Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Grimms' Spinner's Tales: First Edition vs. Last

Taking another look at how the Grimms altered their tales between the first edition and the last almost 50 years later; this time, with some tales that focus on the chore of spinning. First up, the classic "Rumpelstiltskin".

Rumpelstiltskin Stratton Illustration
For some reason I had it in my head that the Grimms had altered the miller's daughter in later versions of Rumpelstiltskin, making her lazy, and therefore possibly implying that she deserved part of the trauma she underwent. Turns out that the daughter remains pretty much an innocent victim throughout the Grimms' first and last retellings, although I'm not the only one to have been under this impression (see this post). Does anyone know of later versions that make the daughter out to be lazy? I was in a children's theater play once where I played the miller's wife (ironic, I now realize, because that character is completely absent from the fairy tale), so maybe the daughter in the play version was lazy.

The Grimms, in typical fashion, added extra details and embellishments to Rumpelstiltskin, so by the seventh edition the story is much longer than the first edition in 1812. Aside from filling out the plot a bit, there are two main changes made in the story:

Rumpelstiltskin Stratton Illustration
1. In the seventh edition, the Queen sends out a messenger to search for Rumpelstiltskin's true name, and he eventually comes across him in the forest. In the first, it's actually the King who just happens to come across him, and happened to mention what he overheard to the Queen. In this instance I like the changes the Grimms made better. The King is a pretty negative character in this fairy tale-so greedy he needs three rooms filled with gold, all larger than the last (despite Rumpelstitskin's unfair demand, if the King had never threatened death for gold -three times- the heroine would never have had to make such an awful bargain-Rumpel was initially content to receive jewelry for helping). It seems unnatural for the King to aid the happy ending. Plus, by the Queen sending  out a messenger, she's really engineering her own help, and is a more proactive character.

2. In the first edition, Rumpel gets upset, yells "the devil told you that!" and runs away. By the final, the unfortunate man had a much more violent end, tearing himself in two out of fury. This change I don't like as much. Besides being unnecessarily violent, as I mentioned earlier, Rumpelstiltskin isn't really a true villain. He even gives the Queen a way out (and then prances around the forest singing his name...almost like he wanted to be found out?). Rumpel is clearly the helper, although a bit rough around the edges, not greedy and murderous like the King, who goes unpunished.

Rumpelstiltskin Stratton IllustrationBut even more stark in contrast is one of the Grimms' lesser known tales about spinning, The Three Spinners. This is, maybe, where I got the lazy daughter idea in my head (Or maybe from Basile's spinning story). The 1857 tale begins,

"There was a girl who was lazy and would not spin. Her mother could not make her do so, whatever she said to her. Finally anger and impatience so overcame the mother that she beat her, upon which the girl began to cry loudly.
Now the queen was just driving by, and when she heard the crying she ordered her carriage to stop, went into the house, and asked the mother why she was beating her daughter so that her cries could be heard out on the road.
The woman was ashamed to reveal her daughter's laziness and said, "I cannot make her stop spinning. She wants to spin on and on forever, and I am poor, and cannot get the flax."
Then the queen answered, "There is nothing that I like better to hear than spinning. I am never happier than when the wheels are humming. Let your daughter come with me to the palace. I have flax enough. There she can spin to her heart's content."
The mother was completely satisfied with this, and the queen took the girl with her. Arriving at the palace, she took her upstairs to three rooms which were filled from the bottom to the top with the finest flax.
"Now spin this flax for me," she said, "and when you are finished, you shall have my oldest son for a husband. I do not mind if you are poor. Your untiring industry will do for a dowry.""

The girl ends up cleverly hiring three ugly women she sees passing by to spin for her, and later they tell her groom to be and mother in law the Queen that their unusual features (broad flat foot, large tongue, and broad thumb) came from spinning too much (peddling, licking, and twisting thread), and seeing the consequences, the young bride gets out of spinning forever. It's a humorous ending, and as it was a tale probably told by women as they spun, a chore clearly very boring and uncomfortable, it makes even more sense. Yet the original story is much more sympathetic to the spinner and villainizes those who demand it:

"In olden times there lived a King who loves flax spinning more than anything else, and his daughters had to spin the enitre day. If he didn't hear the wheels humming, he became angry. One time he had to take a trip, and before he said his farewell, he gave a large casket of flax to the Queen and said: 'All this must be spun by the time I return.'

"The princesses became distressed and wept. 'If we are to spin all of that flax, we'll have to sit the entire day, and we won't be able to get up at all.'"

The story ends similarly, but this time it is the Queen who thought of the clever plan, and sought out the three ugly women (rather than conveniently seeing them pass by) and told them what to say. So in this case, the women in the first edition are more proactive and clever, and not at all lazy.

Also very telling is the original title of this tale-it was changed from "Nasty Flax Spinning" to the much less evokative "The Three Spinners." Some of the changes didn't come just from the Grimms' opinions, but pressure from parents who wanted the tales to be more child appropriate; maybe the parents didn't like the idea of fairy tales encouraging children to shirk their chores?

For more texts of the Grimms' first editions of tales, check out The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

Illustrations by Helen Stratton

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Storybook Collection by JBW Studios

Artist J. Brooke Patterson creates intricate dioramas within real eggshells. The Storybook Collection contains several fairy tale scenes (as well as nursery rhymes, not included here).

The Real Princess
Princess and the Pea

The Nightingale
The Nightingale



Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Hansel & Gretel (lighted)
Hansel and Gretel (this one lights up!!)

The Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling

"As a container of life, the egg inspires one to imagine the many things that can dwell inside.  It can frame and focus a passing observation, or a deep contemplation, and its intimate nature can draw people inwards. Inside this space is where I create little worlds that can enchant, delight, and amuse people.  While the themes are often narrative, I also embrace an appreciation for the decorative.  The shell itself is often a subject of my work and a point of departure.  I will explore its color and texture, and the juxtaposition between its strength and fragility.  I make a conscious effort to consider, choose, and combine different artistic methods.  It is in using the humblest of materials that I find the greatest reward."
-J. Brooke Patterson

Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Koschei's Death Egg

For Easter weekend, I have a couple of egg themed posts!

Viktor Vasnetsov, "Kashchey the Immortal"

First up, the concept of Koschei's Death Egg. Koschei is a character in Russian folklore, the classic villain. One of his defining characteristics is that he is nearly impossible to kill because his soul is kept outside of his body-in an egg, in a duck, in a hare, in a chest, buried under an oak tree, on Buian island on the ocean-sea (or some series of objects-within-objects, but that formula is a standard one). It's interesting because I just posted an Irish tale in which the villain's heart is similarly hidden in an egg, in a duck, in a sheep, in a tree. Reader Sue Bursztynski noted that this was similar to Koschei, and it's a feature I've only come across in Koschei tales before, but there are always exceptions! It makes sense that the culture that created Russian nesting dolls would have stories that contained objects hidden within a series of other objects, and the series of objects are so similar the Irish tale must have been influenced by Russian stories.

Andreas Johns points out that it's ironic that Koschei is sometimes referred to as "Koschei the Deathless," because in the stories in which he appears, he is inevitably killed by the hero. Yet the term "Deathless" could refer not just to the fact that he is difficult to kill, but the fact that he keeps his "death" outside of himself. It's interesting that the egg should have such negative connotations, since usually eggs are associated with life/birth/resurrection, but the egg can also be said to contain his soul. In one tale, the hero Vasilii uses the same egg to kill Koschei as to revive his birth father, so sometimes (although rarely) the egg can have life-giving properties.
Ivan Bilibin

The storing of the soul within multiple objects gives Koschei protection, as it's more difficult to find and to get to, but the reciting of the egg's location has a lilting rhythm to it that is more obvious in Russian but even evident in English ("in an egg, in a duck, in a hare, in a chest..."). In fact, the Russian phrase that often begins the series, "On the sea, on the ocean, on Buian Island" also occurs in East Slavic incantations. Johns suggests that tale tellers were either familiar with incantations, or practitioners of spells themselves. Irina Razumova suggests that both genres come from a culture which believes in the magic power of words.

Although the Death Egg is almost always Koschei's, there are exceptions; in one tale type a maiden's love is contained in the egg hidden within the series of objects, and in one tale it's Baba Yaga whose soul is hidden in the egg. But whoever is hiding their soul in eggs, the hero of the tale is bound to discover the information and smash the egg anyway. We can look at Koschei as a reminder of the inevitability of death-you can try to prolong life, but it will catch up to you in the end. From the other perspective, it's encouraging to see that even the most difficult obstacles can be overcome by the hero, and good triumphs.

Source: Andreas Johns, Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale
Faberge Eggs-a royal Russian Easter tradition

Monday, March 21, 2016


Beauty and the Beast

Beautiful art by RovinaCai
Inspired by Black Swan

The Grimms' Six Swans

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Faerie Magazine Update

The Spring Issue of Faerie Magazine is out, and currently four previous issues are free to download digitally.
1 Year Subscription -- begin with SPRING 2016
Spring 2016 available through subscription or in bookstores soon

Faerie Magazine #29, Winter 2014, PDF
Faerie Magazine #30, Spring 2015, FREE PDF
Faerie Magazine #31, Summer 2015, PDF
Faerie Magazine #32, Autumn 2015, PDF
Winter 2014 and Spring-Autumn 2015 temporarily free to download

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Three Daughters of King O'Hara: An Irish Animal Bridegroom Tale

Continuing in my tradition of sharing an Irish tale for St. Patrick's Day!

A King had three daughters. One day while he was away, the eldest put on a cloak of darkness and wished for the most beautiful man under the sun as a husband, and a beautiful man came and took her away.

The middle daughter saw this, and put on the cloak and wished for the best man in the world as her husband. The youngest put on the cloak and wished for a white dog, and they were each taken away.

When the king came home he was furious his youngest daughter had wished for a white dog and gone off with him.

The eldest daughter's husband asked her if she would like him to stay in his current form at night, or during the day. She asked for his human form in the daytime, and he was a seal at night. The same thing happened to the next sister.

The youngest wife asked for her husband to remain a white dog during the day, and at night he became a handsome man. After a time she bore a son, and her husband warned her, if anything happened to the child, she must not shed a tear. While her husband was gone, a great crow came and carried the week old baby away, and she did not shed a tear.

The same thing happened after she bore a second son. A little while later, she gave birth to a daughter. Despite the warning, when the crow carried her away, the wife shed one tear, and put it in her handkerchief. When her husband came home and realized she had shed a tear, he was very angry.

Some time later, the father invited his three daughters to stay with him. The white dog was in dread that he would not be allowed to stay in the palace, but his wife told him, "There is no danger to you, for wherever I am, you'll be, and wherever you go, I'll follow and take care of you."

Although the King did not want the dog in his castle, his youngest daughter did not listen to him, and insisted on staying with the white dog all evening. Later, when everyone was in their rooms, the Queen and the cook stole into her daughter's rooms, and was surprised to see her eldest daughters with seals, and her youngest with a handsome man. The Queen also found the white dog skin, and threw it in the fire.

The skin gave a crack that woke everyone in the castle, and everyone for miles around. The youngest daughter's husband was angry, and revealed that if he had spent three nights with his wife under her father's roof, he could have resumed his human form permanently; but if his skin was destroyed, he was forced to leave. But his wife followed him, even though he ran all night and the next day; she would not leave him.

On their journey, they encountered three houses. In the first lived a little boy who called her "mother", and the woman of the house gave her a pair of scissors that would cut rags and turn them into new gold clothes. In the second house the woman met another little boy who called her "mother," and was given a magical comb that would heal sores on people's heads and give them a head full of beautiful golden hair. In the third, she met a little girl with one eye. The mother had kept the handkerchief in which she had shed a tear, and the tear had turned into an eyeball; the mother took out the eye and fitted it into her daughter's head, and she could see out of it. At this home she was given a whistle which would bring birds to her aid.

Finally, the husband and wife came to a place where he had no power to stay on upper earth, but was forced to become the husband of the Queen of Tir na n-Og (the land of youth), and he disappeared. His wife followed down until she came to the lower land, where she befriended a poor washer woman, and helped her with her chores.

One of the local children came to the wife in rags, and she used the magic scissors to make her beautiful new clothes. News of this traveled to the Queen, who insisted on having the scissors for herself. The true wife traded the scissors for a night with the Queen's husband, where she tried to talk to him, but he slept all night.

Later, she used the comb to heal a little girl with sores all over her head, and when the Queen heard of the girl's beautiful golden hair, she traded the comb for a night with her husband, but the same thing happened.

The wife used the whistle to call the birds to her, and they told her how to kill the Queen: her husband must find her heart in an egg in a duck in a wether (a neutered male sheep-thanks, Sue Bursztynski!) in a holly tree in front of the castle, and destroy the egg, which contained her heart. The true wife wrote her husband a letter, telling him of their history and that the Queen was giving him sleeping potions, and how to kill the Queen. Once the Queen heard about the whistle, the true wife was able to strike the same bargain, but this time her husband was awake; he was able to obtain the egg and smash it, killing the evil Queen. He and his first wife are still living happily together in the Land of Youth.

Found in Surlalune's Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World
This is such an interesting version of Animal Bridegroom tales! The journey of the wife and the trading trinkets for a night with her husband is similar to many other stories, but so many other features are unique.

I find the idea of the other sisters' husbands also being part time animal bridegrooms fascinating. It's as if the youngest daughter somehow realized that obtaining a husband through wishing on a dark cloak would have some kind of catch. She is also bold enough to defy her father's wishes that her white dog husband not stay in his house, and to follow her husband despite his protests that she return home.

I love how she keeps the eyeball and is able to heal her daughter (in a similar English tale, the daughter simply remains blind in one eye). The stipulation of not crying after her children are taking is very sad-but in tales like these, even though the curses are never explained, it seems that they were meant to be impossible to break (in another similar tale, the wife must remain silent while her husband, a bird, is being attacked and beaten). Yet none of the wives in these tales are condemned for showing motherly affection (or sticking up for their husbands).

 I also love how, whereas the husband usually just disappears, this wife chases after him and won't let him out of her sight during the journey! This story is definitely more feminist, even compared to other Animal Bridegroom tales in which the wife is already on a journey and seeking her husband, playing the part of the traditional male rescuer to her helpless cursed husband.

In some versions, the magical objects she is given is only used for bartering purposes; I really like how in this tale she befriends the poor people, works with them, and uses the magic to help others, and indirectly gets an audience with her husband. Also, in other versions, the husband is eventually clued in to the voice in his bedroom by a friend or servant, but in this one, his wife takes the initiative to write him a letter! Makes so much more sense. This heroine is active and clever. It's still a pretty bizarre little tale (what ends up happening to her children, for example?) but a fun one.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Article: Class Portrayal in Disney Movies (and Fairy Tales in General)

Just came across this interesting article by Allison Pond from Deseret News, 9 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Poverty Better Than Disney, that I found very interesting.

"A recent study from Duke University looked at the highest-grossing children’s movies and determined that they sanitize poverty and inequality by making them seem like no big deal.
“Parents think about how gender is portrayed, particularly in Disney movies,” Streib said. “But I don’t think they pay as much attention to how class is portrayed, and that could be another conversation starter for parents.”

How class is represented in children’s movies matters, said Jessi Streib, lead author of the Duke study, because if kids believe that simply working hard ensures success, they could blame themselves or others who don’t achieve certain things in life and assume they are lazy.

“It can end up being a viewpoint that doesn’t allow for a lot of empathy or for understanding how social class actually works,” she said."

First of all, I find it kind of refreshing to be looking at Disney/popular kids' movies for something other than gender portrayals. And it's true, class portrayal is much more overlooked.
However, I'm not sure how I feel about all the points in the article. It's pretty difficult to lump all Disney movies together; we have almost a century's worth of Disney classics to choose from by now, and the article mentioned Snow White (1937) through Aladdin (1992).

“We damage children by only exposing them to happy endings. That’s not how life works, whether you’re financially stable as an adult or not. Failure is part of everybody’s life experience,” she said.

She noted that many stories for children don’t end well.

“If you look at fairy tales from Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm, they have terribly sad endings. That’s just part of childhood (and) growing up.”

"Little Match Girl" by Aya Tsai

Yet, it's an issue to look at because it's not just present in Disney movies, but tends to be an integral part of fairy tales. As the study points out, not all fairy tales end happily, but honestly, many of them have a protagonist who goes from poverty to wealth, and yes, it's unrealistic. In a way I think, we all know on some level that fairy tales-especially cartoon musical versions of them-are not meant to be realistic guides for life, and part of me thinks, "what's the big deal?" (I also tend to be defensive because I'm one of those kids that grew up on a heavy diet of Disney entertainment). Yet at the same time, there can be power in those movies we watch (and rewatch) as children that inspire us and can subconsciously influence us.

"Cinderella" by V. P. Mohn

When most fairy tales were being told, the prospect of actually rising through the social ladder of society was basically impossible. The idea of upward mobility was complete wish fulfillment. Yet now we have the idea of the American dream, and some examples of people who really did work their way up to success, which lends to the societal ideal that anyone who works hard can succeed and that anyone in poverty must just not have worked hard enough, which is a gross oversimplification.

The article states that showing the dwarfs happily mining is an example of over romanticizing the poor. But...the dwarfs fill barrows full of valuable gems every day, they're hardly living in poverty...even though they live in a tiny cottage in the woods and all share one bedroom. But that's one of those things that doesn't necessarily translate into logical examples. For a child, the idea of mining gems is more exciting for the idea of discovery and pretty shiny gems, not necessarily the money that would result (we don't see evidence that the dwarfs go and sell their gems either, but they somehow afford food).

The article also points to the scene in "Aladdin" where Aladdin and Jasmine are both talking about the difficulties of their lives and realize that they have more in common than they think-they both feel "trapped." Pond says it's quite a stretch to suppose their difficulties can be compared, with Aladdin going hungry and Jasmine seeking teenage independence. Yet there's so much more going on there-first of all, even as a royal, as a woman, Jasmine really would have had far less autonomy than a male in a royal position-I don't really blame her for freaking out about the prospect of being "given away" in marriage ("I am not a prize to be won!"). The characters are finding ways of relating to each other, especially as they realize that one thing they both lack is a loving relationship.

And while we should never use the idea that people in poverty just "get used to it" as an excuse to ignore the fact that so many people around the world lack basic human rights such as food, shelter, education, or fair wages, we also shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking that having enough wealth equals happiness. People in poverty can also be the most generous, and people with great wealth can often be discontent and unhappy. I think it's important to be challenged to be content with what we have, and to value relationships more than material possessions. I think, honestly, another danger middle class people can fall into is looking down on the wealthy-we think we have the right to judge celebrities much more harshly than other people, and tend to diminish any struggles they have, while we remain ignorant of the unique pressures people face in their roles of power and influence. We can even feel a sense of pride in the fact that we don't "squander our money" on "luxuries" when comparing ourselves to the most wealthy, while failing to realize that our daily lifestyles would be considered totally luxurious by so many around the world.

One thing I appreciated about the article was how it not only critiqued, but gave some helpful suggestions for dealing with tough topics with children (the tips could also apply to other child appropriate issues we come across in the fairy tale world, such as violence, scary villains, etc.)

It's an issue I haven't thought about much myself, I'd love to hear all of your thoughts!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Little Aqua Riding Hood

A little fairy tale humor for your weekend-one of the many LRRH parodies is "Little Aqua Riding Hood," which can be found in Jack Zipes' The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood. (It was originally a navy blue hood in the title, but for some reason Zipes translated it to Aqua-I personally think the more specific shade makes it more humorous.)

The 1977 story stars Little Red Riding Hood's granddaughter Lorette-incidentally making the "original" LRRH now the grandmother, and the wolf is also a descendant of the infamous wolf of the story, who now lives comfortably in a zoo while Lorette must take a bus to get to her grandmother's Parisian apartment. It plays with the tension between, do we learn from our past mistakes, or is history doomed to repeat itself? The answer is that some people never learn, while others get smarter-find out what happens here. Exerpt:

"I forgot to mention that ever since she had been young, Lorette had always been jealous of her grandmother's reputation. The entire world knows about the exploits of Little Red Riding Hood which have been told to children throughout the world for over two generations. 'Why shouldn't I become someone famous, too?' she always asked herself."


(There are many other modern versions with the hood's color changed, such as Little Green Riding Hood, especially appropriate for St. Patrick's Day, or my personal favorite, The True History of Little Golden Hood)

*The images above have red hoods because when you search for "blue riding hood" images you get things like this:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Artist Feature: David Hockney

originally published in 1969


The Boy Who went Forth to Learn What Fear Is


Fundevogel (Foundling Bird)

"What makes Hockney’s visual interpretation especially enchanting is that while traditional fairy tale images tend to rely on beauty and color to create magic and contrast the beautiful and the ugly to distinguish between good and evil, even the princesses in his black-and-white illustrations are unassuming, ugly even; where ornate, detailed imagery would ordinarily fill the traditional visual vignette, Hockney’s ample use of negative space invites the imagination to roam freely. Perhaps above all, his haunting, scary, architectural illustrations serve as a testament to J.R.R. Tolkien’s assertion that, even if they might appeal to the young, fairy tales are not written “for children.”"

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Snow White and the Band of Thieves

John Hassall's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

In the comments on my post on the history of mirrors, Nectar Vam mentioned a version of Snow White in which the heroine's helpers are the personified 12 Months of the year. That in itself is a fascinating concept, but it also got me wondering about how often Snow White is helped by creatures other than Dwarfs.

John Hassall's Snow White and the Seven DwarfsI turned once again to Surlalune's fabulous collection of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White Tales from Around the World! It's not an exhaustive group of Snow White tales (as if such a thing could exist), but with 40 variants from around the world it still reveals some interesting trends.

Some stories didn't quite have a group of characters that functioned like the dwarfs we're familiar with, but almost all did. And dwarfs were actually not that prevalent in the stories! The clear winners were thieves and robbers, in 9 stories. Next most popular was just a regular band of men, in 6 tales. When the helpers were males they were often brothers. In 4 versions, they were the heroine's own brothers (in fact you could probably call these versions of "The Twelve Brothers.")

Dwarfs weren't really that popular in folklore versions of Snow White, showing up only twice besides the Grimms' (they were featured in Joseph Jacob's story but that's basically a condensed version of the Grimms). Other characters that featured as helpers in two versions each: Giants, Fairies, and an Ogre husband and wife.

Other helper groups that appeared once were a wounded woman, a spirit of a dead woman living inside a magic castle, an old man, the Goddess Nycteris, and one group of dragons (although Heidi Anne Heiner notes that the dragons could also be translated as "heroic men").

Also, the number "7" wasn't present in every version either. No matter what form the helpers came in, they could be helping alone, in pairs, or other significant numbers-groups of 3, 7, 12, 24, and 40 were common.

John Hassall's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
What does this reveal about Snow White's friends? First of all, that help can come from the most unlikely places. Thieves and robbers are not a group you would most expect to treat a beautiful young girl as a sister (one group of robbers was also initially cannibals). Even if it was a group of young men, the fact that they're living by themselves, secluded in the woods, probably meant that they were cast out from normal society on some level. It's usual for us to hear of groups of young adults rooming together, but this is a newer concept-most young adults would historically get married as soon as possible to start their own families, and those that weren't married would probably still live with family and help raise relatives (this was at least true for young unmarried women, I'm not sure about unmarried men).

Some of Snow White's helpers-giants and ogres-would obviously be assumed to be very dangerous. I like that they weren't all males, either, although males prevailed (and sometimes there was an added helper role-an old man or woman might point Snow White to the house where the helpers lived, etc.)
John Hassall's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

And, although I just skimmed the tales, it really struck me once again how creepy the Prince is for being obsessed with a young girl's corpse. It really serves to highlight the contrast between how he and the group of helpers treat her. In the Portuguese "The Vain Queen," the man who takes in the beautiful Princess would like to marry her but gives her the power of choice-he asks if she would like to remain with him as his wife, or as his daughter, and she chooses the latter. This tale makes me wonder if the story just serves to highlight Snow White's growing older and desiring to marry, because at the end she is asked if she would like to marry the Prince who fell in love with her and she agrees.

John Hassall's Snow White and the Seven DwarfsThat story was one of the healthiest examples of love and marriage, but some were so extreme I feel like the marriage at the end wasn't necessarily assumed to be a happy ending. The Italian tale "The Crystal Casket" really highlights the creepy factor when the Prince's mother asks him, after he brings home an unconscious girl, "But what is it? A doll? A dead woman?" and he replies, "Mother, don't trouble yourself about what it is, it is my wife." The heroine, Ermellina, was referred to as a "doll" or an "it" for the rest of the text. (Cue "Psycho" theme...)

Not every Prince is quite that level of horrifying. In fact, in some versions, like the tale I referenced at the beginning, Myrsina, the Prince gets the chest that contains the body without knowing what is inside it, and only discovers later that it contains a beautiful woman. (That tale isn't available in full online, but the summary can be read on Wikipedia). In that story it was a ring that proved the Princess' ultimate downfall, not an apple (I noticed a ring was a very prevalent symbol but I didn't count the number of appearances, maybe in a future post?).

Illustrations by John Hassall