In fairy tales, you can have 2 types of old ladies. One is good, wise, and helpful. She could be magical but normally isn’t. Sometimes she may take the hero in when they have absolutely nowhere else to go. The other may seem nice but can also be a witch who curses someone for whatever reason. And breaking the spell will require some crazy quest to find an assortment of items or a worthy potential significant other. Both really don’t seem great if you really think about it. Anyway, in this installment, I’ll bring you 10 more forgotten fairy tales. First, is a Russian tale of a golden shoe. Second are Grimm tales of 2 different brides and a magical old lady. Third, is an Italian story about a dragon that runs more like a Game of Thrones episode. Then we come to an Icelandic tale of a witch in a stone boat. After that are 2 Scandinavian stories on a magical wreath and 2 caskets. Next, is a Danish tale of a Maiden Bright-Eye followed by a French story of fairies and an English tale of 3 heads in a well.
131. The Golden Slipper
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki. A Russian version of Cinderella.
Best Known Version: The Afanasyev version, obviously.
Synopsis: An old man brings 2 fish home from market for his daughters. The older one eats hers, but the younger asks her fish what to do with it. It tells her to take it to the river and put it in the water so it might repay her. She puts it in the well. The old woman, their mom, likes the older daughter but hates the younger. She dresses the older for Mass and orders the younger to husk 2 bushels of rye while they’re gone. The girl weeps beside the well. The fish gives her fine clothing and sends her off while the rye husking vanishes. The mom comes back talking of the beauty they’ve seen at Mass. She takes the older girl again, leaving the younger to husk 3 measures of barley and the younger goes to Mass again with the fish’s aid. A prince sees her and catches her golden slipper with some tar. He finds the younger daughter and tries the shoe on her. When it fits, they marry.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Not sure why. Guest the magic fish has something to do with it.
132. The White Bride and the Black Bride
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, naturally.
Synopsis: A woman and her daughter cut fodder when the lord arrives and asks for directions to the village. They refuse to help but the woman’s stepdaughter offers to show him. In return, the others turn black and ugly but the stepdaughter gets granted 3 wishes: beauty, an everlasting purse of gold, and a one-way ticket to Heaven upon her death. Her brother Reginer is a king’s coachman, asks for her portrait and hangs it in his room. The king sees it and resolves to marry her. Her brother sends for her while the stepmother and stepsister show up, too. The stepmother enchants the coachman so he’s half-blind and the bride so she’s half-deaf. The white bride doesn’t hear what the coachman says and instead follows her stepmother’s command to remove her dress and garments and look out the window where she’s pushed out. The king’s horrified by the black bride and throws the brother into a snake pit. But the stepmother persuades him to marry the black bride.
A white duck arrives to the kitchen and tells the kitchen boy to light the fire, and then asks for Reginer and the black bride. After a few days of this, the kitchen boy asks the king. The king cuts off the duck’s head, which transforms into the white bride. The king frees the brother from the snake pit and asks the stepmother what ought to be done to do what she did. She says that the person should be stripped and put in a barrel studded with nails, and a horse should drag it off. The king has it done to her and the black bride. He marries the white bride.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Racism, obviously.
133. The Witch in the Stone Boat
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Jón Árnason. Translated into German by Poestion.
Best Known Version: Andrew Lang’s English translation in The Yellow Fairy Book.
Synopsis: A king tells his son Sigurd to marry, recommending another king’s daughter as a prospective wife. Sigurd travels to the kingdom and proposes to the princess. Her dad accepts on the condition he’d stay and help him as long as he could. Sigurd promises to remain, until he receives news of his dad’s death. He then sets sail for his homeland with his wife and 2-year-old son. The ship’s one day short of completing its journey when the wind dies down. Overcome with drowsiness, Sigurd leaves the queen and prince alone on the deck. A stone boat approaches carrying a frightening “witch” or “troll wife.” She boards the ship, snatches away the baby, and assumes the queen’s place by transforming into her shape and wearing her fine clothes she strips from the woman. The imposter puts the real queen on the stone boat and enchants the boat telling it to go to her brother in the underworld without straying. The boat shoots off and is soon out of the ship’s sight. The real mother’s disappearance makes the baby uncontrollably cry, and the witch tries to quiet it to no avail. So she goes below deck and scolds Sigurd for leaving her on deck alone. Though his wife usually never threw such temper tantrums, Sigurd let it slide since she had every right to be mad at him. But despite their efforts, neither could stop the boy from crying.
Succeeding his dead father, Sigurd now rules his homeland as king. The once quiet little boy hardly stops crying since that day so he’s given and raised by a nurse, who’s one of the court ladies. Sigurd also notices his wife’s change in temperament as “haughty and stubborn, and difficult to deal with.” Fortunately, the fake queen’s identity soon unravels. Two young men playing chess next to the queen’s room eavesdrop and spy on her through a crack. They hear her say that the more widely she yawns, the more she transforms into a troll. And even as she speaks, she gives a huge yawn and reverts back into a troll. On her room’s floor, a 3-headed giant appears, bringing her a trough full of meat she devours. Meanwhile the boy-prince’s nurse witnesses the true queen’s supernatural appearance. The nurse lights a candle revealing rising floor planks and a woman dressed in linen underneath. Clasped around her waist is an iron belt with a chain leading to the ground below. The queen embraces the child for a moment and returns under the floor again. She appears again and the nurse hears the queen lamentfully says, “Two are gone, and one only is left,” which the nurse guess must mean that the third night might be her final appearance.
The next night, King Sigurd is in the nurse’s room, sword drawn in his hand awaiting the apparition, whom he instantly recognizes as his own wife. He cuts the chain and great noises come from beneath the earth. The true queen tells her story. The 3-headed giant tries forcing her to marry him and only consented if she could see her son for 3 consecutive days. But the giant has to plummet to death, the crashing “caused by him in his death throes.” The real queen is restored to all her dignity and the king has the false queen captured and stoned to death and torn apart by horses.
Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Retold by Mrs. Angus W. Hall titled, “The Giantess and the Granite Boat.”
Why Forgotten: Guess the stoning to death and being torn apart by horses might have something to do with it.
134. The Dragon
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Giambattista Basile in Pentamerone in 1635. It runs more like an episode from Game of Thrones though it has fairies. And a despicable character doesn’t experience any lasting consequences whatsoever like a horrific death scene.
Best Known Version: Perhaps the Thomas Keightley translation in Fairy Mythology.
Synopsis: A High Shore king loses his throne during his absence due to his tyrannical and cruel conduct and gets usurped by a sorceress. He consults his oracular wooden statue to learn that he’d regain his kingdom when the sorceress goes blind. But the well-guarded sorceress foils every agent he sends to do his bidding. Since she could instantly detect any harm-seeking intruder and metes out “dog justice” upon them. Frustrated, the king compensates by raping any woman he can lay his hands on and murdering them afterwards. Hundreds of victims later, the turn comes for the maiden Porziella whose beauty is described in poetic metaphor. Intending to kill her like the rest, the king raises his dagger after he’s had his way with her. But just that moment, a bird flies by and drops a root on his arm, causing him to tremble and drop the weapon. Because the bird is a fairy who Porziella saved from a lecherous satyr’s mischief by waking her up in time. Instead, the king decides to seal her up in the attic since, “it wasn’t necessary to bathe the instrument of death with the same blood with which he had bathed the instrument of life.” Porziella begins to starve, the bird brings a knife to drill into a floor corner, and breach a hole to the kitchen below for the bird to bring food.
Nine months later, Porziella gives birth to a son named Miuccio, she raises in the sealed chamber. Until as a grown boy, he’s surreptitiously lowered down by a rope to the kitchen. The cook discovers the boy who’s employed as the king’s page. The king appears to love the boy more than his own stepson, earning the queen’s enmity. So she hatches a series of schemes designed to bring upon Miuccio’s downfall. First, she leads the king to believe that Miuccio boasted he could build 3 castles hanging in the air. The king commands he do so. At first, Miuccio agonizes. But under the bird’s guidance, he accomplishes his task by building 3 huge cardboard castles that 3 griffins lift into the air the fairy-bird summons. The queen wracks her brain for the next plot. At her instigation, the king orders Miuccio to blind the sorceress so he can get his kingdom back and not be so reduced that he’s served by wretched 4-breadloaf wage menials. Miuccio moans so heavily that the bird sarcastically wonders out loud if her death could cause such grieving. Assuring him of success, the bird flies off into the woods to seek help. Chirping to gather a large flock of birds, she asks if any one of them can put out the sorceress’ eyes, offering a reward to protect against the hawks and other raptors as well as a free-pass “against muskets, bows, crossbows, and “bird-lime of the fowlers.” A swallow volunteers for the task, since she nests in the palace and is irritated by the sorceress’ puffs of magic. Realizing being blinded by the darting bird signifies her demise, the sorceress shriekingly departs the city and escapes to a cave, pounding her head against the wall until she dies.
With the sorceress gone, the king can reclaim his castle. Miuccio arrives simultaneously, and the bird’s prompting, tells the king he wishes to be left to his miserable lot and not be bothered with any more tasks placing him in harm’s way. The king embraces him while the queen fills with rage. She arranges for the Miuccio’s final perilous ordeal, which is to fight a fierce dragon dwelling within the vicinity. Born at the same hour as the queen, and in her own words, is her brother. So their lives are inextricably tied as the death of one means death to the other. And the queen can only be restored to life by smearing the dragon’s blood. So the king orders Miuccio to slay the dragon. Miuccio throws a comical and well-justified tantrum, saying this is no peeled pear ready for eating, but “a dragon, that tears with his claws, breaks to pieces with his head, crushes with his tail, craunches with his teeth, poisons with his eyes, and kills with his breath.” He even garners the courage to ask the king exactly which “son of the Devil” got such ideas into his head. The king shrugs off the insult but stands firm in his demand.
Again, the bird comes to Miuccio’s rescue by bearing a soporific herb in its beak, which when cast into the cave, would put the dragon to sleep. After using the herb to tranquilize the dragon, Miuccio takes a knife and starts nicking and hacking the beast. The queen feels a cutting pain in her heart and with her life slipping away, tells the king that it’s a sign that Miuccio has killed the dragon as astrologers predicted. The king blames the queen for her self-inflicted doom. The queen admits to underestimating Miuccio’s abilities but asks as a final favor to have her entire body anointed with dragon’s blood before she’s buried. The king orders Miuccio to retrieve the blood. But the bird stops him short, saying that it would revive the queen who’s been manipulating the king to give him such ordeals and the king should have long realized the page is his kin, being so naturally drawn by affection for him. The king, who’s tailed Muccio out of curiosity, overhears the conversation, learning that not only is Muccio is his true son but also that his mom Porziella has survived all these 14 years. In his condition, the king offers to forfeit his kingdom and his life to the fairy who protected Muccio and his mom all these years. Now transforming into a beautiful maiden, the fairy only requires taking Muccio as husband for services rendered. The dead queen is tossed into a burial mound. The king marries Poriziella as his new queen.
Other Versions: Bowlderized versions exist by the way.
Why Forgotten: Well, the king is a serial rapist and murderer who locks one of his victims in an attic for 14 years after failing to kill her. Oh, and did I say the woman locked in the attic ends up marrying the guy in the end because they have a kid together? Not to mention, he gets his kingdom restored and as well as never really experiences any lasting consequences. Also includes child marriage (hello, the kid is like a teenager).
135. The Enchanted Wreath
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Benjamin Thorpe in Yule-Tide Stories: A Collection of Scandinavian and North German Popular Tales and Traditions.
Best Known Version: The Thorpe version obviously.
Synopsis: A man has a wife. Both have a daughter from a previous marriage. One day, the man takes his daughter to cut wood. When he returns, he realizes he forgot his ax. He tells his wife to send her daughter for it so it won’t get rusty. But the stepmother replies that his daughter’s already wet and is such a strong girl she could take a little wet and cold. Back on the spot, the girl finds 3 miserable-looking doves perched on the ax. She tells them to fly back home, where it would be warmer, but not before giving them crumbs from her bread. She takes the ax and leaves. Eating the crumbs makes the birds much better that they lay a wreath of roses on the girl’s head with tiny birds singing in it. When the stepmother pulls it off, the birds fly off and the roses wither. The next day, the dad goes alone and forgets his ax again. Delighted, the stepmother sends her own daughter. She finds the doves and orders them off as “dirty creatures.” They curse her so she could never say anything but that. The stepmother beats her stepdaughter and gets even angrier when the doves restore the wreath to its condition on the girl’s head.
One day, a prince sees the girl and takes her off to marry her. The news makes the stepmother and stepdaughter quite ill. But they recover when the stepmother makes a plan. She has a witch make a mask of her stepdaughter’s face. Then she visits the princess bride, puts her in the water, and puts her daughter in her place, before setting out if the same witch could give her something to cure the doves’ curse on the girl. Her husband’s distraught by the change in her, but thinks it stems from an illness. Until he thinks he sees his bride in water, but she vanishes. He sees her twice more before catching her. She turns into various animals including a hare, a fish, a bird, and a snake. He cuts off the snake’s head and the bride becomes human again. The stepmother returns with the ointment that would work only if the princess really drowned. She puts it on her daughter’s tongue and it doesn’t do a thing. The prince finds them and declares they deserve to die. But the stepdaughter persuades them to merely abandon them on a deserted island instead.
Other Versions: Included in Andrew Lang’s The Orange Fairy Book.
Why Forgotten: Not exactly sure why.
136. Maiden Bright-Eye
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Andrew Lang in his The Pink Fairy Book.
Best Known Version: The Lang version, naturally.
Synopsis: A man has a son and a daughter, the latter named Maiden Bright-Eye. His wife dies and he marries another woman who’s got a daughter of her own. The stepmother is cruel to Bright-Eye. One day, she sends her stepdaughter to watch the sheep and pull heather. For dinner, the stepmother packs Maiden Bright-Eye pancakes with an ash-mixed flour. Maiden Bright-Eye pulls some heather and a little guy in a red cap appears from the ground to ask why she’s pulling the roof of his house. She apologizes and shares her dinner with him. For her kindness, he bestows her gifts of magic: she grows much more beautiful, a gold coin falls from her mouth when she opens it, after which her voice sounds like music, and he promises she’ll marry a young king. He also gives her a cap that can save her life when she puts it on. Maiden Bright-Eye tells her stepmother about meeting the little man, but not about sharing her dinner. The stepmother sends her daughter who’s rude to the little guy who gives her ugliness, causes a toad to fall from her mouth when she opens it, and promises a violent death.
Meanwhile the son enters the king’s service. Hearing tales of Maiden Bright-Eye’s beauty, the king asks her brother if these stories are true and has them confirmed. So he decides to marry the girl and sends a ship to fetch her. But the stepmother gives her daughter a mask and sends her off on the ship with her stepchildren. While the ship’s still sailing, her daughter pushes Maiden Bright-Eye overboard and pretends to be her stepsister for the king. But Maiden Bright-Eye puts on the cap and transforms into a duck so she could swim. The king marries the stepmother’s daughter but then sees her unmasked ugly face. So he throws Maiden Bright-Eye’s brother into a pit of snakes for lying about the girl’s beauty. As a duck, Maiden Bright-Eye swims to the king’s castle, waddles up the kitchen drain, and meets a little dog. She asks it after her brother and stepsister and it tells her their fates. She then announces she’ll only come twice more. Serving maids hear the talking duck and tell others. The next night a great number come to listen. The duck asks her questions again, says she’ll come once more, and escapes. The third night, a cook puts a net outside the drain and catches the duck. Since she has many gold feathers, they take good care of her.
The brother dreams that his sister has come to the castle as a duck and can change back. He tells someone and word gets back to the king. The king asks if he could produce his real sister, the pretty one. He says he can if someone produces a knife and the duck. He cuts the duck when they do and Maiden Bright-Eye regains her own form. The stepsister is put in a barrel with spikes around it and is dragged by horses. The king marries Maiden Bright-Eye.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Probably the fact the stepsister gets put in a barrel with spikes and gets dragged by horses.
137. Frau Holle
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers. Originated in Central Germany in what’s now known as Hesse, possibly from pre-Christian Germanic mythology since Frau Holle may have originally been a goddess named Hulda. Told by Henrietta Dorothea Wild who’s Wilhem Grimm’s wife.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, obviously.
Synopsis: A rich widow lives with her daughter and stepdaughter. Since she favors her younger biological daughter, she allows the girl to become spoiled and lazy. While the older stepdaughter has to do all the work and every day, she’d sit outside the cottage and spin beside the well. One day, she pricks her finger on the spindle point. Leaning over the well to wash the blood away, the spindle falls from her hand and sinks out of sight. Fearing she’d be punished for losing it, the panicky stepdaughter jumps into the well after it. But instead of drowning or getting stuck in it, the girl finds herself in a meadow where she comes upon an oven full of bread asking her to take it out before it burns. She then comes to an apple tree asking her to harvest its fruit. Finally, she arrives to a small cottage where an old woman lives, who allows the girl to stay if she helps with the housework. Identifying herself as Frau Holle, she cautions the girl to shake the featherbed pillows and coverlet well when she makes the bed, since that would make it snow in the girl’ world. The girl agrees and takes care to always shake the featherbed until the feather flew about like snowflakes.
After a time, the girl becomes homesick and tells Frau Holle that it’s time she return home. Impressed by her kindness and hard work so much, a golden shower falls upon the girl when the old woman escorts her to the gate. She also gives the girl the spindle that fell into the well. With that, the gate closes and the girl finds herself back, not far from her stepmom’s house. Since the stepmother wishes the same good fortune on her biological daughter, she sends her to sit by the well and spin. But the girl deliberately throws the spindle into the well before jumping in herself. She comes to the oven but wouldn’t assist the bread nor would she help the apple tree. When she arrives at Frau Holle’s house, she also takes service there but before long, she falls into her lazy careless ways. Frau Holle soon dismisses her. As the lazy girl stands at the gate, a kettle of tar spills all over her. Frau Holle says, “This is what you have earned” and closes the gate.
Other Versions: Some versions have the first girl have a piece of gold fall from her mouth every time she speaks while the second has a toad.
Why Forgotten: The golden shower reference might lead to a lot of misinterpretations despite that it’s gold raining on the girl, not pee. Also, the fact the second girl gets tar poured on her. Still, the title character is well remembered in Germany as a durable legendary figure from Pre-Christian times.
Trivia: It’s often said in Hesse that when it snows, Frau Holle must be making her bed.
138. The Fairies
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Charles Perrault.
Best Known Version: Perhaps the Andrew Lang version in The Pink Fairy Book.
Synopsis: A bad-tempered old widow has 2 daughters. Older daughter Fanny is disagreeable and proud. But she looks and behaves like her mom so she’s the favorite. Younger daughter Rose is sweet, gentle, and beautiful but resembles her late dad. Jealous and bitter, the widow and her favorite daughter abuse and mistreat the younger girl. While drawing water from the well one day, an old woman asks Rose for a drink of water, which she politely consents. After giving it, Rose finds out that woman’s actually a fairy who disguises herself as an old crone to test mortals’ moral character (think of the enchantress from Beauty and the Beast who cursed the Beast and turned his staff into anthropomorphic household objects). Since Rose was so kind and compassionate toward her, the fairy blesses her with having a jewel, flower, or precious metal fall from her mouth whenever she speaks.
Upon Rose arriving home and explaining why it took so long, the widow’s delighted at the sight of precious metals, jewels, and flowers falling from her younger daughter’s lips. But she desires her favored older daughter Fanny should have these gifts as well. Fanny protests, but the widow forcibly sends her to the well with instructions to act kindly toward an old beggar woman. Fanny sets off but the fairy appears to her as a fine princess and requests the girl draw her a drink from the well. Fanny is rude and insults the fairy. As a result, the fairy decrees that as punishment for her despicable attitude, either a toad or snake would fall from Fanny’s mouth whenever she speaks. When Fanny arrives home, she tells her story to her mom and disgusting toads and vipers fall from her mouth with each word. Furious, the widow drives her younger daughter out of the house. Fortunately, Rose meets a prince who falls in love with her and marries her. Meanwhile, the widow gets sickened by Fanny and eventually drives her out so she dies alone and miserable in the woods.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: I’m not sure why.
Trivia: Also titled, “Diamonds and Toads.”
139. The Three Heads in the Well
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Joseph Jacobs in his English Fairy Tales.
Best Known Version: The Jacobs version, naturally.
Synopsis: In the days before King Arthur, a king holds court in Colchester. He has a beautiful wife and a beautiful daughter. Unfortunately, his wife dies and he’s broke so he marries a rich hideous widow with a daughter of her own. His new wife sets him against his daughter. So his daughter begs to leave to go and seek her fortune, which the king permits. And his wife gives her brown bread, hard cheese, and a bottle of bear. She goes on her way and sees an old man sitting on a stone. He asks what she has. She tells him and offers him some. After they eat, he tells her how to get through the hedge and she’ll find 3 golden heads in a well there and should do whatever they tell her. The heads ask her to comb and wash them. After the girl does so, one says she shall be beautiful, the next says she’ll have a sweet voice, and the last proclaims that she’ll be fortunate and queen to the greatest prince who reigns. She goes on. A king sees her and falls in love with her. They marry and go back to visit her dad. He stepmother is furious that her stepdaughter and not her daughter. So she sends the girl on the same journey with rich dresses, sugar, almonds, sweetmeats, and a bottle of rich wine. But the daughter’s rude to the old man and slights the 3 heads. So they curse her with leprosy, a harsh voice, and marriage to a cobbler. She goes on. A cobbler offers to cure her leprosy and harsh voice if she marries him and she agrees. However, when her mom finds this out, she hangs herself. While the king pays off the cobbler to quit the court and live elsewhere.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Possibly because it features suicide.
140. The Two Caskets
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Benjamin Thorpe in his Yule-Tide Stories: A Collection of Scandinavian and North German Popular Tales and Traditions.
Best Known Version: Probably the Andrew Lang translation in The Orange Fairy Book.
Synopsis: A woman has a daughter and a stepdaughter. One day, she sets them to spin while sitting at a well’s edge, giving her daughter good flax and the stepdaughter coarse, unusable flax. She then declares that whoever’s thread breaks first would be thrown in. When the stepdaughter’s thread breaks, her stepmother throws her in. The girl falls to a wonderful land. She walks on and comes to a tumble-down fence, overgrown with vines. It pleads her not to hurt it, because it doesn’t have long to live. So she carefully jumps over it where there are less vines. She then finds an oven full of loaves and tells her to eat what she’d like but begs her not to hurt it. She eats a loaf, thanks it for such fine bread, and shuts its door. The girl next comes to a cow with a bucket on its horns saying she could milk it and drink but asks her not to hurt it or spill its milk. She agrees and when the last drop of milk is left, the cow tells her to throw it over its hooves and hang the bucket back up. She comes to a house. An old woman asks her to comb her hair. When she does, the old lady shows her a farm where she could take service. She takes good care of the cows, gives milk to the cats, and when she sieves corn, she gives some to the birds.
One day, the girl’s mistress summons her and tells her to fill a sieve full of water and bring it back. The birds tell her to use ashes to stop up the holes. Another day, she has to wash some black yarn until it turns white and some white yarn until it turns black. Then the girl’s mistress has her weave them into a robe as smooth as a king’s by sunset. But the skeins tangle and break every moment. Fortunately, the cats weave it on her behalf. Later, the girl wants to leave and go home. Her mistress sends her to the attic and tells her to take whatever casket she’d like. She considers many beautiful ones. But the cats direct her to a black one, so she takes it and goes home. Her stepmother takes her wages but the casket is filled with marvelous treasures. The stepmother puts her own daughter at the well’s edge, to spin with the coarse stuff, and throws her down in the well when it breaks. The daughter proceeds as her sisters had but is rude to everyone at the wall and works very poorly on the farm, including on the three tasks her stepsister had done. At the end of the year, she goes on her way with a large red casket. But when the girl opens it at home, fire bursts out, burning her and her mom to death.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, it involves 2 people being burned to death after one opens a box.