The Three Feathers is going to sound quite familiar to you guys. It sounds awfully familiar to me. You will elements in this tale from recently analyzed tales, but you will also see something a little different from other tales. It’s quite the quirk.
Once upon a time there was a king who had three sons. The older two were clever, but the youngest was not so bright and was called….wait for it…Simpleton. Who knew?! Seriously, did you see that coming? The king was trying to decide which of his three sons would inherit the kingdom. He told his sons to go out into the world and bring him back the most beautiful carpet. No, I don’t know why he wanted a really beautiful carpet.
The king had three feathers which he blew into the air. He admonished each of his sons to follow a feather. One of the feathers went east. One of the feathers went west. The last feather simply drifted straight up then came back down to the ground. The two oldest brothers followed the east and west feathers while the youngest, Simpleton, sat down on the ground where the third feather had landed. His older brothers took the time to make fun of him before they left on their journeys.
The older brothers, figured that their younger brother could not possibly come back with a beautiful carpet and simply went to the first peasants they saw and asked for handkerchiefs as their carpets. Simpleton, had been sitting, but he noticed something. He noticed a trap door in the ground. He opened it. There were some steps that went down and down. He came to a door. He knocked at it. He heard somebody inside talking.
“Little green waiting-maid,
Waiting-maid with the limping leg,
Little dog of the limping leg,
Hop hither and thither,
And quickly see who is without.”
Simpleton was a bit surprised when the door opened to reveal a giant toad around which sad a bunch of little toads. The large toad asked what he wanted and he told her that he wanted the most beautiful carpet in all the world.
“Little green waiting-maid,
Waiting-maid with the limping leg,
Little dog of the limping leg,
Hop hither and thither,
And bring me the great Box.”
A young toad brought the great box and inside of it was the most beautiful carpet. It’s equal could not be matched.
All three brothers brought their findings back to the king. The older two their handkerchiefs and Simpleton, his beautiful carpet. The king said that Simpleton should be the next king. The older brothers weren’t pleased with this arrangement and begged their father to issue another challenge. He told them to bring back the most beautiful ring. He, once again, blew his feathers out into the air. One went east. One went west. The last feather drifted up into the air and came back down. The oldest brothers took off east and west. Simpleton went down the trap door again.
The large toad asked what Simpleton wanted. He told her that he wanted the most beautiful ring. She had her little toads bring her the big box again. Inside was the most beautiful ring. It sparkled with jewels and the workmanship was so fine it could not be matched. The older two brothers knocked the nails out of an old carriage ring and took that to the king, but Simpleton came with his beautiful ring.
Once again, the king declares Simpleton the next heir, but the brothers begged for another challenge. The king said that whosoever brings back the most beautiful woman will inherit the kingdom. He blew his feathers into the air again. One went east. One went west. The other drifted up into the air and came back down again. The two oldest went their former ways and Simpleton went down the trapdoor again.
The toad asked him what he wanted. He told her that he wanted the most beautiful maiden. The large toad said that she wasn’t there at present, but she could take a message…I’m joking. She said that the most beautiful maiden was not there are the moment, but Simpleton could surely have her. The large toad gave simpleton a yellow turnip with six mice. Simpleton is simple, but he doesn’t quite get the turnip and mice. The large toad tells him to grab a little toad from her congregation and put it inside the turnip. He randomly grabs a little toad and places it inside the turnip.
The little toad had barely been in the turnip a moment before she turned into the most beautiful maiden. The turnip turned into a carriage and the mice turned into horses. Simpleton kissed the maiden and drove back with her, in the carriage to the king. The older two brothers had simply brought peasant women with them back to the king.
The king, again, declares Simpleton the next heir. The brothers aren’t happy about this and propose a new challenge.They propose that whichever maiden could jump through a hoop, that the man who brought that maiden would be king. The two peasant women were able to jump through the hoop, but stumbled on the way back down to the ground. Simpleton’s toad maiden, on the other hand, was able to jump through the hoop gracefully like a deer. Simpleton became king and ruled wisely for a length of time.
The girl is a toad, not the man, the girl. That’s quite interesting. I haven’t been seeing a lot of these fairy tale roles reversed in my study of the Grimm’s anthology. This is really the first instance, in which, I’ve seen a character type reversed. It’s interesting. Granted, it’s not exactly a frog, but a toad is close enough.
This story reminds me of the movie Stardust. It’s a great little movie, especially if you want to see Robert De Niro dressed in women’s clothing prancing around a room. In the beginning of the movie, the king sends his seven sons after his necklace. Whichever heir to the throne brings it back and turns it back to its original color, will be the next king. Both stories have that same sort of ring to them.
So many of these stories have royal brothers vying for the crown. It’s not a Grimm’s thing, it’s a history thing. That’s what happened. I’m sure in some areas of the world it still happens. We don’t foresee Prince Harry trying to knock Prince William off, but you never know. Brothers who were heirs to the crown, would kill each other. It’s happened many times. They would kill each other overtly or do it secretly. It’s happened over, and over, and over again. These stories are pointing out a very real and historically accurate tradition. It’s sad that it’s a tradition, but it’s very real.
There has got to be some sort of symbolism in the idea of east and west versus home. I don’t really know what that would be, but it definitely means something. We do tend to think of east and west of us as more exotic locations. East of me, is the Atlantic Ocean, which could be quite exotic I suppose. West of me, is the rest of the United States. Where I’m at is where I’m at. Back in the olden days, people didn’t travel too far from home, so anything east or west of themselves, was quite exciting and mysterious.
I like the toads. My brother and I used to go out at night with a flashlight and a bucket to catch toads. They come out at night looking for bugs and they’re quite easy to catch. I don’t know why we caught a bunch of toads, and, no, they do not cause warts, but we caught toads. It was an interesting past time. I’m still in the habit of picking up a toad every once in a while.
Part of me wonders if these were hallucinogenic toads. Toads usually don’t congregate together. They can actually have toxins in their skin that make you hallucinate, but usually that’s if you live in South America or Australia, where everything kills you. The behavior of these toads is odd. Why is there this congregation of toads underneath the castle? Is it like sacred toad land? Is the giant toad like a high priestess? Someone could have a lot of fun with this story.
Turnips were the first Jack-O’-lanterns. I just thought you should know.
All these poor third sons being called Simpleton has got to be a real drag for these boys. You can’t go around calling someone an idiot their entire lives and expect them to turn out normal. The story does state that Simpleton ruled for a length of time, not until he died, not happily ever after, but a length of time. This, to me, mean that he was deposed at some point. By who? His brothers of course. If Simpleton really does have some sort of cognitive disabilities, he is not fit to rule an entire kingdom. This probably became very evident when he ordered a national Bathe in Jello day for the entire kingdom. We don’t often look at the consequences of these stories. We don’t look at what happens after the end.
Sometimes it pays to be the most humble. Simpleton is humble because he has been humiliated by his family. He’s humble because he doesn’t know any different. The story clearly states that he’s got a few screws loose. He’s humble because he doesn’t expect to succeed. He is blessed for his humility, but maybe it’s not the best blessing. I touched on this just a paragraph ago. He’s probably not mentally fit enough to rule a kingdom. If his brothers thought that he couldn’t find a carpet by himself, then he certainly cannot rule a kingdom. There is always the possibility that Simpleton is not simple, but maybe his mind doesn’t work the same way as the minds of his brothers and they think he is simple, but he’s not.
Maybe Simpleton turned out to be a great ruler who made wise decisions, but do you really want a person ruling your country who has been emotionally and verbally abused their entire life? On the other hand, do you want someone ruling your kingdom who has been verbally and mentally abusive to their own little brother his entire life? It’s a two-sided coin. You’re choosing between bad and worse, if you choose at all, because this isn’t a democracy it’s a monarchy.
People who are abused as children, even if it’s just verbal and mental abuse, do not magically transform into fully functioning adults when they hit a certain age or milestone. Simpleton is not going to transform into this amazing king whom everybody loves and respects simply because he made friends with some toads, who may or may not even be real. Simpleton is probably going to need some therapy, which wasn’t a thing during this time. So there would certainly be some cause for concern as far as Simpleton being the ruling power of this kingdom.
We have this idea of the underdog winning. It’s a nice sentiment and it is that, a sentiment. We usually associate the underdog with change or an underlying truth coming to light. If the underdog wins, it’s going to bring about change. If the underdog wins, someone has brought a harsh truth to light that the usual guys can’t explain away. We root for the underdog, ideally. We like the idea of the underdog. We like the idea of Clark Kent, a big dork, being Superman. We like to say that we like the underdog. We like to say we’re non-conformist or that we want Rand Paul to be president, whatever the case may be. People like to talk. That’s what a lot of all this underdog-rooting is, just talk.
People may express the desire for the underdog to win, but when it comes down to it, they don’t want the change. They don’t fully embrace the ideals. They’re too comfortable with the bubbles created by their usual guys. If you need examples, simply look at our most recent presidential election. People really wanted the “change” that Obama promised when he got elected the first time. That change didn’t happen or didn’t happen the way people expected, so people sought new leaders. Romney was nice, but he was a Mormon and that made him a huge underdog. Ron Paul also had some great ideas, but he wasn’t associated with the democratic party or the republican party and that made him weird and unusual to most people. Both Romney and Paul, ended up being underdogs. People talked a lot about how they liked either one, but did they make it happen?
Nope. Out of all that talk and all the campaigning, did the underdogs win? No. People stayed with what they were comfortable with.
Why did I bring a little bit of politics into this post? I did this to illustrate a point. This idea of the underdog winning, is far-fetched. It doesn’t happen in real life nearly as often as it happens in stories. That’s why these are fairy tales. We don’t get to have the underdog win very often in real life. Look at these people who have recently leaked government secrets. What happened to them? Prison and asylum in other countries. They were the underdogs and they did not win. We, as a society, don’t let the underdogs win. We want what’s comfortable. We want what’s already inside our bubble.
The people of this kingdom in this story, are expecting one of the older brothers to rule A) because they’re older and B) because they were the most likely candidates. They don’t expect the youngest brother to get anywhere near the throne because he’s not the oldest, he’s not likely, and he is simple. The entire kingdom knows about this through whispers, probably. They’re not going to be happy about this. They’re not going to be comfortable with this. In fact, all of these tales mentioning the underdog winning in the end, are probably not going to have great results. It’s just too different from normal life.
So, yes, I am calling “bull-crap” on stories like this.
I really liked the toads. I feel bad for this poor kid being called Simpleton. His real name is probably George or something, but everyone pretty much goes around calling him an idiot. That’s not an easy life for somebody. I also really liked the idea of the beautiful woman being a toad. That’s something to think about.