Grimm’s Fairy Tales: The Rabbit and The King

This is what my edition looks like. It's kinda dying...

I sorta love fairy tales. Except not just sorta. I eat them up along with books about why they are the way they are and why they’re not what they used to be and so on. My volume of Grimm’s is a little bit worn, I think it’s at least two generations old.

I wanted to use some of the lesser known tales so each story title has a link to the actual story, and there’s plot summary in the review.

The Rabbit Bride

So this rabbit comes to a woman and her daughter’s cabbage garden everyday and starts eating up their plants. The daughter goes out every day and shoos him away and the rabbit’s reply is

Come, maiden,” said the rabbit, “sit on my tail and go with me to my rabbit hutch”

Eventually the maiden goes with him. After all, it’s that or lose their crop. He gathers all the animals together for the wedding. The maiden is not too happy, every time the Rabbit checks on her she’s crying away. Well I would too if I was a blackmail furry bride.*

Can that be a movie? “Blackmail Furry Bride”?

*no offense to any furries reading this

After the Rabbit’s second check, the maiden makes a figure out herself with straw and runs away. The Rabbit comes in gets all mad that she’s not happy and hits her in the face. Since it’s a figure of straw, the head comes clean off and the Rabbit is very sad that he killed his bride.

And he went away very sad

I guess the happy ending here is that she got away, which shows that the Rabbit is not mancandy. Or animal-candy. As a general rule we do not condone bestiality at Literary Mancandy.

Except for Beast:

But even if the Rabbit had been a man, blackmailing your bride and then punching her in the face are not excellent qualities. Though I guess you can feel a teensy bit sorry for him because he’s so sad that he killed his bride.

Man Grade: F+

The Three Little Men in the Wood

When the Grimm brothers began collecting stories for their collection, there was a lot of bowdlerization. Each subsequent volume they released was cleaned up a little more, were more about edification than entertainment. So in a lot of the stories, including this one the moral is “if you’re a dutiful, hard-working and beautiful girl, you will succeed in life.” We’ll overlook the beauty = goodness thing for now. To get anywhere in life, girls must be happy little workers. Boys can get by on cleverness but a lot of them succeed by dumb luck, loyal servants and helpful foxes.

Anyway, the princes and kings in these stories are more rewards for good behavior than characters, though they’re not always flat. Our tale starts out before the King appears. (Sidenote: I always imagine them as young kings in these stories but I’m not sure if it’s the case. It makes for more palatable reading)

The story begins with two girls who often play together. One only has a mother and our heroine only has a father. One day the mother says to the heroine something that used to befuddle me.

Listen to me, tell your father that I will marry him, and then you shall have milk to wash in every morning and wine to drink, and my daughter shall have water to wash in and water to drink.” The girl went home and told her father what the woman had said.

I found people who say that washing your face in milk will cleanse it but all I can imagine is it crusting on. The parents marry and the step-mother becomes more and more jealous because the heroine is beautiful and sweet and kind but her own daughter is ugly and mean. One day in the cold winter, the step mother sends her out in nothing but a paper frock to fetch strawberries.

(BTW, you know all those evil step-mothers you read about? Well in a lot of the original fairy tales, they were the actual biological mothers. The Grimms and Perrault and others made them into step-mothers to ease children’s fears.)

The heroine goes into the woods and finds a little house with three little men. She greets them politely and shares her food with them even though she only has a little bit of bread. They give her a broom and tell her to sweep in the back. Like a good girl she does and finds those strawberries. The three little men each give her a blessing: that she will grow more beautiful each day, that every time she speaks a piece of gold will fall from her mouth and a king will take her for a wife.

Well the stepmother’s none too happy and the daughter is even angrier. Her mother, after being pestered for a long time, sends her out in a fur coat with all sorts of cakes and sweets. Except the daughter’s a witch so she doesn’t share with the little men and refuses to sweep for them. They give her three blessings too: she will grow uglier everyday, a toad will spring from her mouth every time she speaks and that she will die a miserable death. (The Grimms might have made things educational and cleaned up any sex references they didn’t tone down the violence. You’ll see.)

Now the stepmother’s super angry. So she sends out the heroine with an axe to go cut some ice out from the frozen lake and rinse yarn. Joke’s on her though:

She obeyed, and went and hewed a hole in the ice, and as she was about it there came by a splendid coach, in which the King sat. The coach stood still, and the King said, “My child, who art thou, and what art thou doing there?“

She answered, “I am a poor girl, and am rinsing yarn.” Then the King felt pity for her, and as he saw that she was very beautiful, he said, “Will you go with me?“

“Oh yes, with all my heart,” answered she; and she felt very glad to be out of the way of her mother and sister.

So she stepped into the coach and went off with the King; and when they reached his castle the wedding was celebrated with great splendour, as the little men in the wood had foretold.

I can get behind this king. I’m not usually find of love at first sight stories but I’ll buy it in a fairy tale. (But not in fairy tale retellings!) He seems like a genuinely nice man. Our mancandy fades into the background though as the step-mother and daughter come to call after a year has passed and the heroine has had a son. While the king is out and about and no one is really around, the two drag our heroine out of bed and throw her into the river. Yikes.

So the stepmother tucks her daughter into our heroine’s bed and says it’s the queen. The King tries to visit his wife, so good man still but the stepmother keeps stopping him. When he notices that toads come out of her mouth, the stepmother just says she’s very ill.

I would think that the protagonist would have mentioned to her husband not to trust her stepmother but these heroines are always so sweet and so good that she might not say a bad word about anyone, even her tormentor. Gah. I don’t know why I like these fairy tale heroines so much because most of them are so passive. It’s like Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. I love her and her movie to death but she doesn’t do anything.

The heroine of this does do something at least. She appears as the form of a duck to a servant boy and tells him

Go and tell the King to brandish his sword three times over me on the threshold!” Then the kitchen-boy ran and told the King, and he came with his sword and brandished it three times over the duck, and at the third time his wife stood before him living, and hearty, and sound, as she had been before.

The king is very happy to have his wife back but hides her until the baptism of their little baby.

And after the baptism he said, “What does that person deserve who drags another out of; bed and throws him in the water?“

And the old woman answered, “No better than to be put into a cask with iron nails in it, and to be rolled in it down the hill into the water.” Then said the King, “You have spoken your own sentence;”and he ordered a cask to be fetched, and the old woman and her daughter were put into it, and the top hammered down, and the cask was rolled down the hill into the river.

Remember what I said about violence? Also…stepmother must be very very stupid.

So on general principle I like the king. He’s a nice guy, loves his wife, gets the job done. I think this story should have a retelling. (Maybe I’ll put it on my to-write list.)

Man Grade: B

There are some far worse specimens of mancandy in Grimm, but those will come at another time (perhaps?). But until then, who’s your favorite fairy tale hero? Or favorite prince in general?


4 Responses to “Grimm’s Fairy Tales: The Rabbit and The King”

  1. 1 Tori April 19, 2010 at 12:30 am

    Favorite fairy tale hero? Or prince? Not sure, but I think my favorite literary prince is Prince Caspian.

    That probably doesn’t count as a fairy tale though… does it? xD

  2. 2 Mary May 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    O.O That is one horrible way to die. Wow, and to die with your mother, who problem raised her to be hateful to the beautiful woman. Though I think they use beautiful and ugly physically to represent the soul being ugly or beautiful. It is easier to see the physical one than the soul one.

    Kratos from Tales of Symphonia should count as a fairy tale hero >.>!!!!!

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