a pouch of kibi-dango (a type of sweet dumpling) for his journey. On the way, he meets 3 talking animals, a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant. In exchange for their help in fighting the oni, he gives them a kibi-dango. They reach Onigashima and attack the oni’s fortress. The oni surrender, return all the treasure they stole, and promise not to steal anymore.
Other Versions: In an older version the old couple eat a giant peach making them young again that they have sex to celebrate and have son named “Taro.” Another older version depicts Momotaro as lazy. These aspects were changed to make the story more publishable to children during the 19th century.
Adaptations: His story has been adapted numerous times in various media, particularly anime and manga.
Why Forgotten: It’s actually very popular in Japan that it was used in Japanese WWII propaganda in the 1940s. Not so much anywhere else.
Trivia: Depicted in Japanese propaganda during World War II. There’s even a Momotaro festival, too.
48. The Nightingale
Earliest Appearance: Written by Hans Christian Andersen first published in 1843.
Best Known Version: There’s only one version.
Synopsis: In Imperial China, the Emperor learns that one of the most beautiful sounds on Earth is that of the nightingale, one of which happens to live in his own gardens. Though initially put off by the plain bird’s appearance, he’s so delighted by her song that he brings her into his palace as a permanent “guest.” However, by and by, his engineers produce a bejeweled mechanical bird, quickly attracting the Emperor and court’s attention. As they play the mechanical bird nearly to the point of breakdown, the real nightingale returns to the garden. Then the Emperor falls ill, to the point where his successor his chosen and the Grim Reaper is sitting at his bedside. In despair he cries that if he could only turn the key of the mechanical bird and hear its song one more time, he’d have the strength to fight back. At that moment, the real nightingale bursts into song from his window, restoring his strength and shaming Death into departing. From then on, she tells the Emperor, she will not live as his prisoner but will still frequently return to tell him what’s happening in his empire, so he’ll be known as the wisest emperor ever to live.
Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Adapted to an opera, ballet, TV drama, and animated film.
Why Forgotten: Overshadowed by Andersen’s more famous works like The Snow Queen and The Little Mermaid. Also, no princesses or queens. Then there’s the fact it’s set in China but it’s clear that Andersen isn’t familiar with the fact that nightingales don’t live there. And let’s say the illustrations aren’t very flattering to Chinese people either.
Trivia: Also known as “The Chinese Nightingale” and “The Emperor and the Nightingale.” Believed to be inspired by Andersen’s unrequited love for Jenny Lind (who contrary to The Greatest Showman did not have an affair with P.T. Barnum).
49. The One-Handed Girl
From: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Andrew Lang in The Lilac Fairy Book.
Best Known Version: The Lang version, obviously.
Synopsis: A dying man offers the choice between his property and his blessing. The son wants his property, the daughter his blessing. Then their mother did the same. The son let his sister only have a pot and a vessel she can clean corn in. She supported herself by letting the villagers borrow her pot and did well and even planted a pumpkin seed. Envious, her brother stole them. But the pumpkin vine did well, she sold pumpkins, and lived on that. When her sister-in-law tries buying one, the sister gave her one for nothing. But when she tried buying another the next day, they were all gone. So she told her husband that his sister had refused to sell her one. The brother cuts the vine down to punish her. She tries to protect it by throwing herself in the way, he cuts off her hand as well before selling the home she lived in.
The sister flees into the forest to hide from her brother. 7 days later, a king’s son found her there, fell in love, and married her. They have a baby. Then the king’s son had to go on a journey. In the meantime, her brother hears that the prince’s bride only has one hand, and guesses it’s his sister. He tells the king and his wife that she’s a witch who killed 3 husbands, lost her hand, and had been exiled for it. The sister’s in-laws exile her again, with her baby. In the forest, she sees a snake and sits very still when it begs her to let it hide in her pot. After another snake passes by, it brings her with him and tells her to bathe her baby in the pool. She loses the baby and searches around with her hand. The snake tells her to use the other arm. She does, finding her baby and her hand being restored. Then it brought her to its parents, who keep her as a guest because she saved their son.
Meanwhile, the king’s son falls ill and takes a long time to return home. When he comes back, he’s shown 2 graves as if for his wife and child. After a time, the daughter wants to return home. On the snake’s advice, she asks for its dad’s ring and its mom’s casket, which would feed and protect her from harm. Using them, she got herself a fine house. The king, his wife, and their son come to visit, bringing along her brother. The daughter recounted her tale and is reunited with her husband. The brother is exiled.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, it’s from Africa. Fairy Tales from there take much longer to write down. Not to mention, it’s hard to tell if the Lang’s version is somewhat sanitized or the genuine article since he lived in the 19th century.
Earliest Appearance: Written by Giambattista Basile in Il Pentamerone from 1634. It’s basically a reverse Pygmalion and Galatea.
Best Known Version: Basile’s obviously.
Synopsis: A merchant wants his daughter, Betta to marry. She tells him to bring her a hundredweight of Palermo sugar, a hundredweight of almonds, 4-6 bottles of scented water, a little musk and amber, 40 pearls, 2 sapphires, a few rubies and garnets, some gold thread, a trough, and a little silver trowel. When he did so, Betta used them to mold a statue of a man. She then prayed to the goddess of Love and he came to life. She named him Pintosmalto and they marry at once. However, a queen in attendance abducts him.
Betta sets out to follow. She stumbles upon an old woman who takes pity on her and teaches 3 sayings that could help her. She went on and finds the land. When she sees Pintosmalto, she tried the first. A self-moving golden coach appears, with which she bribes the queen to let her sleep the night at the door of Pintosmalto room. The queen agrees but drugs Pintosmalto so that Betta can’t speak to him. She tried again with the next saying and a golden bird that sang like a nightingale appears. But the result is the same as before. The next day, a cobbler tells Pintosmalto of all the weeping he hears So the next night, when Betta bribes her way in with scarves, he’s awake. Taking what Betta used to bribe her way and some more treasure, the couple instantly flees, leaving the queen enraged.
Other Versions: Folk variants are found in many Mediterranean countries. Italo Calvino’s version has Betta a princess who makes Pintosmalto from flour and takes 6 months for her to create him. Also, she’s aided by 3 hermits giving her nuts to crack.
Why Forgotten: Sexism might have something to do with it. Since men see no qualms about objectifying women and fantasizing about creating a woman for themselves. But men like Pintosmalto are female fantasy figures that may turn men off.
Seems to me that “The False Steward” is “The Goose Girl” with the genders reversed. Also that “The One-Handed Girl” is an African variant on the European tale of “The Armless Maiden”, which the Grimms recorded a version of. 🙂
Yes, they’re variants of a lot of these tales which can be gender-swapped and combined. I noticed that, too.
Thhis is a great post