The Wild Swans

The Wild SwansThe Wild Swans

This story is another one of those stories that is going to sound really familiar. There are at least a couple Grimm’s Fairy Tales that sound an awfully lot like this story, or the other way around.

Once upon a time there was a king who had twelve children. His wife was dead. The oldest eleven were boys and the youngest was a girl named Eliza. The king married again, but his new wife did not like his children. On the wedding day she gave the children a cup and told them to pretend it was cake. She soon sent Eliza off to live with a peasant family and convinced the king that his sons were no good. She turned them into swans. They had all been very good children, so there was really no reason for any of this.

The swans flew by the cottage where their sister lived. She was playing with a green leaf because that was her only toy. She poked a hole in the leaf and saw her brothers’ true form. The evil queen wanted to turn the girl into a swan as well, but the king wanted to see his daughter, so she could not turn Eliza into a swan. Everyone always talked about how great Eliza was and how pretty she was and this made the queen jealous. The queen went and got Eliza, determined to make her be awful in her father’s eyes. At first she put Eliza in the bath in a very nice bathroom. She had three frogs. One frog was to sit on her head to make her stupid. Another frog was supposed to sit on her face to make her ugly. The last frog was supposed to sit on her heart to make her mean. The queen put the frogs in the water, but none of it worked. Eliza was too pure for the evil of the frogs to work on her. Instead of doing these awful things to Eliza the frogs turned into red poppies.

The queen then decided to go another route. She rubbed walnut oil into Eliza’s skin and messed up her hair. She made Eliza ugly. The king said that this was not his daughter and sent her away. Eliza walked and walked and walked. She walked in the dark with the animals and dreamed about her brothers. She came to a lake and looked at herself. She was ugly. She washed herself off and became a beautiful princess again. Eliza came upon an old woman the next day. She asked the woman if she had seen eleven princes riding through the forest and the old woman said, no, but she had seen some swans with crowns on their heads. She gave Eliza some berries.

Eliza came to the shore of the sea and found eleven white swan feathers. She gathered them up. Near sunset she saw eleven white swans flying towards her. They sat down on the ground and became men. They were her brothers. She was very happy to see them and they were happy to see her. They told her that they had been turned into wild swans and turned back into men in the evening. They lived far away. Their journey was long. They must fly all day and stop on a rock half-way for the night. The next day they must fly all day again. They told her that they are only allowed to come to this place every so often to search for their family and then they could only stay two days.

They spoke the whole night about the situation. It was determined that Eliza would go with the brothers to their home. They wove a net to carry Eliza across the sea. When they were swans again they carried the net between them with Eliza in it. The journey was not a nice one and it seemed to take forever. They barely made it to the rock. There they had to huddle the entire night, awake, for fear that one of them might fall off into the waves. The next day they flew on. Eliza was able to see many mirages upon the sea. They finally made it to real land. There they went to a cave.

Eliza dreamed and a fairy came to her; it was very much like the old lady that had helped Eliza before. The fairy told Eliza that her brothers could be released. She should gather nettle plants from grave plots. When she broke them up they would turn into flax, which Eliza could weave into cloth. She must make coats for each of the eleven brothers. During this whole thing she could not speak a word, otherwise her brothers would be doomed forever. Eliza got to work right away and did not speak.

A king soon found her in the cave, but Eliza couldn’t say anything out of fear she would doom her brothers. The king took her away to his castle. He didn’t know what Eliza was on about with the nettles, but he let her keep her work. She made ten of the coats, but it turned out she was one short. She would have to go out and gather more nettles from the graveyard. The people of the town, and especially the archbishop, did not like Eliza. The king voice his intentions to marry Eliza; he liked her very much. The archbishop didn’t like this mess even more and started a rumor that Eliza was a witch. She could not defend herself because she could not speak. She snuck off to the graveyard to gather more nettles. Someone saw her and this was enough evidence to condemn her as a witch.

The archbishop brought the news to the king, but the king could not condemn her to death himself; he said that the people must do it. They wanted her to die and so she was sentenced to burn at the stake. She worked feverishly all night in her cell before the morning of her execution to finish the eleventh coat. In the morning she was drawn to the execution site in a wagon and dressed in rough clothing. She worked even in the wagon on the coat.

As she was about to be put to death, eleven swans flew down. She threw the coats over their backs and they turned back into men. The youngest still had a swan wing because a sleeve of his coat was not all the way finished. After they were turned back into men she was able to speak. The brothers told the king and everyone about what had happened to them. The king went through with the marriage.

The End

The Wild SwansObservations

There is a Grimm’s Fairy Tale very similar to this story with six swans. The sister is silent for many years, seven I believe, in order that they may turn back into men. We’ve already discussed how it is that it’s always a woman who has to be quiet. In this story, it isn’t something Hans made up; it was already a tradition and Hans was just retelling the story in his own words.

Hans uses the term fata morgana again. We have already stated that this means a mirage. I’m wondering if mirages were really common on the sea by Denmark. I’m going to have to look into it. As a Dane, there is a good chance that Hans had been on the sea. He’d probably been on a boat lots of times crossing from Copenhagen to mainland Denmark, or the rest of Europe. He might have encountered sea mirages himself.

There is a word Hans uses in this story, which I am familiar with, but not that familiar with. He uses it in this sentence, “There was a sweet fragrance from the fresh green verdure, and the birds almost perched upon her shoulders.” The word I’m pointing out is verdure. Basically verdure means the greenness of living things, mainly plants. It’s just a fancy way of saying that things are alive.

Hans makes this story more personal. In the Grimm’s Fairy Tales there were rarely names and if there were, they were the names of men, not women. This story is much shorter in the Grimm’s anthology. Hans adds to it and personalizes it. Instead of just some random girl, we have Eliza. I really like that she doesn’t get married before speaking to this king. In the other story, the Grimm’s version, she gets married and has children with the king without ever saying a word to him. In this story she recovers her voice before marrying him.

I have to wonder if the Disney movie people took this bit of the story when they wrote their version of The Little Mermaid. Remember, Ariel recovers her voice before marrying Eric.

I would like to point out that the idea of Eliza being pardoned is pretty slim. I guess things would have been a little better in the 1800s because people were more full of reason and science and less likely to believe in witches, but still, Eliza being pardoned of being a witch is a longshot. This story was not originally placed in the 1800s, this story was originally placed way back when. We have no exact time frame, but it’s in the day when people said, “Hey, she’s a witch, let’s burn her,” and it happened. There was no going back once someone said you were a witch.

The execution was stayed in a seeming miracle. Things have happened like this before, in history, in real life. Savonarola, a Florentine religious reformer and monk, was challenged to walk through fire to prove his faith. He had a substitute go in his place. Just before the whole thing was going to start, a sudden rain fell, and no one had to walk through the fire. Generally, though, as a rule of thumb, executions are not stayed at the last-minute like in the movies. If you’re slated to be executed and it’s five minutes beforehand, you’re going to be executed. Think of some good last words.

Plants, let’s talk about them. Hans talks about all kinds of plants in this story because he’s just so poetic, but the main plants we want to talk about are nettles and flax. Flax, as in flax-seed, is good for you, but so are nettles. Flax can be made into clothing because it’s fibrous, but nettles, not so much. Nettles aren’t going to randomly turn into flax. Nettles sting, as in stinging nettles. They can irritate your skin and poke you with their prickly bits, but they’re good for you. People make nettle tea and it’s good for all kinds of things as mentioned below.

For hundreds of years, practitioners of herbal medicine have recommended stinging nettle as a treatment for the pain of arthritis and gout, for anemia, allergies and urinary problems or as a topical treatment for eczema, insect bites and painful muscles. The root and leaves of the plant contain several identified compounds that are biologically active, including flavonoids such as quercetin that have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help remove free radicals from your body; these unstable chemicals can damage your cellular membranes and DNA. Nettle also contains several other compounds, including beta-sitosterol, a plant chemical with a structure similar to cholesterol that can benefit your heart by lowering absorption of dietary fats by your blood.

The Wild SwansThemes

What I see in this story is a story of following through. Eliza followed through until the very end risking her own life to save her brothers. She did not speak for who knows how long. She worked on her strange coats. She picked nettles in a graveyard. That’s some pretty suspicious activity right there. You don’t go out picking plants in the graveyard; people really will think you’re a witch, even today.

Eliza is dedicated. She is diligent. She just keeps on. You really have to admire her for what she does. Look, none of my siblings like me as much as Eliza likes her brothers. None of my brothers would do anything like this for me. So this the first good thing we have to say about Eliza. She really cares about her brothers.

She wanders around by herself looking for her brothers. If you know nothing about the 1500s-1800s I’m going to go ahead and tell you that it wasn’t a good idea for young women to be wandering around alone in the woods. Look, murderers, rapists, human traffickers–all of that stuff existed then too, but it was more difficult for people to find you then if something did happen to you. There was no Liam Neeson to come and find you and kill your kidnappers. If you were taken, well, that was that.

The woman is almost executed for her silence, but she remains steadfast. I mean good for her. I bet she was scared to death, but good for her.

This just goes to show you that sometimes you have to risk everything in order to do something. Eliza is the kind of woman you want your girls to emulate. You want your little girls to know about dedication and tenacity. Maybe not so much the marry the guy you just met and have never spoken to bit, but the rest of it, go for it. Eliza is a strong woman and I admire her for that.

Overall

This story isn’t original to Hans, but it’s still a neat story. I would like to point out something though–this story says nothing about what happens to this archbishop. He is a snake. If he is allowed to stay, Eliza will have continued problems in her life.


A Grimm Review: He’s a Prince, Honey

A Grimm Review: He's a Prince, HoneyA Grimm Review: He’s a Prince, Honey

Some people marry for love and some marry for money. Generally, we have this cliché that if a woman dates a doctor, that’s the one. Doctors make good money. A woman could say that maybe this doctor of hers has bad hygiene or that he watches sports all day when he’s not working, but someone will always refrain, “But he’s a doctor, honey.” The doctor card seems to trump all other cards.

In the Grimm’s Fairy Tales there are lots of princes and kings. Now, I would like to go on and on about all the qualities these princes and kings have, but I can’t. I can’t do that because the Grimms stories never really say what these princes and kings do besides be princes and kings. Does he play any instruments? Is he a good cook? Is he intelligent? Is he free of STDs? We don’t know. Their main attribute is that they’re a prince.

We talked earlier about women in the Grimms stories only being valued for their beauty and this is the male side of that scenario. He’s a prince; who cares what else he might be or might not be?

Despite the fact that princes have been known to be a bit on the slutty side, as mentioned in a previous post, that doesn’t mean that’s all they are. We know these guys are more than just princes and walking carriers for STDs. They would have had educations and talents that they practiced. They would have known how to speak this language or that language. They would have known how to write. They would have been instructed in poetry perhaps. They would have been taught how to dress and how to behave like a gentleman. They would have been taught how to joust. They would have been taught how to sword fight. They would have been encouraged to pursue something.

The point of all of this is that these men were more than just a prince label. They had hopes. They had talents. They had dreams. They had things they liked to do. They had people they cared about. The only thing we get from the Grimms stories is that they’re a prince. Maybe one of them happens to be brave enough to slay a dragon or perform various tasks, but can he speak French? It doesn’t matter he’s a prince. For all the Grimms stories care, he has an IQ of 87 and spends all day picking his nose. The title “prince” seems to negate other qualities or lack of qualities.

It’s not fair. It’s not fair that these stories value women only for their beauty, but it’s also not fair that these men are only valued because they’re princes. Shouldn’t there be some other qualities to consider? Shouldn’t we praise this prince because he can speak Latin or play the lute?

This is basically the Medieval equivalent of, “He’s a doctor, honey.”

As it may be, marrying a doctor might be pretty nice, maybe I should have done that. Doctors make enough money to provide for you and your family. You wouldn’t have to worry about holding down a full-time job if you didn’t want to. Marrying the doctor is kind of like the potential spouse jackpot. We’re talking about real-life though, where people have problems and marriages aren’t perfect. Maybe that doctor has a terrible porn addiction. Maybe that doctor does heroin on the side. Maybe that doctor is secretly gay and only gets married so his patients will feel more comfortable around him, as he perceives all his patients to be fuddy-duddies. Maybe that doctor is addicted to gambling. Maybe he’s just a jerk. Whatever woman marries this guy despite all the, “He’s a doctor, honey,” is going to have a rough life.

It’s just the same for these girls in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Maybe their prince is really great, or maybe he’s a jerk. They have to live with whatever he is, even though people pushed her into this marriage because he’s a prince. He’s a prince for crying out loud. It doesn’t matter if he’s mentally handicapped.

On that note, Catherine the Great’s husband, Peter III, was supposedly a little dim. Sure, he was a prince, but come on. Then of course there was Louis XVI of France. Yeah, he and Marie Antoinette didn’t have sex for the first seven years of their marriage because he couldn’t quite figure it out and was reluctant to have a medical procedure that would solve the problem. Is the idea of a prince worth all of that trouble? I don’t think I could have put up with Louis XVI. Seven years to have sex and then I get beheaded for all my troubles. No thanks.

These stories act like the prince is the man to have, but they neglect to mention anything of his character or any of the problems and difficulties that would go along with being married to a prince. This isn’t just bad for the prince; it’s bad for everybody.


The Donkey

The DonkeyThe Donkey

I want to be a real boy! Look at that donkey shred on that lute! I don’t know if you can shred on a lute like you can shred on a guitar actually. I don’t know what extreme lute players call their feats of fingering the strings.

Once upon a time there was a king and a queen who had everything they wanted except a baby. The queen was very sad saying she was like a field in which nothing grew. They hoped for many years for children and one day it finally happened. The queen birthed a child, but it looked like a donkey. She was sad and said she wished never to have a child rather than have a donkey. She wanted to drown the donkey-baby in the river, but the king said no. This was their son, darnit, and they were going to raise him like a fine prince.

The donkey was taught in all the ways of being a prince. He was of a good disposition and could apparently talk. He also really liked music. He begged a lute master to teach him to play as beautifully as he could. The lute master thought that the donkey would not be able to play because he didn’t have human hands, but the donkey begged and begged, so the master relented. The donkey did learn to play, in fact, he learned to play so well that he soon surpassed the master.

Time went by and the donkey was out one day and happened to see his reflection in some water. This made him sad and he decided to go away from home. He took one faithful servant with him. They traveled a while before coming to a castle where a beautiful princess lived. Someone shouted for the gate to be opened, but no one opened the gate. The donkey sat down with his lute and started to play. Everyone was intrigued. Someone ran and told the king about this donkey that could play the lute. The king said to bring him right on in to the castle so he could see for himself. They asked the donkey to stay for dinner.

The donkey was like, “Whoa, wait a minute, I’m no normal donkey. I’m a noble donkey. I want to sit by the king.” The king was humored and said, “ok.” The king asked the donkey if his beautiful daughter pleased him and the donkey was like, “Yep, she’s pretty good-looking,” so the king also had the princess sit beside the donkey. The donkey behaved like a perfect gentlemen. Time went on. The donkey stayed in this castle, but he became sad.

The king asked him why he was sad. He asked him if he wanted money or land or power. The donkey said he didn’t want any of these things. The king finally asked him if he wanted to marry his daughter and the donkey said that might make him feel a little better. So the couple was married. The king stationed a servant in the marriage chamber to keep watch to make sure the donkey did not treat the princess badly on their wedding night.

When the donkey thought he was alone with his bride he stepped out of his donkey skin and was a handsome man. The princess really enjoyed herself. The next morning the king asked his daughter if she was sad that she didn’t have a real husband and she was like, “OH, I’ve got a REAL husband. I like him a lot. I had a great time! A really, really good time,” and she said all of this presumably before she ran out of the room blushing and had to take a cold shower.

The king was a little confused and had his servant watch again. The servant was like, “This guy takes off his donkey skin at night.” The king was like, “No way, that can’t happen.” The servant was like, “Well why don’t you come and watch your daughter have sex so you can see for yourself.” I added some wording in there because we were all thinking it. So the king went and watched and confirmed what the servant said. The servant suggested that the king throw the donkey skin into the fire and that his new son-in-law would have to keep his manly form. The king did this making sure to stay until all of it was burned up. He wanted to see how his son-in-law would react when he found out his skin was gone, so he stayed awake, all night, in his daughter’s bedroom watching.

In the morning the former donkey was concerned that his skin was gone. He knew he could not make his escape. The king, after stepping out of the corner, was like, “I like you this way. When I die, you can inherit my kingdom, just stay here.” The son-in-law stayed. The king died the next year and the former donkey ruled over the land.

The End

The DonkeyObservations

This story is sexually charged. We don’t get that a ton from the Grimm’s stories, but it does come along every once in a while. This king knew this man was a donkey, but he married this donkey to his daughter anyway. So what was he thinking? He was thinking A) well it’s just a donkey it won’t try to have sex with my daughter because it’s a different species and everything will be fine, or B) this donkey is going to have sex with my daughter maybe I need to hire a court painter to hide in the corner and record some of this. How else was this supposed to turn out? So this family is completely ok with bestiality.

So moving on, the dad stations someone in his daughter’s wedding chamber to watch the events unfold. Seriously? Then, he goes and watches himself. Seriously? I forgot to bring the popcorn. Would you go and get some Jacob? Jacob is the servant’s name; I just named him.

After the wedding night the dad asks his own daughter essentially how the sex was. This is not a question parents usually ask their children. “How was it,” is not something many of us have been asked by our parents after having sex. What’s more is that the daughter was totally like, “Oh it was great!” Maybe she even went into detail describing why and how it was so great. She probably told her maids in waiting. “Hey, I know my husband looks like a donkey, yeah, well he’s not, but he’s still hung like a donkey,” which is actually kind of scary.

Now seeing as this is kind of weird and kinky, it’s not actually that weird. I’m not going to try to deny that the kinky parts of this story aren’t kinky because they still are and there is no fixing that. If you were royalty, back in the day, your parents made sure your marriage had been consummated. I haven’t really heard of anyone actually watching their children do the deed, but I’m sure it’s happened. More common, someone would be listening outside of the door to make sure everything went down. Then the next morning someone would snatch the sheets off the bed as proof. There are even traditions where the entire court would put the newly married couple to bed, by this I mean they would change the couple into their night-clothes, tuck them into bed, and then tell a bunch of dirty jokes. Then they would leave the room and go listen outside of the door, presumably getting progressively drunker.

This still doesn’t change the fact that a man watching his daughter have sex is really weird.

The DonkeyThemes

Despite all the sexual weirdness in this tale, they’re accepting people. They talk to this donkey like he’s a person. They treat him like he’s a person. They grow a relationship with this donkey. This king even lets his daughter marry this donkey because he feels bad for the donkey, or he likes to watch donkeys having sex with people, not sure which option it is. This donkey doesn’t look like them, but they treat him as one of their own. Kudos, people, kudos. That’s how we’re supposed to treat each other. We’re supposed to treat a person as a person no matter if the person looks like us or not, of if they’re a stripper, for example. In return for their acceptance the donkey is a very good friend and husband to the princess.

Again, we have this true form coming out. The true form only seems to come out when there is a sexual experience on the horizon. We’ve seen this in quite a few Grimm’s tales. I’m a lion, but at night when I want to have sex, I’m a man. I’m a polar bear, but at night when it’s time for sex, I’m a man. I’m a donkey, but at night when it’s time for sex, I’m a man. I’m a frog, but if you get naked, I’ll turn into a man. There could be something to all of this. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Aren’t men supposed to be gentlemen the rest of the time, but animals in bed? I’m sure Sex in the City had something to say along those lines. I never really watched the show, so you’ll have to forgive any misquoted or non-existent references.

I’m sure someone could go on and on and on about this story motif, but I’m not going to, but I will talk about it a little bit. There is a term floating around called “sexual awakening.” This can mean quite a few things. In this story we really want to look at its meaning as it concerns a person becoming sexually mature. Let’s get serious here. Your childhood innocence ends when you find out what sex is. Your childhood really ends when you have sex for the first time. Sure, you may still be twelve years old when you have sex the first time, mentally, you’re still a child alright, don’t try to pretend otherwise, but in a societal sense, you’re an adult. You’ve crossed that threshold that brings you into the world of adult possibilities such as getting pregnant and catching STDs.

Our prince in this tale hit his sexual awakening so he seemingly changed from one form to another. He crossed a line. He threw off the skin of his childhood and became a man.

I wonder what the princess got. She seemed to enjoy it whatever it was.

Overall

I would wonder if anyone has turned this story into an erotic work of literature, but seeing as it’s named “The Donkey” I really wouldn’t count on it. That’s not a very sexy name for an erotic story.


 

The Golden Bird

The Golden BirdSummary

The Golden Bird is a Grimms story about golden things. Golden birds, golden horses, golden princesses(not really) and an idiot, who is not golden. Well, he’s not really an idiot, but I would say that he’s a little slow. Let’s say this is a story about golden things and a man who just isn’t the brightest crayon in the box.

Once upon a time there was a king who had a pleasure garden behind his house. No, this does not mean a garden where he had orgies. A pleasure garden was simply a garden you had in your yard that didn’t really grow food, but was nice to walk through. In that garden was an apple tree. The apples were counted every evening.

One day, the tree had less apples on it than the day before, by one to be exact. The king had his oldest son sit up in the night to determine what had taken the apple. The eldest son stayed up until midnight, then he fell asleep. The next night he had his middle son keep watch. The middle son also fell asleep at midnight. The king didn’t want his youngest son to try because he just wasn’t the brightest light bulb. The youngest begged his father, and pestered him, until the king finally agreed to let the youngest sit watch.

The youngest put himself beneath the apple tree, but did not fall asleep. He stayed up past midnight. When midnight came around a beautiful golden bird came and plucked an apple from the tree. The youngest son shot an arrow at the bird. He did not hit the bird, but the arrow happened to go through one of the bird’s feathers. The youngest son showed this to the king. Someone told the kind these feathers would be worth more than anything else, so the king was determined to get more than one feather.

The oldest son set off in search of the golden bird. He met a fox on the road which he aimed to shoot, but the fox could talk! The fox pretty much says that if the man would not shoot him he would give him advice. The fox tells the oldest son he would soon come to a village with two inns. He should not go in the inn lit brightly and making merry. He should go to the other. The oldest son thought this was stupid advice and tried to shoot the fox anyway, but the fox got away. The oldest came to the village and decided to go into the more happening inn. He forgot his quest for many months.

The second son set off after the oldest did not come home for many months. He met the fox who offered the same advice, but he too, thought the advice was stupid and tried to shoot the fox. He came to the village with the two inns, but decided to go into the more party-ful inn and also forgot his quest.

The youngest son wanted to go in search of the golden bird, but his father, again, thought he wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box, but finally relented. The youngest encountered the fox, but did not try to shoot him. He actually told the fox that he meant him no harm. The fox was obviously pleased with this. He told the youngest about the village and even offered to give him a ride to the village. He told him to hop up on his back behind his tail. The fox ran fast and they were soon at the village. The youngest went into the shabby inn and spent an uneventful night.

The next morning he went outside and the fox was waiting. The fox had further instructions. He told the youngest to go straight on. He would come to a castle. There would be a whole regiment of soldiers sleeping. He says not to worry about those guys because they’re not going to wake up. Just walk right through the middle of them. Then go into the castle. Go through every room. In the last chamber would be found the golden bird. It will be in a shabby cage, but there will also be a golden cage in the room. Do not put the bird in the golden cage.

The youngest follows these directions to the letter until he gets to the golden bird. He thinks it is a shame to keep the golden bird in the shabby cage, so he puts it in the golden cage. Almost immediately, the bird begins to make a racket and the soldiers woke up and came running.

The king of the castle decided the youngest could live as long as he journeyed forth to find the golden horse. The youngest agreed, but was sad because he didn’t know where the golden horse was. The fox was waiting. The fox rebukes the youngest for not listening to him. He agrees to help him still though.

He says, go straight on and there would be a castle. The horse is in the stable. The grooms will be asleep in front of the stable. It will be possible to lead the golden horse out quietly. Beware…do not put the nice saddle of gold on the horse. Leave the shabby saddle on the horse.

The youngest obeys the fox to the letter until he gets to the horse. He thinks it would be a shame to put a shabby old saddle on the magnificent animal and saddles him up with the golden saddle instead. The horse began to neigh loudly, the grooms woke up and put the youngest in prison. The king of this castle agrees not to kill him if he will bring back the beautiful princess from the golden castle.

He sets out again on his journey and the fox is waiting for him. The fox says, “I ought only to leave you to your ill-luck, but I pity you and I will help you once more out of your trouble.” Translation=you’re an idiot and I would feel bad if I didn’t continue to help you out.

The fox says to stay straight on the road. He will come to the golden castle. It will be night and the princess will go to the bath house to bathe. When she goes inside, run up to her and give her a kiss and she will follow. The youngest will then be able to take the princess away, but he must be careful not to let the princess say goodbye to her family before they go.

The youngest follows these directions to the letter until it’s time to take the princess away. She begs so much that he allows her to say goodbye to her parents. He is immediately thrown into prison. The king of that castle tells him he can keep his life if he can move the hill in front of the castle within eight days. He also tells him that if he succeeds, he can also have the princess for a wife.

He labors for seven days digging and moving dirt. He hasn’t really gotten anywhere close to moving the hill. The fox appears. The fox again rebukes him for not listening, but agrees to help. He tells the youngest to go to sleep and that the hill will be moved by morning. The youngest wakes up and the fox has moved the hill. The king gives the youngest his daughter to wife.

Something has to be done about the other debts owed by the youngest. The fox mentions that the golden horse belongs to the princess. The fox says to first take the maiden to the castle where the golden horse is. They will be happy to see the princess and will give him the horse as a reward. He should be sure to mount the horse right away with the princess and ride off. The horse is so fast no one will catch up.

The youngest listens this time. Now he has the princess and the golden horse. The fox meets up with him again to get the golden bird. The fox says to let the princess wait here with him. The youngest should ride into the courtyard with the golden horse. As soon as he lays hand on the cage he should gallop away on the horse and then swing back by to pick up the princess.

All goes according to plan.

The youngest is going to return home with all of his spoils, but the fox wants repaid for all the favors he has done the youth. The fox asks the young man to kill him and cut off his head. The youngest says he cannot do this. The fox says, “Ok, but let me give you some more advice. Don’t buy gallows flesh and don’t sit by a well.” The youngest thinks these are strange pieces of advice, but agrees anyway.

He rides off with the princess and the way home took him through the village where his two older brothers got stuck. It turns out they had caused a lot of trouble and were about to be hung on the gallows. The youngest does not want his two brothers to die so he offers to pay for them. A price is agreed and he rides on with his brothers. The brothers want to rest a little while by a well. The youngest agrees, but the brothers pushed him into the well and rode home with all the good things the youngest earned.

The oldest brothers ride home telling their father how they not only got the golden bird, but a golden horse and a princess. There was lots of job in the household, but the bird would not sing, the horse would not eat and all the princess did was cry.

The youngest brother was not dead. The well was dry. The fox came back again. The fox rebukes him again for not listening and pulls him up out of the well with his tale, most likely with an exasperated sigh. He tells the youngest to be careful because the brothers are not sure he is dead. They have placed their men in the forest to wait any sight of the youngest. The youngest changes clothes with a poor man in the forest and goes home as a poor man.

When the youngest, disguised as a poor man, gets to the castle the princess stops crying. The bird starts singing and the horse eats. The king wants to know why. He gathers all the people in the castle together. The princess falls on one poor man in particular. It’s the youngest son.The princess had blabbed all that had happened to the king right before this reunion, so he knew of his two sons’ evil deeds. As soon as the youngest was back in his rightful place the other two brothers were put to death.

After a long time, the youngest was walking in the woods and he met the fox. The fox tells him he has everything he could wish for, please kill him. The youngest was sad to do this, but he knows it is what the fox really wants so he does it. As soon as he killed the fox, the fox changed into a man. It turns out the fox was the brother of the princess and now he was freed from the magical charm that kept him a fox.

The End

The Golden BirdObservations

Golden birds, I guess those are nice. This reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons. Bart helps the creator of Itchy and Scratchy get some money back from his creation. You would think he might do a sensible thing like build himself a nice sensible house and save for retirement. What does he do? He builds a house of gold. That’s not very practical. Imagine all the people who would come and chip off pieces of your house. A golden bird and a golden horse are also not very practical. Remember though, gold always has value and a golden anything is worth more than a regular anything.

This dude just doesn’t get it. Listen to the fox. Actually, part of the way through the story I started to imagine the fox as Lucius Fox from the new Batman trilogy. So just imagine all the things the fox says in the voice of Morgan Freeman. Like a twinkie, like a twinkie.

The two oldest brothers just seem willful, not stupid. The youngest one does seem like he’s a few cards short of a deck. The princess doesn’t seem any brighter either. So, it seems she has made a perfect match, pity the children they’ll have.

This fox must have been really strong. We do know that the fox was really a man who was enchanted, but foxes are not that big. Foxes are like the size of a medium-sized dog, maybe like a beagle. Foxes are not big animals, but yet this fox carries a fully grown man on his back. Well, I assume the youngest son was fully grown. It’s always a possibility that he was a primordial dwarf and very small, but the story doesn’t mention anything about that, so I am going to assume this is a full-grown man we are talking about. A fox cannot carry a full-grown man on his back, behind its tail for that matter. What kind of a magical genie fox is this?

The Golden BirdThemes

This story has a couple of great themes. The first theme is that sometimes you need to follow instructions without variance. The second theme is that it’s not always the better looking item that will do the job.

Let’s talk about instructions. Those of you women who are reading this might have husbands. Those husbands might not follow directions. How many times have you said to your husband, “Do A, then do B, and then do C,” and you don’t go any further than that because you know they won’t remember it. Surely, you think my husband can do A, B, and C. I was very specific about this. A,B, and C that’s all it is.

So what happens? A is usually on fire. B hasn’t had its diaper changed in five hours. C is running around in the yard naked or some such similar thing. In your woman’s mind, the instructions were simple, and quite frankly, I don’t know how they got lost in translation. Trust me, I would explain it to you if I could. I don’t understand man-brain and how instructions become befuddled.

You know that if your husband has followed instructions, things would be ok. The dinner would be ready. Nothing would be on fire. All the diapers would be changed. Things would be ok, but because those instructions were not followed you ended up in a bind.

This kind of thing can happen to women as well, but not nearly as often as it happens to men. Yes, there are times when we women do not follow instructions and we end up somewhere we should not be or in a place in our lives we never thought we would go. Those are the time in which we say to ourselves, “I should have listened to my mother,” strangely, I don’t recall a single instance in my life where I’ve said that to myself. Maybe I’m abnormal or maybe it’s my mom who is abnormal, I don’t know.

At the time, in which we are not following instructions, we think we’re skipping steps because we have a better alternative. We know a way to get things done faster. We think we know better. Often, the person giving instructions generally knows more about the task at hand than you do. That isn’t always the case. We do know people who give advice based on groundless information. They exist and sometimes they might actually have a morsel of information to offer, but generally, their advice doesn’t count for much because they do not have the experience to back it up. Generally, though, we can count on instructions, unless they’ve been translated from Chinese, then we’re just lost.

The idea is, the people who wrote the instructions or gave you the instructions, know more about the task at hand than you do. You’re generally not going to improve the process by creating short cuts and varying steps.

This fox is very patient. I would have given up on the youngest long before this fox did. I would have been like, “Screw it! This guy is an idiot and I’m staying a fox forever! I better go and find myself a fox girlfriend.”

Then we have the idea that the shabby-looking item will do just as well as the nice-looking item. Look here, I’ve written about this before, we’re fascinated by “shiny.” Ooohhh, it’s shiny, I have to have it! Shiny! Shiny! Shiny! Shiny! SHINY!!!!

We tend to automatically think that because something is shiny, newer, more beautiful, or possessing a new car scent that it’s somehow better than the same items which do not possess any of those attributes. Are we right in that assumption? Is Lady Gaga better than Madonna? You know they’re exactly the same thing just in different generations. Lady Gaga certainly is shinier, sometimes literally, but is she better because she is shinier than Madonna? If those two get into a fight, I’m betting on Madonna.

In reality, your car still works if it looks like crap. Your wife is still awesome even though she isn’t that pretty little young thing at the office. Your house is still worthwhile even though it’s not brand-spanking new.

The young man in this tale gets tempted by the shiny. He sure does learn his lesson doesn’t he? He gets arrested and sentenced to death three different times. That has to be some sort of record. He was just going around ticking everybody off, all because A) he didn’t follow instructions properly and B) he got distracted by shiny. Ooohh it’s pretty, let’s touch it! No, don’t touch the fire; I don’t care if you do think it’s pretty.

Shiny is not always better. All that glitters is not gold. The grass is not always greener on the other side. Got it?! Comprende?

Overall

I still think this guy is an idiot, but I do like some of the lessons he learns. He does learn that it is better to follow instructions properly. He learns that shiny isn’t always awesome. I do think it’s kind of sad that his two brothers had to be put to death. It reminds me of Edward, George, and Richard of the house of York. They all freaking died, even if they were kind of jerks, that’s still sad.