Fairy Unusual Tales


Once upon a time I became obsessed with fairy tales. And not just the Snow Whites and Cinderellas and Sleeping Beauties. I'd read those. Disney'd created a franchise with them. I wanted unusual tales. Those you never hear about (and which Disney had better start culling for their movies, because I don't know how much patience the paying public has for the same three characters over and over again. Different names, different settings, same characters: Princess CinderbellianaAriasmine, Prince Herculaddiphillibeast, and the evil villain: Captain YzmAfardesScardeVilshancliffe).

I was living in Germany – Home of the Grimms, the Black Forest, and wicked-good Schnitzel (which has nothing to do with fairy tales, but I'm hungry). You can't be channeling Princess Aurora in a place like that. She's fluff. Germany has your real castles and ruins and barons and deep dark forests.

I used to ride my bicycle ten miles through the woods to the air base my dad was stationed at and hit up the library. I spent hours there reading everything I could get my hands on. Once Nancy had detected her last Drew, and Narnia had been completely Chronicled, I needed something new. So I searched out the lesser known tales:

Snow White and Rose Red – a lovely fable of two sisters inexplicably living with their mother in the woods with no visible means of support except spinning and sewing for the local squirrel population. They allow an extremely large and cold bear into their living room to hang out at their hearth all winter. He brings food in exchange for them telling jokes and grooming his hair. In the end they save an ungrateful dwarf from a log, a fish, and an eagle, and the bear saves them from the same crabby dwarf, whom they should have found out about through their homeowner's association before they moved into the cottage. Bear turns out to be a prince with a hunky brother and they move out of the forest, dividing the dwarf's treasures, as well as the sisters, and live happily ever after.

Then there's the story of the chick who has to rescue her seven captive brothers who turn into swans by day at the hands of – hey! An evil stepmother – but return to princes by night. They can only be saved if their lovely sister sits in a tree and, with painstaking slowness, weaves them seven magical shirts. The catch? She can't speak until she's done. The other catch? A lonely yet dishy king sees her hanging out in a tree silently sewing and falls in love with her. The other other catch? His mother hates her, steals her first three babies, tells her son that his wife has murdered them, he finally decides he has to burn his wife at the stake, who, at the last possible second–which I am thinking is while they are leading her to the pyre–manages to finish all but one sleeve of all of her brothers' shirts, and then is rescued by her princely brothers after they put on the shirts and regain their human form. (Except the unlucky dude with the unfinished sleeve. He keeps a swan wing forever. Bummer. This is probably where the old song "Swanee" came from.) Wifey is able to speak now that the swan-curse is broken, hubby believes her, and mom is toasted. Wife never seems bothered by her husband's obvious schizophrenia.

And finally, we have "Cap of Rushes" – perhaps the best tale of family dysfunction and daughterly charity ever told. Cap, whose real name I can't recall, is the daughter of a really pathetic king who has no self-esteem unless his daughters tell him with increasing ferocity how much they love him. Á la King Lear. The dude asks his daughters The Question–"How much do you love me?"–and they all answer satisfactorily, with the exception of the youngest daughter, Cap. She tells her dad that she loves him "As much as meat loves salt." WHAT? AS MUCH AS MEAT LOVES SALT? SO I'M MEAT AND YOU'RE SALT? THAT'S THE STUPIDEST THING I'VE EVER HEARD! And he chucks her out.

But Cap does not become bitter, no she doesn't. Instead she goes down to a local wetland where she wallows in mud and weaves herself a cap of rushes. Hence the name Cap of Rushes, or as I like to call her, Cap. Not really sure what she does down at the wetland all day – probably unpaid labor of some sort. But she is wise. She has a plan. She is merely living in squalor to let time pass and teach her father a lesson. Oh how he misses her. Oh how he regrets sending her away. Heh heh heh. Plan is working.

Lovely Cap finally decides that Dad has been punished enough, so she hires herself out at the family castle just in time for a big banquet and ball. She gets the cook to let her prepare the king's portion of roast four legged beast – because all cooks in medieval England bring in young swamp-women to prepare the king's food – and makes sure she purposely LEAVES OUT THE SALT. See what she's done there? She's serving the king MEAT WITHOUT SALT, so he realizes just exactly how much it is that meat loves salt. WHICH IS A LOT. YOU SHOULD TRY IT SOMETIME.

Well the King eats the meat, has a ginormous epiphany, and bursts into tears, wailing so all can hear that he once had a daughter who said she loved him as much as blah blah blah. The entire court has heard this sob story a bazillion times and good grief can his Royal Pain not find something else to talk about? When all of a sudden His Weepiness is interrupted by a tatty-looking girl in a mudgrass hat who says "Fathah! It is I! Your dotah! Who lavs you as much as meat lavs solt!" (She is upper crust, remember. They speak like that.)  She flings herself into her father's arms. King weeps with joy and embraces her.  Then he tells her to go take a shower because she's starting to attract flies.

See? Can you imagine those as Disney movies? They'd totally rock, and . . . um . . . hmmm.

Wonder if I could find a CinderbellianaAriasmine costume in time for Halloween.

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About Janiel 432 Articles
I have managed to keep the same husband for nearly three decades, and the same four children for almost that long - although one or two of them say it has been much longer. I have been writing since I learned to hold a pencil, and trying to make people laugh even longer. I hope to do some good in the world before I go the way of it. And if not, I'd better at least get to visit Ireland.

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