mermaid tales and witch tales in the collection.
When we think of fairy tale dwarves, we are sure to remember "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", and some people may be familiar with "Snow White and Rose Red". From these two tales we see the dual nature of dwarfs in folklore; they can be helpful and kind, as they were to Snow White, yet rude and ungrateful in the latter story.
Like the dwarves in "Lord of the Rings", dwarves often lived in mountains, creating a system of tunnels, and were known for their work with precious metals. In one story they made a necklace that would make anyone who saw it love the wearer-this was for a wife who was afraid she would lose her husband's love. Yet in payment for this treasure, she had to give herself to the Dwarves. When the woman's husband found out what she had done, he left her-ironically bringing about the fate the wife had tried to avoid. The husband did eventually reconcile himself to his wife, but it's a reminder that powerful magic often comes at a price...
Yet not all dwarves were as friendly-one castle was known as haunted; the dwarves there would scatter the sheep at night, causing them to fall off the mountain, so the castle was avoided.
Two stories in particular reminded me of traditional fairy tales. "Beautiful Bertha, the Red Shoe, and the Golden Needle" is essentially a Cinderella tale. A beautiful nobleman's daughter, Bertha, and a shepherd's daughter, Hylde, were switched at birth. Bertha became a maid for Hylde, and being jealous of Bertha's beauty, Hylde gave her the hardest chores, and humiliated her as often as possible. A prince came through looking for a bride, but passed by their castle. But Dwarves came, bringing with them a red shoe and golden needle, saying that the one who owned both things would be the prince's bride. When the shepherdess, Hylde's true mother, revealed the truth, Hylde threw herself from the tower, and Bertha became the prince's wife. So in this story we have the elements of persecuted heroine, aid from magical helpers, and recognition by a shoe. (I had recently done a post on red shoes in fairy tales, so we can add this to the list of significant red shoes!)
"Tale of the Forest Dwarf" is very similar to Rumpelstiltskin, yet the dwarf in this version seems kinder overall. A very poor man with many children to feed came across a dwarf clad in green, who led him to a cave of treasures. The treasure could all belong to the poor man, if he could guess the dwarf's name in three days. The dwarf was under a spell and had to guard the treasures until someone could guess his name and say it out loud. The man went home and told his wife.
She prayed and went to find the dwarf herself. She overheard him lamenting about how easy it would be for them to guess his name because of his little pointed beard. So she came in her husband's place and guessed, "Little Pointed Beard!", and the dwarf turned into a dove and flew away; the poor family was able to enjoy all the treasures.