A Treasury of Forgotten Fairy Tales: Part 11 – The Dragon and His Grandmother to The Black Bull of Norroway

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You may recognize that in many of these fairy tales have close relatives trying to sabotage the protagonist’s goals. If the protagonist is a woman, it’ll be her mother, stepmother, stepsisters, sisters, or mother-in-law. Let’s just say, if you’re a woman who lives through fairy tales, you might have very bad ideas about female relatives. If the protagonist is male, it’ll be his older and less successful brothers who turn on him and try to kill him. Anyway, in this long-awaited for installment, I give you 10 more forgotten fairy tales. First, is a Grimm fairy tale about a dragon and his grandmother. Second, is an English story about a small-toothed dog. Third, are 4 Scottish tales about a princess of the skies, a crafty dad who’d do anything for his kids, a blue falcon, and a black bull. Then we come to a couple Italian tales revolving around a canary prince and an enchanted snake. After that, we come to a story on a greenish bird. And finally, is a Danish tale of a green knight.

101. The Dragon and His Grandmother

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In the Grimms’ The Dragon and His Grandmother, a dragon carries off 3 AWOL soldiers to serve him for 7 years. But if they want to be released by that time, they’ll have to guess a certain riddle. One sees the dragon’s grandma to find the answer.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version of course.
Synopsis: 3 underpaid soldiers decide to go AWOL by hiding in a cornfield. But when the army doesn’t march away, they’re stuck between starving or the noose. However, a dragon flies by at this time and offers to save the 3 deserters in exchange for 7 years of service. Desperate, they agree and the dragon carries them off. But the dragon is actually the Devil. He gives them whips they could use for making money but warns them that when their 7 years are up, they were his. Unless they could guess a riddle.
When the 7 years are up, two of the soldiers dread thinking about their fate. An old woman advises them to go down to a cottage for help. Meanwhile, the third soldier ventures to that cottage and meets the Devil’s grandmother where he makes a favorable first impression. Pleased, the grandmother hides him under the cellar, she questions the Devil when he comes as the soldier learns the answers. When the Devil finds the men at their 7-year expiration date, he invites them for dinner in Hell, where they had to guess the meat, the silver spoon, and the wineglass used. The soldiers correctly answer with: a dead sea-cat in the North Sea, a whale rib, and an old horse’s hoof. Thanks to the whip they get to keep and no longer being in the Devil’s power, the soldiers live happily ever after.

Other Versions: Included in The Yellow Fairy Book by Andrew Lang and in A Book of Dragons by Ruth Manning-Sanders.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Maybe because it features 3 guys who go AWOL at the beginning. To be fair, they’re way underpaid, but still.
Trivia: Also known as “The Devil and His Grandmother.” Inspired a Hellboy comic storyline.

102. The Small-Tooth Dog

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In the English tale, The Small-Tooth Dog, a dog save’s a merchant’s life in exchange for his daughter. The girl isn’t exactly thrilled with the idea but goes through it anyway.

From: England
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Sidney Oldall Addy in Household Tales and Other Traditional Remains. It’s the English version of Beauty and the Beast.
Best Known Version: The Addy version, naturally.
Synopsis: While attacked by robbers, a dog comes to a merchant’s aid and brings him home to recover. The merchant offers him many marvels in exchange. But the dog wants his daughter to the guy’s dismay. The merchant reluctantly agrees and goes home. A week later, the dog appears, has the girl get on his back, and takes her to his home. A month later, the girl misses her dad and requests to see him. The dog only allows her a 3-day visit but asks what she’d call him there. She replies with “A great, foul, small-tooth dog,” and he refuses to take her. So she begs that she’ll call him, “Sweet-as-a-Honeycomb.” So they set out. But when they come to a stile along the way, the girl breaks her promise at the first stile and the dog carries her back. They set out a week later. The girl makes good at the first stile but reverts to her old nickname at the second stile. Back to the doghouse she goes. The next week they set out a third time. The girl uses the “Sweet-as-a-Honeycomb” nickname at the first 2 stiles. But when they reach the merchant’s house, the dog asks again, she beings with, “A great-” but thinks about how he’d been to her “Sweeter-than-a-Honeycomb.” The dog stands up on its hind legs, sheds his coat, and becomes a handsome man. The two marry.

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When the girl goes with the Small-Tooth Dog, she goes on his back. And she has to call him “Sweet-as-a-Honeycomb.”

Other Versions: Included in Ruth Manning-Sanders’ A Book of Magic Animals.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Resembles too much of Beauty and the Beast. Also the name stuff.
Trivia: N/A

103. The Daughter of the Skies
From: Scotland
Earliest Appearance: Collected by John Francis Campbell in Popular Tales of the West Highlands.
Best Known Version: The Campbell version obviously.
Synopsis: A man has daughters along with many cattle and sheep before they suddenly vanish and he can’t find them. Fortunately, a man offers to locate them in exchange for one of his daughters. Since fairy tales don’t seem to treat female offspring as freaking human beings or desperation, the dad agrees if the daughter consents (okay, he’s probably better than most fairy tale dads). He asks each of his girls and the youngest agrees. They marry, he takes her home, and turns out to be a decent husband. However, 9 months later, the woman asks to see her dad. The husband agrees as long as she doesn’t stay there until their child is born. She agrees but stays too long that one night, music puts everyone to sleep and a man kidnaps the woman’s child. This happens 2 more times. The last time, the woman’s husband that she’d have more difficulty at first and, after her dad threatens her, if she doesn‘t say what she did to the kids. The woman tries returning to her husband but her magical horse doesn’t show up so she decides to walk instead. But her mother-in-law informs her that he left. The woman sets out again and reaches a house where a housewife tells her that her husband’s set to marry the King of the Skies’ daughter, lets her bunk for the night, gives her self-cutting shears, and sends her on to the middle sister. The middle sister gives her a self-sewing needle, and sends her to the youngest who gives her self-threading thread and sends her into town.

Once there, the woman finds a place to stay and asks a henwife for something to sew. Although the princess is set to marry the next day and no one’s working but the wedding staff. The shears, needle, and thread get to work. A royal maid sees this and tells the princess who asks the price. The woman requests to sleep in her bedroom. The princess agrees but roofies her bridegroom with a sleeping draught and throws the woman out in the morning. The next night, she exchanges the needle, the sleeping draught works the same as before, but the oldest prince hears her tell the sleeping man that she’s his kids’ mother. On the third night, the woman exchanges the thread but the man throws out the sleeping drink and they talk. When the princess returns in an attempt to throw the woman out, the guy says he could go back up since she’s his wife.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: The fact the princess doesn’t get the guy in this one may be part of it.
Trivia: N/A

104. Conall Cra Bhuidhe

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The Scottish Conall Cra Bhuidhe focuses on a father who goes out of his way to save his sons with one story at a time. Of course, they end up in that situation by trying to steal a horse.

From: Scotland
Earliest Appearance: Collected by John Francis Campbell in Popular Tales of the West Highlands.
Best Known Version: The Campbell version, naturally.
Synopsis: Conall Cra Bhuidhe is a royal tenant with 3 or 4 sons. One day, his sons get in a fight with some princes and the biggest one gets killed. The king tells Conall that he could save his sons if he stole the King of Lochlann’s brown horse. Conall agrees to please the king even if his kids weren’t in danger. While his wife laments that he’d rather not let the king kill their sons than endanger himself. So Conall sets off with his sons to Lochlann and tells them to seek the king’s miller. They stay with him and Conall bribes the guy to put him and his sons into in bran sacks and deliver them to the king. In the stables, Conall has his sons make hiding holes before they try stealing the horse. When they try, the horse keeps making such a noise that servants would come. They would hide. But soon the king gets wind of it that Conall and his boys eventually get caught. Conall explains his situation and because he couldn’t get out of stealing it, the king decides to hang his sons and spare his life. Yet, he tells Conall that if he shares a store when he’s in a worse situation than his sons, he’d spare his sons one by one starting with the youngest. Conall entertains the king with each subsequent tale with each putting him in a worse situation than the previous one. However, the king’s mother overhears Conall’s story about a woman trying to kill her baby and the giant. She then confides that she was the woman and the king had been the baby. So since Conall had saved his life, the king gives him the horse, the gold, and all his sons’ lives.

Other Versions: Included in Joseph Jacobs’ Celtic Fairy Tales and Andrew Lang’s The Blue Fairy Book.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: The kings kind of remind you of rulers from Game of Thrones.
Trivia: Also known as “Conall Yellowclaw.”

105. How Ian Direach Got the Blue Falcon

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How Ian Direach Got the Blue Falcon is a Scottish fairy tale about a prince sent to capture a large blue bird of prey. And he goes on quite the journey to accomplish it.

From: Scotland
Earliest Appearance: Collected by John Francis Campbell in Popular Tales of the West Highlands.
Best Known Version: The Campbell version, naturally.
Synopsis: A king and queen have a son named Ian. When Ian’s in his teens, his mom dies and his dad remarries. One day, Ian goes hunting and shoots a blue falcon, knocking off a feather. His stepmother curses him until he finds her the falcon. He curses her to stand with one foot on the great hall and the other on the castle and always facing the wind until he returns. He leaves. On his journey, Ian meets with Gille Mairtean the fox who tells him that the blue falcon is kept by the Giant with Five Heads, Five Necks, and Five Humps. To seek advice, he must tend the animals there. He kindly treats the birds and the giant lets him care for the blue falcon and that he can steal it. As long as Ian doesn’t let any of its feathers touch anything in the house. The giant trusts him in time. But the falcon starts by the doorpost. The feather touching the post made it scream and brings back the giant who tells him that he may have the falcon if he brings back the White Sword of Light from the owned by the Big Women of Dhiurradh.

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Ian and Gille kidnap the princess. But though she’s angry at being carried off on the ship, she’d rather stay with Ian. So Gille impersonates her.

Gille Mairtean transforms into a boat and carries Ian to the island of Dhiurradh and tells him to get a job there as a polisher, which will let him eventually steal the sword as long as he doesn’t let the sheath touch anything in the house. This succeeds until the sheath’s tip touches the door and shrieks. The Big Women tell Ian that he could have the sword if he brings the King of Erin’s bay colt. Once again, Gille Mairtean turns into a boat and transports Ian to the castle where he serves until he has the chance of stealing the colt which swishes against the door. The king tells him he can have the horse if he can bring him the King of the Franks’ daughter. Yet again, Gille Mairtean turns into a boat and takes Ian to France but runs himself into a cleft rock and sends Ian to say he’s been shipwrecked. When the royal court comes out to see the boat, music comes out of it. The princess says she must see the harp playing such music. Ian and Gille Mairtean carry her off. Pissed, the princess asks why. But after Ian explains, she proclaims she’d rather be with him. They return to the king and Gille turns himself into a beautiful woman and has Ian give him instead. After Ian receives the bay colt, Gille bites the king, knocks him unconscious, and escapes. When they return to the Big Women, Gille turns himself into a bay colt. Ian receives the sword, throws it at all the Big Women, and kills them. Reaching the Giant, Gille turns into a sword and once Ian gets the falcon, cuts the giant’s heads. Gille warns Ian how to carry what he brings back to the castle to keep his stepmom from turning him into a pile of sticks. He obeys and his stepmom gets turned into a stick pile instead. He burns her, marries the princess, and lives happily ever after.

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Throughout the story, Ian has to find a blue falcon, a magic sword, a colt, and a princess. And his stepmom’s reduced to a pile of sticks.

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

106. The Canary Prince

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The Canary Prince is an Italian fairy tale about a prince who meets his princess in a tower. Until her evil stepmother puts pins on her windows sill.

From: Italy
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Italo Calvino in Italian Folk Tales.
Best Known Version: The Calvino version, obviously.
Synopsis: A jealous queenly stepmother persuades her kingly husband to lock up his daughter in a forest castle tower. One day, a prince passes by the place while hunting and is astounded to see the seemingly abandoned castle in use. He sees the princess but they can’t talk to each other except through gestures. To help them, a witch tricks the ladies-in-waiting into giving the princess a book. When she ruffles the pages forward, her boyfriend turns into a canary. When she ruffles them back, he changes back to human form. After some time, the queen arrives seeing the young prince at the window so she puts pins on the sill, stabbing him in his canary form. Even when the princess restores him, the prince lies on the floor bleeding. So his companions must bring him back to his dad for medical attention. The princess cuts sheets and creates a makeshift rope to escape while overhearing witches discussing how to heal him. She does so and asks for a coat-of-arms, his standard, and his vest as her reward. The prince goes hunting, the princess turns him into a canary. When he flies into the room, she turns him back. He reproaches her for his injury. She produces her reward proving she saved him and lets him know her stepmother did it. They marry, and the princess reveals that despite locking her up in an abandoned tower, he dad’s not as bad as he seems. He’s just a coward who can’t stand up to his wife.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Calvino is a modern fairy tale collector so it’s not a big stretch as to why it’s been forgotten. Also, involves a guy getting real bloodied up.
Trivia: N/A

107. The Enchanted Snake

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The Enchanted Snake is an Italian fairy tale of a snake wooing a princess. He also changes into a handsome young man and a bunch of other animals until a curse is broken.

From: Italy
Earliest Appearance: Collected Giambattista Basile in the Pentamerone
Best Known Version: The Basile version, naturally.
Synopsis: A poor woman longs for a child that she and her husband adopt a talking snake. When it grows up, the snake wants to marry, but not just any snake. But a princess. His dad goes to ask and the king allows it if the snake could turn all the orchard fruit into gold. The snake tells his dad to gather the pits and sow them in the orchard. When they spring up, the fruits are gold. The king next demands that his palace walls and paths be turned into precious stones. The snake has his dad gather broken crockery and throw it on the walls and paths, transforming them in to glittery and colorful gems. Then the king demands that the castle be turned into gold. The snake asks his dad rub the castle walls with an herb, transforming them.

The king tells his daughter, Grannonia that he tried to put off this reptilian suitor but failed. The princess agrees to obey him. The snake comes in a golden elephant-drawn cart, surprisingly freaking everyone out for some reason but Grannonia. The snake takes her in a room, sheds his skin, and becomes a handsome young man. Fearing his daughter being eaten, the king looks through the keyhole. He then sees the skin and burns it. The young man calls the king a fool, turns into a dove, and flies off. Grannonia sets out looking for him. She meets and tags along with a fox. When she remarks upon wondrous birdsongs, the fox replies if she knew what the birds say: that a prince had been cursed into a snake’s form for 7 years and that near the end, he fell in love and married a princess. But the snake skin had been burned and struck his head while fleeing. So he’s in the care of doctors. The fox then tells her that the birds’ blood will cure him and catches them for her. He then tells her that his blood was necessary so Grannonia persuades him to go with her and kills him. She goes to her father-in-law, promises to cure the prince if he’d marry her and the king agrees. She cures him. The prince refuses since he already pledged himself to another woman. But Grannonia claims she was the woman and they marry.

Other Versions: Included in Andrew Lang’s The Green Fairy Book.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: For the love of God, it features a snake as the main character.
Trivia: N/A

108. The Greenish Bird
From: Mexico
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Joel Gomez in La Encantada from a 74-year-old woman in Texas named Mrs. P.E.
Best Known Version: The Encantada version.
Synopsis: While her 2 older sisters hang out in bars, only Luisa sews. A princely greenish bird comes and woos her. Her sisters find out and put knives in the window injuring him. But he tells her that he lives in crystal towers on the plains of Merlin. After buying a pair of iron shoes, Luisa sets out. She finds the Sun’s horse where his mother warns that he’ll eat her. She hides until the Sun’s mother calms her son down. He doesn’t know the way but sends her to the Moon. Same thing happens with the Moon and then the Wind who can’t send her anywhere. She then finds a hermit who can summon animals and an elderly eagle who says that the Greenish Bird is engaged, except that he’s sick. And he could take her if she kills a cow. When they fly, he asks for meat, she gives him another leg. When she’s out Luisa offers to cut her own leg. But the eagle tells her it’s a test. At the prince’s she works as a kitchen maid and part-time guitarist, curing the prince. The prince says that every woman must make a cup of cocoa and he’ll marry who makes the one he drinks. Not caring whether it was bitter, he drinks Luisa’s and they marry.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: I’m not sure why. Maybe the knives on the window sill thing.
Trivia: N/A

109. The Green Knight
From: Denmark
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Svend Grundtvig in Danish Fairy Tales and by Evald Tang Kristensen in Eventyr fra Jylland in 1881.
Best Known Version: Andrew Lang’s English translation of Kristensen’s version in The Olive Fairy Book is the best known.
Synopsis: Dying of cancer, a queen asks her to do whatever his daughter requests of him. A widowed countess and her daughter do everything to win the princess over. Only to tell the princess that she couldn’t stay unless she marry the king. The princess implores the king to do it despite his objections. As soon as the countess becomes her stepmother, bring on the abuse. Seeing this, the king sends the princess to a summer palace. While the king is there to bid his daughter farewell before departing for a tournament. The princess tells him to greet her to the Green Knight. But he doesn’t meet a Green Knight at the tournament. On the way home, he goes through the forest where he meets as swineherd. Asking about the pigs, he’s told they’re the Green Knight’s. He goes on to find a magnificent castle where the handsome young Green Knight lives. The king gives him his daughter’s greetings. But the Green Knight hasn’t heard of her. Nonetheless, he welcomes the king and bestows him a gift (either a book or casket with his portrait).

The king returns home. Depending on variant, one of 2 things happen. But the Green Knight starts secretly visiting the princess to avoid her stepmother. But she finds out and conspires to injure him and he stops visiting the princess. Not knowing why, the princess overhears 2 birds talking of his illness and that a snake with 9 young snakes in her dad’s stables could cure him. She gets the snakes, goes to the Green Knight’s castle, and gets a job in the kitchen. She persuades them to let her cook soup for him. For 3 days, she feeds him soup made from 3 of the young snakes and he recovers. They marry.

Other Versions: Some variants have the widowed countess and her daughter persuade the princess to let them stay in the castle. Some have the king build a summer palace for the princess. While others have the Green Knight claim the princess must’ve thought about the graveyard green. In one variant the king gives her a book which when she goes through the pages, he flies in as a bird and courts her. When the stepmother learns of it, she puts poisoned scissors in the window. In another variant, the king gives the princess a casket with the Green Knight’s portrait, she recognizes him as her dream guy and he comes to court her. But when the stepmother finds out, she puts a poisoned nail in the oar he uses to row out. In some versions, he either recognizes her or she asks to marry him and initially refuses until the princess cleans herself up.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Not sure why. Maybe the bloodshed.
Trivia: Not to be confused with the King Arthur story.

110. The Black Bull of Norroway

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The Black Bull of Norroway is a Scottish fairy tale of a woman who goes off with a black bull who’s surprisingly kind and gentle. But she must wait for him until he takes care of a few things.

From: Scotland
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Robert Chambers in Popular Rhymes of Scotland in 1870.
Best Known Version: The Chambers version, naturally.
Synopsis: A washerwoman’s 3 daughters ask her to cook some food to take on their journeys to seek their fortunes, consulting a witch on how to seek one along the way. The woman advised them to look out the back door. On the third day, the oldest sees a coach and 6 come for her and delightedly leaves with it. The second daughter a coach and 4 and leaves. While the youngest finds a black bull that the witch tells her she must accompany. Terrified, the daughter goes off with the bull, who’s surprisingly kind and gentle. When she’s hungry, he tells her to eat out of his right ear and drink out of his left. On their first 3 nights, they arrive at the bull’s brothers’ castles where she receives a fruit that she’s instructed not to use until the great needs in her life. Eventually, she and the bull arrive at a valley of glass. Afterwards, the girl and the bull arrive to a valley of glass. The bull tells her to wait and keep still as he fights the devil ruling the valley so they could leave. If the sky is blue, he’s won. If red, he’s lost. He leaves the girl. After some time, the sky turns blue. But the girl gets too excited that she slightly shifts her position and the bull doesn’t return.

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Unable to climb a glass hill, the girl works for a blacksmith for 7 years. In exchange she gets iron shoes to climb it in order to get to her black bull.

Unable to climb out of the valley by herself, the girl wanders alone before finding a blacksmith who tells her that if she serves him for 7 years, he’ll make her a pair of shoes. When her time’s up, the girl receives a pair of iron shoes and nails them to her feet. She’s able to climb out of the valley. The young woman eventually wanders back to the witch’s house. The witch offers her shelter if she’ll wash some bloody shirts that she and her daughter couldn’t clean. If she does, she could marry the gallant young knight staying with them. Since the shirts are his. The girl agrees and the bloodstains vanish as soon as they touch the soap while her feet heal as if they’ve never been bloodied or injured. Delighted, the witch brings in the knight’s shirts and convinces him that her own daughter cleaned them. So the knight and the witch’s daughter get engaged.

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The girl finds out that her knight is engaged to be married to another woman. Here she uses the fruits in the great need in her life.

Desperate, the young woman realizes that she’s in a great need of her life. For 3 nights, she opens one of the fruits, which contain rich jewelry inside which she gives the witch’s daughter in exchange for being allowed to sing outside the knight’s room. But the witch gives her daughter a sleeping draught for the knight so she couldn’t wake him. So she sobs and sings: “Seven long years I served for thee/The glassy hill I clamb for thee,/Thy bloody clothes I wrang for thee;/And wilt thou not waken and turn to me?” On the third night, the knight accidentally knocks over the sleeping draught the witch’s daughter gives him. So he’s awake to hear the truth. The young woman marries the knight who’s been the bull all along. He has the witch and her daughter burned. And they all live happily ever after.

Other Versions: Included in Joseph Jacobs’ More English Fairy Tales. Included in Andrew Lang’s The Blue Fairy Book and in Ruth Manning Sanders’ Scottish Folktales.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Might have something to do with the witch and her daughter getting burned up.
Trivia: Cited by J.R.R. Tolkien in his essay “On Fairy Stories.”

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