In the last post, you’ve probably seen a few fairy tales from places like India, East Africa, and Japan. Yet, while I used pictures from Japan for Momotaro, the ones for the other 2 contain figures that look unusually white. Of course, these are illustrations appearing straight from Andrew Lang’s books. And Lang lived during the 19th century, a time when the western world was steeped in colonialism, imperialism, and racism. So it’s not hard to explain. Nonetheless, while many of these fairy tale collectors usually restricted themselves to a particular region, Lang collected tales from all over the world which he compiled into 12 fairy books. Anyway, in this installment I bring you another 10 forgotten fairy tales. First, we have 3 Norwegian tales about a dragon prince, a princess on a glass hill, and 7 foals. Second, is a story about an Italian girl who likes prunes and gets abducted by a witch. Third, are 2 tales from England about a rose tree with child murder and cannibalism and an asshole knight who goes against a preschooler. Then we have a few Grimm tales about an animal princess, 7 ravens, and 6 servants. And finally, we find a tale from Japan about a wonder dog who gets rid of demon cats.
51. Prince Lindworm
Earliest Appearance: 19th century. It’s like Beauty and the Beast with dragons and far more gore and sexual content.
Best Known Version: N/A
Synopsis: A husband and wife (usually a king and queen) can’t have a child. Following an old crone’s advice to overcome the childless situation, the queen eats 2 onions (but doesn’t peel the first one). 9 months later, she gives birth to twin boys. Unfortunately, the first twin is born a lindworm (a serpentine dragon) while the second is perfect in every way. When he grows up and sets off to find a bride, the lindworm insists that a bride be found for him before his younger brother can marry. But he set that the girl must meet 2 conditions. First, she must be a virgin. Second, she must love him willingly (or at least consent to the relationship). But none of the chosen maidens fill these conditions. So he kills each new bride they bring to him, creating a slight problem for the kingdom. Until a miller’s daughter who spoke to the same crone is brought to marry him (figuring that even if her efforts fail and the Lindworm eats her, she at least gets to be treated like a princess and live in a castle).
When the wedding day arrived, the royal chariot with 6 white horses fetch the girl and took her to the castle to be decked as a bride. Once there, she requests 10 snow-white shifts, a tub of lye, a tub of milk, and as many whips as a boy can carry in his arms. Of course, the ladies and courtiers see such demands were nothing but rubbish and nonsense peasant superstition. But the king says, “Let her have whatever she asks for.” She’s then arrayed with the loveliest of robes and looked the loveliest of brides before being led down the hall to the wedding ceremony where she saw the Lindworm for the first time coming in to stand by her side. So they’re married as a grand wedding reception is held that’s fit for a king’s son.
After the feast, the newlyweds are escorted to their apartment with music, torches, and a great procession. Once in the room, the lindworm tells his new wife to take off her dress, but she insists that he shed his skin for each dress she removes. So this goes until 9 Lindworm skins lay on the floor, each covered in a snow-white shift. And there’s nothing left of the Lindworm but a huge, thick mass, most horrible to see. The girl next seizes the whips, dips them in lye, and whips him as hard as she ever could. Once that’s done, she bathes him all over with fresh milk. Lastly, she drags him onto the bed and puts her arms around him before falling asleep at that moment. Very early the next morning, the king and his courtiers come peeping through the keyhole since they want to know what became of the girl. But none dare to enter the room. However, in the end, they creak the door open to see the girl all fresh and rosy while the loveliest young man lay beside her.
Other Versions: Some versions include 2 roses instead of onions. Sometimes the peasant girl is a princess or omit the Lindworm’s twin brother. The soothsayer’s gender also varies. One version mentions that the Lindworm’s mom hurled the kid out the window as soon as it was born. An Indian version has the cursed prince born a monstrous fish and the girl helped by talking snakes. While some Asian variants have the girl sold to the Lindworm by her stepmother, usually in hope she gets devoured. And when she learns that her stepdaughter has married a king, she either kills herself or plots revenge.
Adaptations: Retold in comic form.
Why Forgotten: Given that the dragon prince eats some of his suitors and the fact a lot of the action takes place in a bedroom that involves a young woman getting naked with a dragon and whipping him, it’s not hard to see why this story will never have its own Disney movie.
52. The Princess on the Glass Hill
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe.
Best Known Version: Asbjørnsen and Moe’s version obviously.
Synopsis: There was a farm with a field that would’ve been good for hay. Except after every St. John’s night all the grass would be eaten. For 2 years, the farmer’s 2 oldest sons stay up all night to guard the field but an earthquake scares them off. The youngest waits through 3 earthquakes and found that a horse in a brass suit of shining armor was eating the grass. He throws steel over the horse, giving him power over it. So he rides away to somewhere secret, telling his brothers that nothing had happened to him. He does it again the next year with the horse wearing silver armor and the next when its armor is gold.
Meanwhile, the king has his daughter sit on a glass mountain and whoever climb it and get the golden apples out of her lap would marry her. All the men who came to try it slip and slide about. But a knight in a brass armor suit rides up the third of the way and rides back. The princess throws one of the apples to encourage him, but he still rides off. The next day it happened again but a knight in silver armor rides 2/3 of the way up the hill and the princess likes him better than the other. The third day, a knight in gold armor rides all the way up and takes the apple. But rides off immediately after. The king then summons all his nobles and knights but none of them have the golden apples. So he summons everyone in the kingdom. Still, no one had the apples. So the king demands who’s missing. The older brothers admitted that their younger brother hadn’t. So he’s fetched, produces the apples, and gets married off to the princess.
Other Versions: Andrew Lang has a version in The Blue Fairy Book.
Why Forgotten: Not exactly sure. Maybe because it’s not from Grimm.
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Andrew Lang in The Grey Fairy Book.
Best Known Version: The Lang version, obviously.
Synopsis: A girl picks plumbs from a wild plum tree on her way to school, which earned her the name, “Prunella.” One day, a furious witch saw her and kidnaps her. The more beautiful Prunella grew, the more enraged the witch became. So she sends her with a basket to fetch water from the well. There, she meets the witch’s son Bensiabel who asks for a kiss from her in return for filling her basket. She refuses but he fills it up anyway. The next day, the witch gives her a sack of wheat with orders to make bread when she returned. Once again Bensiabel helps her despite her refusal to kiss him. The witch then sends Prunella to her sister to bring back a casket. Bensiabel gives her various things along the way before she has to take the casket and leave at once. When she does this, the witch tries getting the people on the way to stop her. But they refuse because Prunella gave them things but the witch didn’t. The witch then demands Prunella tell her what cocks crowed. Bensiabel hesitates to tell her once, in hopes of luring her to kiss him, and the witch comes to kill her. Bensiabel knocks her down the stairs, killing her. Now with her heart softened, Prunella agrees to marry him.
Other Versions: Italo Calvino’s version “Prezzemolina” has the girl get abducted over her mother’s craving of parsley and is abducted by fairies after her mom refuses to pay what she owed. While the witch is Morgan Le Fay and Bensiabel is Meme. Oh, and they both destroy the fairies before taking all their stuff and living in Morgan’s palace.
Why Forgotten: Not exactly sure on this one.
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers as “Cherry.”
Best Known Version: Well, it’s not the Grimm version.
Synopsis: 3 brother princes fight over who might marry a girl with an unnaturally great appetite for parsley that she especially steals some from a witch who eventually turns her into a frog. The king wants to know which son will best succeed him so he sets them on some tasks. The youngest prince sets out with the least and finds a frog offering him the sort of cloth the king desires. It exceeds his brothers’ discoveries and the king sends them to find either a dog that could fit in a walnut shell or an excellent gold ring. Again, the frog provides. For the third task, the king orders them to return with a bride. A frog turns into a maiden. The king picks the youngest to succeed him and marries his frog princess.
Other Versions: Retold in French by Madame d’Aulnoy as “The White Cat.” Depending on the version the frog either turns another frog into a maiden or she herself transforms into a bride.
Why Forgotten: I’m not exactly sure.
55. The Rose Tree
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Joseph Jacobs in English Fairy Tales.
Best Known Version: Well, the Jacobs version obviously.
Synopsis: A man has a daughter by his first wife and a son by his second. But the stepmother hated her stepdaughter. One day, when the girl’s bringing candles from the store a dog stole 3 times, the stepmother tricks her into letting her chop her head off. She then bakes the girl into a pie and feeds her body to her husband. Her son takes the leftovers and buries it under a rose tree. When it blooms in spring, a bird appears and sings a song so beautiful in it, a shoemaker gives her red shoes, a watchmaker a gold watch, and 3 millers a millstone. The bird flies to their home and rattles the stone on the roof. The boy runs out and she drops the shoes on his feet. She rattles again, the man runs out and she drops the watch at its feet. She then rattles a third time, the stepmother runs out and she drops the millstone so she dies.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Contains decapitation, cannibalism, and murder.
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Andrew Lang in The Violet Fairy Book.
Best Known Version: The Andrew Lang translation is the best known.
Synopsis: A young man sets out on an adventure, meets and fights bandits, but finds nothing to make himself famous. One day, he gets lost in a great forest and takes shelter in a small chapel. At midnight, dancing cat spirits rouse him warning each other, “Do not tell Schippeitaro!” The next day, the young man finds a village and a woman weeping over being chosen as a sacrifice to the Spirit of the Mountain. He asks of Schippeitaro and learns it’s a dog whose owner is nearby. He persuades the owner to lend him the dog and convinces the maiden’s parents to shut her up in a closet and let Schippeitaro into the cask where the sacrifice is offered. The demon cats reappear in the chapel. The biggest one opens the casket. Out Schippeitaro kills it. Afterwards, he and the young man kill many more. No more sacrifices are made ever since as the villagers rejoice over the young man and Schippeitaro.
Other Versions: Animals demons can vary by version. One features illustrations of a fox, wolf, hare, and raccoon dog.
Why Forgotten: It’s from Japan and involves a dog killing demon cats.
57. The Seven Foals
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe.
Best Known Version: The Asbjørnsen and Moe version, of course.
Synopsis: A poor couple has 3 sons. The youngest just sits about poking in the ashes. When the oldest goes to the king and asks for a job, the monarch assigns him to watch his 7 foals all day. And if he could tell where they go, he’d receive the princess and half the kingdom. If he fails, the king cuts 3 red strips out of his back. He agrees. But after chasing the foals through rugged lands, an old woman calls him to stop with her and he does. She gives him water and turf, which he claimed the foals eat and drank. The king has 3 strips taken out. The next brother tries as well and comes to the same end.
The youngest goes and has a time to persuade the king since he was their brother. But unlike the others, he succeeds. When the old woman calls to him, he runs on. One of the foals then tells him to ride on his back. They ride on and come to a tree with a room inside containing a sword and flask. The foals have him try the sword and when he can’t, drink from the flask until he could. They then tell him to cut off their heads on his wedding day, which will turn them back into men. Since they’re the king’s sons.
Afterwards, they go on and cross a river leading to the chapel where they become men. A priest gives them wine and bread and the youngest son took some to show the king. When he does, the king agrees he’s triumphed and they hold a wedding. The youngest son cuts off the foals’ heads as agreed, brings them in, and there’s much rejoicing. The king then declares him his heir since his sons can now get lands of their own.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, having 3 strips taken out from one’s back must not be pleasant.
58. The Seven Ravens
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: Obviously the Grimm version.
Synopsis: Desperate for a daughter, a family of 7 sons finally gets their wish. But she’s sickly. So worried for her soul, her dad sends her brothers to fetch water from a well for baptism. However, in their eagerness to obey, they accidentally drop the jug in the well. After some time passes, the dad believes they’re playing instead of cowering away from his potential wrath. So he cries out that he “wants all the boys to become ravens” (though he probably doesn’t mean it). Unbeknownst to him, the boys actually become ravens and fly into the sky. The girl eventually gets better. She grows up not knowing that she has brothers until she eventually hears people gossiping about them. Taking one of her parents’ rings, she goes out to find them. She meets the Sun and the Moon, but they both scare her off. But then she meets the kindly stars with the Northstar giving her a small bone that she’ll need and tells her brothers live in a glass mountain.
Though the girl finds the glass mountain, she loses the bone. The mountain door is locked so she cuts off her finger to use as a key. She meets a dwarf informing her that the ravens will soon return. While she waits, she finds a dinner table set for the ravens and eats a bit from all plates. But her parents’ ring falls from the last flask she drinks from. Her brothers fly back, examine the mess she made, and fiddle with the flask. The ring falls out and the ravens recognize it. One of them prays to God that if their sister was in the mountain, they’d be saved from the curse. Hearing this and since their sister is hanging around, the curse is lifted.
Other Versions: In some versions when the girl goes to the Moon in trying to find her brothers, only to realize that the Moon eats kids. Luckily she escapes before it has a chance to feast on her.
Adaptations: Adapted into an opera.
Why Forgotten: Includes minor body mutilation.
59. Sir Aldingar
Earliest Appearance: Child Ballad #59. Collected by Francis Child.
Best Known Version: The Child version, of course.
Synopsis: After a failed attempt at seducing the queen, Sir Aldingar puts a leper in her bed and accuses her of cheating to the king. The king orders them both executed. But the queen demands a trial by combat if she could get a champion. A messenger in search of one gets sent by what resembles a 4-year-old boy. Anyway, despite the overwhelming likelihood of getting his ass kicked or suffering a fate akin to Oberyn Martell, the boy mortally wounds Sir Aldingar in a fight. Aldingar confesses. The king and queen reconcile. While the leper is miraculously cured and serves as the king’s steward.
Other Versions: Some versions have the king and queen as Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Some variants have the queen’s hair unkempt and infested with mice while in prison.
Why Forgotten: Even the writers of Game of Thrones would find the idea of a preschooler defeating a grown man in a fight as completely ridiculous.
60. The Six Servants
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, obviously.
Synopsis: A king and queen order a prince perform 3 impossible tasks before a deadline so he could marry a princess. He receives aid from 6 exceptionally gifted mutants he meets on his travels. These include:
Servant #1: Has a very long, stretchable neck and can see things at great distance.
Servant #2: Has large ears that can hear even tiny sounds from great distance.
Servant #3: Has eyes of such destructive power that he uses a blindfold to prevent himself from looking at things and accidentally destroying them. Except unlike Cyclops, his eyes shoot out like bullets, not lasers.
Servant #4: Is hot when it’s cold and is cold when it’s hot, basically making him a lizard man in human skin.
Servant #5: A colossal obese man who can eat lots of food.
Servant #6: Is extremely fast that he has to tie a leg behind his back to slow himself down. Basically, an ancestor of The Flash.
The first task is to recover a ring that the queen dropped in the river. Servant #1 sees the ring. Servant #5 drinks the entire river dry while Servant #6 gets the ring and brings it back to the palace. The second task involves 300 oxen and drinking 300 barrels of wine. The prince is allowed to bring one servant with him and of course, it’s Servant #5. While the third task the prince has to spend the night with the princess without falling asleep. Or at least stay up with her until midnight when the queen checks to see whether the princess is still lying in his arms. If not, he loses. Despite precautions, the prince falls asleep anyway. While the princess gets abducted and taken to a faraway hiding place. The prince and his servants eventually wake up. Servant #1 quickly discovers where the princess is kept as Servant #6 and Servant #3 rush to the location where the latter instantly destroys a rock behind where the princess is hidden. And they bring her back just in time the queen arrives to check if the princess is still in the prince’s arms.
As soon as the queen discovers what happened, she orders 300 trucks of wood lit in the flames. Only when someone can sit in the fire can the prince marry the princess. Thus, Servant #4 steps forward and manages to freeze the flames out, still feeling chilly in the process. Despite the marriage being settled at this point, the evil queen sends her troops after them, which Servant #2 pays attention to. Servant #5 blows wind through one of his nostrils, thus beating the soldiers. While Servant #3 carries on a mass slaughter. And with that, they all live happily ever after.
Other Versions: Some versions have Servant #6 fall asleep during the assignment while the others nervously wait for him. Servant #1 stretches his neck and sees him whereupon Servant #3 shoots a fly sitting on a branch of the tree Servant #6 sleeps under, waking him up and sending him to the palace. Sometimes the queen cast a spell on the prince and his servants on the third task. And sometimes Servant #5 spits out a large flood of seawater instead of blowing wind through his nostrils.
Why Forgotten: Well, it’s well-known in the Netherlands since Servant #1 is a theme park mascot there. Then again, a story like this seems more suitable for a comic book, not a fairy tale. Also, modern American audiences would view these servants as epic underachievers and think they should be fighting crime instead of helping their master get a princess.
I’ve read a lot of fairy tales but there were many in your post I had not read yet! Great post. Also Prince Lindworm is one of my favorite tales 🙂