When it comes to fairy tales, we often have more positive perceptions of fairies and mermaids. Since we tend to see them akin to Tinkerbell and Ariel in Disney movies. But there’s much more to them than what’s commonly depicted. While fairies can be rather benevolent, they can also be tricksters and fiends. You may think mermaids are benevolent fish women with beautiful singing voices who save stranded sailors. But they can also demand the men they save a child from them or drown people. Anyway, in this installment, I give you another 10 forgotten fairy tales. First, are Italian tales pertaining to a king of love, a Yoda-like hermit, and a servant who goes on increasingly dangerous and impossible tasks. Second, is a Greek story of a princess who creates her own dream guy. Third, we find a Spanish tale revolving around a sprig of rosemary. After that, we come to a Norwegian story of a white bear king followed by 2 tales of a water nixie and 2 servants of the king with the same name but very different personalities. Then, there’s an Armenian story of a golden headed fish before we go to a Sami yarn of a boy and a mermaid.
181. The King of Love
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Thomas Frederick Crane in his Italian Popular Tales.
Best Known Version: The Crane version, naturally.
Synopsis: A man takes his youngest daughter Rosella with him and she pulls a radish. A Turk appears, saying she must come to his master and be punished. He brings them underground. A green bird appears, washes in milk, and becomes a man. The Turk tells what happened. The dad says there’s no sign the radish belongs to him. The man marries Rosella and gives her dad a sack of gold. One day, when the man’s away, her sisters visit her. She tells them that her husband had forbidden her to ask who he is, but they persuade her to ask his name. He tells her he’s the King of Love and vanishes. Rosella wanders in search of him. She calls for him and an ogress appears, demanding to know why she called on her nephew. The ogress takes pity on her and lets her stay the night, telling her she’s one of 7 sister ogresses, and her mother-in-law’s the worst. Each day, Rosella meets another. On the seventh day, the King of Love’s sister tells Rosella to climb her hair into her house while their mom’s out. Then she and her sisters tell Rosella to seize their mom and pinch her until the ogress cries out to be left alone in her son’s name.
Rosella does this and the ogress wants to eat her. But the ogress’ daughters stop her. She then insists that Rosella carry a letter for her. In the wilderness, Rosella calls out for the King of Love again. He warns her to flatter things along the way: to drink from and praise 2 rivers, to eat and praise fruit from an orchard, to feed 2 dogs, to sweep a hall, and to polish a kite, razor, and scissors. Then she has to deliver the letter, seize a box from a table, and run. When she does this, the ogress calls after her for things to destroy her, but they refuse because of her kindness. Curious, she opens a box, musical instruments escape, and she has to call her husband again to get them back. The ogress wants to eat Rosella again but her daughters once again stop her. She orders her to fill a mattress from feathers of all the birds in the air. The King of Love gets the King of Birds to have the birds fill it. Then the ogress marries her son off to the King of Portugal’s daughter and has Rosella hold torches for the bridal chamber. But the king gets his bride to switch places with Rosella while the ground opens up and swallows the bride. The ogress declares that Rosella’s child won’t be born until she unclasps her hands. The King of Love has his body laid out as if he’s dead, and his sisters lament him. The ogress unclasps her hands, demanding to how he had died. Rosella’s son is born, enraging the ogress so much that she dies.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: A woman falls through the ground for no reason other than being a false bride.
182. Master Semolina
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Irene Naumann-Mavrogordato in Es war einmal: Neugriechische Volksmärchen as “Mr Simigdáli.”
Best Known Version: The Georgios A. Megas version in Folktales of Greece.
Synopsis: A princess refuses all suitors. She then takes almonds, sugar, and groats (or semolina) and makes a figure of a man from them. She next prays for 40 days and God brings the figure to life. She calls him Mr. Simigdali (Mr. Groats or Master Semolina) and is very handsome. An evil queen hears of him and sends a golden ship to kidnap him. Everyone comes out to see it and the sailors capture Mr. Simigdali. The princess learns of how he’s been carried off, has 3 pairs of iron shoes made for herself, and sets out. She comes to the Moon’s mom who has her waiting until the Moon comes. But the Moon couldn’t say where Mr. Simigdali’s been taken to. After giving her an almond, he sends her to the Sun. The Sun and his mom give her a walnut and send her to the Stars. One star has seen him while they and their mom give her a hazelnut. She goes onto a castle where Mr. Simigdali is taken prisoner. Resembling a beggar, he doesn’t recognize the princess. So she begs a place with the geese.
The princess breaks the almond holding a golden spindle, reel, and wheel. The servants tell the queen who asks what she wants for her items. The princess opts to trade only for Mr. Simigdali to come to spend the night with her. The queen agrees but gives Mr. Simigdali a sleeping potion so the princess can’t wake him. The walnut contains a golden hen and chicks, and she tries but fails again. The hazelnut contains golden carnations. But that day, a tailor asks how Mr. Simigdali can sleep with the princess’ talk. Mr. Simigdali readies his horse and doesn’t drink the potion. When the princess starts talking to him, he rises and takes her with him on his horse. The next morning, the queen sends for Mr. Simigdali but he’s not there. She tries making her own man, but when the figure is done, she curses instead of praying. The princess and Mr. Simigdali return home and live happily.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Not sure why.
183. The Sprig of Rosemary
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Dr. D. Francisco de S. Maspons y Labros in Cuentos Populars Catalans.
Best Known Version: The Andrew Lang version in The Pink Fairy Book.
Synopsis: A man makes his only daughter work very hard. One day after work, he sends her to collect firewood, which she does. While searching for the wood, she picks herself a sprig of rosemary as well. A handsome young man appears asking why she’s come to steal his firewood. She replies her dad sent her. The young man leads the girl to a castle, telling her he’s a great lord and wants to marry her. She agrees. They marry. While living there, the new wife meets an old woman looking after the castle. She gives the lady the keys, but warns if she uses one, the castle will fall to pieces. After a time, curiosity overcomes the new great lady and she opens a door, finding a snakeskin. Her husband, a magician, uses it to change shape. But because she used the keys, the castle collapses. The girl cries, breaks off a sprig of rosemary, and goes looking for him.
The great lady finds a straw house where the residents take her in service. However, she grows sadder by the day. When her mistress asks why, the daughter tells her story. Her mistress sends her to the Sun, Moon, and Wind to ask for help. The Sun can’t help her but gives her a nut and sends her to the Moon. The Moon can’t help her either but gives her an almond before sending her to the Wind. The Wind doesn’t know where her husband is but says he’ll look. He learns the guy’s hidden in a king’s palace and is to marry the princess the next day. The daughter implores the king to put it off if he can. After giving her a walnut, the Wind blows on the tailors sewing for the wedding dress and destroys their work. The daughter arrives and cracks the nut, finding a fine mantle. She sells it to the princess with a great gold sum. The almond holds petticoats, which she also sells. While the walnut holds a gown, and for this she demands to see the bridegroom. The princess finally agrees. When the daughter goes in, she touches him with a rosemary sprig, bringing his memory back. And they go back to her home.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Not sure why.
184. The White-Bear King Valemon
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe in their Norske Folke-Eventyr. Ny Samling.
Best Known Version: The one collected by artist Arthur Schneider in 1870.
Synopsis: A king has 3 daughters. The older two are ugly and mean, while the youngest is pretty and gentle. One night, she dreams of a golden wreath. Her dad sends goldsmiths to make it, none of them match her dream. The princess then sees a white bear in the woods and it has the wreath. But he won’t give it to her unless she go away with him, giving her 3 days to prepare for the trip. However, the princess doesn’t care as long as she got the wreath. While her dad’s glad of her happiness and thinks he could keep the bear. But when it arrives, it attacks and defeats the king’s army, unscathed. The king sends out his oldest daughter. The bear takes her on its back and rushes off with her. But asks if she had ever sat on anything softer or seen clearer. She says she had on her mom’s lap, and at her dad’s court. So the white bear brings her back to the castle.
The bear comes again the next Thursday. The king tries his second daughter, she also fails. The third Thursday, the king sends his youngest daughter. And she has never sat on a softer or seen clear. So it takes her to the castle. Every night, it turns into a man and comes to her bed in the dark. Every year, the princess has a child. But as soon as the baby is born, the bear rushes away with it. At the end of 3 years, she asks to visit her parents. There, her mom gives her a candle so she could see him. At night, she lights it and looks at him. But a drop of tallow falls on his forehead, waking him. He tells her that if she waited another month, he would’ve been free of an evil witch queen’s spell. But now he must go to the witch’s realm and become her husband. He rushes off. But the princess seizes his fur and rides him, though the branches batter her, until she’s so tired that she falls off. She searches the forest until she comes across a cottage where an old woman and her little girl dwell. The old woman tells her that the bear went by. The little girl has scissors that, whenever she cuts in the air, silk and velvet appear. But she says the woman needs more of it and gives them to her. The princess goes to another hut with another old woman and little girl. This time, the little girl gives her a flask that pours whatever one wishes and never empties. The princess next goes to a third hut with an old woman and little girl who gives her a cloth that could conjure up food. The fourth night, the princess comes to a hut where an old woman has many kids who have no food or clothes. After the princess feeds and clothes them. The old woman has her smith husband make her iron claws so she could climb the mountainside to the witch’s country.
The princess reaches the witch’s castle. She starts clipping out cloth. The witch offers to trade for the scissors. The princess insists on a night with her sweetheart. The witch agrees but drugs him so she can’t wake him. The next day, she bribes her way in with a flask. Again the witch drugs him, but a next door artisan hears her and tells the king. The third day, she bribes her way in with the cloth. The king doesn’t take the drink so they can talk, coming up with an idea to kill the witch. So the day arrives when the king’s set to marry the witch. Not surprisingly, more witches gather for the occasion. But the king has his carpenters put a trapdoor in a bridge over a deep chasm where the wedding procession would ride, and have it opened so that the witch-bride and her witch-bridesmaids all fall through it. They then take the treasures from the witch’s castle and return to his homeland for the real wedding. On the way, the princess takes the little girls, learning they’re her own daughters whom the king had taken so they can aid her in her quest.
Other Versions: Has a translation by George Webbe Dasent in his Tales from the Fjeld.
Adaptations: Adapted into a Norwegian film called The Polar Bear King.
Why Forgotten: Abducting your daughters so you can help your wife in her later quest doesn’t necessarily seem okay.
185. The Water Nixie
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, naturally.
Synopsis: A brother and sister fall into a well, where a nixie catches them and makes them work for her. While she’s at church one Sunday, they run away. The nixie chases them. The girl throws a bush, which becomes a mountain with thousands of spikes. But the nixie gets through it with great effort. The boy throws a comb behind them which become mountains with thousands of teeth. The nixie goes through them, though with great effort. The girl then throws a mirror, which becomes a mountain too slick for the nixie to climb. She goes back for an axe. But before she could chop through the mountain, they escape.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Not sure why. Then again, it’s pretty short.
186. The Golden-Headed Fish
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Andrew Lang in his The Olive Fairy Book.
Best Known Version: The Lang version, of course.
Synopsis: A king is going blind. A traveler claims that if a golden-heated fish be found in the Great Sea brought to him within 100 days, he’d make an ointment with its blood that could restore the king’s sight. But he has to leave within 100 days. The prince takes men and fishes for it. When finally catches it, it’s too late to bring it back. Though he intends to do so in order to show his dad what he accomplished, he decides not to. Because doctors would try making the ointment and killing the fish would be useless. The king refuses to believe his son had tried and orders his execution. Servants warn the queen who gives her son common clothing and gold before sending him off to a distant island, warning him to take no man in his service who expects a monthly paycheck. At the island, the prince buys a house and rejects many servants wanting a monthly paycheck, and finally takes on an Arab expecting a yearly one.
A monster leaves half the island a wasteland, and whoever goes to fight it falls asleep. The Arab asks the governor what he’d give for killing it, the man offers half the land and his daughter. The Arab asks instead that he share in whatever he gains. The governor agrees. The Arab kills the monster and tells the prince to take the credit. The governor gives him a ship at his request, and secretly fills it with jewels. They sail to a far country. The Arab urges the prince to ask the king for his daughter. The king warns the prince that she had been married 190 times and all her bridegrooms didn’t last 12 hours. But the Arab urges the prince to marry her anyway. The prince and princess marry. But at night, he sees men digging a grave for him. A small black snake wiggles into the bridal chamber. But the Arab sees it and kills it. After that, the princess lives happily with her new husband. One day, the prince is summoned with the news of his dad’s death. He rules there. Eventually, the Arab tells him he’s been called home and must leave him. The new king wishes to reward him since he had saved his life. But the Arab refuses all because he’s the Golden-Headed Fish.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: A dad orders his son’s death for not finding a fish on time. Also, an Arab does all the work while the prince gets all the rewards.
187. How the Hermit Helped to Win the King’s Daughter
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Laura Gonzenbach in Sicilianische Märchen
Best Known Version: The Andrew Lang version in his The Pink Fairy Book.
Synopsis: A rich man divides his property among his 3 sons when he dies. The king offers his daughter to whoever can build a ship that could travel over both land and sea. The oldest son tries, and when old men come begging for work, he sends them all away. He spends all his money on it and a squall destroys it. The second son tries after him, and ends up the same. The youngest thinks to try it as well, because he’s not as rich enough to support all 3 of them. He hires everyone, including a little white-bearded old man his brothers had rejected as overseer. Now this old man is a hermit. When the ship’s finished, he tells the youngest son to lay claim to the princess. The youngest son asks the hermit to stay with him and the hermit asks him for half of everything he’s got. The son agrees.
While traveling, they come across a man putting fog in a sack. At the hermit’s suggesting, the son asks the man to come with them. So with the man tearing up trees, a man drinking stream dry, a man shooting quail in the Underworld, and a man whose steps bestride an island. The king doesn’t want to give his daughter to a guy he knows nothing about. So he orders the son to take a message to the Underworld and back in an hour. The long-legged man gets it but falls asleep in the Underworld. So the shooter guy gives him a wake up shot. The king then demands the man who can drink half his cellar dry in a day. The man who could drink a stream does this. The king agrees to the marriage, but promises only as much dowry as one man could carry. Though it’s not fit for a princess. The strong man who can tear up trees, carries off every treasure the king has. When the king chases them, the man lets the fog from the sack, and they escape. The son divides the gold with the hermit, but the hermit points out he has the princess, too. The son draws his sword to cut her in pieces, but the hermit stops him and gives him back all the treasure, too, promising to come to his aid if he needs it.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: The male protagonist threatens to cut a princess to pieces.
188. Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, obviously.
Synopsis: A couple has no kids when they’re rich. But when they become poor, they have a son and the dad can’t find anyone for a godfather except a beggar. The beggar names the boy Ferdinand the Faithful, gives him nothing, and takes nothing. Yet, he gives the nurse a key saying when the boy is 14, he should go to a castle on the heath and unlock it. All it contains would be his. When the boy’s 7, all of the other boys boast of what their godfathers gave them. Ferdinand goes to his dad for his gift and hears of the key, but there’s no castle on the heath. When he’s 14, he goes again and finds the castle. Inside, there’s nothing but a white horse, but he takes the horse home and decides to travel. He sees a pen on the road, passes it, but he hears a voice telling him to take it so he picks it up. He then rescues a fish from the shore. The fish gives Ferdinand a flute to summon him and promises to get for him anything dropped in the water.
Ferdinand then meets another man, Ferdinand the Unfaithful who’s learned everything about him by wicked magic and they go to an inn. A girl there falls in love with Ferdinand the Faithful and tells him he should stay and take service with the king. She next gets him a place as a postilion. Ferdinand the Unfaithful also gets her to get him a place, because she doesn’t trust him and wants to keep an eye on him. The king laments that he doesn’t have his love. Ferdinand the Unfaithful persuades him to send Ferdinand the Faithful for her. Ferdinand the Faithful thinks he can’t and whines, but the horse says he needs a ship full of bread and a ship full of meat and to get them from the king. When he does, Ferdinand the Faithful and the horse set out. He appeases the birds along the way with the bread and giants with meat. And with the giants’ help, he carries off the sleeping princess to the king.
The princess declares she can’t live without her magical writings from the castle. So the king send Ferdinand the Faithful for them. With the horse’s help, he gets them the same way. On the way back, he drops the pen into the water. The horse says it can no longer help him. So Ferdinand the Faithful plays the flute and has the fish bring back the pen. The princess marries the king and becomes queen, but she doesn’t love her husband. One day, she claims to know magical arts and can cut someone’s head off and put it back on again. Ferdinand the Unfaithful. She cuts off his head and puts it back on again. Then the king says she could do it on him as well, and she cuts of his head, pretends to put it back on, and marries Ferdinand the Faithful. The horse has Ferdinand the Faithful take it back to the castle and ride around it 3 times. It changes back into a king’s son.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, there are a couple beheadings.
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Giambattista Basile in his 1634 Pentamarone.
Best Known Version: The Basile version, naturally.
Synopsis: Corvetto loyally serves his king and is favored by him. Envious fellow servants try slandering him, but fail. An ogre lives nearby and has a magnificent horse. The servants encourage the king should send Corvetto to steal it. Corvetto goes and jumps on the horse. It shouts to its master, who chases after with wild animals (one of them a werewolf), but Corvetto rides it off. The king’s even more pleased. The other servants tell him to send Corvetto after the ogre’s tapestry. Corvetto goes, hides under the ogres’ bed, and during the night, steals both the tapestries and the counterpane from the bed. This causes the ogre and ogress to argue about who stole them. He drops them by the window and flees back to the king. The servants then persuade the king to send Corvetto for the entire palace. He goes and talks to the ogress, offering to help her. She asks him to split wood for her. He uses the ax to her neck. Then he digs a deep pit in the doorway and covers it. He lures the ogre and his friends into it, stones them to death, and gives the king the palace.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: The end is incredibly violent.
190. The Mermaid and the Boy
From: Sami and Scandinavia
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Josef Calasanz Poestion in Lapplandische Märchen.
Best Known Version: The Andrew Lang version in his The Brown Fairy Book.
Synopsis: Having been married a year, a king sets out to settle disputes among some distant subjects. His ship is caught in a storm and is about to founder on the rocks. A mermaid appears and promises to save him as long as he promises to give her his firstborn child. As the sea becomes more and more threatening, the king agrees. On his return to the kingdom, he finds out his firstborn son had been born and tells the queen what he promised. They raise their son. When the youth turns 16, the king and queen decide to have him leave home so the mermaid can’t find him when she comes to collect on that promise. The royal couple then send the prince into the world.
On his first night, the prince meets a hungry lion and shares his food with the beast. The lion repays the kindness by giving him its ear tip and tells him this gift would help him transform into a lion any time he wants to. The next time, the prince turns into a lion and travels that way until he tires of it and turns back into a man. That night, the same thing happens with a bear asking for food and repaying in kindness with its ear tip that would turn the prince into a bear whenever he wants to. The following day, after sharing food with a bumblebee, he receives hair from its wing that would transform the prince into a bumblebee so he could fly all day without tiring. The prince continues his adventure, arriving at a city where a young man-hating princess resides and permits no men in her presence. When everyone turns in for the night, the prince turns himself into a bee and flies into the princess’ room. He turns himself back into a man and the princess shrieks. But when guards run in to protect her, they find nothing. So they leave. Once again, the prince turns himself back into a man and the princess screams. The guards return, find nothing, and leave. This time, they decide she’s crazy and will ignore her future screams. So when the prince becomes a man once again, the guards don’t respond to the princess’ cries.
The prince woos the princess and she falls in love with him. She tells him that in 3 days, her dad will go to war and leave his sword behind. And whoever brings it to him will gain her hand. He agrees to do so, and tells her if he doesn’t return, she should play the violin on the beach loud enough to reach the sea floor. The prince leaves for war with the king. When the king discovers he forgot his sword, he promises his entourage whoever brings his sword back to him will have the princess’ hand and inherit the throne. The young prince and other knights take off for the city to retrieve the sword. The prince gets ahead by scaring off the other knights by transforming into a lion. Reaching the palace, the princess gives him the sword and breaks her ring into 2, giving him one ring and keeping the other to signify their betrothal. Leaving the palace, the prince meets the Red Knight who tries taking the sword from him by force but fails. However, soon afterwards, the prince stops to drink and the mermaid, realizing he’s the prince promised to her, grabs him and brings him with her to the bottom of the sea. The Red Knight finds the sword and carries it off to the king to claim is prize.
Soon the war is over. The king returns to his kingdom and tells the princess she must marry the Red Knight. During the wedding feast, the princess, recalling what the prince had told her, goes to the shore and plays the violin. The mermaid hears her song but the prince claims not to hear it and asks her to raise him higher and higher in the sea so he can. On reaching the surface, the prince transforms himself into a bee and flies to the princess who carries him away. The princess brings the prince to the feast and challenges the Red Knight to turn himself into a lion, a bear, and a bee. He fails at all 3. She then asks the prince to do so and he does all 3. The princess tells her dad that it’s the prince who retrieved the sword and shows their matching rings. The king hangs the Red Knight while the princes and princess marry.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Sneaking into a woman’s room to get into her pants will get anyone arrested and no she will not fall in love with you.