Stories like Aladdin Hansel and Gretel Sleeping Beauty Snow White Rumpelstiltskin and Cinderella are all basically well recognised . However, there are several other credit warranting fairy tales that are less recognised. There’s actually some order in this one – First two on the list are Brother’s Grimm stories, Next two are generally known in name only and the final two are Hans Christian Andersen stories, since his works, relative to the  genre overall, are vaguely contemporary. Any suggestions for other underrated Fairy Tales are incredibly welcome.

The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs

devil dem hairsSometimes changed to involve a generic giant instead of the Devil- fair enough, the Devil in this story is a large dim-witted childlike creature. A prophecy arrives telling that a new-born commoner will marry the Princess one day. The displeased King wants to avoid this so attempts to drown the new-born commoner  (yeah). This doesn’t work and the boy is adopted by Millers. The King  arrives at the mill later and realises who Boy is after hearing the story of his adoption. The King gives him a sealed letter containing a death warrant and asks that he take it to the Kingdom, hoping to kill him off this way instead. En route,  surprisingly good hearted burglars encounter boy , open the death warrant and decide to save Boy’s life by writing another letter for him to send saying that Boy should marry the princess since presumably they know about the prophecy and connect the dots. Later in this world in which burglars are more trustworthy than royalty, Boy arrives at the Kingdom. The King realises he’s been outsmarted so sends the boy to retrieve the Devil’s Three Golden Hairs, hoping he’ll die en route. On the way the boy gets asked seemingly unanswerable questions, one of which comes from a boatman wondering why he has to eternally row the river.  He finds his way to hell and meets the Devil’s grandmother. Boy tells her why he’s there and she shrinks him so he won’t be found. The Devil eventually falls asleep, Grandma Pulls out three of his hairs while he sleep-talks the answers to the previously asked questions. Boy goes to answer the questions and is paid handsomely as thanks. He returns to the Kingdom with his new wealth and the requested hairs. The King suddenly likes Boy since he’s so rich and now doesn’t mind him marrying the princess. It doesn’t just end like that though, The King wants some gold for himself so tries to go on the same journey- the boatman meets the King then hands him the oar, damning him to row the  river indefinitely.  BOOM! LOSSEERRRR. Equally griping and comedic with so many fairly complicated ideas fitted successfully into a fairly short story with a full circle resolution.

Bearskin (Brother’s Grimm) –

Satan, displaying a mbearskinore ominous and cunning demeanour than he did in the aforementioned story, makes a deal with a former soldier. If the soldier takes an ever-full enchanted purse and survives 7 years of abandoning all personal hygiene and grooming while homelessly wandering, he gets unlimited wealth. If he dies within 7 years, Devil gets his souuuuuulllll (no violin battle sadly- only happens in Georgia).

The soldier, now called Bearskin for his taste in jackets, saves a Merchant from financial problems. As gratitude, the Merchant introduces his daughters, saying to Bearskin ‘marry one yeah? Cheers’ (or words to that effect). Two of them are like ‘Not marrying him he looks a right tramp’ (which, much as you’re meant to hate them – they aren’t wrong about) the youngest daughter is more open to it being like ‘He did save us, a group of strangers, from temporary poverty, I’ll give this marriage thing a shot’. But the catch is: 7 years aren’t up yet, Bearskin has to continue wandering. Before leaving, he gives the youngest daughter half a ring, keeping the other half and promising to show her it in a few years. Years pass; he’s won the wager with Satan who gives him a haircut shave etc. He goes back to the Merchant’s house requiring a chat with one of his daughters. The two who hated him before are now pumped because there’s a dapper guy they don’t recognise in the area. The Youngest isn’t – she hasn’t been reunited with the strange tramp who promised he’d be back. Bearskin approaches the youngest daughter and puts his half of the ring in her glass. Instead of choking to death on it- She thankfully notices it then realises the handsome guy is Bearskin and they’re wed as planned. The two other daughters are now devastated they didn’t marry this total stud and both commit suicide. Satan collects both of their souls meaning that he both he and bearskin effectively come out on top. This story adds complication root to simple story formulas e.g. rags to riches, the winning of a maiden etc. and the details that have been employed in portraying these events are intriguing, with create flavourings of mysticism. Refreshingly it doesn’t go for either an entirely gloomy or sugary sweet ending- the protagonist technically wins…. But so does Satan.

Puss in Boots

puss in bootsWe’ve all heard the title, but the story itself is relatively unknown. In a nutshell;

A miller’s son is given a cat by his dying father after his two older brothers are given means to continue the business. Miller’s son is like ‘ok he was dying I won’t get too mad but why’s he hate me they get the business I get cat-shaped responsibility/inconvenience’. But, as it turns out, the cat’s pretty useful; He talks and is willing to improve Miller son’s life in exchange for boots. Puss catches several animals and brings them to the King, saying they’re a gift from a Marquis, which is, of course, a lie. Puss then asks Miller’s son to pretend his clothes have been stolen when he knows the King’s nearby, causing the King to provide him with a formal ensemble that conveniently fits. Miller’s son keeps up the pretence of being the Marquis and he and the princess get sweet on each other. Puss reasons that Miller’s son needs a castle to convincingly seem like royalty. Puss travels to the castle of a sorcerous ogre, tricks him into transforming into a mouse then eats him. The group then arrive at the castle and after some more time of becoming acquainted, Miller’s son and the princess marry. The moral is essentially; as long as you’re a talking cat, you’re allowed to manipulate royalty and commit murder to gain your victim’s property as long as your master prospers by marrying a princess he’s lied about his identity to.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

ali baba

The name is known so is the phrase ‘Open Sesame’ what seems to be less known is the entire story surrounding these two things. Ali Baba the woodcutter finds out how to enter a magical cave where thieves store their riches and takes some for himself. His richer brother Cassim finds out about Alibaba’s money and pushes him into revealing how he got it. Cassim finds the hideout seconds after the thieves have gone out to do more….well, thieving- so doesn’t need to say the magic words to get in. The problem is he does need to say the magic words to get out- and forgets what they are. The thieves eventually come back, find Cassim and kill him for intrusion. Cassim’s former slave Morgiana consults a tailor asking him to sew together Cassim’s corpse for a dignified burial (oh btw the thieves dismembered him too) he leads them to the house blindfolded to prevent their location being blabbed about and drawing in the thieves. Later on a thief visist the tailor on personal business and   challenges the tailor’s skill .The tailor goes ‘M8 I’m boss at my job I stitched together a dismembered corpse the other day’. This obviously makes the thief think ‘That’s funny bc we actually dismembered a corpse the other day- probs the same one’. The thief asks the tailor to guide him to the house and is able to remember where he was led when the thief blindfolds him. A cross is marked on Alibaba’s door so the gang can come back later and silence him via murder. After similar setbacks the leader of the group is lead to the house of Alibaba- who at this point is barely even a character  since Morgiana’s literally doing everything. Memorising how it looks the leader returns later masquerading as a weary traveller with his cohorts hiding in large jars outside the house ready to pounce on his signal. Morgiana realises that the thieves are hiding so collects boiling oil and MURDERS THEM ALL FROM INSIDE THEIR JARS. Apparently they don’t make any noise as they’re literally being burnt alive so she’s safe to continue. Inside, the thief leader is lulling Alibaba into a false sense of security, Morgiana arrives and knowing him to the thief leader performs a knife dance that entrances him before fatally stabbing him. Morgiana gains her freedom after saving Alibaba’s life and, in the original telling at least, Marries Alibaba’s son (most change this so she marries Alibaba and omit his own wife). There are plenty of reasons this tale should be remembered, it allows opportunities for humour, has an intricate plot, a sense of peril and a strong female character who actually saves the titular character who takes a backseat after the first few sentences.

The Travelling Companion

travelling companion One of Hans Christian Andersen’s less known works – no Wiki page. Johannes father’s just died and Johanne’s dreamt about marrying an attractive woman. While visiting his father’s grave, he prevents a corpse from being thrown onto the street by going “Oi Geezers! Sling yer ‘ooks! ” (translation not exact) to the people stealing it- preventing the whole incident. He then meets an eccentric who then becomes his (wait for it) TRAVELLING COMPANION (woaaah).  They travel to a kingdom, on the way the companion picks up several items. Johannes recognises the Princess there as the woman from his dreams. Sadly, she’s a complete maniac. To be worthy of her one must answer three riddles- and will be beheaded if they answer wrongly. The companion uses an item he picked up (wings of a dead swan) to follow the Princess. She meets a troll (the mythical kind not the internet kind) who seemingly has her under mind control and suggests a riddle to her. The Travelling Companion hears the riddle’s answer so tells Johannes. When asked the next day to answer correctly, he does – meaning Johannes has got two riddles left to answer. The companion repeats the troll spying process, and after another riddle is correctly answered the troll decides the final riddle’s answer: his own head, something Johannes won’t think of because he and the troll have never met. The Travelling companion sneaks up on the evil troll and beheads him, wraps the head up and gives it to Johannes who presents it before the Princess as an answer to the final riddle. He gets to marry her – as showing the troll’s head has partially broken the spell- but has to essentially baptise her with magical water to break the curse of evilness properly in something of a filler moment. The Travelling Companion reveals he’s the spirit of the man whose corpse he defended at the beginning of the story, returning the favour since Johannes allowed him to pass on with some dignity intact. Now that his job’s done the companion disappears and Johannes stays with Princess who’s no longer under the spell of evilness. An incredibly slick story that deconstructs typical fairy tale tropes (the evil monarch becomes a love interest) while employing all the necessary details.

The Swine Herd

dat swineherd boiSo, a prince sends a princess a rose and a nightingale, she goes crazy and thinks both gifts, seen as things of natural beauty, are beneath her. The prince in disguise lands a gig as a Swineherd (pig farmer). He creates a musical toy that she walks through a pile of mud and then kisses him in order to obtain. The king sees them at it and is like ‘BOTH OF YOU OUTTA MY PALACE’. The princess, covered in mud and probably not really a princess now says she wishes she’d married the prince who gifted her with the Nightingale and Rose. The swineherd gets himself scrubbed up to his princely self has a sudden realisation about her and essentially says ‘PLOTTWIST- the prince was me- you didn’t give the time of day to someone who made an effort to find a rose and a nightingale but would kiss a random swineherd to get a toy- you’re weird I don’t want you no more’ he returns to his kingdom and just leaves her outside the walls of the palace as she sings the tune played by the musical toy. This is a clever spin on the usually sentimental ‘woo the snooty princess and then fall in love’ format (e.g. King Thrushbeard). There’s none of that happily ever after business .As well as a seemingly obvious, but well played ending, the interpretation  allows adds a lot of merit: It’s quite easy to see the Prince himself as questionable, he did disguise himself after all and seemed to assume someone would like him just because he got her gifts. A less frequently discussed fairy-tale that lends itself well to the realm of adaptations, whoever the sympathy was more weighted towards, it wouldn’t seem wrong as long as it’s clear that the person adapting the story has made some sort of decision.


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