A Treasury of Forgotten Fairy Tales: Part 8 – The Three Little Men in the Wood to Whuppity Stoorie

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Of course, lest not forget other fairy tale collectors and writers. As I said in my last post, there were plenty of them who predate the Grimms. Yet, there were others who came around their time and after. Naturally, you may remember the Danish Hans Christen Andersen who mostly wrote his own, including The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, The Ugly Duckling, and The Red Shoes. Then there’s the Norwegian fairy tale collectors Asbjørnsen and Moe and Russian Alexander Afanasyev who collected fairy tales in their respective countries. And during the Victorian era we have English collector Joseph Jacobs. Anyway, for this installment, I bring you another 10 forgotten fairy tales for your reading pleasure. First, we have some Grimm tales revolving around 3 forest-dwelling dwarves, a dozen dancing princesses and twin heroes. Second, are Russian tales involving a firebird, a wizard, a white duck, and a fairy godmother witch you really don’t want to mess with. Third, is a Norwegian story about brotherly deception. After that, is a Danish story revolving around a white dove that has nothing to do with Hans Christen Andersen. Lastly, we have a Scottish legend pertaining to a green witch.

71. The Three Little Men in the Wood

The_Three_Dwarfs_-_Anne_Anderson

The Three Little Men in the Wood is a Grimm fairy tale about a young woman driven into the forest by an evil stepmother. There, she meets 3 dwarves who ask what happened to her as well as to share her food and sweep their main entrance. She complies.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, obviously.
Synopsis: A widow with a daughter persuades a widower’s daughter to convince her dad to marry her. Once the honeymoon’s over, she oppresses her. Finally, the stepmother sends the girl into the woods to gather strawberries. There, she meets 3 little men asking what happened to her, to share her food, and sweep their front step. When she goes, they decide that she’ll grow more beautiful by the day, have gold fall from her mouth every time she talked, and marry a king. Also, she finds strawberries. Next time, her arrogant stepsister insists on going after the strawberries. She’s rude to the little men and refuses to share her food. The little men curse her to grow uglier, have toads drop from her mouth, and die a miserable death. And she never finds the strawberries.

Furious, the stepmother sends her stepdaughter to rinse yarn in a frozen river (in hopes she’ll die). A king sees her and takes her off to his castle. They marry and have a baby. The stepmother and her daughter come to the castle, throws the queen out the window, and puts her daughter in her place. The stepmother refuses to let the king see her and blames the toads on her illness. However, a scullion sees a duck swim up and asks what happened at the castle. She then becomes a woman again and nurses the baby. On her third visit, she tells the scullion to tell the king to swing his sword 3 times over her while on the threshold. This brings her back to life. At the baby’s christening, the king asks the stepmother what punishment should be fitting for someone who threw a person into the water. She replies, “The wretch deserves nothing better than to be taken and put in a barrel stuck full of nails, and rolled down hill into the water.” So the king has it done to her and her daughter.

Other Versions: Included in Andrew Lang’s The Red Fairy Book as “The Three Dwarfs” and Ruth Manning’s A Book of Dwarfs.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: I’m not exactly sure. Maybe because benevolent dwarves remind people too much of Snow White.
Trivia: N/A

72. Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf

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Tsarevitch Ivan, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf is a Russian fairy tale about a young prince who’s sent to capture the elusive firebird. Along the way, he meets a helpful gray wolf, a magic flying horse, and the lovely Helena the Beautiful.

From: Russia
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki.
Best Known Version: Well, the Afanasyev version of course.
Synopsis: Hearing that a Firebird’s eating his precious fruit every night, a tsar tells his sons that whoever brings it in will be his heir. The sons each take turns to stand watch the next few nights. But only the youngest remains awake to drive the bird and win a feather from it. The older brothers set out to retrieve it, find a stone warning about the danger ahead and decide to stay where they are. Ivan follows them and chooses a path. On it, a wolf eats his horse and offers him help, giving him directions on how to steal the Firebird. But Ivan disobeys. So he gets captured and sent off to steal a magic flying horse for the tsar he tried to rob. The wolf gives him directions on how to get the horse. But again, Ivan disobeys, gets caught, and is sent to kidnap Helena the Beautiful. With the wolf’s help, he brings her and the magic horse to the tsar who demanded them. Only to steal the girl and the horse along with the Firebird before leaving. Ivan’s brothers find him sleeping on his return. They kill him and walk off with the Firebird, the horse, and Helena the Beautiful. The wolf resurrects Ivan. Helena tells everyone what happened. While the brothers get thrown into prison as Ivan and Helena marry.

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Here Tsarevitch Ivan nearly captures the firebird. Yet, at least he gets a feather.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Inspired the Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, “The Firebird.” Also adapted into a 2011 animated film.
Why Forgotten: I’m not exactly sure. But most people remember the “Firebird.” But it’s better known as a “phoenix.”
Trivia: N/A

73. Tsarevitch Petr and the Wizard

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Tsarevitch Petr and the Wizard is about a prince who must venture to find his mother who was kidnapped by a powerful sorcerer. But before he gets there, he must take instruction from an old man in the forest.

From: Russia
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki.
Best Known Version: Well, the Afanasyev version of course.
Synopsis: A Tsar and his Tsaritsa have 3 sons: Alexei, Dimitri, and Petr. One day, the Tsaritsa goes on a walk and vanishes. The Tsar’s advisers conclude that the most powerful of all wizards, Koshchei abducted her and recommend that he marry again. Since it’s no use getting her back anyway. Instead, he offers anyone who sets off after her anything they need. After many heroes try and fail, the Tsar tells his sons that they must go. Alexei takes gold and a troop of soldiers. Only to lose all his men one by one until he’s left with just 10. He then meets an old man, telling him he won’t reach Koshchei’s castle because there are 3 rivers and the ferrymen’s tolls aren’t cheap. Alexei assures he’s got enough money. However, the first ferryman frightens off Alexei’s remaining men and demands his right hand. He allows it but when he reaches the second ferryman, he panics and returns home. Dimitri goes after him and even gets to the second ferryman who demands his left foot. But he panics at the third ferryman.

However, Petr only goes with a horse and sword. Yet, what he lacks in supplies, he makes up for in thorough planning. He chooses the sword by testing all the swords for a month. While he picks the horse by driving all the horses into the sea and selecting the one swimming the farthest and wrestling with the waves. He rides off. He’s polite to the old man who thinks he might reach it. In turn, the old man tells him how to get in. When he meets the ferrymen, he demands that each one ferry him before getting the price and then kills them on the other side. As the old man advised, he climbs the mountain with iron claws. There, he finds a copper castle with a stolen princess who can only direct him onward to a silver castle. There, another princess sends him onward to a golden castle. A princess there sends him to a fourth castle, of pearl where his mother is.

The Tsaritsa tries to trick Koshchei to extract knowledge of where his heart is. After lying to her, claiming it was in a broom and hedge, he tells her, “Know that my life is in neither the broom nor the hedge, but is in an egg. The egg is in a duck, and the duck is in a hare, and the hare nests in a great hollow log that floats in a pond in a forest of the island Bouyan.” Petr sets out backwards to find it, rescuing a salmon, hawk, and bear along the way. With their help, he deals with the animals and returns with the egg and kills Koshchei with it. He then brings back his mom with the princesses, marrying the gold castle princess while the other 2 wed his brothers.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, it doesn’t seem to have its own Wikipedia entry. Also, princes usually have to rescue princesses not their mothers.
Trivia: N/A

74. True and Untrue
From: Norway
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Peter Christian Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe.
Best Known Version: The Asbjørnsen and Moe version, obviously.
Synopsis: True and Untrue are brothers. One day, their widowed mom sends them away to earn a living. Untrue persuades True to share his food before jeering him for wanting his brother to share his. True points out that Untrue’s being a jerk. But Untrue gouges his eyes out. Now blind and unemployable, True gropes about to find a large tree. He decides to climb it for fear of animals since he’ll know it’s morning by the birdsong. A bear, fox, wolf, and rabbit gather there to celebrate St. John’s Day. As each recounts about a cure for the King of England’s ills, including eyesight restoration. True uses it on his own eyes and can see. He then takes a job with the king. When the king complains about his health problems, True fixes them one by one. His last assignment is curing the princess, which wins him her hand in marriage. Untrue comes to the wedding to beg bread. True gives him a little food and sends him off to the tree where he had learned these things the previous year. Untrue climbs it but the animals show up. The bear announces the someone obviously eavesdrop last year so they won’t talk now.

Other Versions: One Russian and 2 French variants exist. In one version, True is blinded so he and Untrue can make more money begging.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Involves eye gouging.
Trivia: N/A

75. The Twelve Dancing Princesses

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Said to be no earlier than the 17th century. Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, obviously.
Synopsis: 12 princesses sleep in 12 beds in the same room. Despite their bedroom doors being securely locked, their shoes always appear worn as if they went dancing all night by morning. Despite the castle’s cobbler hitting the jackpot, the king promises his kingdom and daughter to any man who could discover the princesses’ secret within 3 days and 3 nights. Those who fail to within 72 hours are put to death. Following the many who failed so the executioner can enjoy a nice vacation in the Bahamas, an old soldier comes to try his hand at the task. Traveling through the woods, he comes across an old woman who gives him an invisibility cloak as well as instructs him not ingest anything the princesses might give him when they come to him during the evening. She also tells him to pretend being fast asleep after the princesses leave. He follows the advice, only pretending to drink the wine one of the princesses gives him after reaching the castle and pretending to fall asleep.

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When they’re sure the soldier is asleep, the princesses don their finery and go out into the woods. The soldier follows them.

Sure the soldier was asleep, the princesses dress themselves in fine clothes and escape from their room via a trapdoor on the floor. Seeing this, the soldier dons his invisibility cloak and follows them down. The passageway leads to 3 groves of trees: one of silver, one of gold, and one of diamonds. The soldier breaks off a twig from each as evidence. They walk on until coming onto a great lake as 12 boats with 12 princes ferry the princesses to the other side. The soldier stows away hiding in the youngest princess’ boat. A castle appears on the other side, into which the princesses dance the night away until their shoes wear out and they have to leave. This continues on the second and third night. On the third night, the soldier carries away a golden cup as a token of where he’d been. When it comes time to reveal the princesses’ secret, he goes to the king with the 3 branches and the golden cup and tells him all he’s seen. The princesses see there’s no use to deny the truth and confess. The soldier takes the oldest princess as his bride and becomes the king’s heir.

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Here we see the princesses dancing with their partners under the moon and the stars. Will only be a matter of time until their shoes wear out.

Other Versions: Included in Andrew Lang’s The Red Fairy Book. There’s a French version collected by Charles Deulin in his 1874 Contes du Roi Cambinus. Alexander Afanasyev collected a Russian variant, “The Secret Ball”, in Narodnye Russkie Skazki. Some versions have the men the princesses dance with under a spell. While many variants have the princesses under a curse as well. Sometimes the soldier chooses the youngest princess whom he closely follows and sometimes he doesn’t marry a princess at all. Nonetheless, numerous countries appear to have their own version.
Adaptations: This one has numerous adaptations, including a Hindi Bollywood film in 2011.
Why Forgotten: I’m not sure why this isn’t as mainstream as Snow White or Cinderella.
Trivia: Also known as “The Worn-Out Dancing Shoes” or “The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces.”

76. The Two Brothers

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The Two Brothers is a Grimm fairy tale about 2 fortunate poor boys who go off on adventures together. Though one of them slays a dragon and marries a princess.

From: Germany and Lithuania
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers. Has 2 distinct sections which may have originally been 2 separate tales. They mention in an afterword having also collected stories that resemble the first section with a different ending or the second section with a different beginning. Andrew Lang collected a story resembling the second section called “The Three Princes and Their Beasts” for The Violet Fairy Book.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version.
Synopsis: There are 2 brothers. One is a rich and wicked goldsmith. The other is a poor humble broom maker. The broom maker discovers a rare golden bird which the goldsmith buys off him. Since it’s magical, whoever cooks and eats its heart and liver will find a gold coin under their pillows each morning. The goldsmith has his wife cook the bird, but due to a mishap, the broom maker’s starving twin boys eat the heart and liver. When the boys start finding gold coins under their pillows, the astonished broom maker seeks advice from his brother. The goldsmith vindictively claims they’ve fallen to the devil and must be driven out. A huntsman takes the 2 kids in and raises them as his own sons.

The boys grow up and become young men who set out to seek their fortunes. First, they travel together, acquire a matching set of animal companions and go on some adventures before going their separate ways. The younger brother saves a princess from a dragon and wins her hand. They live happily for awhile until he goes out hunting in a mysterious forest and a witch turns him into stone. Receiving word that his sibling is in trouble, the older brother comes visiting and gets mistaken for his twin. He lets the mistake stand so he can borrow his brother’s authority to find out what’s going on before going into the forest and rescuing his younger brother from the witch. Though grateful to be reunited with his sibling, the younger brother experiences an attack of jealousy when he learns his older brother has been living his life. Until he gets home and the princess asks him why he’s been behaving strangely distant and sleeping on the couch the last few days.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: I’m not sure why. Maybe the fact princess asks her husband why he hasn’t been sleeping in their bed the past few days.
Trivia: N/A

77. Vasilissa the Beautiful

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Vasilissa the Beautiful is a Russian fairy tale about a young woman sent to Baba Yaga by her evil stepmother. Baba Yaga has her do a series of impossible tasks which she succeeds.

From: Russia
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki.
Best Known Version: The Afanasyev version, obviously.
Synopsis: Vasilissa is the youngest and a stepdaughter. Her stepmother and stepsisters have her do chores. She manages with her dead mom’s blessing and the doll she gave her. When she comes of age, all young men want to marry her, rather than her older sisters, which her stepmother forbids. After her into the woods in hopes she’d run into Baba Yaga who’d eat her, the stepmother sends Vasilissa directly to the witch for fire after deliberately extinguishing all the other ones. Vasilissa finds Baba Yaga at in her hut on chicken leg stilts surrounded by skulls that glow at night. Baba Yaga has Vasilissa do some impossible tasks. Yet, when she finds the girl succeeds with her mom’s blessing, she evicts Vasilissa but not without giving her a skull lantern. Because no one with a blessing can stay with her.

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Here’s the witch Baba Yaga. Notice that she’s anything but a benevolent fairy godmother.

When Vasilissa returns, she finds out her stepmother and stepsisters have been unable to light a fire while she was gone. The skull lantern quickly sets the whole house on fire to the ground with the stepmother and stepsisters inside. Vasilissa seeks shelter with an old woman and begins to spin flax and weave the thread. When the old woman brings it to market, she takes it to the Tsar who can’t find seamstresses who can sew it. The piece is sent back to Vasilissa who can. Whereupon the Tsar insists on seeing her, falls in love, and marries her.

Other Versions: Some versions just have Vasilissa live peacefully with her dad after Baba Yaga’s house fire.
Adaptations: Made into a 1939 film and a 1977 animated feature.
Why Forgotten: Well, Baba Yaga’s the kind of fairy godmother who’s not going to pretty you up for a fancy dress ball so you can catch a prince after losing your shoe one night. No, she’ll basically give you a skull lantern and set your house on fire to burn your awful stepmom and stepsisters to a crisp.
Trivia: N/A

78. The White Dove
From: Denmark
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Andrew Lang in The Pink Fairy Book.
Best Known Version: Obviously, the Lang version.
Synopsis: A witch rescues 2 princes during a storm at sea on the condition of receiving their younger (not yet born) brother. Years later, she claims him and he goes with her as promised. She has him sort feathers. When he does, a whirlwind mixes them up again. A white dove taps on the window and offers to help, sorting all the feathers. The next day, he has to chop wood but the pile keeps growing the longer he works. Again, the dove helps, splitting all the wood. The prince thanks her and kisses her. She turns into a lovely woman who reveals she’s a kidnapped princess. He must ask for her as the princess as she keeps flying as a dove, and recognizes her despite shapeshifting by the red thread she’ll bear on her foot.

In turn, the witch tries offering a broken down donkey and an old hag. The prince accepts them since they’re the princess. To keep her promise, the witch lets them marry. But the princess warns they must flee because she’s fulfilled it and need to do no more for that. They leave 2 enchanted wood pieces behind to speak for them while they take some water and a flower pot. When the witch tries to kill them in the morning, she finds the wood and chases. First the throw the flower pot which turns into wood. Getting through that, they throw down the water, which turns into a lake and compels the witch to go back for her dough trough to cross it. They then reach the prince’s castle. The princess blows her breath outward, causing hundreds of white doves to attack the witch who turns to flint in her anger. The prince’s brothers confess what they’ve done and say he should be their father’s heir.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, it involves 2 older brothers selling out to a witch out of a desperate situation. Also a princess impersonates a hag and donkey.
Trivia: N/A

79. The White Duck
From: Russia
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye Russkie Skazki.
Best Known Version: The Afanasyev version, I guess.
Synopsis: A king leaves his new wife on a journey and warns her to be careful in his absence. A woman lures the queen into a garden and into a pool before turning her into a white duck and. She then takes the queen’s form and place and the king returns to an impostor. The duck soon lays 3 eggs comprising of 2 ducklings and an ugly drake hatched from them. The duck warns the 3 of the witch and to avoid her. One day, the witch manages to lure the 3 inside. But she waits for the ducklings to fall asleep before slaying them. The drake stays awake and escapes. The white duck finds the bodies and laments the deaths. The king discovers this, the duck returning to her queenly form in his presence. The returned queen tells him what happened and he seeks the magical aid of water to revive the killed ducklings and turn them along with the drake into human children. The king then condemns the witch and has her executed through dismemberment.

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

80. Whuppity Stoorie

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Whuppity Stoorie is a Scottish fairy tale about a poor woman who needs her pregnant sow alive or else everything will go to shit. The green woman cures the sow but demands the baby.

From: Scotland
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Robert Chambers in Popular Rhymes of Scotland. It’s like Rumplestiltskin with chicks.
Best Known Version: The Chambers version of course.
Synopsis: A man leaves his wife and baby. The woman is desperately poor but hopes her sow will have many piglets when it farrows. One day, the sow is clearly dying. A green gentlewoman offers to cure it and the woman’s willing to do anything for it. She does and demands the baby. However, by their law, she can’t take the baby for 3 days. And if the woman can correctly guess her name, she can’t do it at all. The woman goes for a walk in the woods and happens to catch the green gentlewoman singing about her name. The next day, the green gentlewoman comes for the kid and the woman has some fun playing at begging and pleading before she reveals, “In troth, fair madam. I might have had the wit to know that the likes of me is not fit to tie the worst shoestrings of the high and mighty princess, Whuppity Stoorie.”

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, this tale isn’t very long and it pertains to a poor wife who needs to keep her pigs alive instead of a single miller’s daughter rumored to spin straw into gold.
Trivia: N/A

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