Come in, come in, do not linger by the door,
You’ve found me once so you must be back for more,
Sharpen all your pencils and broaden your mind,
If it’s obscure you want, it’s obscure you’ll find
This week’s Top 5 Wednesday is a ‘Book List for Class’ on a genre/ trope etc. of the bloggers choosing. I chose ‘Obscure Fairy Tales.’ Why? Why not?
One day I will stop answering my own questions with more questions. And I guess today’s that day, huzzah!
So, why this choice? I love fairy tales. Truly, deeply, madly (pretty sure that’s a movie) love them. I gush regularly about this to the point where regular readers are probably screaming, “I get it Gerry, SHEESH!” But still…
Why do I love fairy tales? Well, why does anyone love anything?
Damn. Back to answering with a question I see.
But it’s true. Sometimes we don’t know why we like something, we just do. Maybe it’s the worlds that fairy tales stories contain with their enchanted forests and ancient castles and the giants and witches that live under mountains and in huts. Maybe it’s the cautionary tales dressed up with talking animals and dangerous princes. Maybe it’s the exploration of the darker side of human nature.
I don’t know why I love them, I just do.
Now, I decided to go with ‘obscure’ tales but I can’t guarantee that the fairy tales I’ve listed are obscure just because I think they are. I love fairy tales but am in no ways an expert and there are people who know more than me and will know about a lot of the ones that exist out there that are truly obscure.
These are probably more, ‘the lesser-known ones that I enjoy and would love to see someone do something with one day.’
Here we go…
This is Princess Fiorimonde of The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde a fairy tale written by English writer Mary de Morgan in 1880.
This is one of the first fairy tales I read that subverted the idea that princesses in fairy tales were beautiful and dutiful and kind. Princess Fiorimonde is beautiful yes, but that beauty is bestowed to her by the witchcraft that she practices.
(I too practice beauty in the form of witchcraft named ‘Maybelline.’ It is not working).
Princess Fi (as I’m now calling her) has a father, the King (surprisingly), who wants her to marry (surprisingly). She doesn’t want to in case her husband discovers that whole ‘witch’ thing so she gets a magic necklace which disposes of her suitors.
She entices each Prince to touch the golden thread of the necklace where they turn into a bead. She does this and happily supplies herself with her very own set of Pandora charms until her lovely maid works out what’s been going on and decides to save the day.
The maid doesn’t exactly save the day but manages to get the help of a clever Prince who does save the day and the vain and wicked Princess Fi gets her comeuppance.
In truth, part of me feels compelled to be on the side of Princess Fi. This is wrong and not what the writer intended. But I can’t help it.
Italian playwright Carlo Gozzi was getting into fairy tale theatrical performances waaay before Guillermo del Toro. We’re talking years before. Like, circa. 1762.
I honestly have no clue how I came across this one but I came across it many moons ago. It seems to be referred to as a ‘comedy’ but the version I read didn’t read as such. Or maybe I didn’t read it as such.
A Prince falls in love with a woman. They marry. They have children. They live happily ever after.
Except they don’t.
Let’s go back to the beginning. The Prince sees a beautiful deer in a forest and gives chase because he has fallen in love with it. A deer. He has fallen in love with a deer. Sigh. Weirder things happen I guess.
Anyway, he gives chase and the deer turns into a woman – phew! She acts all mysterious and ‘don’t investigate my past-y’ and warns him that if he does, their life together will come to an end. He agrees to this. You know this won’t last.
The detailed terms of this arrangement is that the Prince is told not to look in his wife’s magic chest, doubt his wife or doubt his love for her.
Despite it being clearly pretty obvious that she is a fairy and despite it being clearly pretty obvious that he shouldn’t look in the chest he does it anyway and he does so because he begins to doubt his wife and his love for her (pesky courtiers getting all up in his business).
And then his wife is transformed into a giant serpent.
The Prince than has to complete three tasks to win back his wife. He fights a bull, kills a giant and then has to kiss a giant serpent. Luckily our idiot Prince remembers that his wife was transformed into a giant serpent and so when he kisses it, it turns back into his wife.
He learns the lesson to never be an idiot again. Except it’s more poetic than how I’ve made it sound.
Now The Most Incredible Thing is written by an incredibly prolific fairy tale writer, Hans Christian Andersen, but I don’t know how well known it is especially when it is up against contender’s such as The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, The Ugly Duckling and so on and so on.
Despite this not being particularly obscure I wanted to include it anyway because I love it.
A King wants to marry his daughter, the Princess, off to someone. No surprises there. That’s all these Kings want to do. Honestly. Anyway, he decides that the man his daughter will marry doesn’t have to be a Prince but instead he wants his daughter to marry a man who can do the most incredible thing.
Boom. Title drop.
Lots and lots of people turn up to try and impress the King and the Princess but none do until a man shows up with a clock that he has created. Each time the clock strikes the hour, new and increasingly more impressive figures emerge.
For example when the clock strikes one, Moses appears with the list of commandments. When it strikes four, the seasons appear. When it strikes seven, the days of the week appear. Nine o’clock gives us the Greek muses and so on.
Everyone is like, ‘woah, this guy is the winner by a mile’ until a mega nasty man appears and smashes the clock to pieces declaring that by committing this act of destruction against such a beautiful thing, he has done the most incredible thing.
People are forced to agree but don’t worry, he gets his comeuppance and a happy ending is had by all.
It’s a Grimm but definitely not one that most people I have spoken to have heard of.
The story of Jorinde and Joringel may be one of their lesser known ones but I think it’s actually quite lovely. Usually the lesser known Grimm’s involve cannibalism, rape and incest but I am pleased to say that this tale has none of those things.
We meet Jorinde and Joringel who are an engaged couple who are happy and in love and boy doesn’t that make a change from other stories? We meet them as they go for a long walk in deep woods.
These woods contain a castle.
In that castle lives a witch.
This witches hobbies include shape-shifting into owls and cats to hunt smaller animals, freezing men who venture too close to her castle into a statue until she releases them and turning women who venture too close into little birds which she then cages forever.
Can you see where this is going?
Unfortunately our lovely couple get lost and go too close to the castle. This results in Joringel being helplessly frozen and forced to watch as Jorinde is turned into a bird and taken away.
Because he loves her, Joringel never gives up searching for a way to save Jorinde. One night, somehow rather conveniently, he dreams of a magic flower whose petals will remove any enchantments.
Joringel, also rather conveniently, manages to find this magic flower in the woods quite quickly. Then, using Petal Power™ he makes his way into the castle and despite the witches best sneaky efforts he frees Jorinde and all the other women who have been trapped as birds.
They live happily ever after. And I’m glad about it.
(Source: Once Upon a Time by Fabbri Publishing)
The Enchanted Princess is a story by Ludwig Bechstein and it is about a man who has two sons.
The eldest is the favourite son and is spoiled, mean and lazy. The youngest is industrious and kind and is not the favourite because dad is a bit of a dick and doesn’t view kindness as worthy. Don’t worry youngest son, you’ll show him.
There is a Princess who has been… wait for it… wait… wait… enchanted. The enchantment has been done by an evil sorcerer and she needs rescuing.
What ho! thinks Dickhead Dad and he sets about convincing eldest son to go rescue the Princess and DD makes sure that his biggest boy has a horse and sword and lots of stuff that will help him.
Eldest son is a douche who has no concern for the environment or any insects or animals because en-route to the castle of kidnap he destroys a beehive, crushes an anthill and kills some ducks.
When he reaches the castle he is set three tasks. I mean… of course he is. This is a fairy tale and they have some strange compulsion for The Rule of Three.
He is told to pick up all the seeds scattered across the grass – he doesn’t. He is told to collect some keys from the river bed – he doesn’t. Finally he is told to correctly guess which of three veiled figures is the Princess – he um, doesn’t.
Eldest son becomes dragon chow.
Guess what? After a while the youngest son decides to find out what’s happened to big bro and rescue a princess and journey’s to the castle. On his way he helps the bees, the ants and the ducks.
So, guess what?! When he is set the same three tasks, the ants helps him collect the scattered seeds, the ducks help retrieve the keys from the bottom of the river and the bees hover over the head of the Princess allowing him to correctly guess which figure is hers.
Youngest son does not become dragon chow. He marries the Princess, mourns his brother and his dad finally gets a grip on his parenting choices.
There you have it. My top 5 obscure but probably not obscure fairy tales.
Have you heard of any of the above? Are there any that you think I should read?
I actually enjoyed doing this post so much and I love fairy tales so much that I am genuinely considering doing a Friday Fairy tale feature where I pick a fairy tale at a time to post about. Let me know if you’d be into that.
Until next time!