A Treasury of Forgotten Fairy Tales: Part 3 – East of Sun and West of Moon to Gold Tree and Silver Tree

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As you can see, most of the forgotten fairy tales you see will come from Europe. Indeed, Eurocentrism is part of it since there are plenty of fairy tales around the world that you never hear about. However, we have to keep in mind that fairy tales have always originated through oral tradition that’s passed on to generations. And it takes a long time for someone to write these stories down. In this installment in my blog series, I bring you another 10 forgotten fairy tales. First, are two Norwegian tales with monstrous beasts and amazing supernatural elements. Second, we have an Italian story about a merchant’s son who’s too generous for his own good. Third, is an English tale of a woman who becomes a royal servant in drag. After that we have two Russian stories with magical creatures and mystical lands. Next, are 3 Grimm tales about a man who tries cheating death, a golden goose, and a golden mountain. Lastly, is a Scottish version of Snow White that ends with a threesome and contains no dwarves whatsoever.

21. East of Sun and West of Moon

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The Norwegian tale East of Sun West of Moon opens when a white bear offers to fix a poor family’s situation in exchange for the youngest daughter. Indeed, he has a nice castle and the girl’s got a nice life save with that awkward sleeping situation.

From: Norway
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe. Though this might be the Norwegian version of Eros and Psyche from Greek mythology.
Best Known Version: Obviously, the Asbjørnsen and Moe version.
Synopsis: A white bear offers to take a poor family’s youngest child to fix their situation. The parents accept and the bear takes the young girl to a castle where a man slept in the same room as her at night in the dark. As such, she can’t see who it was. When she’s homesick, he lets her go home on the condition that she can’t stay with her mom alone. Of course, the girl doesn’t listen and takes a magic candle from her mom. When she returned to the castle, she’s able to see the face of the man who’s been visiting her bed at night who was actually the bear. After he yells at her and is revealed to be a handsome prince the whole time, his troll stepmother takes him away to marry a troll princess. But before leaving, he tells her that he’ll be at a land East of Sun and West of Moon.

So the girl sets off to find him, meeting a woman and her daughter along the way. The woman gives her a golden apple and lets her borrow a horse. She meets another woman who gives her a golden carding comb. While a third woman gives her a golden spinning will and tells her that she should find the east wind who might take her to her destination. But the east wind couldn’t help her as he never blew that far and suggest she visit the west wind. After the west wind gives her the same answer, she goes to the south and finally, north wind. The girl then gives up all her golden items to a princess in exchange for a night with the prince. But she couldn’t wake him the first 2 nights.

Eventually the servants tell him about the girl and he tosses away a drink (actually a sleeping potion) from the princess that night. In the end, the girl defeats the trolls by washing out the tallow from one of the prince’s shirts because the prince refused to marry a girl who couldn’t do something so simple. The trolls explode and everyone lives happily ever after.

Other Versions: Some versions have her knowing that she’s trying to break a curse. Sometimes she’s even told not to look at him for a few more nights and is given a cure by a wise woman who turns out to be the troll stepmother. Swedish version is “Prince Hat under the Ground.” Included in Andrew Lang’s The Blue Fairy Book.
Adaptations: Novels East by Edith Pattou and Once Upon a Winter’s Night by Dennis L. McKiernan. Also, ICE by Sarah Beth Durst which inserts some Inuit imagery. There’s even an adaptation by Mercer Mayer.
Why Forgotten: It’s popular in Norway. But it’s hardly mainstream. Perhaps the weird sleeping situation has something to do with it.
Trivia: N/A

22. Fair Brow
From: Italy
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Frederick Thomas Crane in Italian Popular Tales.
Best Known Version: Probably the Crane translation.
Synopsis: A merchant sends out his son, Fair Brow with some money to trade. He blows that on paying off a dead man’s debts so he can be buried. The merchant gives him another sum, which he spends on a kidnapped slave whom he marries. Thus, since Fair Brow’s too altruistic for his dad’s bottom line, the merchant throws him out and he can’t work. Luckily his wife’s an artist who has him sell her paintings but warns him not to tell anyone who paints them. Unfortunately, some Turks recognize them as the Sultan’s daughter work, trick Fair Brow into revealing his wife’s identity, and abduct her once more. He goes east and meets an old man who asks him to go fishing with him. A storm carries them off to Turkey where they’re enslaved as the Sultan’s gardeners. His wife recognizes him and they run off with her maids and much treasure. The old man demands half share for both the gold and the wife. But Fair Brow insists he takes the larger share of the treasure instead. The old man reveals he’s the ghost of the man he buried and leaves him with all the treasure before vanishing. They return home. Fair Brow’s dad comes to live with them and dies shortly afterward after making him his heir.

Other Versions: Italo Calvino has a variant in his Italian Folk Tales.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: It’s kind of specific to the region while it also involves bad Middle Eastern stereotypes.
Trivia: N/A

23. The Famous Flower of Serving Men

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In the English The Famous Flower of the Serving Men, a young woman dresses in drag and gets a job at the palace as a chamberlain. Though it’s only a matter of time when she gets the king’s attention.

From: England
Earliest Appearance: Child Ballad #106. Collected by Francis Child.
Best Known Version: Probably Child’s version.
Synopsis: A woman’s husband and child are murdered by her mother’s knights. After the funeral, she dresses herself as a man and works for the king, where she eventually becomes his chamberlain (essentially the masculine equivalent of a chambermaid). One day, the king goes hunting where a white hind leads him into the forest. The king reaches a clearing, the deer vanishes and a bird appears (the personification of the woman’s dead husband) lamenting what’s happened to his love. The king asks why and the bird tells his story. Realizing he no longer had to question his sexuality when his favorite “chamberlain” was in the room, he kisses the still dressed as a man servant in front of the assembled court to their shock. The woman’s mother is put to death and the two marry.

Other Versions: Child’s version has the woman lament her fate during the king’s hunting trip and a servant overhears it. Some have the woman’s mother her stepmother.
Adaptations: Well, it’s been covered a lot.
Why Forgotten: Though the protagonist is a woman disguised as a man, the title might drive off some who may not be comfortable with the LGBT community. Also, contains a grisly murder scene.
Trivia: N/A

24. The Feather of Finist the Falcon

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In the Russian tale, The Feather of Finist the Falcon, a merchant’s daughter is given to marry a falcon. Actually, the falcon is quite nice. But the sisters, not so much.

From: Russia
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki.
Best Known Version: The Afanasyev version obviously.
Synopsis: Before going to the fair, a merchant asks his three daughters what they want him to bring back. The two plain, nasty, and vain older sisters asked for rich gifts. The pretty and nice youngest daughter asks for a red flower to put at her window. Twice he remembered to bring the expensive gifts but forgot about the flower. He remembered the third time but couldn’t find one anywhere at the fair. On the way home, he meets an old man who had one for the future bride of his son, Finist the Falcon. The merchant gets it only on the condition his daughter marry his son.

After her dad explains the whole situation, the daughter agrees to marry if he wooed her. That night, a falcon flew into her room and transformed into a handsome prince. He gave her a feather which would conjure whatever she wished. As her sisters went to Mass the next day in all their finery, she waited until they were gone before summoning a coach and fine attire and herself. Even her own family didn’t recognize her. But when she returned home early and sent away her treasures, she forgot to remove a diamond ornament from her hair. Her envious sisters tell their dad that she must’ve taken a secret sugar daddy. When he didn’t listen, they roofie their sister with sleeping potion and put knives in the window so the falcon is badly injured. Thinking his fiancee caused this, the falcon curses the girl, “My beautiful dearest, hast thou ceased so soon to love me? Never shalt thou see me again unless thou searchest through three times nine countries, to the thirtieth Tsardom, and thou shalt first wear through three pairs of iron shoes, and break in pieces three iron staves, and gnaw away three holy church-loaves of stone. Only then shalt thou find thy lover, Finist the Falcon!”

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After her sisters put knives in Finist the Falcon’s wings, the girl sets off to find him. Here she overlooks an immense castle.

The girl sees the blood the next morning and remembers hearing the words in her sleep. She has the shoes, staves, and bread made out and sets out to look for him. Along the way, he meets 3 of Finist’s elderly relatives, telling her he was due to marry and give her magic trinkets as a wedding gifts. Reaching the Tsardom of Finist’s new bride, the daughter finds a servant unable to wash the blood out of Finist’s shirt. But her own tears of sorrow washed it clean, attracting his bride’s attention. The daughter gets a job as a scullery maid, but even then, she couldn’t catch Finist’s eye. The cruel and greedy bride offered to trade her 3 nights to sit up by him, each bought with one of the 3 trinkets. Each night, the daughter weeps and begs over Finist’s bedside. But the bride had put an enchanted pin in Finist’s hair so he wouldn’t wake up. Despairing on the third night, she leaned over to kiss him removing the pin for fear it might him. He wakes up and is joyfully reunited with his beloved. The next day, Finist summoned all to court and asked whether he should marry the woman who bought him or the one who sold him. All agree he should be with the former so he marries the daughter.

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Reaching the castle, the girl gets a job as a scullery maid and bribes Finist’s fiancée 3 times in order to see the guy. The first 2 he’s sleeping in his bed. On the third night, she removes the pin keeping him out.

Other Versions: In some versions, the girl goes to her dad, goes to church with Finist in all her finery, and has her sisters talk about seeing a prince and princess there. The girl confesses and marries Finist.
Adaptations: Retold by Josepha Sherman as The Shining Falcon. Also made into a Russian film.
Why Forgotten: Well, it’s popular in Russia. Nonetheless, there’s a scene of violence involving knives at a window.
Trivia: N/A

25. The Fire Bird, the Horse of Power, and the Princess Vasilissa

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In the Russian tale, The Firebird, the Horse of Power, and the Princess Vasilissa, a Tsar sends an archer and his wonder horse on a series of impossible tasks. Of course, the horse does all the work.

From: Russia
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki.
Best Known Version: Probably the Afanasyev version.
Synopsis: One of the Tsar’s archers had a horse of power. One day riding through the forest, he saw a marvelous feather which he knew must’ve been shed by the legendary Firebird. Despite the horse’s warnings to not pick it up, he does so anyway, thinking the tsar would reward him. But the tsar demanded that he bring back the whole firebird or lose his head. Terrified, the archer asks the horse what to do. On its advice, he requests that 100 maize sacks be spread over a field at night. The firebird arrives at dawn as he and the horse capture it. But as soon as he arrives with his price, the king sends him on another quest to go to the world’s very edge and bring back Princess Vasilissa as his bride. At the horse’s advice, the archer asks for a silver tent with a golden roof along with food for the journey. He rides to her land, sets up a tent, and spread out the food. When the princess arrives out of curiosity, the archer invites her to eat and drink. She drank and falls asleep, he carries her off on the horse.

Despite such treatment, Vasilissa prefers the handsome young archer to the old and greedy tsar. So she refuses to marry him without her wedding dress which was still in her own country and still hidden in the sea besides. Again, the king dispatches the archer who rode to the world’s edge on his horse. On the shore, the horse waited until it could get between the enormous lobster and the sea before stepping on its tail and not letting it go until it agreed to bring up the wedding dress. After his return, Vasilissa still wouldn’t wed until the archer had been boiled alive as punishment for abducting her. Terrified, he asks to see his horse one last time, but the horse advises him to submit. The princess waves her hand over the boiling cauldron. The archer plunges in and comes out unharmed and even handsomer than before. The tsar jumps in afterwards and boils to death. After the funeral, the archer becomes tsar in his place, marries Vasilissa, and built a nice stable for his horse to show his gratitude.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Adapted into a Soviet cartoon called Ivan and His Magic Pony.
Why Forgotten: Let’s just say, the fact the princess requests the archer dive into a boiling cauldron will certainly scare the crap out of you. Luckily, he’s fine. But the Tsar should’ve really taken the Don’t Try This at Home disclaimer very seriously. Then again, that was Princess Vasilissa’s intention. Also, it’s from Russia. Not to mention Princess Vasilissa wouldn’t fit in a Disney movie as she manipulates her way to get the man she wants.
Trivia: N/A

26. The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body

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In The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body, a young prince sets off to find his brothers after they and their new wives end up petrified. There he meets a hostage princess and they conspire to get rid of the giant.

From: Norway
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe.
Best Known Version: Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe’s version, obviously.
Synopsis: A king has 7 sons who he loves very much that he always had to keep one of them with him. One day, he sends the older 6 to find brides and directed to bring back a seventh for their little brother. The brothers met a king with 6 daughters who were so lovely that they forgot about their brother. On the way back, they pass too closely by a giant’s home. And the giant turned them all into stone. Seeing that his brothers didn’t return, the king wanted his youngest to never leave. But the prince finally persuaded him and set out. He gave his food to a raven, helped a salmon back into the river, and gave his horse to a starving wolf on the condition it help him as his steed. The wolf brought him to the giant’s house, showed him his brothers and their brides and told him where to go and do whatever the princess instructed him.

The princess warned him that the giant didn’t keep his heart in his body so he couldn’t be killed the usual way. Rather, she had him hide and begged the giant to tell him where his heart was. He claimed it was under the door sill. But when she and the prince dug there the next day, they find nothing. The princess adorned it with flowers and told the giant it was to honor the place where his heart lay. The giant told her it was in the cupboard, which was the same. And the princess strewed the flowers again. Finally, he tells her: “Far, far away in a lake lies an island; on that island stands a church; in that church is a well; in that well swims a duck; in that duck there is an egg, and in that egg there lies my heart, — you darling!” With the assistance of the wolf, salmon, and raven, the prince gets the heart. He squeezes it and demands that the giant his brothers and brides. The giant refuses. So the prince squeezes the heart in half and kills him. They all return to their dad. While the youngest prince marries the princess the giant held hostage, who was the prettiest one of all.

Other Versions: Included in Ruth Manning Sanders’ A Book of Giants. A harsher version has the prince split and eat the giant’s heart and use its head as a trophy.
Adaptations: Retold by George MacDonald as “The Giant’s Heart.”
Why Forgotten: This basically involves a guy stumbling to a house outside of town where he falls in with some other guy’s wife and they conspire to kill her husband. Granted, the giant really deserves it, but yeah it’s kind of unsettling how similar the plot is to movies like Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Trivia: Has a variant in a Mario video game.

27. Godfather Death

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The Grimms’ Godfather Death is about the Grim Reaper taking a young man under his wing and helping him to become a doctor. But when he tries to cheat death is when the trouble starts.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm Brothers’ version is the most famous.
Synopsis: A poor man has his 13th child. And since he’s already asked every suitable candidate he knows to be godparents to his other 12 kids, finding one for his newborn son is a serious problem that he’s eventually asking random strangers he meets on the road. After meeting God and the Devil and rejecting them as godfathers, the man meets a stranger claiming he’s Death and would like to be his son’s godfather. This time, the man accepts.

When the boy comes of age, Death visits and declares he’s going to make his godson a famous physician. Showing him a magic herb, he tells the young man that whenever he’ll visit a patient, he’ll see Death standing at the sick person’s head or feet. If Death stood on the head, the patient can be cured. But if he stood at the bed’s foot end, well, that one gonna die. Armed with this knowledge, the young man becomes a famous and wealthy doctor. One day, the physician is called to cure the king. But Death stands at the king’s feet. Yet, because the sick man is a king, the doctor turns the bed around so that Death could stand at the head. The trick works and the king gets better.

However, Death is super pissed for his godson tricking him. He lets it slide but only with a warning that if he does it again, he’ll take the doctor’s life. Not long after, the princess falls ill. The king promise his daughter’s hand in marriage and inheritance of the crown to the physician if he could cure her. But when the doctor sees the princess, he sees Death at her feet. Ignoring this and wanting to marry the princess and get her dad’s sweet kingdom so badly, the physician turns the bed so princess can get better. But Death grabs the doctor by the arm and drags him to a cave with millions of candles each burned to different lengths. Death explains that each candle’s length shows how much longer a person has to live. When Death shows the physician his candle, the doctor notices that It’s very short. So he doesn’t have much time left.

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After reviving the princess when she should’ve died, Death brings the physician to a cave of candles. Each candle represents each person and the longer it is, the longer the person will live. Still, if you think the hero in this tale gets a happy ending, you’re sorely mistaken.

The physician pleads with his godfather to light him a new candle so he’d live a long and happy life as a king and husband to a beautiful princess. He then walks to his child’s candle and tries to make it his own. But Death says he can’t for if one must be lit, one must go out. The physician begs that he take out one candle to light a new one. Death obeys. He walks to the physician’s candle and looks at it. But just as he’s about to light a new candle, Death lifts his scythe and the boy’s candle goes out. And the physician falls dead to the ground as Death whispers, “You once looked for the most righteous one to be the godfather of your child, but at the Bed of Death you betrayed that and instead grasped for the life of another. Now sleep my unwise apprentice.”

Other Versions: A later Grimm edition has Death pretending to light the candles and failing on purpose, killing the doctor. Other cultural variants exist in Poland, Lithuania, Ireland, and Mexico.
Adaptations: Adapted into an Anne Sexton poem.
Why Forgotten: You know how many of these fairy tales where the hero marries the princess and inherits the kingdom? Well, the hero in this one doesn’t.
Trivia: N/A

28. The Golden Goose

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In The Golden Goose, an idiot villager finds a golden goose in s tree stump. However, whoever else touches it ends up stuck.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: Grimm’s version is the most famous.
Synopsis: A man has 3 sons with the youngest a “fool” who’s continually abused. One day, the older sons go out to cut wood and are rude to a little old man who asked them to their food. Both of them cut themselves so badly they had to return home. The youngest asks to go, too. Yet, unlike his older brothers, he actually shares his food. The old man points to a tree to chop down and found a goose with golden feathers down to its roots when he did. The youngest takes the goose to the inn where he stays for the night. When one of the innkeeper’s daughters tries stealing a feather and got stuck to it. Her 2 sisters tried as well and got stuck to her. The youngest set out the next day and the girls had to run to keep up to him. The parson chides them for their antics, grabbed hold, and he got stuck on it as well along with the sexton. The youngest son went to the city where a princess lived. Now she was so serious that she never laughed. So the king decreed that whoever makes her chuckle. Well, in comes the youngest son with a procession that the princess thinks is hilarious. So he marries her and inherits the kingdom.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Made into a musical.
Why Forgotten: Maybe cause the plot is so absurd.
Trivia: N/A

29. The Gold Mountain

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In the Grimms’ The Gold Mountain, a young boy stumbles upon a castle where he finds a princess, gets beat up, and becomes King of the Golden Mountain.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: Obviously the Grimm version.
Synopsis: A ruined merchant meets a black-haired and bearded dwarf offering 7 years of wealth and prosperity as well as success in all of his endeavors in exchange for his firstborn son. Said son grows up well acquainted with fairies. But when the day comes for the merchant to pay up, the boy draws a circle he can’t cross and spends an entire day arguing with his dad on the deal’s validity. Finally, the dwarf and the boy’s dad reach a compromise that the boy will sail off in a boat so neither will have him. In turn, the boy’s fairy friends send a squall capsizing the boat to fake the kid’s death so the dwarf won’t look for him.

The boy travels the world and sometime later stumbles upon a castle by a mountain made of gold. The castle is empty and abandoned save for a white snake claiming to be a princess under a curse that first caused her food to vanish, then her guests to leave, and finally herself transformed into a snake. To the break the curse, someone must spend 3 nights in castle. But there’s a cache. During the first night, men will come at midnight and viciously beat him. The second night will be worse. And the third night they will kill him. Should he cry out, fight back, or escape, the curse won’t be broken. Still, if he endures all 3 nights she’ll become human and resurrect him from a healing spring. He succeeds and the grateful princess marries him, making him King of the Gold Mountain. In time, they have a young son of their own.

But eventually the King’s heart grows heavy as he thinks of his parents who still assume him dead. The princess gives him a wishing ring for him to carry but begs he must never wish his wife or son from their home at Gold Mountain. He agrees and wishes himself home, changing clothes with a beggar at the city gates to get in. His dad is thrilled to find his son alive and they speak long into the night and the following day. Unfortunately, he carelessly wishes his dad could see his wife and son who are immediately brought before them by the wishing ring. The princess is furious but holds her tongue. She then takes her husband for a long walk and picnic. When he falls asleep, she immediately steals the ring and wishes herself and her son home.

When the King of the Gold Mountain wakes up, his wife, son, and wishing ring are gone. He vows to find them. Yet, he doesn’t know the way back to his former kingdom. He quests far and wide until he meets 3 quarreling giants whose dad just died and are squabbling over their inheritance consisting of an invisibility cloak, a pair of boots that can carry someone anywhere in the world, and a sword that could cut a hundred heads or fell a hundred trees with one swing. Seeing him as one of the clever “little people,” the giants ask the king to resolve their dispute. He replies that he must test them, to make sure they work as said, and the giants hand over the goods asking to promise not to use the sword against them. Instead, he flees and tells the boots to take him to the Gold Mountain.

Once home, the king sneaks in under an invisibility cloak and finds a horde of suitors vying for his wife’s hand. He hides by her and starts eating and hiding her supper, reminding her of how the curse first began. When she runs into a private chamber, she asks why this is happening again in despair. He whispers that she betrayed and left her rightful husband. As the princess breaks down crying, the king strides out in the great hall, and kills all the suitors with a magic sword.

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When the King of the Golden Mountain comes home, he psychologically torments his wife and beheads all her suitors with a magic sword. Now we know why they don’t read this to children.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, I think the mass slaughter in the great hall at the end might have something to do with it (despite it being quite similar to the end of Homer’s Odyssey). Also, contains murder, theft, and psychological torture as well as the hero coming off as a jerk once he marries the princess.
Trivia: N/A

30. Gold Tree and Silver Tree

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In the Scottish Gold Tree and Silver Tree, a queen relies on a fish on ego boosts. When the fish proclaims Gold Tree as prettier, Silver Tree goes on a quest to get her killed.

From: Scotland
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Joseph Jacobs in his Celtic Fairy Tales. A variation of Snow White but with no dwarves, a magic fish instead of a mirror, and basically ends with a threesome.
Best Known Version: Probably the Jacobs version.
Synopsis: Gold Tree is the daughter of a king and his wife Silver Tree. One fateful day, Silver Tree meets a magical fish telling her Gold Tree is prettier than she is. Offended and not realizing that being the prettiest isn’t everything, Silver Tree vows to kill Gold Tree. One day, she lies to her husband claiming to be very ill and that she needs Gold Tree’s liver and heart to cure her. Fortunately, a faraway prince recently proposed to Gold Tree so the king marries her off and tricks the queen with an animal’s heart and liver instead. The next year, Silver Tree consults the fish again, who informs her that Gold Tree is still alive in her new husband’s country. So the queen persuades the king to let her visit her daughter. Yet, upon learning that her mom’s coming, Gold Tree’s servants lock her away for her own safety. But the queen manages to sneak a poisoned thorn through a keyhole and into Gold Tree’s finger.

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After the servants lock Gold Tree in a tower to keep her from Silver Queen, the queen still manages to knock her out with a poisoned thorn. Wonder how she accomplished it.

When the prince returns, he’s horrified to see his wife dead but he can’t bury her since she’s too pretty. So he keeps Gold Tree’s remains in that room. Times passes and he marries a new woman out of royal obligation but warns her to stay out of that room. However, her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers Gold Tree and the thorn in her finger. The new bride removes it, resurrecting Gold Tree and possibly implicating her new husband on bigamy charges. The next year, Silver Tree learns about this from the fish and sets out to kill Gold Tree again. But now the threesome know better and prepare ahead of time (apparently they seemed to work things out and give polyamory a try). When Silver Tree offers her daughter a poisoned drink, the prince’s second wife tells the queen to take the first sip to take the first sip, claiming it the land’s custom. As the queen raises the glass, the second wife forces her to actually swallow the potion. Silver Tree is dies while Gold Tree, the prince, and the second wife live happily ever after.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: For God’s sake, it’s basically Snow White ending in a threesome.
Trivia: N/A

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A Treasury of Forgotten Fairy Tales: Part 2 – Cap O’ Rushes to Donkeyskin

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Well, we’re off to a good start. Nonetheless, we often associate fairy tales with children’s stories. While we often cater fairy tales to children. However, at another time, this hasn’t necessarily been the case. After all, many of these fairy tales contain content much more suitable for Game of Thrones like sex, rape, incest, nudity, and graphic violence. Hell, even some of the classic fairy tales we know and love contain stuff that’s really not suitable for children. In this installment, we’ll look at 10 more forgotten fairy tales. First, we look at 3 tales of young women who get turned out of their homes and have to resort to unconventional clothing choices. Second, is an Italian story of Catherine and her series of unfortunate events. Third, is Norwegian tale about a man and his “cat.” Next, is a Scottish story about a boy’s adventures in Elfland to save his sister. After that is an Italian fairy tale about three magical triplets followed by a legend of an Armenian war hero and a future Lord Mayor of London. And finally, we get to a French fairy tale about a princess who’s a lot smarter than she initially seems.

11. Cap O’ Rushes

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Cap o’ Rushes revolves around a princess who gets kicked out of the castle by her dad by spouting a metaphor he doesn’t understand. So she lives in the wilderness under a coat of rushes over her finery.

From: England
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Joseph Jacobs in English Fairy Tales.
Best Known Version: The Jacobs version obviously.
Synopsis: A rich guy asks his 3 daughters how much they love him (you can see where this is going). The oldest says more than her life. The second says like the whole world. The youngest says like meat loves salt. Not understanding what the youngest daughter meant by her use of strange metaphors, the rich guy flies into a rage and throws the girl out. Wandering the wilderness, the girl makes a hooded cloak out of rushes to conceal her fine clothing.

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Cap o’ Rushes earns her nickname since she wore clothing made out of marsh plants. Thankfully, she never had to deal with a forest fire.

Eventually, the girl finds a job scrubbing dishes at a great house. Because she didn’t give her bosses a name, she’s called “Cap O’ Rushes” due to her cloak. One night, the house holds a ball and Cap O’ Rushes sneaks into the party by removing her cloak so her full fine clothes are on display. The master’s son sees her and falls in love with her, but he couldn’t go up to her to know who she is. After meeting at 2 more balls, he gives her a ring. When he couldn’t find her, he fell ill. The sick son receives her at his bed. After Cap O’ Rushes persuades the cook to have her make the gruel for him, she puts the ring in the bowl, allowing the son to find and marry her. At the wedding party, Cap O’Rushes tells the cook to make a meal without any salt. This left all the dishes without flavor and her father starts crying since he realized what his daughter meant, fearing she’s dead. Cap O’ Rushes reveals herself as his daughter and forgives him. And they all lived happily ever after.

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Cap o’Rushes seeks employment at a great house. Though she gets a job as a scullery maid, she’s game on anything.

Other Versions: Also included in Andrew Lang’s journals.
Adaptations: Read on a BBC series.
Why Forgotten: I’m not exactly sure. Too much like Cinderella but far removed from civilization I guess.
Trivia: N/A

12. Catherine and Her Fate
From: Italy
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Thomas Crane in Italian Popular Tales.
Best Known Version: Probably the Crane version.
Synopsis: Catherine is a merchant’s beautiful daughter. One day, a woman visits and asks her whether she’d be happy when young or old. Catherine says she’d rather get it over with and be happy in old age. Called Fate, the woman vanishes. Soon, her dad loses all his money and dies. Realizing this was the unhappy part, Catherine tries getting a job but Fate ruins it for her for 7 years until she gets a servant job and keeps it. One of her tasks is bringing bread for her mistress’ Fate.

Catherine’s mistress finds out why she’s always crying and told the girl to ask her Fate whether she could be freed. She does. That Fate brought her to her own, who gives her a hank of thread. Think it useless, Catherine considers throwing it away. But her mistress convinces her to keep it. One day, a young king was to marry. But his wedding garment needed a hank of thread, and none in the kingdom had the proper color. Except the thread Catherine’s Fate had given her. And the king declared she’d be rewarded with an equal weight in gold.

But when it was put to scale, the thread always outweighed however much gold they put on the other side. After putting the entire treasury and the king’s crown, the king demands how Catherine came by this thread, she tells her story. Then a wise old court lady declared it was time for her happiness to begin and the crown showed that it was her fate to be queen. So the king declared Catherine will be his, marrying her instead of his original bride.

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

13. The Cat on the Dovretell

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Originating from Norway, The Cat of Dovretell is actually not about a cat but a bear. Sure it’s scary, but provides great protection against trolls.

From: Norway
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe. Contrary to the title, it’s actually about a bear, not a cat.
Best Known Version: The Asbjørnsen and Moe version.
Synopsis: A man was bringing a trained bear to the king, but had to stop at Dovretell. Yet, because of the trolls driving visitors out during the Christmas season, the people couldn’t offer him a place to stay. But the guy says he’d stay anyway. So they let him and all sorts of food for the trolls’ feast. The trolls come. Calling the bear, “pussy,” one of them tries baiting the bear with a sausage. But the bear turned on the trolls and chased them off. The next year, a troll asked townspeople if they still had the “cat.” The man said he did and that she had 6 “kittens” all fiercer than she was. The trolls never came back again.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Retold by Kaja Foglio in comic book form and Jan Brett as Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve.
Why Forgotten: The title is very misleading. Since it’s actually about a bear not a cat.
Trivia: N/A

14. Catskin

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An English fairy tale, Catskin tells of a lord’s daughter who runs away because her dad wanted her to marry a guy she didn’t like. In the wilderness , she wears the skin of cats over her finery.

From: England
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Joseph Jacobs in More English Fairy Tales.
Best Known Version: The Jacobs version obviously.
Synopsis: A lord has a daughter when he’d rather have a son to inherit the estate. Naturally, he orders her married off as soon as she’s old enough. But she hates the groom and demands 3 fancy dresses and a catskin coat. With it, she runs off, bringing the dresses with her.

She gets a job as a scullery maid and sneaks off to a ball, winning a young lord’s heart. He manages to track her down and marry her by the 3rd ball. Later the cook jeers at the girl for being poor. After having a son, she tells her husband about her dad. The lord tracks him down to find him all alone and wishing he could see his daughter again. He brings him home and he lives with them.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: I’m not exactly sure.
Trivia: N/A

15. Childe Rowland

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Based on a Scottish ballad, Childe Rowland focuses on a boy trying to rescue his sister from the King of Elfland. Inspired Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

From: Scotland and England
Earliest Appearance: Said to be based on a Scottish ballad.
Best Known Version: The one in Joseph Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales.
Synopsis: Four of the queen’s children consisting of 3 boys and a girl play ball near a church. When the youngest boy, Rowland kicks the ball over the church, their sister Burd Ellen goes to retrieve it. Yet, she inadvertently circles the church’s “widershins” or opposite the sun’s way, and disappears. Rowland goes to Merlin asking what happened to her. According to the wizard, the King of Elfland took her to the Dark Tower and only the boldest knight in Christendom can save her. Yet, should he venture, Merlin instructs the boy not to eat anything in Elfland and lop off every elf he meets there. Rowland’s brothers try to save their sister in Elfland but the Elf King puts them in a magical coma. Rowland goes in, decapitates 3 elves, saves his sister, evades evil elf magic with brute force and a good sword, and grants mercy to the Elf King.

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Childe Rowland confronting the Elf King in Elfland. Still, you have to like the gothic design.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, the title isn’t forgotten. But most people aren’t familiar with the story.
Trivia: Was referenced in King Lear and served as an inspiration for Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

16. The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird

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In The Italian tale, The Dancing Water, 3 babies are abandoned in the forest and taken in by a deer. They then grow up with very special talents.

From: Italy
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Giuseppe Pitrè.
Best Known Version: The one in Joseph Jacobs’ European Folk and Fairy Tales.
Synopsis: Wandering the streets, a king overhears 3 sisters chatting. The oldest one said: “If I were the wife of the royal butler, I would give the whole court to drink out of one glass of water, and there would be some left.” The second one said: “If I were the wife of the keeper of the royal wardrobe, with one piece of cloth I would clothe all the attendants, and have some left.” While the youngest said: “Were I the king’s wife, I would bear him three children: two sons with apples in their hands, and a daughter with a star on her brow.”

The king takes the youngest as queen and arranges the marriages for the older sisters who do as they say. But the older sisters resent the queen. When she gives birth to the magical triplets she promised she would, they kidnap the babies for exposure to the elements and put puppies in their place. Furious and ignorant on human reproduction, the king orders his wife put on a treadmill as a slave. 3 fairies see the kids and give them a deer to raise them, a purse full of money, and a ring that changes color when one of them is in danger.

When the children were grown, the fairies tell them to go into the city. As soon as they get a house, the sisters realize these are the wonder children who could reveal what they’ve done. They try to dispose of them with impossible tasks. The older brother fetches the Dancing Water and the Singing Apple. But when sent to get the Speaking Bird, it reveals its past and startles him into speaking, turning him into stone. The next brother did the same. But the sister managed to do it and save her brothers. The king comes to see these marvelous young men and woman. The Speaking Bird reveals the truth and then, at the king’s orders, describes how their aunts and the nurse who aided them are to be executed. While the king, queen, and their kids are all reconciled.

Other Versions: Thomas Crane’s translation as “The Herb Gatherer’s Daughters” in Popular Italian Folk Tales.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, putting one’s wife on a treadmill as a slave might do it.
Trivia: N/A

17. David of Sasun

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The Armenian tale David of Sasun is about a legendary king and his epic adventures. Based on an epic poem.

From: Armenia
Earliest Appearance: From oral tradition dating from as early as the 8th century. Part 3 of a 4-cycle epic poem called Daredevils of Sassoun. Though scholars point out the pagan elements which might make it even older. It’s said that the Egyptians are an expy of the Arab conquerors
Best Known Version: The first written version by Garegin Srvantdziantz in 1873.
Synopsis: Sasun King Lion-Mher and his wife regret they are unable to conceive a child in their old age. An angel visits and informs the king that his wife will bear a son, but in exchange they will both die. Lion-Mher agrees and 9 months later, David is born. But his parents die just in time for Egypt to invade Sasun and force its citizens to pay tribute. David is to live with Sasun ruler and his paternal uncle Big-Voiced Ohan who surrendered to Egypt. Wary that her nephew might take the throne from his uncle, Ohan’s wife ensures that nobody tell David about his past. For most of his childhood, David is sent outside where he befriends the animals and terrorizes the town by bringing them home with him. One day in the woods, he meets an old hag who tells him about his father. With this knowledge, David decides to become a warrior, take back his throne, and challenge Egypt for Sasun’s independence.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Made into an Armenian cartoon.
Why Forgotten: This is primarily from Armenia and seldom remembered anywhere else.
Trivia: N/A

18. Dick Whittington and His Cat

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Unlike most of the fairy tales on this list, the story of Dick Whittington and His Cat is based on a real person. Whittington really did rise from humble origins to become Lord Mayor of London. But his cat was just totally made up.

From: England
Earliest Appearance: This tale is based on a real Lord Mayor of London who was elected 4 times as well as served as its sheriff and Member of Parliament. During his reign, he made many beneficial changes to the city like building an unmarried mother ward at St. Thomas Hospital and prohibiting apprentices from washing animal skins in the Thames River. Started as a play, The History of Richard Whittington, of his lowe byrth, his great fortune.
Best Known Version: An 1861 play by H. J. Byron.
Synopsis: Hearing tales of the streets paved with gold, Dick Whittington leaves his home in Gloucestshire for London. When that quickly proved to be horseshit, he’s so disheartened that he’s ready to leave. But suddenly, he hears London’s bells call out, “Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London!” So he decides to stick it through. After some Tonga adventures where his cat killed all the rats in the country, he’s given 3 chests of gold and realizes his destiny.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Has been presented on TV many times.
Why Forgotten: This is kind of a specific myth about a real guy which doesn’t have much basis in fact.
Trivia: Often performed around Christmas as a pantomime.

19. The Discreet Princess

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The French tale The Discreet Princess is about a bad prince trying to get into 3 princesses pants. When he gets to the third, she pushes him down a sewer.

From: France
Earliest Appearance: In 1696 in a compilation written by Charles Perrault’s niece Marie-Jeanne L’Héritier de Villandon as L’Adroite Princesse ou les Aventures de Finette.
Best Known Version: N/A
Synopsis: A king goes on a crusade and leaves his 3 daughters locked in a tower. They’re called Nonchalante (Dronilla; the lazy one), Babillarde (The Babbler; or Pratilla), and Finette. Each receives a glass distaff designed to break apart as soon as the princess misbehaves. Oh, and an evil prince from a neighboring country with a grudge against the royal family called Riche-Cautèle (Rich-Craft) decides to make a visit. Dressed as a female beggar, he sneaks into the tower where he tricks the two older sisters into letting him and seduces them. Consequently, their distaffs break. Rich-Craft tries to do the same to Finette, but she waves with a hammer and makes a bed for “them” which is on top a sink with a large drain leading to a sewer. Rich-Craft gets on the bed and well, he goes down and ends up with shit all over him. He then has his servants kidnap her and tries to roll her down a mountain in a barrel full of blades. But she puts him in the barrel instead. She later seals her little nephews in boxes and sneaks them in Rich-Craft’s placed as “medicine” while disguised as a doctor. Now dying from being stabbed through a bunch of blades in a barrel, Rich-Craft asks his brother Bel-à-Voir marry Finette, which he does. But at consummation time, Finette uses a sheep’s bladder dummy which Bel-à-Voir stabs before having a moral meltdown. But don’t worry, he and Finette live happily ever after, anyway. Meanwhile, her two older sisters end up dead by having to toil in a garden.

Other Versions: There’s a bowlderized where the evil prince just beats up the 2 older princesses instead of seducing them.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Given that Finette pushed a guy in a barrel filled with blades and sent him down a mountain which resulted in his death, I don’t expect her becoming a Disney Princess anytime soon. Also contains extra-marital sex and smuggling babies.
Trivia: N/A

20. Donkeyskin

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To escape her incestuous father, a princess flees the castle donning a donkeyskin. By the way, when this donkey was alive it could shit gold.

From: France and Italy
Earliest Appearance: Recorded by Charles Perrault in 1697. Though Giovanni Francesco Straparola’s Doralice might even be older, which is basically Cinderella meets Game of Thrones.
Best Known Version: The Perrault version is the best known.
Synopsis: A king loses his wife on her deathbed where she demands to promise her not to remarry except to a woman more beautiful than she is. But the king finds it impossible to find such a woman until he realizes that his daughter is the only one who surpasses her mom’s beauty. Thus, not letting the incest taboo stand in his way and being to sexist to perhaps let his daughter inherit the throne, the king decides to marry her. The despairing princess begs for her Fairy Godmother’s help who advises her to declare she won’t marry unless she’s brought 3 impossible dresses: one as blue as the sky, one that shines like the moon, and one like the sun. When the king succeeds anyway, the fairy godmother advises the princess to ask for the king’s magic donkeyskin that literally shits gold. But despite the potential money you can make from it, the king has the donkey slaughtered and presents the skin to the princess. She then decides to run away clothing herself in a donkey’s skin so no one would recognize her.

Next, she travels to a far-away kingdom, takes a menial farm job, and calls herself “Donkeyskin.” While entertaining herself by dressing in her sun golden dress in her hut, a prince passes by and is quite taken with her. In an effort to prove her identity, he requests she bake him a cake, in which he finds the princess’s ring. Then consulting the Cinderella Prince playbook, he announces that he’ll only marry the girl whose finger fits this ring and tries it on every woman in the kingdom. When the ring fits Donkeyskin’s finger, her identity is revealed and the two get married.

Other Versions: The Grimm Brothers had one called “All-Kind-of-Furs.” Some versions have the princess have 3 golden items that she hides in the prince’s soup each morning after a ball. And sometimes she doesn’t see the prince before baking the cake for him. While bowlderized versions have the king wanting his daughter to marry a guy she doesn’t like. One version from the Victorian era just has the donkey drop gold from the ears and makes the princess the king’s adopted or stepddaughter to soften the creepy incest vibe. Sometimes the king is easily forgiven and marries a hot dowager queen (who could be the prince’s widowed mom). Then there’s the primitive version called Doralice by Giovanni Francesco Straparola where the king doesn’t take his daughter’s new marriage to a foreign prince very well at all. In fact, he hides in the castle, kills his grandchildren, and blames Doralice for the crime so she’d be condemned to execution. But the nurse’s testimony exonerates her and the king gets dismembered.
Adaptations: Adapted as “Sapsorrow” in The Storyteller, Deerskin by Robin McGinley, and as a 1970 musical by Jacques Demy. Wikipedia also lists plenty of others.
Why Forgotten: For one, it bears some similarities to Cinderella. Second, a king wanting to marry is daughter is clearly incestuous.
Trivia: N/A

A Treasury of Forgotten Fairy Tales: Part 1 – Adalmina’s Pearl to The Brown Bear of the Green Glen

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Tired of the same old bedtime fairy tale stories every night? Are you a struggling screenwriter desperate for ideas but don’t want to risk a lawsuit? Or are you a producer who doesn’t want to pay for the rights of the source material? If so, then you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a treasure trove of fairy tales that have been recorded hundreds of years ago. But lately haven’t been as well remembered as the ones you often heard of. Sometimes it’s because they’re utterly messed up. Sometimes they don’t age well. Sometimes they’re from certain countries. And sometimes there’s not really a reason. They’re just overlooked. Anyway, in each installment of this series will bring you 10 of these tales for your reading pleasure. Though some take longer to summarize than others.

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In this first installment, I’ll bring you the first 10 forgotten fairy tales you can enjoy. First, a Finnish tale spoiled rotten princess who gets her comeuppance after losing a key piece of jewelry. Second, an Armenian story about a king who’s so handsome that a queen starts a war to get him, making Gaston look seemingly rational. Third, is a Grimm tale about a man who dons a bearskin and not do anything to his hair for 7 years so the Devil doesn’t get his soul. Next, is an Irish yarn about a 3 brothers and a black knight known for his tall stories. After that, is a French story about a prince who gets turned into a bluebird when he refuses to get married when the wrong girl shows up at the altar. Then we come to a British tale about an Irishman who ventures to the Blue Mountains after meeting a princess while spending a night in a castle. Next, it’s on to a Grimm tale about a tailor who goes from killing flies to killing trolls followed by another Grimm tale about a group of geriatric animals who start a band. Then, we have an Italian story about a boy turned into a deer and a girl who falls victim to attempted murder. And finally, a story about a young man who meets a talking bear, giants, and a sleeping woman he eventually knocks up.

1. Adalmina’s Pearl

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Adalmina’s pearl is basically about a bratty princess who gets her comeuppance after losing a piece of jewelry that makes her hot. Don’t worry, she gets better.

From: Finland
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Sakari Topelius.
Best Known Version: The one by Topelius, obviously.
Synopsis: As the only child of a king and queen, Adalmina receives gifts from 2 fairy godmothers. One gives her a pearl that will make her prettier, smarter, and richer every day. The other promises should she lose pearl and all it gives her, she will gain a pure, loving heart in its place. Naturally, the princess grows up to be smarter, prettier, and richer than everyone else. But she is unbelievably proud, vain, selfish, and cold-hearted spoiled brat. And is generally a pain in the ass to everyone but her doting parents. As her pearl is permanently set into a crown that magically grows to always fit her permanently.

One day, Adalmina sneaks out of the castle and comes across a clear forest pond where she loses her crown while admiring her reflection. Instantly, the princess turns into a plain peasant girl in rags and forgets everything about herself. As she aimlessly wanders in the forest, and old lady finds her. Out of pity, she lets her live with her and tend goats. Now possessing a kind and loving heart, Adalmina is grateful for what little the old lady can offer her and is happy to live with her in a humble cottage.

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Here are a couple of pictures of Adalmina after losing her pearl. In one she tends goats. In the other she sews with an old woman in her cottage.

Terrified of their daughter’s disappearance, the king and queen, they send out a message that should a prince or noble successfully find her, he will receive her hand in marriage and half of her dad’s kingdom as a reward. One prince who has heard of Adalmina’s unparalleled beauty and brains, has fallen in love with her from afar and is determined to find her. However, once he travels far and wide and finds that everyone he meets thinks she’s such a brat who should stay lost, he loses interest in the princess after finding her crown in the woods. Tired and lost, he stumbles upon an old woman’s cottage where he stays for a few days before returning to the king and queen with the crown.

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Adalmina arrives to the castle in rags and herding goats. Here you can see the shiny tiara with the magic pearl.

Overjoyed to learn about the crown, the king and queen summon every appropriately aged girl in the kingdom to the castle in order to try it on. As expected, the crown passes from head to head but fits no one. Having enough of this, the prince decides to stay until sunset if the princess isn’t found by then. Yet, just as the sun is disappearing on the horizon, a goat herder girl from the cottage shows up on the road to town. Happy to see her, the prince promises to marry her whether Adalmina is found or not. In the end, the crown fits the girl and she transforms back into the Adalmina everyone knew with all beauty, intelligence, and riches restored. But now that her heart is permanently thawed, she falls to her knees begging forgiveness for every bad thing she’s done. The people rejoice. While the prince and princess are married and live happily ever after.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: Adapted into a Russian opera.
Why Forgotten: It’s well known in Finland, Russia, and Scandinavia, but nowhere else.
Trivia: N/A

2. Ara the Handsome

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Ara the Handsome is about a king who’s so hot that a queen starts a war against him, which ends horribly. Despite that she should just give up and find somebody else, especially if the guy’s married.

From: Armenia
Earliest Appearance: Earliest written records were by the early Christians. Though it’s possible that the pagan Armenians worshipped Ara as a god of war and rebirth. It’s also possible that Ara might’ve been based on King Aramu, first king of Uratu, an empire from the 800-500 BCE that comprised of Turkey and Armenia. While Semiramis might’ve been based on the real life Assyrian Queen Shammuramat, his contemporary.
Best Known Version: The Christian version is the best known.
Synopsis: Hearing of King Ara’s legendary hotness, Assyrian Queen Semiramis is so obsessed with him that she’ll stop at nothing to have him. Hell, she even drove her husband away because of her infatuation. But when she asked to marry the guy, Ara turns her down. Mostly because he already had a wife named Nvard. As a result, Semiramis declares war on Armenia and orders her army to attack the country and bring back Ara alive. Except they don’t since he was killed during the war.

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Here’s King Ara in his procession. He raises his child with his queen. Too bad everything’s about to go to shit.

So in order to calm down the Armenian armies who want to avenge their king’s death and to satisfy her lust, Semiramis tries to use black magic to resurrect Ara. Placing his body upon her castle, she calls on hound spirits to lick his wounds clean and heal him but to no avail. Grief-stricken, Semramis instead had him buried at the mountain’s foot and dressed up one of her lovers as Ara to convince the Armenians that she resurrected him. Thus, the war ended. Aferwards, Semiramis has all but one of her sons killed for mocking her lust for the dead king. Eventually the son grows up to kill her.

Other Versions: Earlier versions have Seramis successfully resurrecting Ara.
Adaptations: Not that I know of.
Why Forgotten: Well, outside Armenia, he mostly is.
Trivia: Armenians see Ara as one of their country’s forefathers.

3. Bearskin

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Bearskin is a Grimm tale about a man who must wear a bearskin outfit and avoid cleanliness for 7 years. Or else the Devil gets his soul. Not surprisingly people don’t seem to like him much.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimm version, naturally.
Synopsis: After leaving the army, a soldier can’t return home or find work. Desperation drives him to make a deal with the Devil who makes a bet with him. For the next 7 years, he’ll carry a purse of gold that’s always full. But he must wear a bearskin and neither pray nor wash or cut his hair within that time. If he survives, he can keep the purse. If he dies, then the Devil has his soul.

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After saving an old man from debtor’s prison, the guy offers Bearskin one of his daughters in marriage. Only the youngest one goes for it though. They fall in love but Bearskin can’t marry her until his ordeal is through.

The soldier spends several years walking the earth, giving to the poor, and asking them to pray for him. One night he rescues an old man from debtors’ prison. In exchange, the man promises the hand of one of his daughters in gratitude. The older 2 reject him, while the youngest accepts knowing that only a good guy would’ve rescued her dad. The soldier gives her half a ring and tells her to wait 3 years for his return. If he doesn’t show up by then, she’s free to marry somebody else.

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Apparently, the old man’s daughters don’t seem to have much interest in Bearskin. After all, he wanders the earth wearing a bearskin outfit and doesn’t cut his hair.

The soldier survives to the end of his term, gains the gold purse, and cleans himself up before visiting the old man again. Everyone but the youngest daughter takes a keen interest in him, especially when he says he’s come to seek a bride. As the older girls pretty themselves up, the soldier shows the younger girl the other half of the ring. They marry and live happily ever after. But the older sisters are eaten alive with envy and kill themselves pleasing the Devil who got a 2-for-1 deal.

Other Versions: Included in Andrew Lang’s The Pink Fairy Book. Some versions have the father about to kill himself before the Bearskin guy saves him. Italian variants include Italo Calvino’s “The Devil’s Breeches” and “Don Giovanni de la Fortuna” in Laura Gonzenbach’s Sicilianische Märchen. Other variants consist of “Hell’s Gatekeeper” and “The Reward for Kindness.”
Adaptations: Adapted into an Americanized version set around the Civil War by Tom Davenport, a Russian cartoon, two operas, and a musical.
Why Forgotten: I’m not sure why it’s not made into a Disney movie. Then again, it takes place over some years.
Trivia: Said to have much in common with Beauty and the Beast.

4. The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen

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The Black Thief and Knight of the Glen is an odd tale since it’s more of a frame story pertaining to 3 guys stuck in a prison cell with the title character. It’s complicated.

From: Ireland
Earliest Appearance: Collected in Hiberian Tales.
Best Known Version: The one in Andrew Lang’s The Red Fairy Book.
Synopsis: A king promises his dying wife that their 3 sons will never be under another woman’s power. When he remarries, he hides the boys from their stepmother. But she discovers them, and with a pack of cards she got from a henwife, wins a game with the 2 older ones that puts them in her power. However, she doesn’t succeed with defeating the youngest. Yet, when she orders the older ones to return with the Knight of the Glen’s wild Steed of Bells or else lose their heads, he goes with them.

Enter the Black Thief who decides to accompany them. They try to steal a horse, but it neighs and rings its bells. So the knight catches them. He decides to boil them all. First, the boys by age and then the thief. Each time a prince is up, the Black Thief spins a yarn about how he narrowly escaped death from a greater danger. And with each tale he tells, the knight spares each prince one by one.

Yet, his third story pertains to him saving a mom and baby in the forest from a giant, which the old woman confirms as true. She then goes on to say that she was the woman and the knight was the baby. Grateful, the knight pardons the thief and gives him the horse. When they return to the kingdom, the queen is so enraged that she throws herself from a tower and dies.

Other Versions: There’s a variant by Seumas MacManus in The Donegal Wonder Book called “The Steed O’ Bells.”
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: I’m not sure why exactly.
Trivia: N/A

5. The Blue Bird

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The Blue Bird is a French tale of a prince who gets turned into a bluebird because he wanted to marry a different princess than an evil queen wanted. There he meets his beloved princess locked in a tower for the next 2 years.

From: France
Earliest Appearance: Originally published in 1697 by Madame d’Aulnoy.
Best Known Version: Andrew Lang’s English translation in The Green Fairy Book.
Synopsis: A queen dies, leaving her husband and a daughter named Florine behind. The king remarries a single mom with a daughter little older than the princess named Truitonne. Florine grows up to be kind and beautiful. While Truitonne becomes an ugly and selfish bitch. This causes the Queen to become jealous of her stepdaughter and goes out of her way to make the girl miserable. One day Prince (or King) Charming of a neighboring kingdom pays a visit. Despite the Queen and Truitonne’s best efforts, it’s love at first sight between him and Florine. Enraged, the Queen and her daughter persuade the king to lock the princess up in a tower for the rest of Charming’s visit, insisting Florine is ill and needs rest. However, the Queen concedes and has Florine and Charming meet one night where he proposes to her. Or so he thinks because it’s too dark and he can’t see who the hell he’s talking to. And in reality, he’s actually proposed to Truitonne.

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Here the stepsister’s fairy godmother turns the prince into a bluebird. Because the prince didn’t want to marry her and had meant to propose to a different girl.

Luckily, Charming realizes he’s been had at the altar. As a result, he and Truitonne get in an argument, with her insisting he say, “I do.” When he refuses, her fairy godmother Soussio curses Charming for the next 7 years as a bluebird. In his new form, Charming flies to the tower where Florine’s kept prisoner. Now reunited, the lovers spend the next 2 years bonding and keeping each other company through their respective misfortunes. While Charming often flew in with some sort of treasure he’d pass to Florine as a gift. Meanwhile, the Queen tries to find another husband for Truitonne, but to no avail. Frustrated by the task’s futility, she decides to let off steam at Florine in the tower, only to burst in on her and Charming singing together. She also discovers Charming’s gifts to the princess and realizes that her stepdaughter is receiving aid. The Queen recruits a servant girl to keep Florine company, but actually to spy on her and recruit back to her and Truitonne. Fearing Florine’s step-family discovering their secret, she and Charming decide not to see each other for awhile. Only to meet again when they’re sure the spy is asleep. But she isn’t and tells the Queen and her daughter about everything.

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The bluebird visits Florine at her tower. Because the queen in this fairy tale is a bitch and her daughter has her own fairy godmother for some reason.

When Charming isn’t visiting Florine, he’s built a nest for himself in a nearby cypress tree, which the Queen had covered with knives and razors. When Charming flies over, he cuts his wings and falls to the ground. Fortunately, his old sorcerer friend finds him and helps him recover. He even finds Soussio and convinces her to transform Charming back into a man. But on the condition that he’ll only get to be himself again for a few months and he must marry Truitonne during this time. Or else he’ll be transformed back into a bird forever. Oh, and unbeknownst to him, Florine has no way of communicating with anyone outside her tower and doesn’t know of this. So she fears something bad must’ve happened to Charming. One day, the king dies, causing the people to rise against the Queen and eventually kill her. Truitonne seeks refuge with her godmother. While Florine is released from her tower and becomes the new Queen. After appointing a council to run the kingdom, she embarks on a quest to find out what happened to Charming.

Disguised as a peasant, Florine meets an old woman. Impressed by her goodness and devotion, she reveals herself as a fairy. She tells the new queen that Charming has regained true form and has returned to his kingdom. She also gives Florine 4 magical eggs on her journey. When she has to scale a steep ivory mountain, she cracks open the first egg containing good grappling irons. So Florine makes it over the mountain in no time. She then finds a village in a valley with an enormous mirror that shows you only what you want to see about yourself. To avoid giving into the same temptation and the villagers’ wrath if she harms the mirror, she uses the second egg with a dove-pulled chariot. And she uses the chariot to fly to Charming’s castle.

The guards don’t recognize Florine and turn her away. Even worse, since she doesn’t know the complete story, she hears that Charming is to marry Truitonne soon. Disguised as a peddler, Florine bribes her stepsister with the same jewels and gifts Charming had given her while he was a bird. In return, the queen is allowed to sleep in the castle, specifically the “echo room” underneath Charming’s bedroom where he can overhear every word a person says in there. Florine takes full advantage of this, crying as loudly as she could every night and asking for some explanation from her ex. Yet, she doesn’t know that Charming had been taking sleeping potions for insomnia over worrying about her.

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Here Florine tries bribing her stepsister. Though it doesn’t seem to look like it since Truitonne ages quite prematurely that she appears old enough to be Florine’s mom.

Florine opens the third egg containing a mice-pulled chariot she sells for another night in the echo room but Charming can’t hear her. Fortunately, one of the servants does. She opens the last egg, containing a pie with singing birds that she gives to the servant so Charming could hear her next time. The servant keeps his promise and Charming doesn’t take the potion, causing him to hear every word. Florine and Charming finally reunite and after explaining everything that went on, affirm their love. Of course, there’s still Sussio to contend with. Luckily, the sorcerer and Florine’s fairy sponsor promise to keep her at bay. Truitonne tries to protest, but the sorcerer turns her into a pig. Free from their enemies, Charming and Florine marry and live happily ever after.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Perhaps it’s because it was first written by a French aristocratic woman. Other than that I’m not sure. Then again, the story’s pretty weird.
Trivia: A favorite of Jean Paul Sarte.

6. The Blue Mountains
From: UK or Ireland
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Andrew Lang in The Yellow Fairy Book but with no bibliographical information.
Best Known Version: The one in Andrew Lang’s The Yellow Fairy Book.
Synopsis: A Scotsman, Englishman, and Irishman, all soldiers, go AWOL together. They’re dying of hunger when the Scotsman sees a castle and goes in without telling the others. An astoundingly beautiful woman feeds him and gives him a bed where he falls asleep. The Englishman follows and gets the same. But when the Irishman comes in, he asks what it all means before eating anything. The woman reveals herself as a princess who can only be saved by a man who stays in a little room from 10:00 till midnight for 3 nights on end. When he does this, he’s severely beaten but the princess revives him.
She disappears. But the Irishman is instructed to stay awake to see her. However, a little boy sticks a pin in his coat, putting him to sleep. He spends 3 years searching for her and is ready to kill himself. Yet, when he draws his sword that she gave him, it tells him that he’d find her in the Blue Mountains. He goes onward. 2 hermits can’t tell him anything while a third commands all the birds in the world. When they arrive, only the eagle knows of the Blue Mountains but is willing to carry the Irishman there. He comes the day she’s forced to marry, gets the hen-wife to bring her to him, and they tie the knot on the spot.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, its origins are obscure that barely anything is known about this fairy tale.
Trivia: N/A

7. The Brave Little Tailor

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A Grimm classic, The Brave Little Tailor is about a tailor who swats some flies and cultivates a fearsome reputation. He then goes off to fight giants.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The Grimms’ version is the best known.
Synopsis: Preparing to eat some jam, a tailor kills 7 flies on it with one blow before making a belt describing the deed and setting out in the world to make his fortune. He meets a giant who thinks he’s a badass from the phrase (which is a joke) before challenging him but the tailor defeats him in his wit. The giant then takes him to other giants and makes plans to kill him in his sleep. But the plan fails as the tailor decides to sleep in a corner since he finds the guest bed too large. Discovering the tailor alive, the giants flee in fear.

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Here the tailor ventures to the land of Giants. Wonder how he’ll get out of this.

The tailor joins the royal service but the guards are afraid of him and appeal to the king to remove him. In response, the king sends him on a series of difficult quests, which involves giants, hostile unicorns, and other hazards armed only with his wit. After completion, he receives half the kingdom and the king’s daughter in marriage. Later, his wife hears him mutter in his sleep that he’s a simple tailor. Though a squire later warns him, he decides to speak of his legendary deeds.

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After defeating giants, the brave little tailor enters the King’s service and is sent on a series of impossible tasks. Armed with only his wit, he succeeds to win the King’s daughter and inherit half the kingdom.

Other Versions: An Italian version has him smacking 500-1000 flies instead of 7. Included in Joseph Jacobs’ European Fairy Tales as “Seven in One Blow,” Andrew Lang’s The Blue Fairy Book, and in Ruth Manning-Sanders’ A Book of Giants.
Adaptations: Made into a Mickey Mouse cartoon and musical suite.
Why Forgotten: Well, it’s not quite forgotten but it’s hardly well-remembered.
Trivia: Said to inspire “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

8. The Bremen Town Musicians

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A Grimm classic, The Bremen Town musicians decide to retire, get a house, and start a band. Yet, let’s just say you don’t want to see them in concert.

From: Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Best Known Version: The one by the Grimms.
Synopsis: Since their owners want to kill them for being too old, a group of animals decide to run away and form a band. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to them, their singing is atrocious. While their first “concert” scares away its audience: a group of robbers stationed at a cottage. The animals settle into the cottage and when the robbers return by night, they accidentally repel them because of the thieves’ superstitious fears. The animals decide to stay there and live happily ever after.

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They may not be good musicians. But at least they don’t need to worry about a security system anytime soon.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: There’s a Soviet animated musical called The Town Musicians of Bremen, Jim Henson’s The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, the German cartoon movie The Fearless Four, the Spanish animated film and TV series Los Trotamusicos, and the Cartoon Network short The Bremen Avenue Experience. There’s even a Richard Scarry version.
Why Forgotten: It’s well-known, especially in regards to cartoons. But it’s still nowhere near mainstream. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t have much of a plot.
Trivia: N/A

9. Brother and Sister

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In the Grimms’ Brother and Sister, 2 kids are driven out of their home by their stepmother and forced to live in the forest. But unlike Hansel and Gretel, the brother turns into a deer.

From: Italy and Germany
Earliest Appearance: Collected by Giambattista Basile in Pentamerone around the 17th century.
Best Known Version: The one collected by the Grimm Brothers.
Synopsis: After their mother’s death, a boy and a girl are mistreated by a wicked witch stepmother that they decide to run away from home and into the forest. In turn, the stepmother enchants the forest streams so that drinking from them will turn the siblings into animals. The girl sees through the trap and talks her brother out of drinking from 2 streams that would’ve turned him into a tiger or a wolf. But when they come to the stream that turns people into deer, he’s too thirsty to care anymore. So he drinks and is turned into a roe fawn. Later, the two find a deserted cottage and decide to live there, fending for themselves in the wilderness. Years have passed when a king and court come hunting in the forest. The brother makes a game for the hunters to chase him before hiding in the cottage that evening. But he’s wounded the second time and leads the hunters to the cottage.

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The girl and her deer enter in a cottage. Despite that the deer is actually her brother as you can notice with the antlers.

On seeing the sister, the king falls in love with her asks her to marry him. She agrees but only if her deer brother can come, too. She’s made queen while her brother resides in the royal gardens. After a while, the sister and the king have a child. But by now, the stepmother has learned that the siblings are still alive. So driven by hate and envy, she plots to destroy their happiness. She has the sister suffocated in a bath house and replaced with her own ugly one-eyed daughter, magically made to resemble her stepsister. But the sister returns as a ghost to look after her baby. This works for awhile until the king recognizes the spirit as his true wife before she’s restored by God. The king executes the witch and the brother turns back into a man. As they all live happily ever after.

Other Versions: A Hungarian version has a much younger sister turn into a deer instead of a brother. Some versions have the brother marry the king’s sister after he turns back into a man. The Grimm version refers the brother as Rudolph and the sister as Rose (and no, I don’t think Rudolph is a red-nosed reindeer). Known as Sister “Alionushka, Brother Ivanushka,” in Alexander Afanasyev’s Narodnye russkie skazki.
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Overshadowed by Hansel and Gretel. I guess the candy house beats boy turned to deer any day of the week. Also, the sister gets suffocated.
Trivia: Often confused with Hansel and Gretel.

10. The Brown Bear of the Green Glen
From: Scotland
Earliest Appearance: Collected by John Francis Campbell in Popular Tales of the West Highlands.
Best Known Version: Campbell’s version, obviously.
Synopsis: An Erin king sends his 2 older sons to find a cure for his blindness and lameness. Later his youngest son, John goes with them, despite being a fool. He found his brothers in the first town and went on. He meets a talking bear who tells him to stay with giants for 3 nights. While the last giant tells him how to get an eagle to carry him to the land with healing waters. When John gets there, he takes 3 bottles of water along with a bottle of brandy, a loaf of bread, and a wheel of cheese that are always the same no matter how much you ate from them. Oh, and he kisses a sleeping woman (or date rapes her if you want to interpret it). On the way back, John leaves the brandy, cheese, and bread with the giants, but on the condition they give them to his sweetheart if she came. He meets up with his brothers. They try to kill him and leave him loaded onto a rusty iron cart, making him rough skinned and bald.

Meanwhile, the woman gives birth to a baby boy. The henwife gives her a bird that would hop onto the man who’s the kid’s father. She tracks him down and gets the brandy, cheese, and bread back. Reaching the king’s court, all the men line up, but the bird doesn’t jump on them. Asking whether there are others, she’s told that a rough-skinned gillie who worked as a smith. The bird hops on his head, proving that he got the water his brothers had stolen. John marries the woman as his brothers are punished.

Other Versions: N/A
Adaptations: N/A
Why Forgotten: Well, it contains date rape, for one. Though whoever wrote this down didn’t seem to know much on how human reproduction works.
Trivia: N/A

Original Fairy Tales Part 3

Last time I did Little Red Riding Hood, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Puss in Boots, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Three Little Pigs, The Fisherman and His Wife, The Little Mermaid, and the Girl Without Hands. Of course, these aren’t the only tales we know but I have a few more to go over in this one. Still, many people would say that fairy tales are merely stories for children and are rather G rated. Yet, what most parents don’t realize is that many of them contain a lot of family unfriendly material like sex, violence, and creepy features. So without further adieu, here are even more familiar fairy tales with their original versions.

Pinocchio

Geppetto creating Pinocchio.

Geppetto creating Pinocchio.

How You Know It: Toymaker makes wooden puppet boy who comes to life and would be a real boy if he is good. Unfortunately, Pinocchio is kind of mischievous and gets into all sorts of trouble but his nose grows when lies while he sees bad boys being turned into donkeys and sold to the circus. After saving Geppetto from a fish, he shapes up and becomes a real boy.

The Original Version: Based on the 1883 book “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Italian Carol Collodi. While Pinocchio was mischievous in the movie, he’s far so in the source material where he runs away as soon as he could walk. He’s found by police who put Geppetto in prison on suspicion on abuse. Oh, and the talking cricket who warns him of the dangers on hedonistic pleasures and obedience, Pinocchio kills him (sorry, Jiminy). When Geppetto is released, he insists Pinocchio go to school but the living puppet sells his schoolbooks for a ticket to a puppet show where he encounters a fox and a cat who steal his money and try to rob him.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Emperor parades in his new clothes and exposes himself at the same time.

Emperor parades in his new clothes and exposes himself at the same time.

How You Know It: Fashion obsessed Emperor is swindled by two “weavers” (con artists) who offer to make him a set of new clothes with a special material that would only be invisible to complete idiots. Emperor thinks this would help him find out who in his court is unworthy for their position and gives them permission. Nobody makes a fuss regardless of whether they believe those two crooks until the Emperor decides to parade in his new “outfit” in which a child points out that he is naked.

The Original Version: Written by Hans Christian Andersen but while illustrated adaptations usually have the Emperor in his underwear, the original version makes it clear he was probably completely nude. Oh, and he still goes on with the procession even the kid speaks about the Emperor not having any clothes on. Still, this may be based on an old Spanish tale from the Middle Ages yet the king is cheated by “weavers” who claim to make clothes that would be invisible to anyone who’s not a son of the guy’s presumed father.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

Girl receives nutcracker for Christmas.

Girl receives nutcracker for Christmas.

How You Know It: Kids receive a toy nutcracker for Christmas by their godfather Drosselmeier. One of the kids breaks but is later repaired with the young girl swearing to be its nurse before going to bed. That night the nutcracker comes alive and thanks to the girl, is able to overcome his foes (such as the mouse royal family) and eventually kills them before transforming into a handsome prince. He then takes her to show his doll kingdom.

The Original Version: It’s an 1816 German tale by author E.T. A. Hoffman and his version is much creepier than the one you’d see at the ballet around Christmas time. In this tale, the girl is named Marie who’s seven and the nutcracker is actually Drosselmeier’s nephew transformed by an evil mouse queen’s curse for 7 years. And he’s at least in his early teens. Also, the sadistic Mouse King has seven heads, visits her three times, eats sugar dolls, and makes Marie surrender all her candy and toys to him or else he’ll destroy the nutcracker. Then there’s the mice biting a princess and turns her into a monster but, too. Oh, and after the tour Marie wakes up in her own bed and tells her parents of the whole thing the next day who don’t believe her and forbid her to speak about it again (even though she has the Mouse Kings 7 crowns to show for it). Yet, Marie goes to the nutcracker and vows that she’d love him if he was real, even if he was ugly which breaks the curse and he asks her to marry him. She accepts and after a year, the nutcracker prince/king takes her to the doll kingdom where she is crowned queen.

The Princess and the Pea

Pea under a bunch of mattresses, girl still can't sleep.

Pea under a bunch of mattresses, girl still can’t sleep.

How You Know It: A prince wants to marry a real princess and tries to find one to no avail. One night, a young woman claiming to be a real princess seeks shelter from a storm. The queen suggest she test her by placing a pea on a bedstead and piling 20 mattresses and feather beds on top of it. There the young woman spends the night. The next morning she tells her hosts she endured a sleepless night being kept awake by something hard on her bed. The prince rejoices since the young woman was found to be a princess. They marry and live happily ever after.

The Original Version: Written by Hans Christen Andersen who claimed to have heard it as a child but it has never been a traditional tale in Denmark. It might’ve been in Sweden but that version used seven peas. Also, in Andersen’s version, the pea was said to have bruised the princess.

Bluebeard

If your new man keeps a torture cellar of his brutally murdered previous wives, that’s a dealbreaker, ladies.

How You Know It: Rich widower asks young woman to marry him. After the wedding, he gives her a set of keys to every room in the mansion with the stipulation that she never ever use to golden key to open a certain room in the house. While her husband is on a business trip, the woman naturally gets bored and increasingly curious about this particular room that she does. And to her shock, she finds the blood spattered bodies of all Bluebeard’s former wives he murdered for money as well as a basin full of blood. She flees in horror but when her husband returns, he finds out one way or the other, and threatens to kill her, too. Woman gets saved at last minute (whether by her family or the authorities).

The Original Version: The most familiar version is from the 17th century author Charles Perrault which is based on an old French folk tale which may have been inspired by a true story relating to a friend of Joan of Arc (yes, that Joan) named Giles de Rais who was also a famous 15th century serial killer (yet he killed children just for the heck of it not wives for money). Still, in the Perrault version, the woman actually escapes and ends marrying a better guy. Though the author tried to make the Bluebeard story about how curiosity is a flaw as well as could ruin a perfectly good marriage if a wife sticks her nose in her husband’s affairs, he kind of failed miserably considering that Bluebeard’s dark secret consisted of brutally murdered wives in a torture cellar.

Bluebeard has major trust issues for good reason.

Bluebeard has major trust issues for good reason.

There’s an English version called “Mr. Fox” that was cited in a play by William Shakespeare. This one has the heroine actually witness the villain murdering his previous bride and confronting him at the pre-wedding breakfast with the severed hand of that unfortunate lady and is saved by her relatives and suitors. There’s also a second Grimm Brothers variant in called “Fitcher’s Bird that says that the heroine was only wrong in that she got caught. Of course, she also finds her sisters’ bodies in a way her husband can’t detect and ultimately comes out on top.

The Tortoise and the Hare

Tortoise and the hare are about to race. Guess who wins.

Tortoise and the hare are about to race. Guess who wins.

How You Know It: Hare ridicules tortoise that he can outrun him in any race chiefly due to obvious biological differences. The tortoise challenges to a race to prove it. The next day, the hare is so confident in his natural ability that he shows off by messing around the entire race. Finds out later that the tortoise ended up ahead of him and wins.

The Original Version: This is one of Aesop’s fables from Ancient Greece, which had the hare actually take a nap halfway through before realizing that the tortoise had beat him. Still, there’s a version by the Grimm Brothers that replaces the tortoise with a hedgehog who has a bet with the hare that whoever wins gets a bottle of brandy and a gold coin. Oh, and the hedgehog cheats by having his wife dress up as him and hide at the finish line only to come up before the hare just crosses it. Being a sore loser, the hare challenges the hedgehog again and they start at the finish line. The hedgehogs pull the same trick. The hare keeps challenging the hedgehog more than 70 times (with the hedgehogs winning through the same trick each time). That is, until the 74th time when a blood vessel bursts in the hare’s throat and he collapses at the middle of the racetrack, gurgling his last confused breaths while drowning in his own blood.

The Red Shoes

Girl can't stop dancing in her red shoes.

Girl can’t stop dancing in her red shoes.

How You Know It: Girl gets a red pair of shoes, can’t stop dancing to take them off, and dies.

The Original Version: Based on a story by Hans Christen Andersen. Still, she’s brought in by a rich lady who gives her a pair of shoes. Yet, being the materialistic brat she is, she remains obsessed with the shoes. Yet, of course when she starts dancing at a party (when her adoptive mom is ill) she just can’t stop as if the shoes have a life of their own. Of course, this really has a negative effect of her life that she can’t attend her adoptive mother’s funeral. Oh, and there’s an angel that condemns her to dance even after she dies as a warning to kids everywhere. The girl begs for mercy but the red shoes take her away before the angel could say anything else. She then has an executioner cut of her feet, yet that doesn’t do the trick for the shoes continue to dance before her. Eventually the angel gives the girl mercy she asked for and her heart bursts so she’s taken up to heaven.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Perhaps using magic to help with housework is probably not a good idea.

Perhaps using magic to help with housework is probably not a good idea.

How You Know It: Kid magician apprentices for a sorcerer but he’s stuck with mopping the floor instead using no magic. When his master’s away, the boy enchants a broom to do the work for him (using magic in which he’s not fully trained). The floor is soon covered in water and the apprentice realizes he can’t stop the broom because he doesn’t know how. He splits the broom with an ax but new brooms form from the pieces and each take a pail fetching water at twice the speed. Sorcerer comes back at the last minute to save the day.

The Original Version: Though remembered as a Disney sequence from Fantasia, it’s from an 18th century poem by Goethe, but the sorcerer isn’t as angry in that. Also, there’s an Ancient Roman version to this as well by Lucian from 150 AD. Yet, the master is actually an Egyptian priest called Pancrates and the role in the apprentice is the guy’s friend Eucrates who thinks he could cause some magic after just eavesdropping on his companion. Yet, the implement here is a pestle.

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen takes the boy to her ice castle.

The Snow Queen takes the boy to her ice castle.

How You Know It: Magical winter queen kidnaps young boy named Kai and takes him to her castle and makes him forget about his home. Girl named Gerda makes long hard journey to save him, with the help of a robber girl and her animal friends, a princess, a couple old ladies, and others.

The Original Version: Written by Hans Christian Andersen. Sure people think Frozen is based on this but it’s a bit of a stretch (it was originally going to be an adaptation but it didn’t work out that way). Still, the Snow Queen in the Hans Christian Andersen tale bears more resemblance to the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia series with the exception that she’s not an evil person. Besides, Kai willingly stays with her and she’s willing to let him leave if he once though he has to accomplish an almost impossible task. Also, the story has a prequel with an evil troll (who’s actually Satan) makes a magic mirror of cynicism, it slips from his grasp and shatters into a billion pieces. One of those hits Kai in the heart and eye (before the Snow Queen kidnaps him though even with a frozen heart, he still lives but it takes Gerda’s tears to thaw him). Not to mention, there’s a lot of Christian subtext in this story which many adaptations leave out.

Original Fairy Tales Part 2

Last time I did Aladdin, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Gingerbread Man, The Frog Prince, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Hansel and Gretel, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Of course, these aren’t the only fairy tales we all know since I’m going to go over a few more in this one. Let’s just say that while fairy tales are said to contain fantastical elements or happy endings, sometimes neither is the case. And sometimes there’s a lot of violence thrown in as well. So now on with more fairy tales and their original versions I should talk about accordingly.

Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood at her grandmother's. "Grandmother" looks inexplicably hairy with big teeth.

Little Red Riding Hood at her grandmother’s. “Grandmother” looks inexplicably hairy with big teeth.

How You Know It: Red hooded girl goes out into the woods with a basket of goodies to give to her sick grandmother. On her way, she is stopped by a wolf who asks her where she’s going. Too innocent to know better, she just tells him flat out. The wolf later takes a shortcut to the grandmother’s house, either swallows her or holds the grandmother hostage, and sits in her bed wearing her bedclothes. When Little Red arrives, she remarks on how unusual her “grandmother” looks until she says “Grandma, what big teeth you have!” In which the wolf replies, “All the better to eat you with my dear!” Wolf springs out while Little Red is either eaten or escapes. Yet, soon Little Red and her grandmother are rescued by a passing huntsman (or lumberjack) who kills the wolf, and they all live happily ever after.

The Original Version: The original Little Red Riding Hood first appeared in print as a story by 17th century French writer Charles Perrault (yet this tale may have been as old as the 10th century). And in that version, the story ends with the girl’s death followed by a moral such as, “Children, especially attractive, well-bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf.” This might mean that, “any stranger could be a pedophile, serial killer, and/or rapist.” There’s no woodsman who saves her at the last minute, there’s no grandmother, and the wolf lives, end of story. Also, in Perrault’s story, she didn’t have a red hood but a red cape, which was his artistic touch for original folk tale didn’t even describe what color Little Red’s cloak was (and the Grimm Brothers added the hood part though their version has a happier ending as well as a sequel in which Little Red and her grandmother kill another wolf themselves). Still, some of the early versions play this fairy tale as one of seduction with the wolf not just wanting to eat Little Red and in some earlier variants. And in early versions with a happy ending, the wolf is punished horribly such as the huntsman either cutting him open or filling his stomach full of stones. Oh, and in some of these, Little Red gets away from the wolf with no outside help from anyone.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Pied Piper luring the kids out of the town with his music because he didn't get paid.

Pied Piper luring the kids out of the town with his music because he didn’t get paid.

How You Know It: Town hires broke musician to clear local rat infestation with his unconventional methods in exchange to pay him back. Rat catching musician lures rats away with his musical chops but the townspeople reneged on their promise and refuse to pay him. In revenge, the Pied Piper uses his music on the local kids who follow him out of the town and who knows where and are never seen again.

The Original Version: This is a very old tale which may have roots from a true story of how Hamelin lost its children but in the original the kiddos are all drowned in the river. The earliest record from the town chronicles is in the entry from 1384 which says “It is 100 years since our children left.” Some historians believe that the plague killed all the kids while others speculate that they were forced to move due to overpopulation. There are even some who say that this story was an allegory to the disastrous Children’s Crusade (though this may not have consisted just kids but also displaced homeless people) and that the Pied Piper was Nicholas of Colonge. There are plenty of other theories out there as well.

Puss in Boots

Puss meets the ogre.

Puss meets the ogre.

How You Know It: Miller dies and his youngest son finds himself stuck with the old man’s anthropomorphic cat. Cat promises to make the guy rich if he buys him some boots. Once he has them, Puss makes several visits to the local king claiming to be a servant to the Marquis of Carabas, each time bringing gifts he caught himself. He soon has his owner play up the ruse by having him skinny dip in a river with Puss claiming that someone stole his clothes in front of the king and his daughter. Puss then has the country folk brought into his scheme by having the king tell the king that the lands belong to the Marquis of Carabas or else face certain death. He later goes to the castle in which he flatters and taunts the resident ogre into proving his powers by transforming into a mouse, whereupon Puss promptly kills and eats him. When the king arrives, he is impressed with the bogus marquis and his estate and gives him his daughter in marriage and everyone lives happily ever after.

The Original Version: The most familiar version of this story was “The Master Cat, or The Cat in Boots” by 17th century French writer Charles Perrault but the cat in the story wasn’t named Puss in Boots, it was just a fan nickname. However, this tale of the trickster cat is way older than what many people expect. The earliest version is actually by a Hindu priest from Kashmir whose 5th century compilation the Panchatantra has a tale following a cat similar to Puss but he fares much less well than Perrault’s version as he attempts to make his fortune in the king’s palace.

Miller son changes into clothes and meets princess.

Miller son changes into clothes and meets princess.

In 1553, the Venetian writer Giovanni Francesco Straparola had a tale “Costantino Fortunato” which also falls on similar lines of Puss in Boots except that it takes place in Bohemia, the young man is the son of a local woman, the cat is a fairy in disguise, and the castle belongs to a lord who conveniently perishes in an accident. The young man eventually becomes Bohemia’s king. Yet, we’re not sure whether this one had origins in oral tradition or Straparola just made it up.

Then there’s a similar Puss in Boots tale published in 1634 by Neapolitan Giambattista Basile, yet the young man is actually a beggar whose fortunes are achieved in the same manner as Perrault’s. Yet, the tale ends with the former beggar boy promising the cat a gold coffin at his death as an expression of his gratitude. Three days later, the cat plays dead to test his master and is absolutely mortified to hear his master tell his wife to take the dead cat by its paws and throw it out the window. The cat leaps up frantic to know whether this was a better reward for helping his owner to a better life and runs away, leaving the ungrateful bastard to fend for himself. It’s almost certain that Charles Perrault wasn’t aware of these previous versions.

Rapunzel

Witch about to get Rapunzel a haircut after discovering what she was doing with the prince.

Witch about to get Rapunzel a haircut after discovering what she was doing with the prince.

How You Know It: Witch kidnaps abnormally long haired girl and shuts her up in a tower due to her dad stealing some of her garden plant to satisfy her mom’s pregnancy cravings. The only way to have access to the tower was to say “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” A smitten prince gets wind of this, climbs up to rescue her and the two live happily ever after.

The Original Version: The best known version is by the Brothers Grimm (though probably based on a story called “Petronsinella” by Italian Giambattista Basile though it contains more bawdy language and Mamoidselle La Force’s Persinette which has a fairy instead of a witch) yet this is quite different in which prince doesn’t rescue Rapunzel the first time he’s up there (yet he visits several times) but while they do make plans to elope, they also engage in less family-friendly activities as revealed later when Rapunzel complains to the witch about how tight her dress was getting around the middle (though the Grimms would change this). This would cause the witch to cut off the girl’s hair to lure the prince in and banished her to the desert where she lives as a beggar with no home, no money, and two little mouths to feed after a few months. When the prince came, the witch pushed him off the tower into a bed of thorns which left him blind. They wandered in the desert for some time (during which Rapunzel bore twin boys) before running into each other. Rapunzel would embrace him weeping in which her tears restored the prince’s sight and they all lived happily ever after.

Rapunzel letting her hair down for the prince.

Rapunzel letting her hair down for the prince.

It is said that the tale has some elements to the story of Saint Barbara such as having the girl locked in a tower, though Barbara’s ordeal was more or less honor-related abuse for defying her dad and it didn’t end well for her. Then there’s the 10th century Persian tale Rudaba which also has the “let down your hair” motif. Still, there are many older forms such as the Italian tale “Snow White Fire-Red” in which the prince is cursed by an ogress for breaking her pitcher in which the only girl he could marry was Snow White Fire-Red (the “daughter” of another ogress who like Rapunzel also has extremely long hair and lives in a tower but we’re not sure how she got there). Oh, and she’s a magic girl who enchants furniture as well as other tricks. The story ends when the other ogress curses her to make the prince forget her but she later helps break that one, too. Older forms of Rapunzel have similar variants like this one.

Rumpelstiltskin

Weird little helper ask for payback but relents if queen could say his name.

Weird little helper ask for payback but relents if queen could say his name.

How You Know It: Miller boats about his daughter’s exaggerated domestic skills with the talent she could spin straw into gold in an effort to feel important. King catches wind of this and the girl finds herself locked in room and charged with the aforesaid impossible task with nothing but a spinning wheel and a royal death threat (yet, the king later says he’d marry the girl after he completes her task). Well, almost impossible when a weird little man suddenly shows up and offers to do the deed in exchange for a few favors such as her necklace, ring, and firstborn child. Once the girl marries the king and has a child, the weirdo shows up and tells her to pay up. Yet, the queen is rather unwilling to fulfill her end of the bargain for obvious reasons so the guy says that she could keep the kid if she can guess his name within the next three days. Frantic, the queen and her servants try to think up but finally a messenger does happen to catch the weird guy boasting about his name. The Queen guesses Rumpelstiltskin correctly and the little man’s plan is foiled.

The Original Version: Rumpelstitskin’s fate in the original story has him flying off the window on a spoon while the Grimms have him either simply leaving in a huff or tearing himself in two after stamping in a fit of rage. Still, this story has a lot of cultural variants. There’s also another Grimm tale called “The Three Aunts” which is about a girl in the same situation but instead of her firstborn child, the women just ask to attend her wedding as her aunts as well as ensure her that she won’t need their help again. Yet, the king did learn his lesson in that one once he saw what years of spinning did to these women.

Sleeping Beauty

Princess is fast asleep in magical coma.

Princess is fast asleep in magical coma.

How You Know It: A girl is born to a king and queen and all the fairies are invited to celebrate. Well, save one who shows up anyway and curses her to death by spindle touching while another just succeeds in softening the curse to sleep. However, despite the king and queen’s efforts to rid the kingdom, the princess ends up in a cursed sleep anyway (though sometimes the whole kingdom is put to sleep as well for a century). Soon the prince shows up, plants a kiss that brings her back to life and they live happily ever after.

The Original Version: While the best known version of this tale is the Grimm’s version which was probably the main inspiration for the Disney movie (sans the 13 fairies, magic frog, and a lot of dead suitors in the forest surrounding the castle), there are plenty of earlier variants. The earliest printed version was compiled by 17th century Neapolitan author Giambattista Basile whose retelling called “Sun, Moon, and Talia” would make Walt Disney look like a feminist. In this one, the princess falls in a magic coma not by pricking a spindle but touching a thread of hemp under her fingernail. Thinking her dead, her dad props her on a velvet chair and abandons her. Sometime later another king comes across that very castle while hunting and tries to check the place out. There he finds the sleeping princess, falls in love with her, carries her to the bed, rapes her, and leaves forgetting the whole affair. The princess wakes up when one of her infant twins sucks the splinter out of her finger (yes, she had twins while in her unconscious state.) Soon the king returns to see her again finds her awake and proceeds to confess that he was the kids’ father. Despite her not knowing anything about him other than as her rapist baby daddy, the two go on a weekend sex marathon in the hay, and the princess and twins move into the king’s castle but they are kept secret from his wife. The Queen soon finds out and orders the kids cooked and served to her husband but the cook hides the tots at his or her home and prepared a goat dish in its place. The Queen later sent for the princess just to have her thrown in the fire for having sex with her husband. Luckily, the king arrives, has his wife thrown in the fire, marries the princess, finds their kids and they all live happily ever after.

Prince finds Sleeping Beauty.

Prince finds Sleeping Beauty.

In the 17th century French writer Charles Perrault’s version of this tale has an epilogue in which the already married princess (who’s also a mother of two) has to deal with her jealous part ogre mother-in-law. She demands to have the wife and kids cooked and eaten but the cook hides them and serves animals instead. The queen proceeds to prepare a big pot of nasty venomous creatures to kill them but the prince arrives just in time, the queen falls into the pot and everyone lives happily ever after. In the Grimm version, this was a separate story called “The Mother-In-Law” in which the queen is just put to death. Also, in the Perrault version, the king and queen simply abandon the princess as soon as the fairy is done putting everyone else to sleep for 100 years and the princess doesn’t age a bit. Oh, and she wakes up when the prince merely enters her chamber when the 100 years are up averting the whole sexual assault thing.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Please don't eat that apple.

Please don’t eat that apple.

How You Know It: A queen wishes for a child with rose red lips, snow white skin, and ebony black hair. She gets her wish but promptly dies soon after Snow White’s birth and is replaced by a beauty obsessed wicked stepmother. She’s so obsessed with her own looks that she asks the mirror every day, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Of course, the mirror always says she is until one day it says that Snow White is which sends the queen into plotting her assassination. She orders a huntsman to do the deed and cut out her heart as a royal trophy. The huntsman is unable to do this so he lets Snow White go (and brings a pig’s heart to the queen instead). After some time in the woods Snow White falls with a bunch of dwarfs who let her stay as long as she does the housework. But the queen is undeterred so she disguises herself as a peddler and tries to kill her via poison apple. Snow White eats it and drops to the floor. When the dwarfs find her, they assume she’s dead and put her in a glass coffin where they keep watch. Soon a prince arrives and revives her with a kiss and they live happily ever after.

The Original Version: The Grimm version is the most familiar to us, yet the queen tries to kill Snow White in more ways than in the Disney movie. In the Grimm version, the queen asks the huntsman to bring Snow White’s heart to her so she could eat it yet the guy gives her pig parts instead. And when disguised as a peddler, she not only tries poison apple as an assassination method, but also tight corset lacing and poison comb. Snow White falls unconscious from these but the dwarves manage to revive her. The poison apple was just the only method that seemed to stick. Oh, and the wicked queen dies at her stepdaughter’s wedding where she is forced to dance to death in red hot shoes. Not only that, but the Grimm retelling was the first version of the tale to have the wicked queen as Snow White’s stepmother. In earlier versions, she’s her biological mother and took her daughter to pick flowers in the woods and abandons her.

Snow White doing housework for the seven dwarfs.

Snow White doing housework for the seven dwarfs.

As for Snow White, during most of the story’s action she is about seven years old and the prince doesn’t kiss her back to life. Rather he takes her home (despite thinking her dead) but on the way, the coffin is jolted and Snow White is revived after the bits of poison apple are dislodged from her throat. Also, when she stumbles at the dwarves’ home, her first idea doesn’t pertain to clean up after them. Rather, she eats their food, drinks their wine, and sleeps in their beds. When the dwarves come home, their place is a mess. There are also other cultural variants of Snow White as well including an Albanian one where she kills her stepmother and lives with 40 dragons.

Three Billy Goats Gruff

Looks like the troll messed with the wrong goat this time.

Looks like the troll messed with the wrong goat this time.

How You Know It: Three Billy goat brothers attempt to cross a bridge for greener pastures but has a bad tempered troll living under it. The youngest two go first but they shiver in the troll’s presence and only get off by saying that their brother would make a better dish than them. When the oldest brother ventures, he trounces the troll and throws him off the bridge so he and his brothers could cross it and eat the grass from the other side.

The Original Version: This is derived from a Norwegian folk tale compiled by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe.

The Three Little Pigs

Third little pig working on his brick house while his brothers have a good time. Boy will they pay for it later.

Third little pig working on his brick house while his brothers have a good time. Boy will they pay for it later.

How You Know It: Three pigs move out of their mom’s house to find their fortune and all build places of their own. Soon the Big Bad Wolf comes on the scene with intentions to eat them and due to the first two pigs’ poor choice of building materials, their houses are burned down. Yet, when he gets to the third pig’s brick house, he tries to blow it down but couldn’t so he tries to get access through the chimney but the third pig thwarts him.

The Original Version: This story was written in the 1840s and unlike most adaptations, the wolf actually eats the first two little pigs. Also, the Big Bad Wolf is cooked to death in a pot of boiling water, thanks to the third pig.

The Fisherman and His Wife

Fisherman about to ask a favor from a fish on behalf of his wife. Notice the castle in the background.

Fisherman about to ask a favor from a fish on behalf of his wife. Notice the castle in the background.

How You Know It: Poor fisherman captures a magic fish and lets it go. When he tells his wife, she suggested asking the fish for a wish such as a nice house. The wife becomes ever more greedy and wishes for more and more things until the ticked off fish eventually reduces them to the same life the fisherman and his wife had before.

The Original Version: While most adaptations use his tale about how money can’t buy happiness and such, the original tale Grimm version has the fish grant the fisherman’s wife such wishes to be queen, empress, and even pope. Yet, the fish has enough when she asks to be equal to God and thus revokes everything granted.

The Little Mermaid

Sorry, Mermaid, but this isn't Disney. Your prince ain't going for you this time.

Sorry, Mermaid, but this isn’t Disney. Your prince ain’t going for you this time.

How You Know It: Mermaid falls in love with a human prince she rescued and exchanges her voice for plastic surgery from the sea witch. She and the prince get together and after some rough patches end up happily ever after.

The Original Version: Unfortunately, the Hans Christen Andersen version isn’t as happy as the Disney movie. For one, the mermaid doesn’t just exchange her voice for legs (by having her tongue cut out), but she also finds it painful to walk. If she could make the prince fall in love and marry her, she could be a full fledge human all her life. Yet, if the prince marries someone else, she would die. Also, the sea witch is a rather neutral character in this and her motives are simply payment. Though the prince may be charmed by the mermaid and takes her in, he ends up with someone else. While her sisters give the mermaid a knife to kill the prince, she can’t bring herself to do so and dies dissolving in froth.

The Girl Without Hands

Looks like dismemberment is the only way you can please the devil this time.

Looks like dismemberment is the only way you can please the devil this time.

How You Know It: Devil offers poor man wealth if he gives him whatever is standing behind his mill. Poor man thinks it’s an apple tree, but it’s actually his daughter. Devil tries to take girl but can’t because she’s so pure so he threatens to take her dad unless she allows him to chop off her own hands. She agrees and father does so. Oh, and there’s a bit about receiving silver replacements, marrying a king, and giving birth to an alleged changeling caused by a miscommunication, as well as regaining the hands she lost after the king found her seven years later.

The Original Version: In earlier variants the young girl chops off her arms to make herself ugly to her brother who’s trying to rape her. In another, the dad chops off the daughter’s hands because she refuses to have sex with him.

Original Fairy Tales Part 1

Once upon a time, there were stories known as fairy tales with roots in the folk tradition as well as told to generations. They were usually told in a more spare and laconic style with characters defined by their actions and their motives described as short and simple. Almost every culture around the world has them and have widespread variants yet only a handful are known today. Still, while the notion of “fairy tale” means an idealized romance or ending, many of the classic tales we’re told as a child are much darker than what many people realize and wouldn’t be seen as Disney material. Yet, without further adieu, here I will discuss some of the older versions of the stories you all know and love (though this will take a series).

Aladdin

arabian_deliver_me

Aladdin and the Genie of the Ring.

How you know it: Middle Eastern orphaned homeless bum with a heart of gold but dreaming of riches is manipulated by an evil Grand Vizier into retrieving a magical lamp in a cave. With the Genie’s help and three wishes, he defeats the evil vizier, wins the heart of a princess, and finds relative security.

The Original Version: Contrary to the Disney movie and other popular adaptations, Aladdin and most of the characters in the original story was supposed to be Chinese. Yet, this can be forgiven since the story’s setting is completely Islamic anyway and doesn’t seem to bear any resemblance to China. Still, this tale wasn’t included in The One Thousand and One Nights or in any other documented source until the 1710 French translation by Antoine Gallard who claimed to have heard it from a Syrian storyteller but many speculate that he made the whole story up since there’s no hard evidence on that claim either (same goes for Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves).

Aladdin and the Genie.

Aladdin and the Genie of the Ring in the cave.

Not only that, but by the time the story takes place, Aladdin’s mother is still alive while his dad died of disappointment when Aladdin preferred being a juvenile delinquent to following his old man in the tailoring business. Nor is he homeless since he still lives with his mom as well who is the first to rub the magical lamp that releases the lamp Genie. Not to mention, he could ask the lamp Genie for an unlimited number of wishes and gets the Sultan’s blessing to marry the princess once he sees the extent of Aladdin’s bank account, granted by the Genie. He also marries the princess early on though he has the Genie kidnap her from her fiancé as well as torment them both every night until they conclude their marriage is cursed and split up where Aladdin then swoops in and romances her. How romantic! Not to mention, he has his own palace before the lamp is stolen. Oh, and Aladdin not just has a magic lamp but also a magic ring he uses to release another Genie who gets him out of the cave as well as transport him to his palace, free his wife, beat the bad guys, and gets his lamp back. Yeah, there are two genies in the original story but the Ring Genie is the main one while the lamp Genie is far more powerful. Oh, and the Magic Ring and Magic Lamp also helped inspire the Green Lantern.

Aladdin and Ring Genie save the day.

Aladdin and Ring Genie save the day.

As for the Grand Vizier in the original story, he’s more of an obstructive jerk politician than a devious villain but like the Disney version he does want to get rid of Aladdin yet more because he wants his own son to marry the princess (not himself and he’s justified as well). And he tries to do so by stating that Aladdin’s riches and the incredible things he could do must’ve been the result of black magic. The sultan just writes him off for being a sour puss over his own son being passed for Aladdin. Oh, and the Grand Vizier isn’t even the main villain of the original story nor does he steal Aladdin’s lamp. That honor belongs to the evil Moroccan sorcerer named Maghreb who manipulates Aladdin into entering the cave to retrieve the lamp (though we don’t know why he was the only one to enter it. Oh, and he tricks him by saying that he’s his long lost uncle on his dad’s side). He also steals the lamp by simply tricking Aladdin’s wife in to trading the old lamp for a new one and she didn’t know that her husband’s lamp contained a very powerful Genie. He then proceeds to wish for Aladdin’s palace and wife to be moved into his possession. Oh, he has a more evil brother who kills an old woman and dresses in in her clothes but he’s vanquished from the Lamp Genie. Not only that, but Aladdin had to drug the evil sorcerer to get his lamp back.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Morgiana uses boiling oil on in the jugs hiding the thieves. Poor thieves.

Morgiana uses boiling oil on in the jugs hiding the thieves. Poor thieves.

How You Know It: Wood cutter stumbles onto a cave containing a thieving gang’s treasure stash that is opened by saying the magic words “Open Sesame.” He takes some treasure and becomes rich. Later his brother hears about it, makes his way in the cave but is murdered by the robbers due to his greed and short term memory problems. Ali Baba finds his dead brother, retrieves his body, and the thieves go after Ali Baba, too. Yet, they are repeatedly foiled by him and his friends while all the thieves are defeated. Thus, Ali Baba and his associates live happily ever after.

The Original Version: Like Aladdin, this wasn’t included in the original One Thousand and One Nights and in any other documentation before Antoine Gallard’s 1710 translation, and it’s likely he made this one up, too. Oh, and you had to use “Shut Sesame” to close the cave before you left as well. Also, in the beginning of the story, Ali Baba is an older man with at least adult son and he’s only the main character until after he retrieves his brother’s dead body which was cut up into quarters and hung up at the cave entrance to warn others. The hero in the later part of the story is actually his young slave girl named Morgiana (who’s sometimes seen as his wife in some adaptations even if she wasn’t in the original) who stitches Ali’s brother back together for the funeral as well as thwarts the thieves who try to infiltrate Ali Baba’s house by filling up the large jugs containing the other thieves with hot boiling oil. Still, at least she gets rewarded in the end by marrying Ali Baba’s adult son (which earns her freedom in the process) while Ali ends up with his widowed sister-in-law.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and Beast. Notice the creative license on the beast.

Beauty and Beast. Notice the creative license on the beast.

How You Know It: An ordinary village girl ventures to a mysterious castle (owned by a menacing beast cursed with his form by ignoring an old beggar woman) where her dad is found trapped in after seeking shelter from a winter storm. Girl agrees to be the Beast’s hostage in her dad’s place. While there she finds the Beast develops a romantic attachment to the girl and doesn’t seem so bad as she grows fond of him. One day she asks the Beast to go home to see her sick dad, and he reluctantly agrees but is hampered by people who want to keep her and the Beast apart. Meanwhile the Beast almost loses the will to live before the girl comes back and says she loves him which breaks the spell and turns him into a handsome prince.

The Original Version: There are actually two literary versions of the tale I’ll get into from the 18th century with both of them written by French women as propaganda piece for girls to accept arranged marriages. Of course, since this tale has outlived the practice, its meanings are far more romanticized in later adaptations. The 1740 version was by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve and this story is a sprawling and convoluted story filled with contrived coincidences and last minute exposition in which both Beauty and Beast were revealed to be double first cousins, half-fairy (on their mother’s side), and royalty (on their father’s side). It also includes a love triangle in which Beauty is conflicted between the Beast and the handsome prince before finding out that they’re the same person. Also, she has twelve siblings.

Beast as bear proposing the Beauty by going down on one knee.

Beast as bear proposing the Beauty by going down on one knee.

The second version was written in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont which is moderately close to the Disney version. Yet, there are differences in this version. For one, the heroine was literally named Beauty instead of Belle but since the story takes place in France, this wasn’t much of a change. Still, in Beaumont’s version, her dad is a rich merchant falling on hard times who was on his way home after a trading scheme gone wrong. She also has two materialistic scheming sisters who are the main villains instead of a jealous suitor. Oh, and the two sisters try to keep Beauty home longer than a week after she comes back from the castle simply out of jealousy of her good looks and how well she bears under her various misfortunes as well as conspire to try to get her eaten alive. Yet, they get punished by being turned into stone statues. Not to mention, Beauty volunteers to stay at the Beast’s castle after her dad returns home.

As for the Beast, while unlike in the Disney version, he’s actually nice to Beauty from the very beginning in the Beaumont version, despite threatening to kill her dad. And his house isn’t a bad place either, which includes a garden and everything. Oh, and he keeps asking Beauty to marry him even though she keeps saying no like every night. Yet, she does agree to do so when she realized that the Beast is a kind and caring man which breaks the spell.

Cinderella

Fairy Godmother making pumpkin into coach.

Fairy Godmother making pumpkin into coach.

How You Know It: Young noblewoman’s mother dies and father remarries a total bitch with at least two equally bitchy daughters of her own, then disappears (either he dies or is an absent parent to his daughter). The girl’s new stepfamily turns out to be vindictively cruel and makes her work as a servant just for kicks earning her nickname “Cinderella.” When the local prince holds a kingdom wide ball, the they refuse to let her attend. Yet, Cinderella calls on a spirit helper which could be her fairy godmother or a representative of her dead mom who takes pity and prepares her for the ball in which she manages to outshine almost every girl there and win the prince’s heart. However, the spirit’s help comes with a cache is that Cinderella must return by midnight yet when the time comes she rushes off and leaves her slipper at the castle. The prince tracks her down the next day through the lost slipper and once reunited they marry and live happily ever after.

The Original Version: This is a very old story with a lot of renditions, including a traditional Irish version with a guy with big feet named Cinderellis who steals a giant’s shoes. Of course, the most familiar version of Cinderella complete with glass slippers, fairy godmothers, pumpkin coaches, and such was written by a 17th century French guy named Charles Perrault (yet his story has two balls and a less bitchy stepsister while most modern versions have one and the stepsisters have no characterization). The earliest version from Ancient Greece written before the birth of Christ in which Cinderella is a Greek girl named Rhodopis kidnapped and sold into slavery in Egypt and is subject to constant harassment by her co-workers because of her lighter skin tone, sings and dances with her animal friends, has her old master give her red golden slippers, and manages to win the Pharaoh’s heart by having the god Horus steal one of them and drop on the king’s lap. And yes, though Rhodopis doesn’t attend the celebration the Pharaoh makes a decree that all maidens have to try on the slipper and the one whose foot fits would be his Queen. When he arrives at Rhodopis’ place she shows him the other slipper and they live happily ever after. Think of it as Cinderella meets Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat but much less realistic (I mean there’s no way in hell a Greek slave girl could become Queen of Egypt, more like a Pharaoh’s concubine at best). Yet, this version may have very well been based on a true story by Aesop of a Thracian courtesan from the 6th century BCE.

Cinderella rushing to leave around midnight.

Cinderella rushing to leave around midnight.

There’s even a Chinese version from the 9th century in which Cinderella is named Ye Xian and is the daughter of a bigamous scholar so this means her stepmother’s daughter is her half-sister. Of course, her parents die from plague but her mother is reincarnated into a fish to watch over her little girl in a nearby lake (you could tell that some Buddhist wrote this one). When her stepmother learns of this, she has the fish captured and served to herself and daughter. Ye Xian collects the leftover bones and is told by the spirit to place them on the foot of her bed and her desires would be granted if she requests them of the bones. At the beginning of the Spring Festival, Ye Xian’s stepmother tells her to stay and clean as a spirit tells her to where to find clothes to wear to the event. She enjoys herself at the festival until she rushes home to avoid her stepmother’s detection yet, she leaves a golden slipper behind (notice that the slippers aren’t always glass). The slipper is discovered by a king who resolves to trace the owner’s identity and when he does, he takes Ye Xian as his wife to her joy while the vindictive stepmother and half-sister are crushed to death by an earthquake.

The glass slipper fits.

Of course, I couldn’t do a post on the original Cinderella without talking about the famous Grimm Brothers’ version, which contrary to popular belief isn’t the oldest version (since I said this story has been around before Jesus). It’s actually very much the same as most versions except that there are three balls, she is helped by a tree at her mom’s grave and a couple of doves, and what happens after Cinderella leaves her slipper behind. Let’s just say when the prince comes to her house, the stepsisters try to fit in the slipper by mutilating their feet hoping to fool him. Oh, and once Cinderella is whisked away by her prince, the stepsisters have their eyes plucked out by birds and are forced to live their lives as beggars. Of course, there are even some versions in which Cinderella kills her stepmother, one of them so her dad could marry a servant instead. Oh, and the said servant had a lot of kids, to boot.

The Elves and the Shoemaker

Watching the elves tinker with their overnight shift.

Watching the elves tinker with their overnight shift.

How You Know It: A poor struggling cobbler wakes up to find shoes he planned to create the next morning already made which leads better sales. One day he discovers a few elves carrying on in his workshop and decides to do something to thank them. Prosperity follows.

The Original Version: Unlike many adaptations, there were only two elves in the Grimm version and to show his gratitude, the cobbler decides to make clothes for them. The elves don’t come again but they ushered a new era of business for him. Still, the process of giving clothes to free house-elves in Harry Potter, comes from this tale. Oh, and the cobbler discovered the elves working in his shop on Christmas, which is another reference elves making stuff around the holiday.

The Frog Prince

Frog fetches golden ball for princess.

Frog fetches golden ball for princess.

How You Know It: Princess loses golden ball down a well and a nearby frog offers to retrieve it for her in exchange for a kiss. She agrees and they live happily ever after.

The Original Version: In the Pre-Grimm Brothers’ version there was more than one girl who encountered the frog but it was only the last one who kept her promise to marry him. In the Grimm version, there is just one. Still, the Grimm version doesn’t have the frog ask the princess to kiss him. Rather, he demanded that she kept him near her as a pet, share her food and drink with him as well as sleep on her bed (cue the sexual overtones here). She is repulsed but reluctantly agrees though she goes home without him after she gets her ball back. The frog turns up at the castle and has the king take his side. At first, it’s no problem but come nighttime, the princess refused to let the frog sleep on her pillow and angrily threw him against the wall (once again, cue the sexual symbolism, though in some early versions he’s either burnt or decapitated). To her shock, she finds the frog transformed into a handsome prince, they fall in love, marry, and live happily ever after. Oh, and during this whole time the frog prince’s servant Henry had his heart bound with iron straps to keep it from breaking while he was enchanted, which break in the end.

The Gingerbread Man

Fox eats the Gingerbread Man.

Fox eats the Gingerbread Man.

How You Know It: A magical anthropomorphic gingerbread man comes to life out of the oven and runs away from the old couple who baked him. They chase him and fail to catch him and the Gingerbread Man outruns several farm workers and animals taunting them with the phrase “Run, run, run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!” Ends when the fox tricks the Gingerbread Man and eats him.

The Original Version: Actually not an old fairy tale but first appeared in an 1875 issue of St. Nicholas magazine. Yet, this was called The Gingerbread Boy. Still, despite the ending, the Gingerbread Man continues to make appearances in the Shrek movies.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Somebody's been sleeping and my bed and there she is.

Somebody’s been sleeping and my bed and there she is.

How You Know It: A young blonde juvenile delinquent breaks into the residence of three anthropomorphic bears who were away but forgot to lock the door. Goldilocks proceeds to eat their food, sit on their furniture (destroying a chair in the process), and sleep in their beds. The bears return, see evidence of the break in, and chase Goldilocks out of Baby Bear’s bed when they find her.

The Original Version: This tale has evolved over the years. The original tale of the Three Bears, the bear family lived in a castle and the intruder was a vixen (like a female fox) named Scrapefoot. 19th Century English writer Robert Southey was the first person to publish the tale that he heard as a child yet he accidently thought that the intruder was the wrong kind of vixen who, in turn got changed into a lawless old woman who after not being invited around the bears’ place, decides to go see for herself. She falls out the window and is never seen again but it’s hinted that her fate isn’t good. Oh, and Southey’s three bears are actually all adult males sharing a house in the woods together named, “a Little, Small, Wee Bear, a Middle-sized Bear, and a Great, Huge Bear.” Goldilocks as we know her turned up twelve years later in Joseph Cundalls version just to stop the confusion with other old ladies in other fairy tales but she was called Silverhair for a long time. Also, she wasn’t the only little girl in the tale. Not to mention, the bears were changed into a family in Cundall’s tale since who knows what three bachelor bears living together would be up to.

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel eating the witch's candy gingerbread house. Of course, the witch doesn't mind but for different reasons.

Hansel and Gretel eating the witch’s candy gingerbread house. Of course, the witch doesn’t mind but for different reasons.

How You Know It: Two kids are kicked out by their dad and stepmother and are forced to survive in the woods by themselves making a trail of breadcrumbs so they could come back (but the birds eat them). One day, they stumble onto a gingerbread house in the woods owned by a witch who is initially nice to them but they later find out that she wants to eat them and Hansel finds out he’d be dinner the next morning while Gretel is a servant. The witch asks Gretel to light the oven, she pretends she can’t. Yet, when the witch bends over, Gretel kicks her in the oven, rescues Hansel, and the two live happily ever after.

The Original Version: This tale may have originated during the Middle Ages at the time of the Great Famine of 1315-1317, when people were driven to desperate measures. Kids were abandoned to fend for themselves and there were many incidences of cannibalism. In the original Grimm version from 1812, the woman who drives Hansel and Gretel out was their biological mother and the father also shared the blame for abandoning the kids. There’s an earlier French version called “The Lost Children” where the main villain is the devil and his wife. Now the devil is tricked by the children in much the same way as Hansel and Gretel but the devil works it out and makes a sawhorse to put one of the kids on to bleed. The children feign ignorance on how to get on so the devil’s wife demonstrates (and she tried to help them earlier). When she is lying down helpless, the kids slash her throat, steal the devil’s money, and run off.

Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack chopping down the beanstalk and sending the giant to his death. Hope his house and mother don't get smashed.

Jack chopping down the beanstalk and sending the giant to his death. Hope his house and mother don’t get smashed.

How You Know It: Poor guy sells the family cow for some magic beans to his mom’s dismay so she throws them out the window. Overnight the beans grow into a massive beanstalk that reaches up to the clouds. Jack climbs the beanstalk and finds a massive castle owned by a giant once he reaches the top that says, ”Fee-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he live or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.” Jack makes a few trips the next few days and with the help of the giant’s wife, manages to bag the giant’s gold, the goose that lays the golden eggs, and the magic golden harp. Soon the giant chases him down the beanstalk yet Jack manages to reach the bottom first, grabs the ax, and kills the giant.

The Original Version: The oldest commonly known version was collected by Joseph Jacobs around the turn of the 19th to 20th century. Yet, this story seems to be an amalgamation of many giant killing stories such as “Jack the Giant Killer” (which has roots in Arthurian legend but different and more violent plot) and “The Brave Little Tailor.” It also bears striking similarities the Norse myth called “The Thief of Idunn” which a trickster travels to a giant’s lofty castle and steals a few magic treasures, only to be found out and chased back home, where the giant meets his doom.