Fairy Tale of the Month: September 2015 The Toad Bride

Toad Bride Wheel

Well Met

Melissa perches on Miss Cox’s bench, her hands in her lap, but her back straight, not touching the backrest. She won’t talk to or look at me, her eyes fixed on the garden gate. Her copy of The Turnip Princess lies on the wrought-iron table in front of us. I grab it as an escape from the surrounding air of doubt.

I open the book in its middle. My eyes fall upon one of its shorter stories, only a page long, The Toad Bride.

A man with three sons sets the challenge that the one who can spin the finest thread from flax will inherit his house. The elder brothers set about their task in a logical manner, but the younger, foolish brother “…takes the flax and runs with the wind…” until he gets mired in mud. A toad takes his flax, sets him free, and tells him to come back later.

When the foolish brother returns to the toad, he is given fine thread and in addition told to prepare for a marriage, with the injunction that he places a bridal gown and veil on the altar.

The youngest son wins the contest, and everyone assembles for his wedding. The groom is at the altar, the bells are ringing, but there is no bride.

A toad hops into the church, crawls into the bridal gown, and transforms into a beautiful woman. We soon find out that when the toad helped the young man by giving him the fine thread, she broke a witch’s curse. Of course they marry and live happily.

I glance at Melissa, who remains statue-still. If I were to cast us into this story, would I or Melissa be the toad?

Although I am hardly young, I can relate to the foolish part of the main character. Do I run with the wind until mired in mud? Metaphorically, I think I do. I wander alone in the Magic Forest and throw peanuts to a nixie. I do that at my peril.

That would make Melissa the magical toad. They are both feminine, but there the parallel ends. Melissa is not bewitched. Enchanted beings possess a certain amount of magic, and Melissa only now faces the existence of magic in the mode of can-this-be-true?

Rather, I must be the magical toad in this story. Magic and I are old friends. I won’t say I possess magic, but I do walk through magic. I see it all around me. Vaporous at times, but there nonetheless. I am the one bewitched—though willingly, not under a curse.

Can I cast Melissa as a foolish youth? Well, she is young, much younger than I. Foolish? She is sitting here in Miss Cox’s garden with me. “Foolish” is an applicable adjective.

Melissa takes in a breath and stirs. Entering the garden is a stately gentleman dressed in a tailored, black suit, though of a cut I do not recognize. His proud countenance is that of a man of a royal court. Melissa and I both rise.

Well, here we go.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: September 2015 The Toad Bride

Toad Bride medal2Bavarian Order of the Crown

The Meeting

There are people who radiate charm. Is it Schönwerth’s pleasant, confident smile? The ease of his stride as he approaches us? The tone of his voice?

“Guten Tag. Mit wem spreche ich, bitte?”

Oh, no. The language barrier. I haven’t thought of that since my awkward interview with Hans Christian Andersen.

“Ich bin Melissa Serious und es freut mich Sie kennenzulernen.”

I should have guessed Melissa would be good to the task. They settle onto the wrought-iron bench and immediately fall into an intense discussion. I find myself standing beside them, the bench holding only two. It is best that I take a stroll around the garden even though I am still hobbling at bit.

An interesting fellow, Schönwerth. Educated in the both arts and law, he held the position of private secretary to the crown prince Maximilian of Bavaria. Schönwerth’s duties included the management the prince’s wealth, a well-placed trust. During the upheaval of the 1848 revolt, Schönwerth, dressed as a laborer, wheeled three million thaler’s worth of cash and securities to safety in a handcart.

When the crown prince rose to kingship as Maximilian II, Schönwerth led his cabinet and guided the king’s patronage of the arts and sciences. Not surprisingly, he was knighted as well. Actually, twice: First as a knight of the Bavarian Order of St. Michael and later as a knight of the Bavarian Order of the Crown.

But Schönwerth had another dimension and passion, that of German folklore, specifically that of the Upper Palatinate. Erika Eichenseer’s recent translation of some of the fairy tales he collected has brought that piece of his collection to light, but he also collected and recorded nursery rhymes, games, songs, proverbs, customs, and made observations on the peasants’ everyday lives.

He went about this in a structured, scientific manner, leading the way toward modern folklore collecting techniques. He was Inspired by the Grimms and corresponded with them starting in 1858. Jacob Grimm wrote that Schönwerth was the obvious heir to their work.

Schönwerth showed an unusual talent for drawing out information from subjects he interviewed without appearing to pry and with little more inducement than coffee and cigars. What he collected was absolutely voluminous.

To his credit as a folklorist, Schönwerth did not refine the stories he collected to suit an audience. He recorded what he heard. The downside of that practice meant his published works never drew much popular attention during his life.

Through the efforts of Erika Eichenseer, there is a rising interest in Schönwerth’s work. At the University of Regensburg, where the collection is housed, research continues to unearth details hidden in the unsorted heaps of paper that make up his legacy.

Also, there is now a Schönwerth Fairytale Path near Regensburg, which presents eight nature tales illustrated by local artists and which I hear has been very well received by the public. Perhaps the long overdue notice has finally come to Franz Von Schönwerth.

I look across the garden to where the two of them are sitting knee to knee. I think I’ll stroll farther along.

As I amble about, an errant thought comes to me. The task proposed by the father does not conform to the typical challenge. In The Three Feathers, which this story resembles, the king sends his sons out to find the best of something, which he ends up doing three times because of the discontented elder brothers. In The Toad Bride, the brothers compete to make the finest linen thread, which is women’s work. The tale glosses over the fact that he youngest has help and doesn’t do it himself. The contest is a foil, simply to move the story forward. Fairness is not important.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: September 2015 The Toad Bride

Frog-program green H J Ford

Just Strolling

I wander down toward the pond in Miss Cox’s garden and continue to occupy my thoughts with The Toad Bride. I can easily find common elements this story shares with others of its ilk. The three brothers, with the youngest being the simpleton and victor in the contest proposed by the father; the animal helper who is really a human cursed by a witch to appear in animal form; and the concluding marriage, of course.

Although Schönwerth corresponded with the Grimms, and each had much respect for the other, he did not follow the Grimms’ habit of polishing the stories. The echo of the storyteller’s mindset comes through Schönwerth’s transcriptions more clearly than it does in those tales that went through the Grimm filter.

In the Grimms’ hands, the three brothers motif appears having the youngest being a simpleton, yet gentle, thoughtful, and kind. The two elder brothers discredit themselves by being rude, jealous, and  greedy. In some cases the simpleton is shown to be a lot smarter than first credited.

Not so with the teller of The Toad Bride. Here the elder brothers set about their task, and we hear no more of them for good or for ill. The younger runs about willy-nilly (I see him waving his share of the flax in the air) until he is trapped in a mud pit and needs to be rescued. The only thing he does that comes close to making him worthy is to follow the toad’s simple instructions. The tale has the feel of The Prodigal Son, void of Grimm-added character justifications.

I hear Melissa’s laughter ringing from the upper part of the garden. I know now she will let me back into her bookstore. I feel myself breathing easier.

Also, unlike Grimm, the magical helper is a female. Usually for Grimm, the helper is not only a male, but also a prince. In The Toad Bride the toad transforms into a beautiful woman with no mention of royal blood. That is not to say there are no female magical helpers in Grimm—a notable exception being The Three Feathers.

The youngest brother and the beautiful woman get married; a more traditional, happy ending I cannot think of. The striking image comes when the toad hops into the church and crawls into the wedding dress. I think this picture contains the tale’s meaning. She broke the curse when she helped the young man, but her transformation does not occur until the wedding. The teller that Schönwerth sat with and transcribed this tale may well have been thinking of the generative power of marriage as the tale’s message.

By the time I return to the upper garden, their goodbys have been said. I see Schönwerth disappearing through the garden gate. Melissa throws her arms around me in a hug.

“Thank you,” she says into my ear, “for showing me the garden and letting me into your world.”

I am the magical toad of this story, and happy about it.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: August 2015 The Enchanted Quill


A Crow

I hear feet treading in the hallway. Let me guess. Thalia coming to visit her poor old grandfather laid up with a twisted ankle. The door opens and Thalia walks in backwards towing some else’s hand with both of hers.

“Melissa.” I start to rise to greet her, but pain sets me back down in my comfy chair.

Thalia pulls Melissa to me, who with a bemused smile, hands me the copy of The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales that I ordered.

“Oh,” I say, “You needn’t have taken all the trouble.”

“No trouble, really.” Her smile turns kindly. I gesture for her to take a seat. “Just for a minute,” she says.

“Read.” Thalia flopped into my lap, sending a lightning bolt of pain up my leg.

I open the book. The first story—same as the book’s title—I have already read to Thalia from an extract, and I move on to the second story, The Enchanted Quill.

A man falls asleep on horseback, and after three years a crow wakes him up, requesting one of the man’s three sisters as a wife. The crow gives the man a small picture of itself and flies away.

Two of the sisters are disgusted by the bird’s image, but the third blushes and keeps the picture. The next day a grand carriage appears and it is the youngest that invites the crow into their home.

Soon, all three sisters and the crow are in the carriage traveling to his castle. The way is dark and gloomy, and the sisters are afraid they are on the road to hell until the way opens up into a forest of lemon trees.

Once inside the castle, the crow tells the two older sisters not to be too curious, then takes the youngest off into another room. Nonetheless curious, the two sisters peek through a keyhole to see the crow is a handsome young man.

In the next moment, all three sisters are standing under a fig tree, the crow up in the branches scolding them.

In order to save the crow, the youngest, following his instructions, travels to the nearest town, dressed in rags, to take the first job offered her. She ends up as the local prince’s cook for which she has no talent and is mocked by her fellow servants.

The crow reappears, giving her one of his feathers to use as a quill. Whatever she writes down will happen. She writes the names of fine dishes and they appear. Her reputation as the cook of the castle rises, and because she is beautiful, the caretaker decides he wants her for his own.

When he comes into her room, she tells him to shut the door, and writes down that he should shut the door all night long, which he does repeatedly.

A huntsman and another servant are also suitors, but the huntsman takes his boots off and on, and the servant closes up the dovecote all night long.

Angered, the three suitors go after the cook with whips. She grabs her quill and the suitors end by lashing each other.

The crow returns, transformed into a prince, and takes the youngest sister off to his castle.

“That’s it?” Thalia’s face turns up to mine.

“Yup, that’s it. What did you think?”

“Sort of like it. I like crows, but weird.”

A good summation, I think.

Your thoughts?



Fairy Tale of the Month: August 2015 The Enchanted Quill

Title page Schonwerth

An Apology

“I must apologize,” Melissa says, as Thalia runs off to the kitchen to find herself some lemonade.

“Apologize for what?”

“For being unprofessional.”

“Is delivering a book to a customer unprofessional?”

“No, but reading it cover to cover before delivering it is.” Melissa blushes a little.

“Ah, and what did you think of it?” I fold my fingers together.

“Very engaging. So unlike the Grimm we have gotten used to.”

“Yes, Thalia wasn’t quite sure about The Enchanted Quill.”

“It is an interesting Beauty-and-the-Beast variant.” I see by her far-off expression she has slipped into thinking mode. I will be enjoying her company for more than the previously-stated minute.

“As I see it,” she continues, “the story breaks down into three distinct parts. First is the crow waking the man and asking for a bride, then giving him a picture. In the second part, we meet the sisters and observe their view of the crow. In the third, the youngest sister is on her own with some magical assistance from the crow, to establish herself and beat off the suitors.”

“I see a fourth part,” I say. “I’ve been reading Marie Louise Von Franz, and she states most fairy tales are in four parts, but the fourth is usually hard to see.”

Melissa gazes at me curiously. “What can be the fourth part? We’ve run out of story.”

I smile. “The crow comes and takes her away. It is the fourth and final act, different from what went on before it.”

Melissa nods and slips back into musing. I am enjoying her being in my study, thinking.

“What is most puzzling is that ending.” She reaches out, picking up the book, and reads the last paragraph of the story.

“The time had come. The crow arrived, and now he had turned into a prince. He rode with the beautiful cook to his magnificent castle.”

She sets the book back down. “That’s more of an in-case-you-didn’t-notice-the-story-is- over ending, rather than the culmination of all the preceding.”

I see her point. “Does that suggest the ending is not what the story is about?”

Melissa intertwines her fingers in her lap. “The ending certainly is cryptic. The teller could have at least dragged out the carriage with the four horses again. If the story is not about the ending, then what is it about?”

It is my turn to muse. “The youngest sister is the protagonist. The story is about her, not about saving the crow. He is under some sort of spell, but the story never bothers to tell us about it. He instigates the action by waking the man and requesting a wife. He interjects himself into the story, and is there at the conclusion. Yet, it is not his story.”

Melissa brightens. “It is her story. In the end she is using her magical gift effectively, all by herself. Her family has fallen away. Her brother is heard of at the start of part two, but disappears quickly. Her sisters all but betray her with their curiosity, and also disappear at the end of part two. Part three is all about her travail. But, ultimately, what is she about?”

I do like the way she thinks.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: August 2015 The Enchanted Quill

Joseph Jacobs Sig

The Autograph

I should be offering Melissa some tea, or ice tea given the warm weather, but it would be difficult to manage with crutches. Besides, she is deep in thought over The Enchanted Quill.

“What,” she says after some time, “is it that the youngest sister does or proves?”

“Well,” I contemplate, “she has inherent qualities. It is she who sees something in the crow’s picture that makes her blush.”

“Yes, the picture, isn’t that a queer item, not to mention the three-year sleep.”

“No dearth of threes in the story either: three-year sleep, three sisters, three suitors.”

Melissa’s brow knits. “Did the crow induce the sleep so that the brother would be obliged to him when awakened?”

“I get that sense.” I shift a little in my comfy chair and hope it will not hurt. “I think the crow set up the sisters as well by tempting them to spy, knowing what would happen. The crow is manipulating events and is testing the youngest sister.”

Melissa leans forward in her chair. “I think you’ve touched on something. I’m sure I’m projecting, and the fairy tales are good for projecting ourselves. This is a journey. Her older sisters adamantly refuse the crow, and her brother’s promise falls upon her. She submits. She is also submissive when the crow instructs her to go to the next town and take the first job offered. The crow has weaned her away from her family and cast her into an unfamiliar role. She hits bottom.”

I pick up on her line of thought. “Enter the magical device! The crow gives her one of his feathers with which to write. He has essentially given her power.”

“Yes, but,” Melissa raises a finger in the air, “with rather little instruction. Often fairy tales telegraph how the device will be used, but not in this case. She finds her own way to make it work for her.

“Now, when she is approached by the demanding suitors, she puts them in their place. She has moved from being submissive to assertive. That is what the crow is seeking, and he returns for her. As the story says, ‘The time had come.’”

“I assume,” I chuckle, “the bit about the suitors stuck opening and closing doors, and taking their boots off and on went over well in the taverns. Ahh, the power of the written word.”

I expect Melissa to agree, but her countenance has completely changed. With an accusing eye she glances at another book on the table between us. There, lying open to its title page, is English Fairy Tales, with Jacob’s autograph. She knows it was not there when she sold it to me.

“You forged . . . you wouldn’t . . .” Her eyes narrow. “You didn’t, you who cavort with fairies.” Her eyes grow wide and her skin pales. “Necromancy.”

“Good heavens, no!” I sit upright sending another jolt of pain up my leg. “It’s much more innocent.”

What do I say?

“It’s Miss Cox’s garden.”

Melissa folds her arms and with a toss of her red hair declares, “Explain this or I will never speak to you again, nor allow you in my shop.”

I could not bear that. I take a deep breath. “Whom from the past would you like to meet?”

She stares at me. I fear she will walk away.

She thumps her index finger on the book she brought. “Schönwerth.”

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: July 2015 The Pink Flower

pinnk true-myrtle-768


“Oh look.” Duckworth’s oars stop in midair. He nods toward the riverbank. It is solid with a growth of pinks.

“It reminds me of a Grimm story,” I say.

“Of course it does.” Duckworth resumes his rowing.

“No, really. It’s even called The Pink Flower.”

“There’s no escape. Go ahead. Tell me the story.”

A queen gives birth to a son to whom God grants the power of having every wish fulfilled. The castle cook steals the child, secreting him away with a wet nurse, and smears blood on the sleeping queen’s apron as if she carelessly let the child be eaten by a wild animal. Enraged, the king shuts his queen in a tower for seven years, in complete darkness with no food or drink. However, she is sustained by angels who come to her in the form of doves to bring her nourishment.

When the child is old enough to speak, the cook has him wish for a castle and lands, so that the cook can live like a lord. To entertain the lad, the cook has him wish for a beautiful maiden to look after him.

Later, afraid the young prince will one day wish to visit his father the king, the cook instructs the maiden to kill the prince in his sleep. When she reveals the plot to the prince, he wishes the villain into a poodle forced to eat hot coals until flames come from its mouth.

The prince then decides to return to his father’s kingdom to see what has become of his mother. He turns the maiden into a pink flower, puts it in his pocket, and with the poodle in tow, heads home.

He wishes for a ladder to climb the tower and calls inside to his mother, letting her know he has come to rescue her. He then presents himself as a huntsman to the king, promising him as much venison as he can want, although there has been no game in the kingdom for a long time.

The prince, still in disguise, leads the king’s huntsmen out, then wishes for deer to appear. They return with wagonloads of meat. The king is delighted and has the prince/huntsman sit by his side at the banquet. During the meal the prince wishes that someone would ask after the queen. The king does not want to speak of her, but the prince now reveals himself.

He tells the king it was the cook who stole him away, placing the blame upon the queen. The poodle is brought out to eat more hot coals before the prince wishes him back into his true state. Exposed as the kidnapper, the cook is thrown into the dungeons.

The prince then shows his father the pretty pink flower and wishes the maiden back into her form. The king calls for the release of his queen. She is brought to the banquet but refuses to eat or drink, declaring God has given her salvation, and dies happily three days later. The king has the cook drawn and quartered, but nonetheless grief overtakes the king and he soon dies.

“Good grief, is this a fairy tale or a Shakespeare tragedy I haven’t heard of?” Duckworth has stopped rowing again.

“Well, the prince and the flower girl get married in the end.”

“That hardly compensates for all the injustice.”

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: July 2015 The Pink Flower

pink hydraulics-diagrams-768

The Math

Duckworth and I continue our rowing, but I can see by his knitted brow he is thinking about The Pink Flower.

“Hold on,” he says. “The math doesn’t work.”

“What math?” I know my story is in trouble.

“Listen, the cook steals the prince and hands him over to a wet nurse. So, let’s say the prince is two years old at most. The king shuts the queen in the tower for seven years. When the son returns, the queen is still in the tower; therefore, the seven years have not passed. I’ll give the story a little advantage and say that the seven years are almost over. The lad was two years old when abducted. Seven years have gone by. He is nine years old at best. He goes to the king and passes himself off as a huntsman? A nine-year-old huntsman?

“And further,” he says, (Oh my goodness, but he is on a roll.) “the prince wishes for a ladder to climb the tower, and then he calls to his mother. Through a door, a window? She is supposed to be in complete darkness, yet they can easily call to each other through some sort of opening. And why does the king have huntsmen when there has been no game to hunt?

“Now, about his knowing his own history that he reveals to the king: who told him about it? Certainly not the cook. The prince wished the maiden into existence after his kidnapping. How would she know about it? Who else is there?”

“Well,” I say, feeling cornered, “the story does not tell us.”

“And what about the ‘hello’ factor?”

“The ‘hello’ factor?”

“Yes, as in ‘Hello, why don’t you wish your parents to forget their history and think they are living happily ever after and don’t have to kill themselves.’ I have no respect for this character. He could have wished for world peace. What do we get? A fire-breathing poodle.”

“Duckworth, Duckworth,” I defend, “you can’t apply everyday logic to fairy tales. They are not that sturdy, nor are they meant to reflect some piece of reality as mainstream fiction might do. Fairy tales aren’t necessarily trying to make a point or pass on a moral. They are here to flex our imagination.”

We have come to our dock and Duckworth ties a rope around a mooring. “Still, there must be reasonable structure to any story.”

I unship my oars and stash them on the bottom of the boat. “Well, to start with, a fairy tale is a folktale with the element of magic.”

“Fair enough,” says Duckworth. “What are the rules?”

“What are the rules?” I ponder this as I step from the boat to the dock. I don’t quite make it. My foot slips and twists on the wet, mossy planks of the decking. In a moment I find myself in deep water. I hope there are no nixies about.

When you ask, What are the rules of fairy tales? you are in deep water.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: July 2015 The Pink Flower

Pink Tower Regensburg 1400-1410Regensburg 1400-1410

My Foot

I feel foolish sitting here in my study with my foot nestled on a pillow and elevated on a table to ease the swelling and throbbing of my twisted ankle. After Duckworth pulled me out of the river and got me home, I should have limped off to the doctor. But now it is late and I simply will have to wait till morning.

The throbbing is keeping me awake, so I contemplate Duckworth’s question. What are the rules for fairy tales?

Fairy tales turn on its head the literary injunction to writers to “Show, don’t tell.” Where the fairy tale tells you flatly that the king had a beautiful daughter, the writer of a literary tale might cover the same fact by saying:

“The door opened and into the great hall stepped a girl, perhaps twelve year of age, her blond hair falling about her slender shoulders.

“’Oh father,” she said to King William . . .'”

And more likely than not, in fairy tales neither character will have a name other than “the princess” or “the king.” Dialog tends to be sparse, and the point of view is usually third-person objective; that is, we don’t get inside their heads.

But that is not what Duckworth objected to in The Pink Flower. What stopped him was the nonsense. Perhaps my question should be, What are the rules for fairy-tale nonsense?

No, I’ll change that again. What are the rules for fairy-tale beyond-sense?

I see fairy-tale plot lines as a series of images, a storyboard if you will, but a sketchy storyboard. The tales give little description of the scene at hand. Is the king’s castle in a town? On a mountain? Is the cook young or old? There is no author trying to get the listener or reader to image exactly what they want them to see. In these authorless tales the listeners provide these details for themselves. The images that make up the story are created by and belong to the listener. This is where the beyond-sense comes in. The listener also creates what lies behind the images.

In The Pink Flower, I see the tower as the central image, a phallic symbol in which a female is imprisoned. This tower appears in other stories, its prisoner invariably a female, put there by a king or a witch.

The notion of the tower’s entrapment lies at the heart of this story and is reflected elsewhere in the tale. The cook kidnaps the baby prince to control his wishes. The young prince does not know any better, and is being mentally entrapped. When the cook fears the prince is about to break out of that entrapment, he tries to have him killed, a plan that backfires.

The maiden, wished into existence by the prince, is beholden to him. Her entrapment is a gentle, loving one, represented by his turning her into a flower, but an entrapment nonetheless.

But these are my insights behind my images of the story. For someone else, the tower may not resonate. Their central image may be the blood-smeared apron. For them this is a story about injustice rather than entrapment.

My wakefulness and throbbing foot have brought me to this conclusion. There may be no hard-and-fast rules governing fairy-tale images, but the images need to be of such a nature that our imaginations can seize upon them, take our cues, and rewrite them for ourselves.

The implications of a cook being turned into a fire-eating poodle, I will leave for others to ponder.

Your thoughts?

Fairy Tale of the Month: June 2015 The Three Rowan Trees

Three Soldiers Hans Sebald Beham2Hans Sebald Beham

A Trio

I sit on the window seat of the bay window in my study, watching the day disappearing over the magic forest in the near distance. I don’t usually sit here, but I have the windows open allowing the soft evening air to wash over me as I smoke a bowl of Dark Dwarf.

My thoughts—drifting away with the smoke—swirl about the three soldiers of The Devil and His Grandmother. While I can’t call the three soldiers a motif, the trio shows up in more than one Grimm story. To my thoughts comes The Three Army Surgeons, The Long Nose, and The Crows—although in this last one the three are not companionable. Outside of Grimm I can think of The Three Soldiers in Jacobs’ Europa’s Fairy Book, and the well-known Stone Soup.

I am sure with a quick search I can find another. Stephen Badman’s Odds and Sods sits atop a pile of books near me. I grab it and page through. Sure enough, I find The Three Rowan Trees.

Three soldiers are dismissed from service with little to show for their time. They agree to travel together and stumble across an empty castle in which all their needs are mysteriously met. That evening, to the soldier named Hans, comes a snake that crawls into his bed and turns into a princess.

She explains to Hans that she and her sisters are the three rowan trees growing in the garden. If Hans and his companions will bear being whipped all night long for three nights starting at Midsummer’s Night, the spell will be broken. Hans agrees to try.

In the morning he visits the rowan trees and is given three magical gifts: a purse that never empties, a cloak that will take him anywhere, and a bag that contains an army.

Immediately forgetting his promise, he and his companions travel to London via the cloak and Hans pursues the hand of the daughter of the King of England. She cheats him out of the magical gifts and abandons him. He is close to suicide when he comes across a tree of golden apples that cause a horn to grow out of one’s forehead, and a golden pear tree that removes it. Tricking the king, queen, and princess into eating the apples, they are beholden to him to have the horns removed. Thus he regains the magical gifts.

He uses the bag containing the army to release his companions who have gotten themselves into trouble, and returns to the castle by Midsummer’s Night. By keeping himself and his companions drunk for the next three days and nights, they survive the whippings and break the spell. Each marries a princess and Hans becomes king.

What is it about a trio of soldiers gallivanting around the countryside that engages the listener? Hans is the protagonist, but the other two companions are not completely necessary for the story. A teller could easily edit them out. Yet time and again a trio like this appears to populate a ribald tale.

I hear Thalia padding down the hall. For the moment, this puts an end to my reflections.

Your thoughts?


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