A Treasury of Forgotten Fairy Tales: Part 10 – The Tinder Box to The Enchanted Quill

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We like to think that fairy tales typically have happy endings or so we’re told. However, as with everything in life, this isn’t always the case. And you may notice that a few of them end very horribly for the protagonist. “The Rose Tree,” “Godfather Death,” and “The Shadow” that we covered so far don’t end happily. Since the first has a kid getting murdered and cannibalized. The second has the protagonist trying to cheat Death for a big payout, ending like you’d expect. The third has the protagonist deceived and murdered by his Shadow. Anyway, in this installment, I bring you another 10 forgotten fairy tales. First, is a Hans Christen Andersen tale involving a tinder box. Second, we come to some Grimm tales involving talking animals and inanimate objects, a mysterious dwarf, and a juniper tree. Second, is an Italian take on Little Red Riding Hood except that you want the wolf to devour her. Third, is an African tale about a singing tortoise. And lastly, we get a German tale of an enchanted quill that can fufill whatever a person desires.

91. The Tinder Box

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Hans Christen Andersen’s The Tinder Box is about a soldier who finds a wooden box he uses to summon treasure carrying dogs. It’s basically a variant of Aladdin.

From: Denmark
Earliest Appearance: Written by Hans Christen Andersen. It’s essentially Denmark’s version of Aladdin despite it being inspired by a Scandinavian folk tale.
Best Known Version: There’s only one version.
Synopsis: A soldier comes upon a witch who tells him how to get lots of money. If he does her a favor of bringing her a tinder box that she mistakenly left in a passageway under an old oak tree. The soldier goes down to find 3 enormous dogs each guarding a chest of copper coins, a chest of silver coins, and a chest of gold coins. When he brings up some gold, he remembers the tinder box and goes to get it. But the witch won’t tell him what’s so special about it, even when the soldier threatens to cut her head off. So the soldier basically decapitates her. It’s not until later that he accidentally discovers he could use the tinder box to summon the dogs who can bring him more money.

Eventually, the soldier falls in love with a princess. But since a prophecy foretold that she’ll marry a common soldier, the king and queen are having none of that so the lock their daughter away in a Copper Palace at all times. So the soldier uses the tinder box to summon a dog to bring the princess to him. The king and queen eventually figure out that someone kidnapped their daughter and have someone follow the dog. When they find the house, they mark it with chalk. When the dog sees the chalk mark, it marks all the doors on that street. The queen makes a bag that she fills with flour with a small hole so there will be a flour trail they can follow. The dog doesn’t notice it. So the soldier is arrested and sentenced to death by hanging. However, he doesn’t have his tinder box so he sends a boy to his apartment to bring it to him. When hanging day comes, he requests one last smoke before using the tinder box to summon all 3 dogs. The dogs throw the judges and councilors so high in the air that they die when hitting the ground. The king is unmoved by this so the dogs do the same to him and the queen. The people proclaim the soldier king, he gets the princess out of her copper palace, and they marry.

Other Versions: Some versions don’t mention that after the dogs toss the King, Queen, and judges into the air that they don’t just die after hitting the ground, but also broken into pieces. One version has the king cheat the soldier out of his pay and the soldier retaliates by beating the princess and making her do chores every night.
Adaptations: Made into a ballet with costumes and scenery designed by Denmark’s Queen Margarethe II.
Why Forgotten: Having dogs devour the whole government because they didn’t let the main character be with the girl likes doesn’t endear this fairy tale to modern audiences.
Trivia: Was not favorably received upon its initial release.

92. The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage

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The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage is a Grimm fairy tale about the aforementioned 3 moving in together and trading chores. It doesn’t go well.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, obviously.
Synopsis: A mouse, a bird, and a sausage decide to move in together. Things are all right for awhile. The bird flies to the forest for wood each morning. The mouse carries water, lights fires, and sets the table. While the sausage cooks by rolling around in the food (don’t ask). One day, the bird’s forest friends start making fun of him, calling him a poor sap claiming he does all the hard work while the others get to stay home and relax. The bird gets home and demands a more equitable chore system before they draw lots to determine who does what. The sausage is tasked with gathering wood but a dog gobbles it up in the forest. The mouse tries cooking but gets stuck while sliding through the vegetables and dies. While the bird has to gather water and light fires, resulting in the house catching fire as well as getting tangled into the bucket and pulled down the well that he drowns.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: For one, the tale features a sentient sausage which is just weird. Secondly, the moral of this story is to know one’s place. Also, it doesn’t end well.
Trivia: N/A

93. Cat and Mouse in Partnership

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Cat and Mouse in Partnership is a Grimm fairy tale about cat and mouse roomies and a jar of fat. Tom and Jerry, it ain’t.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version of course.
Synopsis: A cat convinces a mouse to move in with him. For a time, all was well for the cross-species roommates. Until the mouse and a cat decide to put a fat jar aside for the lean months, storing it under an altar at a nearby church. But one day, the greedy cat decides to mosy on down the church and taste some of the fat, lying to the mouse about standing as a godparent at a kitty christening. He does this 3 times until the jar is empty. When the cold winds start blowing round their house, the mouse suggests that it’s time to break into the fat reserves. But when they get to the church, the jar is empty. The mouse figures it out and gets eaten by the cat.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: If you think this ends like a Tom and Jerry cartoon, you are sorely mistaken.
Trivia: N/A

94. Riffraff

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Riffraff is a Grimm fairy tale of a couple of chickens and their friends pulling a prank on an innkeeper. And yes, they have a carriage pulled by a duck.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, obviously.
Synopsis: A rooster and a hen go carousing in a nutshell carriage pulled by a duck. Along the way, they pick up a hitchhiking drunk pin and needle on their way to an inn. When they reach their destination, the innkeeper isn’t too keen on letting them stay since they look a bit rough. But he agrees once they offer the duck and the hen’s egg. The next morning, the rooster and the hen steal back the egg and eat it (cannibals), stick the pin in the innkeeper’s towel and the needle in his armchair, and fly away (not possible). Meanwhile, the duck scoots off into a brook. The innkeeper washes his face and gets a terrible scratch from the pin on the towel. When he sits on his armchair, the needle stabs him in the butt. He then swears never to let any “riffraff” stay at his inn like talking tailor tools and anthromorphized fowl.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: It’s a petty revenge tale with talking animals and sentient tailor tools.
Trivia: N/A

95. The Strange Feast
From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, obviously.
Synopsis: A blood sausage invites a liver sausage to her house for dinner. But when she arrives to the blood sausage’s house she sees a lot of strange things. A broom and shovel fight upstairs, a monkey has a head wound, and more. The liver sausage freaks out over all this. When she goes to the blood sausage’s rooms, she confides to her on what she’s seen. But the blood sausage brushes it all off before retreating to the kitchen to check on the meal. While the liver sausage is alone, she hears a voice: “Let me warn you, liver sausage, you’re in a bloody murderous trap. You’d better get out quickly if you value your life!” She runs out the door and onto the street. Turning back, she sees the blood sausage in the attic wielding a long, gleaming knife shouting, “If I had caught you, I would have had you!”

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Contains sentient sausages and attempted murder. Seriously, sausages trying to kill each other?
Trivia: N/A

96. Hurleburlebutz
From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, naturally.
Synopsis: When a king gets lost in a forest, a white dwarf suddenly appears. He offers to help the king out of the woods in return for his youngest daughter. Desperate to get out of the deep, dark forest, the king agrees. The dwarf delivers the king to safety and reminds him he’ll be back in a week for his daughter. Now the king’s sad because the youngest is his favorite. But his daughters assure him not to worry since they’ll soon get rid of the dwarf. A week later, the daughters find an unsuspecting cowherd’s daughter, kit her out in pretty clothes, and tell her to go with the first person who comes to fetch her. That person’s a fox saying, “Sit down on my furry tail, Hurleburlebutz! Off to the forest!” Of they go, but when the fox asks the cowherd’s daughter to pick lice out of his fur, he realizes he got the wrong lady when she obliges. Back to the castle. A week later, the fox returns taking the gooseherd’s daughter into the forest, another attempted delousing, and wrong lady. So back to the castle again.

Realizing passing an insignificant peasant girl as his daughter won’t do, the king gives over his daughter to the fox who carries her into the forest. This time, when he demands a delousing, the princess replies, “I’m a king’s daughter and yet I must delouse a fox!” Realizing he got the right bride, the fox transforms into the dwarf. They live happily for awhile. Until one day when the dwarf says, “I’ve got to go away, but three white doves will soon come flying here. When they swoop down to the ground, catch the middle one. Once you’ve got it, cut off its head right away. But pay attention and make sure you’ve got the middle dove, or it’ll be disaster.” The doves come, the princess catches the middle one, hacks off its head and pooft! a handsome prince appears. Turns out, the white dwarf had been under a nasty fairy spell and this whole complicated charade was the only way to fix it.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: The second part doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.
Trivia: N/A

97. Uncle Wolf
From: Italy
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Italo Calvino in his Italian Folktales. It’s basically Little Red Riding Hood but you’re pretty much rooting for the Big Bad Wolf.
Best Known Version: The Calvino version, obviously.
Synopsis: The “little glutton” travels through the woods carrying a basket of pancakes, bread, and wine for Uncle Wolf. But the path is long and the girl can’t resist the goodies. So she replaces the pancakes with donkey shit, the loaf of bread with a stonemason’s lime, and the wine with dirty water. When Uncle Wolf loses his shit over the deception, the girl races back home, hiding in the corner of her bed. Uncle Wolf chases her down and declares, “Ahem, here I go!” After all, he’s got a reputation to defend. An expert in dealing with “greedy little girls” he swallows her whole.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: It’s not the Little Red Riding Hood story you want your kids to know about.
Trivia: N/A

98. The Singing Tortoise
From: Africa
Earliest Appearance: Oral tradition, I guess.
Best Known Version: N/A
Synopsis: A hunter finds a tortoise with a voice so enchanting that he takes the animal home with him. Unable to resist the impulse to broadcast the tortoise’s song, the village receives the hunter’s report with deep skepticism. And in an act of controlled passive-aggressive behavior for being taken out of its natural surroundings, the tortoise refuses to sing on command. Branded a liar talking nonsense and “fantastic tales,” the hunter gets publicly schooled by the chief.
Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Retold in a children’s book.
Why Forgotten: African fairy tales don’t get much attention.
Trivia: N/A

99. The Juniper Tree

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The Juniper Tree is a Grimm fairy tale about a stepmother who murders her stepson and serves him for dinner. And no, I’m absolutely not kidding.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Brothers Grimm.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, naturally.
Synopsis: A mother dies in childbirth. Her husband remarries and the new wife really wants to get rid of her stepson. Offering an apple from the chest, the stepmother lures the boy then bam! She slams the chest’s lid so hard “so hard that the boy’s head flew off and fell into the chest with the apples.” To dispose the evidence, the stepmother chops up her stepson’s body into little pieces, cooks him up in a stew only Hannibal Lecter would love, and serves his remains to the boy’s father, who can’t get enough of this “tasty” dish. The rest of the boy’s body is buried under a juniper tree, comes back as a green and red-feathered bird with a gold band around its neck and an alluring song, and drops a millstone on the stepmother, killing her. He then returns into human form just in time to have dinner with his father and sister.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Made into a film in Iceland during the 1990s as well as an opera during the 1980s.
Why Forgotten: Contains child abuse, murder, and cannibalism.
Trivia: Mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkein’s “On Fairy Tales” as an example on the evils of censorship for children.

100. The Enchanted Quill
From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Written by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth in 1850.
Best Known Version: Schonwerth’s is the best known since it’s recently been rediscovered.
Synopsis: A man falls asleep on his horse while traveling as a horse begins grazing in a meadow. A crow flies down from a tree and pecks a horse so that it rears up suddenly and wakes up the rider. The rider asks why the crow did that. The crow replies that he’s been asleep for 3 years, which dawns on the man who notices his long beard. In return for acting as an alarm clock, the crow asks the man for one of his daughters, gives him a picture of himself, and flies off. When the man returns home, tells his 3 daughters about the crow and its requests, and shows them a picture. The older two daughters basically say, “No way!” The youngest takes the picture and goes to her room. The next day, the crow arrives in a resplendent horse-drawn carriage, exciting the daughters until the crow steps out that only the youngest invites him in. He asks all 3 sisters to visit his castle.

Apparently, they all hop in. But once they’re out of the dark, gloomy forest, they go through a lemon tree forest before arriving at a beautiful castle. After the two older sisters eavesdrop on the youngest having a conversation with a handsome young man, everything changes. The castle and carriage disappear while all 3 women find themselves under a fir tree. The crow then scolds from the branches: “Now only the youngest can save me. She must walk to the city in rags and accept whatever work she is offered.” The youngest does this and gets a job as a servant to some prince. But unlike Cinderella and Snow White in the Disney movies, she’s utterly incompetent at her job that her co-workers treat her like crap. Just as the girl cries in the bathroom, the crow appears, turns his wing, and says: “Pull out one of my feathers, and if you use it to write down a wish, the wish will come true.” She reluctantly plucks the feather, uses it as a pen, and writes down the names of the very finest dishes that appear in sparkling and glowing bowls. These please the prince and princess so much that they give her fine clothes to wear. But to her dismay, the girl ends up attracting 3 suitors, she writes down ways to make their lives hell, which eventually escalates into bodily punishments on them and her bosses. When the time comes, the crow arrives as a prince, picks up the girl, and they ride to his magnificent castle.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Mostly because the Grimms have a monopoly on German fairy tales that ones by others usually fall into obscurity.
Trivia: Was lost for over 150 years until 2015.

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