Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Magician's Cape

This would be a good story to use if doing a study of the significance of blonde hair in fairy tales-also note the cleverness and self-sufficiency of the heroine. This is a Swedish tale by Anna Wahlenberg.

Once there was an evil magician who filled his palace with frightened young girls that he had taken from their families. He forced the girls to dance and sing for him, and as soon as one of them displeased him, he would shove her into the forest outside, which was full of bears and wolves, and many of the girls never found their way home again.

Once the magician had gotten rid of one girl, he would don his black flying cape and search the world for a pretty new victim. Once he found a maiden who pleased him, he would spread his cape at her feet, and one she stepped on it, he would have power over her and whisk her away to his palace. During one of his flights, he came across a smith's daughter, Alvida, sitting at a window and combing her yellow hair.

The magician spread his cape before her, claiming that she was too beautiful for her feet to touch the ground. She laughed, although a little frightened at first, and suggested the magician take better care of his cape. The magician followed, and blew a magic whistle to cause a ram to run for Alvida, hoping to force her to step into his cape that way-but Alvida ran behind a pine tree. Alvida tripped over a root, running from the ram, and the magician spread his cape, hoping to trap her, but she fell to the side, and the ram's horns caused a tear in the cape.

Alvida felt sorry that she should be the cause of a tear in such a lovely cape, so she made a needle from two thorns and took one of her golden hairs as a thread and mended the tear. The magician held the cape up to the light, as if to inspect the mend, and as Alvida stood, he lowered the cape to the ground and she stepped in it. The cape turned into a pair of wings and Alvida found herself being carried through the air as the magician's face changed-his eyes into balls of fire, his mouth in a grin full of fangs.

Alvida cried out for help, and as if in answer, the strand of yellow hair caught in the branch of a tree, and wouldn't break, no matter how hard the magician pulled. To free it, he had to let Alvida go, and she slipped down to the ground and ran home as fast as she had ever run in her life.

The magician flew back to the castle full of rage and shut himself up in his room. He lay in bed but could not sleep-he thought at first the moon was shining, but it was the yellow hair Alvida had sewn into his cape, "which shone out as brightly against the black cloth as a good deed shines against an evil one." The magician rolled up the cape so the seam was on the inside, but the radiance filled the room again. Angry, the magician took a knife, cut the seam out, and threw it out the window-but as soon as he closed his eyes, the seam was still in the cape, shining brightly. He tried bringing the cape to his deepest, darkest cellar, but no matter what he did, brightness filled the room.

As he could not sleep for several nights, the magician flew back to Alvida's village. He demanded that she undo the seam, but Alvida remembered that trolls and magicians never dare force their way into Christian homes, so Alvida was still and did not answer the magician. He offered her many wonderful things, to which she did not respond.

The magician thought that giving her a gift would make her grateful, so he picked the most luscious fruits from his garden and planted them all around Alvida's window. When the magician returned to bed, the golden thread only shone faintly, and he could sleep.

Alvida realized the magician was trying to persuade her to rip out her thread. She did not touch any of the fruit herself, but allowed travellers to take the fruit. Every evening the vines were bare, and in the morning they were full again.

The magician still could not sleep in peace, but Alvida would not take out the thread. He was forced to bring gifts to the tired and unhappy to dim the light of the thread. If he dared carry off another maiden, the golden seam shone so blindingly he did not get a moment's peace until he had brought her home where she belonged.

Images by John Bauer


  1. I really like this story!! Thanks for posting it. I found it while researching another story by Anna Wahlenburg titles "The Soap Bubbles". I am a storyteller and a bubble person. A friend of mine found "The Soap Bubbles" in Volume 3 of Book Trails to Enchanted Lands. I really, really like that story!! I want to tell it. I want to tell "The Soap Bubbles". Does anyone have any guidance about copyright of this material? The original copyright of Book Trails is 1928 and I believe Ms. Wahlenburg passed in 1933.

  2. I'm afraid I don't know anything about copyright issues other than what I could find on a google my head I have the number 75 years for something to go into public domain, but I may be wrong

  3. hi! I m an art student. I illustrated this story and cited your summary. I hope you don't mind! Thank you! (