When it comes to European fairy tales, we often imagine them taking place in medieval times for some reason. Yet, as you see in Disney movies, it’s doesn’t always have to be the case. After all, their version of The Little Mermaid features a steamboat. Also, the Princess and the Frog takes place in New Orleans during the 1920s. Still, whenever you see a fairy tale adaptation, it’s usually at a time when there’s no electricity or modern medicine. Anyway, in this installment, I give you another 10 forgotten fairy tales. First, we have a Greek tale of a sleeping prince followed by a Hungarian story of a woman who springs forth from a bulrush. Second, we come to 2 Scottish tales about a weirdly named prince and a horned sheep. Third, are French stories about a bee and an orange tree and an enchanted canary. After that, we have a Norwegian story of a girl with a special fairy godmother along with an Italian tale about a myrtle and European story of a hazel-nut kid. And finally, we got an Irish story about a guy and his animal friends.
231. The Sleeping Prince
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Georgios A. Megas in Folktales of Greece.
Best Known Version: The Megas version, naturally.
Synopsis: A widowed king has only his daughter and must go to war. The princess promises to stay with her nurse while he’s gone. One day, an eagle comes by and says the princess will marry a dead man and returns the next day. She tells her nurse and her nurse instructs her to take the eagle to take her to him. When it comes the third day, the princess requests just that and it brings her to the palace where a prince sleeps like the dead. Nearby is a paper saying that whoever has pity on him must watch him for 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, 3 hours, and 3 half-hours without sleeping. And then, when he sneezes, she must bless him and identify herself as the one who watched. He and the whole castle will wake and he’ll marry that woman. She watches for 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days. She then hears someone offering to hire maids, and the princess takes one for company. The maid persuades her to sleep, the prince sneezes, and the maid claims him. She then tells him to let the princess to sleep and when she wakes up, sets her to tend geese. And since the prince’s dad isn’t around, he becomes king.
The king has to go to war. He asks the queen what she wants. She asks for a golden crown. The king then asks the goose girl and she requests for the millstone of patiences, the hangman’s rope, and the butcher’s knife. And if he doesn’t bring them, his ship will neither go backward or forward. He forgets them and the ship doesn’t move. An old man asks if the king promised anything so he buys the goose girl’s items. He gives his wife the crown and the other things to the goose girl. That evening, he goes down to her room. She tells her story to the things and asks them what she should do. The butcher’s knife tells her to stab herself. The rope recommends she hang herself. However, the millstone advises her to have patience. The princess then asks for the rope again and goes to hang herself. Fortunately, the king breaks in and saves her, declaring she’s his wife and that he’d hang the other with the rope. She tells him only to send her away. They go to her dad for his blessing.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Negatively portrays lower-class people as opportunists. Also features a suicide attempt.
Trivia: Has nothing to do with the play that inspired The Prince and the Showgirl.
232. Lovely Ilonka
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Andrew Lang in his The Crimson Fairy Book.
Best Known Version: The Lang version, obviously.
Synopsis: A prince wants to marry but his dad tells him to wait, saying he can’t until he wins the golden sword he carries. One day, the prince meets an old woman and asks about her 3 bulrushes. She asks he stay the night. In the morning, she summons all the world’s crows but they don’t hear. The prince then meets an old man who also has him stay the night. In the morning, all the ravens don’t hear. The prince next meets another old woman who tells him it’s well that he greeted her or he’d have suffered a horrible death. The next morning, she summons magpies. And a crippled magpie leads the prince to a great wall behind which are 3 bulrushes. He starts taking them home, but one breaks open. A lovely maiden flies out asking for water and flies out when he has none. He splits the second, the same thing happens. However, the prince takes great care of the third by not splitting it until reaching the well. With the water, she stays, and they agree to marry.
The prince takes the maiden to his dad’s country, where he leaves her with a swineherd while he goes to get a carriage. The swineherd throws her into a well and dresses his daughter in her clothes. Though the prince is distressed, he brings back the swineherd’s daughter, marries her, and upon receiving a crown, becomes king. One day, the king sends a coachman to the well where Ilonka had been drowned. He sees a white duck before it vanishes and a dirty woman appears before him. She gets a place in the castle as a housemaid. While not working, she spins with her distaff and spindle spinning on their own and she’s never out of flax to spin. The queen (who’s the swineherd’s daughter) wants the distaff, but Ilonka will only sell it for a night in the king’s bedroom. The queen agrees but gives her husband a sleeping draught. Ilonka speaks to the king but he doesn’t respond. She thinks he’s ashamed of her. The queen wants the spindle, Ilonka tries again, but again the king sleeps. The third time, the queen makes the same agreement for the flax, but the king’s 2 servants warn him so he refuses everything. When Ilonka appears to him, he hears her. He has the swineherd and the queen hung and marries Ilonka.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Features drowning and hanging.
233. Nix Nought Nothing
From: Scotland and England
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Andrew Lang. Though his version makes it unclear how the giant’s daughter thwarts and eventually kills her dad during the chase. Also Nix Nought Nothing is already given a head start even before the giant’s pursuit even begins. So there’s no mention of a curse or any cause for slumber. In addition, the gardener’s wife and daughter are merely deceived by the giant’s daughter’s reflection and too bonny to draw water. While the giant’s daughter learns from the gardener of Nix Nought Nothing’s betrothal to the king’s daughter who’s also his sister. Thus, a promise for him to marry a maiden who wakes him up is lacking. Bears similarities to Jason and Medea.
Best Known Version: The Joseph Jacobs version in his English Fairy Tales.
Synopsis: A queen gives birth to a son while the king is away. Not wanting to christen him until his dad returns, she names him Nix Nought Nothing until that time. However, the king’s gone for a very long time that Nix Nought Nothing grows into a boy. As the king journeys home, a giant offers to help him over a river in return for “Nix Nought Nothing.” Not knowing he has a son by that name, the king agrees. However, upon learning what he had done, the king tries giving the giant the hen-wife’s son, and then the gardener’s son. But both boys betray their origins and the giant kills them. In the end, the royal couple have to give the prince to the giant. Now the giant has a daughter. She and the prince grow very fond of each other. When the prince is grown and the giant sends him to clean the stables, the giant’s daughter summons animals to do it for him. When the giant sends him to empty a lake, she summons fish to drink it. When the giant commands the prince to bring down a bird’s nest from a tall tree without breaking any eggs, his daughter cuts off her fingers and toes to make a stairway. But one egg breaks during that adventure. So the prince and the giant’s daughter decide to flee. The giant chases after them. The girl has Nix Nought Nothing throw down her comb, which becomes a brier. Then her hair dagger, which becomes a razor hedge. She next dashes a magic flask, producing a wave drowning the giant.
The giant’s daughter is too weary to go on and sends Nix Nought Nothing ahead of her to the king’s castle. But the hen-wife whose son had died curses him and he falls into a deep sleep as soon as he arrives. The king and queen still don’t recognize their grown son. So the king promises whichever maiden can wake the sleeping man shall marry him. Finally the giant’s daughter arrives to the castle, climbing a tree over a well to watch the prince. But when her reflection falls on the water’s surface, the gardener’s daughter coming to fetch water mistakes the image for her own. She decides she’s pretty enough to be a contender to marry the sleeping stranger. After learning about a counteracting spell to ward off the prince’s sleepiness for as long as she wants from the hen-wife, the gardener’s daughter succeeds in waking him long enough to secure his marriage promise. Meanwhile, while doing his own water chore, the gardener discovers the giant’s daughter up in the tree and brings her inside his house, breaking the news that his daughter’s set to marry the stranger and shows her Nix Nought Nothing.
The giant’s daughter sings her imploring charm for her sleeping beloved to awaken, recalling all she had done for him. But it’s to no avail. Then she calls him Nix Nought Nothing, revealing to the king and queen that he’s their own son. They make the gardener’s daughter remove the spell, executes the hen-wife, and marries Nix Nought Nothing to the giant’s daughter.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Features body mutilation, drowning, Also features a relationship between a guy and the giant (which might remind you of Hagrid’s parents. Then again the giants in this tale might be more like Loki in Thor or in Norse mythology. Since despite him being a frost giant, Loki’s always depicted as a normal sized man.)
234. The Bee and the Orange Tree
Earliest Appearance: Written by Madame d’Aulnoy.
Best Known Version: Guess the d’Aulnoy version, I suppose.
Synopsis: After many childless years, a king and queen have a daughter named Aimee. Unfortunately, a ship she’s on wrecks. But as fate would have it, she drifts ashore in her cradle. An ogre couple find her. And instead of eating her, the ogress decides to raise her, thinking she’d make a good wife for her son when she grows up. She then summons a deer from the woods to nurse the baby. After 15 years, the king and queen give up hope of finding the princess. So the king tells his brother to send his best son to be heir to the throne. The brother chooses the second son. Meanwhile Aimee grows up among the ogres. A little ogre falls in love with her, but the thought of marrying him revolts her. She regularly walks along the shore after storms, protecting things swept ashore from the ogres. One day, she finds and saves a man who just happens to be her cousin. Although neither know the truth or even speak each other’s language. Somehow she manages to understand that he has to hide in a cave. After some time hiding and feeding him, Aimee wishes to show her friendship by giving him the locket she wore. It has her name on it, leading the prince to deduce from her looks that she’s indeed his cousin, the princess Aimee.
The little ogre decides it’s time for him and the princess to marry. Horror-struck Aimee flees to the prince. When she returns, she injures her foot on a thorn and can no longer walk. The prince wonders why she doesn’t come. And when he tries to find her, he’s captured. Now every night, the ogres put on golden crowns before going to bed. The princess sneaks in that night, takes the little ogre’s crown from his head, and puts it on the prince’s. The ogre wakes up, seizes on the sleeping little ogre who no longer has a crown, and eats him. Again the next night, Aimee steals another ogre’s crown to place on the prince’s head. This time, the ogress eats the crownless ogre. The princess remembers the magic wand the ogress uses to summon the deer. With it, she gives herself the power to speak the prince’s language. He tells her who she is. So the princess decides to steal the ogres’ camel so they could safely ride away. She uses a wand to enchant a bean and hide their escape. It speaks when the ogress asks anything. However, the ogress finally realizes they fled. The ogre uses his 7-league boots to follow.
When the ogre catches up, the princes turns herself into a boatwoman, the prince into a boat, and the camel into a lake: to confuse the ogre. He finds nothing. But when he returns, the ogress tells him how they’ve been transformed with her stolen magic wand. So he sets out to find them again. This time Aimee turns herself into a dwarf, the prince into a portrait, and the camel into a pillar. When the ogre reaches his her, she tells an elaborate story about how the prince fought in a tournament in honor of the lady in the picture. This time the ogress comes after them. The princess turns the prince into an orange tree, herself into a bee, and the camel into a box. The princess stings the ogress and drives her off. But some travelers carry off the wand. Without it, the princess can’t change the group back into their prior forms.
A princess named Linda walks into the woods where the orange tree stands. Linda tries to have the tree transplanted in her gardens. Aimee stings her out of jealousy. The prince and princess fight but soon reconcile. When Linda tries again, Aimee stings her. Linda tries arming herself with a branch. But once she does, blood flows from the tree. Aimee goes fetching balm for the wound. A fairy visits the princess and when she detects the enchantment, the fairy restores the prince. He tells his story and she restores Aimee as well, before bringing them to their parents, where they marry.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Features cannibalism, inter-family homicide, and first cousin romance.
235. The Enchanted Canary
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Charles Deulin in Contes du roi Cambrinus as “Désiré d’Amour.”
Best Known Version: The one collected by Andrew Lang in his The Red Fairy Book.
Synopsis: The fattest lord in Flanders dearly loves his son. One day, the young man tells his dad he doesn’t find Flanders women attractive. Nor does he wish to marry a woman who’s pink and white since he doesn’t find them beautiful either. They then receive a basket of oranges, which they’ve never seen before and eat them. The son dreams of an orchard with trees of such “golden apples,” which hold a golden-skinned princess. He sets out to find and marry her. At night, he stops at a little hut, where an old man tells him that in a nearby forest, there’s a park, which holds a castle. A witch lives there. One he arrives, the young man must oil the hinges, feed a loaf of bread to the dog, give a brush to the baking woman, and take the rope out of the well. Then he should get 3 oranges and return without touching them until he reaches water. Then, each one would be a princess and he could marry whichever one he loves. But once he makes his choice, he must never leave her.
The young man obeys. He hears a witch calling after him, to the things to kill him. But the rope refuses since he keeps it from rotting and so on with the others. But once he escapes, he can’t find water so he opens the oranges in hopes of juice. A canary flies out and off to find water. Despite himself, he tries a second, and the same thing happens. But he falls unconscious until nighttime revives him. He reaches a stream where he opens the third. When the third canary flies out, he gives it water. It becomes a beautiful princess. The young man brings her back, but he refuses to take her to the castle afoot. So he goes ahead to get a carriage and horses. While he’s gone, she hears a noise and climbs a tree for fear it’s a wolf. However, it’s an ugly maidservant who sees the princess’ reflection in the pool and takes it as her own. Thus, she thinks herself too pretty to carry water. She’s sent back twice. But the third time, the maidservant realizes the reflection is someone else’s. She speaks to the princess and tells her story. Sticking a pin to her head, the maidservant transforms the princess back into a canary. When the young man returns, she tells him that she’d been turned into this. The young man blames himself.
At the wedding feast, the canary appears in the kitchen window and enchants whoever’s cooking the goose so that it burns each time. The third time, the scullion catches it and is about to wring its neck when the lord comes down to see what happened. Thinking the canary’s lovely, the lord strokes it, making him find the pin. He pulls it out and the princess is unenchanted. The maidservant is condemned to death but the princess obtains her a pardon so she goes back to her regular job. The young man and the princess marry.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Not sure why.
236. The Lassie and Her Godmother
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe in Norske Folkeeventyr.
Best Known Version: The Asbjørnsen and Moe version, of course.
Synopsis: A poor couple has a baby girl. They want the baby christened but can’t afford the parson’s fees. At last, the dad finds a beautiful lady offering to get the child christened, but also saying she’ll keep her as her own kid afterwards. The dad speaks to his wife about it. She refuses. But when the beautiful lady makes the same offer the next day, his wife agrees they should accept if they can’t find anyone else. The child’s christened and the lady takes her home and treats her kindly. When the girl’s old enough to know right from wrong, the lady leaves forbidding her to go into certain rooms. The girl looks into one and a star springs out. Her foster mom is pissed but at her pleading, lets the girl stay. The next time the foster mom goes away, the girl opens the second door, and a moon springs out. Again, the girl appeases the angry foster mom. But the third time, when the girl lets out the sun, the foster mom insists she has to leave. Furthermore, she could either speak and be ugly or be beautiful and mute. The girl takes the pretty option. She then wanders the woods until nightfall when she climbs a tree over water and sleeps there. Several female servants sent from the castle to fetch water see her reflection, think it’s their own, and decide they’re too pretty for fetching water. Finally, the prince goes himself, realizes she’s there, and coaxes her down to be his queen. His mom objects, arguing she can’t speak and might be a witch. Nevertheless, he marries her.
When the princess is about to have her first child, the prince sets watch about her. But they all fall asleep. So the foster mom comes, takes the baby, and smears the princess’ mouth with blood, saying she’d be sorry as she had been when the girl let out that star. Everyone thinks she killed and ate the child. And the prince’s mom would have her burned if her son didn’t plead for his wife. The same thing happens the second time, though the watch is twice as long. The foster mom decrees that the girl would be as sorry as she was when the girl let out the moon. The third time, the watch is 3 times as long. The foster mom decrees that she’d be as sorry as she was when the girl let out the sun. And the prince can’t save her. But when they’re leading the princess to the fire, the foster mom appears with the kids, restoring them to their parents, saying the girl had been sufficiently punished. She also reveals herself to be the Virgin Mary and restores her speech. Thereafter, everyone lives happily and even the queen grows to love her young daughter-in-law.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Look, I know being disobedient out of curiosity is one thing. But it’s nothing worth kidnapping children and smearing their mom’s mouth with blood over it. Good God. Also, having her being the Virgin Mary makes it even worse. Seriously, having the Virgin Mary kidnap kids is like seeing Daenerys ride on Drogon to commit genocide on King’s Landing.
237. The Myrtle
Earliest Appearance: Written by Giambattista Basile in his 1634 work, the Pentamerone.
Best Known Version: The Basile version, naturally.
Synopsis: A woman wishes for a child, even a sprig of myrtle. She gives birth to such a sprig. She and her husband put it in a pot and tend it. A prince sees it, takes a fancy to it, and finally persuades the woman to sell it to him. He keeps it in his room and takes great care of it. One night, a woman comes to his bed, and comes every night thereafter before vanishing the next morning. After a week, the prince ties her hair to his arm. In the morning, she confesses to being the myrtle and they pledge their love. After some time, he has to hunt a wild boar, and asks her to become a myrtle again while he’s gone. She tells him to attach a bell to her and ring it when he wants her back. While the prince is away, 7 wicked women find their way in and ring the bell. Seeing the woman, all but the youngest tear her to pieces. In despair, the chamberlain puts the pieces back into a pot. The myrtle sprouts again. When the prince returns and rings the bell, she doesn’t reappear. He sees the ruin and despairs. Seeing it, the woman reappears from the sprouts. With his dad’s leave, the prince marries her. At the wedding, he asks what’s the suitable punishment for anyone who’d tear his bride to pieces. Many punishments are suggested. The 7 women claim the criminal should be buried alive. The prince agrees and has 6 of them buried in the dungeon. While he marries the youngest sister to the chamberlain.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: The heroine is literally torn to pieces and 6 women are buried alive.
238. The Hazel-Nut Child
From: Central and Eastern Europe
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Polish-German scholar Heinrich von Wlislocki in Märchen Und Sagen Der Bukowinaer Und Siebenbûrger Armenier.
Best Known Version: The Andrew Lang version in his The Yellow Fairy Book.
Synopsis: A childless couple prays for a child, though he were no bigger than a hazelnut. Then they have such a son. He never grows but he’s really smart. When the boy’s 15, he says he wants to be a messenger. His mom sends him to get a comb from his aunt. He climbs on a horse that a man’s riding by, poking and pinching it until it gallops to the village. There he gets the comb and takes another horse the same way. This convinces his mom. One day, the dad leaves him in the fields with a horse while he goes back home. A robber tries stealing the horse. The hazel-nut child jumps on the horse and pricks it until it ignores the robber and gallops home. The robber’s jailed. When he’s 20, the hazel-nut child leaves home, promising to return when he’s rich. He climbs on a stork as they’re flying south. In Africa, he amuses the king who gives him a large diamond. The hazel-nut child takes it with him when the storks fly north with him. So he and his parents are rich thereafter.
Other Versions: Included in Ruth Manning-Sanders’ A Book of Dwarfs.
Why Forgotten: There doesn’t seem to be much of a plot.
239. Jack and His Comrades
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Patrick Kennedy in his Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts.
Best Known Version: The Joseph Jacobs version in his Celtic Fairy Tales.
Synopsis: Jack tells his mom he’ll seek his fortune. His mom offers him half a hen and half a cake with her blessing or whole of both and without. He asks for the halves of both and receives wholes of both with her blessing (because you can’t divide a live chicken). On his way, Jack meets Neddy the Donkey in a bog and helps it out. Coley the Dog runs up to him for protection with a pot tied to its tail and crowd hunting it. The donkey bellows and scares them off. Jack unties the pot and shares his meal with the dog while the donkey eats thistles. Half-starved Tom the Cat comes by and Jack gives it a bone with meat. In the evening, they rescue a rooster from a fox. They go to sleep in the woods. Claiming to see dawn, the rooster crows. Jack realizes it’s a candle in a house. They spy a look inside and discover it to be a robbers’ den. With the donkey placing its fore-hoofs on the window sill, the animals stack one on top of another and make noise. Then at Jack’s deceptive call to raise the pistols and fire, the animals smash all the windows, frightening the robbers into bolting the house and riding far out into the woods. Jack and the animals enter the house, enjoy a meal, and go to sleep. After awhile, the robber captain sorely misses the loot he left behind. So he sneaks back inside the house in the dark. Only to receive, cat scratches, a dog bite, a rooster pecking, and a great kick from the donkey in the stable outside. Since he can’t see anything in the dark, the captain weaves a fancifully horrid account of what happened, adding that not all the plaster in Enniscorthy could heal the wounds and cuts he received. The other robbers lose all motivation of trying to recover their loot.
The next day, Jack and his comrades resolve to return the gold to its owner and journey to the Lord of Dunlavin’s manor. A crooked porter halts Jack at the door. Jack and the rest know from the thieves’ conversation the night before that this porter’s in league with them and complicit in the crime. The rooster sarcastically remarks and plainly accuses the porter providing the thieves safe passage through his master’s house door. The porter’s face turns red. The Lord of Dunlavin witnesses an interchange, who, addressing his porter by name (which is Barney), prods him to answer the charge. The porter replies, “sure I didn’t open the door to the six robbers,” thus betraying his own familiarity with the perpetrators. Jack announces that, no matter, since he arrives with the stolen gold and silver and requests dinner and lodging for the long ride from Athsalach. The grateful lord declares he’ll provide comfort for the rest of their days, appointing Jack as his steward who brings his mom to live at the castle, and eventually marries his lordship’s daughter.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: Not sure why.
240. The Sharp Grey Sheep
Earliest Appearance: Collected by John Francis Campbell in his Popular Tales of the West Highlands.
Best Known Version: The Campbell version, naturally.
Synopsis: A king and queen have a daughter. But the queen dies and the king marries another. The stepmother is cruel to the princess and sends her to watch the sheep while not giving her enough food to survive. A sharp (horned) gray sheep brings her food to help her. Knowing that she couldn’t be getting enough food to survive goes to a henwife who sends her daughter to spy. The princess tells the henwife’s daughter to set her head on her knee and she’ll dress her hair. The henwife’s daughter sleeps and the sheep comes to help her. Yet, she has an eye on the back of her head that’s not asleep so she watches through it and tells her mom. On learning that the sheep’s helping her stepdaughter, the stepmother orders it killed. The sheep tells the princess to gather her bones and hooves in the hide and it will return to her. The princess does but forgets the little hooves so the sheep is lame but keeps her fed.
A prince sees the princess and asks about her. The henwife’s daughter tells her mom and the henwife warns the queen. Thus, the queen brings her stepdaughter home to work around the house and sends her own daughter to tend the sheep. One day, when the stepdaughter walks outside, the prince gives her a pair of golden boots. He wants to see her at church, but the stepmother won’t let her go. So she goes secretly, sits where the prince could see her, and leaves quickly before her stepmother could spy her there. However, the princess loses her shoe in the mud and the prince declares he’ll marry whomever the shoe fits. The queen gets her daughter’s foot to fit by cutting off her toes. But a bird points out the blood to the prince. The prince finally finds the princess and marries her.
Other Versions: N/A
Why Forgotten: A girl has an eye on the back of her head. Also features body mutilation.